Self Help

Many students find reading about their problems preferable to talking about them. The links on this page contain information about a variety of topics that affect many college students.

The Counseling Center also maintains a Self Help library, which can be found in our reception area.  Students may borrow books from our library at no charge.

Self Help Topics

On saying good-bye

What does it mean to "say goodbye"? Generally, we think of saying goodbye as referring to expressing best wishes at a time of parting. More broadly speaking, however, "saying goodbye" can mean acknowledging, reflecting on, and preparing for upcoming life changes and the losses that accompany them.

It has been said that one of the few constants in life is change. While we often look favorably upon change and focus upon what we will be gaining, we also must contend with the fact that with change comes loss. For instance, while graduations may be perceived as accomplishments and as marking the beginning of a new, exciting phase of life, they can also involve numerous losses, including: -Loss of a support network -Loss of routine -Loss of a sense of youth -Loss of a familiar environment -Loss of identity

Graduations, relocation, career changes, and all other major transitions offer us the opportunity to say "hello" to a new phase of life and, just as importantly, give us the chance to bid farewell to the old. They are times in which it is appropriate not only to look ahead but also to look back, acknowledging to ourselves and to others that what we are leaving will be missed.

Why say good-bye?

Just as viewing a good ending to a movie can greatly enhance our feelings about the movie as a whole, so can appropriately saying goodbye heighten our positive feelings about the phases of our lives that are coming to an end. When we take the time to "say goodbye", to reflect on and prepare for upcoming transitions in our lives, we often gain a sense of closure or finality and feel better prepared to continue on in life. Saying goodbye can reduce later feelings of disorientation and disappointment and can increase feelings of power, control, and predictability. Saying goodbye allows for a period of review and assessment; it gives us the chance to step back, take stock of our lives, and get a broad perspective on what different activities and relationships have meant to us. By doing so, we can move on to the next phase of our lives feeling better about where we have been and where we are going.

Why should you say good-bye?

Coping with loss is a very personal experience and what works best for one person may be far less beneficial for another. Nevertheless, certain general guidelines can be offered regarding how to deal with major transitions in life.

Five D's for successfully dealing with departure and loss:

Determine ways to make your transition a gradual process. Weeks or even months ahead of time, begin to think about what it will mean to leave the current phase of your life so that you can adequately prepare yourself and relish your remaining time.

Discover the significance which different activities have had in your life. Step back and spend some time reflecting, reviewing, and reminiscing on your life; strive for a broad perspective on your life and the current transition that you face.

Describe this significance to others. You may find it helpful to share with others how you feel about them and what their absence in your life will mean to you. This can be a bittersweet process--it hurts but at the same time can leave you (and those around you) with a special feeling about your relationships, activities, and, more generally, the phase of your life that is ending.

Delight in what you have gained and in what lies ahead of you. Treasure the special memories and the possessions you have which remind you of important relationships and activities. Rejoice in what you have learned and how you have grown through the phase of your life which is now ending. Strive to feel good about what you will be starting next in life while realistically acknowledging the challenges and obstacles which lie ahead of you.

Define areas of continuity in your life. While it is important to realize what will be changing in your life, you can also benefit from reminding yourself of ways in which your life will remain the same. Although you may be leaving certain cherished friends and loved ones, you may be able to find ways to experience some of these relationships as continuing despite the distance. A sense of continuity can also be derived from reminding yourself that in some ways, the person you have become has incorporated aspects of your past relationships and activities.

FIVE D'S FOR UNSUCCESSFULLY DEALING WITH DEPARTURE OR LOSS:

Deny the loss. By focusing only on the phase of your life that you are about to enter and failing to think about the phase that is ending, you may be setting yourself up for pain and distress when you realize what you have lost after you have lost it (at which point you no longer have the opportunity to prepare yourself for the parting).

Distort your experience by over-glorifying it. Overly idealizing your past experiences on a continual basis can lead to your not letting go of the past. It also makes the past an incredibly tough act to follow; the future is likely to pale by comparison.

Denigrate your activities and relationships. The reverse of over-glorifying your past is to mentally destroy it--to tell yourself that you are losing nothing of value. Although this strategy may help you to avoid pain, it may also prevent you from growing and benefiting through your past experiences. Using this strategy can result in your passing repeatedly from one phase of your life to another without ever feeling good about what you have done, where you have been or whom you have known.

Distract yourself from thinking about departure. Like denying the loss, excessively distracting yourself by keeping busy with other matters prevents reflection on the significance of what is occurring and preparing for the transition.

Detach yourself abruptly from your activities and relationships. This strategy, like denigrating your experiences, can be viewed as an attempt to avoid pain. It can also leave you with the illusion of being empowered and in control. However, it prevents you from gaining a feeling of closure or a sense of resolution to the phase of your life that you are leaving and can cause others to feel abandoned and hurt.

How will it feel to say good-bye?

Losses, even when handled well, often hurt. Yet acknowledging the pain can help you to admit to the importance which past relationships and activities have had in your life and can help to earn them a permanent place of importance in your memories. It may also heighten your ability to invest yourself in new relationships and activities. Thus, while saying goodbye can be difficult, it can also be very rewarding. So take the time to acknowledge the endings in your life and to make the most of your departures. Take the time to say goodbye.

(Written by Craig J. Vickio, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center)

The staff of the Counseling Center extends our sympathy those that have been impacted by the recent tragic event that has affected all of us - students, families, faculty and staff members.  

Please be aware that we are available to assist members of the BGSU community as they cope with this and any other traumatic experiences in their lives. If you personally feel affected by the event, please feel free to call the Counseling Center at 419-372-2081.  If you work directly with students and would like assistance in how to provide support and resources for them, please contact us.  Our on-call counselors will be happy to help.

Handling grief

Available resources:

BGSU Counseling Center: 419-372-2081
The Link: 419-352-1545
St. Thomas More University Parish, Michael Dandurand or Peter Range: 419-352-7555

BGSU’s Counseling Center makes the following suggestions for handling grief.

Taking care of yourself after a traumatic event

Everyone who is in any way involved with a disaster or traumatic event may experience trauma reactions. You might experience these reactions if you:

  • Were a witness or were involved in the event
  • Arrived upon the scene of the event
  • Had a “near miss” or were almost involved in the event
  • Knew or know others who were killed, harmed, or involved in some way
  • Have a relationship with family or friends of victims
  • Have heard a lot about the event through media or friends
  • Are reminded of other traumatic incidents in your life by this event

It is important to remember that trauma reactions are normal reactions to extremely abnormal circumstances. It is difficult to predict what type of trauma reactions you will experience following a disastrous event. It is important to allow yourself permission to have your reactions, and take care of them, both by yourself and by asking for help from others, as best you can. Many people find it helpful to have information about what constitutes a typical reaction to trauma.

Typical reactions to trauma

Not everyone experiences the same set of responses to trauma, but people typically experience reactions that fall into four basic categories. Here are some reactions that you may be experiencing:

Psychological and Emotional

  • Heightened anxiety or fear
  • Irritability, restlessness, or over-excitability
  • Feelings of sadness, moodiness, more crying than usual
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Feelings of anger or rage
  • Feelings of numbness or detachment
  • "Survivor guilt”, or feelings of self-blame that you escaped the tragedy
  • Re-experiencing of the traumatic event, possibly including:
    • Intrusive thoughts or images of the event
    • Distressing dreams or nightmares
    • Flashbacks about the event
    • Distress when exposed to events that remind you of the trauma
  • Feelings of estrangement or isolation from others
  • Hypervigilance (feelings especially attuned to events around you, scanning environment for possible danger)

Cognitive

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling confused or distracted, slower thought than normal

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Exaggerated startle response (tendency to startle easily at loud noises)
  • Fatigue or feeling slowed down

Behavioral

  • Hyperactivity or less activity
  • Heightened tendency to behave irritably
  • Withdrawal, social isolation
  • Avoidance of activities or places that remind you of traumatic event
  • Insomnia
  • Strong need to talk about the event, read accounts about the event

You may recognize yourself as experiencing some of the above reactions. Remember that your response is normal. Immediately following a traumatic event you will probably feel disrupted, dazed, and somewhat confused. You will notice that you are not behaving as you typically would. It is important to take care of yourself as best you can. Here are some self-care suggestions for you.

Self care

Keep reminding yourself that your responses are normal responses to a stressful situation. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Your body and mind will tell you what you need to do—your job is to listen to them.

Get plenty of rest when you’re tired, and use the energy you have if you experience hyperactivity at times. Don’t force yourself to be active if you don’t have the energy. Rest when you feel tired.

Talk to people as much as you need to. Reach out. You may experience a need to talk repetitively about the trauma. If you can find someone who is willing to listen, use her/him to talk to about how you are feeling. If you do not have anyone in your support network to turn to, consider calling a crisis line, going to a crisis center, or using other community resources – they are there to help you. In Bowling Green there is The Link, (419-352-1545), which is available 24 hours. The BGSU Counseling Center is available to BGSU students 8-5, Monday-Friday (419-372-2081).

Spend time with others, even if you don’t feel like talking. It can be very comforting to know you’re not alone. Try to find someone or someplace that feels safe and comforting to you, and spend time there.

Don’t make any major life decisions or big life changes if at all possible. This is not a time to put pressure on yourself to do anything out of the ordinary. Concentrate on taking care of yourself.

Do things that feel good to you – take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends and family, fix yourself a special treat, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring.

Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings when you need to. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. This will only complicate your situation.

The process of recovery

It is important to know that recovering from a trauma is a process that may take a long time. The initial response of disruption (perhaps alternating with numbness) may last days, weeks, or longer. Don’t be surprised if you continue to experience these reactions for longer than you expected. It is impossible to predict how long you will experience effects of the trauma, but usually trauma reactions gradually decrease over time. If you experience another stressful event while recovering from this trauma, you may find that your trauma reactions reappear for a while. This reactivation, or delayed trauma response, is perfectly normal.

At any time during this process, you may find it useful to ask for professional help from a counselor or mental health professional. There are some circumstances under which you should definitely get professional help:

  • If you find yourself feeling suicidal or contemplating suicide
  • If you find that your daily functioning continues to be impaired so that you cannot carry out your life tasks
  • If post-trauma fears interfere with your ability to return to certain places or situations that remind you of the trauma.

Adapted from materials developed by the University Counseling Service, University of Iowa.

Provided by:
Counseling Center, Division of Student Affairs
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio 43403
(419) 372-2081

Following a Crisis:

Ideas for Faculty and Staff for Helping Students Cope (an article from Texas State University)
http://www.counseling.txstate.edu/parfac/fac/crisis.htm

Tips for Parents on Coping with Trauma (an article from the Counseling Center at Southern Methodist University)
http://www.smu.edu/healthcenter/counseling/ct_parents-trauma.asp

Please see the links below on coping with Trauma and Disaster:

Helping Students Concerned about the Threat of War and Terrorism: A Guide for Faculty and Staff

Terrorist threats and the possibility of war instill feelings of helplessness and fear. Different people react, and cope, in vastly different ways. A person’s natural temperament, social support, prior life experiences, and coping skills combine to trigger that individual’s specific reaction. It is important, however, to be aware that even when students do not express verbal concern, they may still be having strong internal reactions. Dealing with students on a day-to-day basis, faculty and staff are likely to see students in need of assistance. Understanding the potential reactions, the possible interventions, and the resources available to students, faculty and staff, is critical to being able to work effectively with these students.

Possible reactions:

  • Preoccupation with terrorist incidents and war
  • Watching the media frequently
  • Increased reactivity to small issues and events
  • Increased moodiness and anxiety
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Strained relationships with loved ones—either increased isolation or irritability
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Increased fear or hostility toward individuals from other countries

What concerned faculty and staff can do to help:

  • Listen. Allow students who confide in you to share their experience. Encourage them to confide in their support system.
  • When you are discussing class topics that might remind students of the current political climate and threats of violence, be aware that some students might react strongly (even if they do not express this aloud). Try to be sensitive in how you introduce such topics, and be tolerant if some students need to take a break during class.
  • Students whose families live far from Bowling Green, and those from major metropolitan areas, may be especially likely to react strongly to these situations. Far from their support systems, they may rely more extensively on supportive faculty and close friends.
  • It is often beneficial for people to continue with their usual routine as much as possible. Encourage students to keep up with assignments, classes, and other activities as much as possible. Even so, be aware that some students might need some brief time away.
  • If students express hostility toward individuals from specific countries (e.g., Middle-Eastern countries), help them appreciate the distinction between the country’s leaders and the innocent population. Increased divisiveness in our own country will not ultimately help students feel safer.
  • Be aware that strong reactions may come from many sources, including previous experiences of trauma. What seems like an unreasonable response on the outside may be perfectly understandable in the context of that person’s life.
  • If some students’ reactions seem particularly strong, or if the reactions continue over time, make a referral to a professional. The Counseling Center is available on an appointment or an emergency basis. When needed, we can provide community referrals. We are located in 320 Saddlemire Student Services Building, 419/372-2081. (Outside of office hours, individuals in distress are welcome to call the Link Crisis Hotline at 419/352-1545.)
  • Be aware that these stressors do not only affect students, but also faculty and staff. Know your Employee Assistance Program resources and mental health benefits. EAP assistance is provided by Harbor; Harbor representatives can be reached at 800/422-5338. Additionally, faculty, staff and students may seek assistance through the Psychological Services Center (419/372-2540).

Resources

The BGSU Counseling Center provides free, professional and confidential counseling to students. Faculty and staff are invited to contact the Counseling Center (419/372-2081) to consult about concerns pertaining to the welfare of students. Additional written information about mental health issues and Counseling Center services is available at the Couseling Center’s web site.

The following resources provide relevant information:

American Psychological Association:

National Mental Health Association

Mayo Clinic

Bowling Green Campus Ministries Resource Page

Adapted (with minor revision) from an informational brochure developed by Dr. Karen Lese, Counseling Center, University of San Diego, 2003.

Do you know someone who appears depressed?

Sometimes we worry about someone when that person doesn't seem to be willing to acknowledge a problem. An intervention is a way to help that individual. It is an active confrontation of specific behaviors by others and is designed to increase awareness of problem behaviors, to prevent problems from becoming worse, and to promote referral for further assessment and possible treatment. An intervention takes advantage of a unique opportunity to really make a difference to help someone you care about.

Depression

Some behaviors which may require an intervention are those which are a part of what is called depression. We all feel sad, "down in the dumps" or have "the blues" once in awhile. This feeling usually passes fairly quickly and may be relieved by a good night's sleep, talking to a friend, or taking a long walk. However, some people may experience a pattern of depressed feelings, thoughts, and behaviors which are more intense and last longer. There are a number of signs and symptoms which suggest moderate or severe depression. Although depressed individuals will usually admit to their feelings and related problems if asked, they typically will keep to themselves and not seek help. This social withdrawal and the potential seriousness of the problem requires an intervention on the part of others. It is difficult for people who are depressed to help themselves, but moderate and severe depression can be treated and relieved with professional help.

Symptoms of depression

You may observe behaviors in a depressed person which are a change from that individual's usual style. There may be withdrawal from people and situations or increased dependency on others. Loss of weight, sleeping too much or too little, and substance abuse are common. Emotional features include sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, irritability, and loneliness. Thoughts are negative with self-criticism, indecisiveness, pessimism for the future, and difficulty concentrating. There may be physical complaints. Sometimes there is a precipitating factor involving a loss: serious illness, loss of a loved one, loss of job, academic failure. Depressed persons may also consider suicide.

How to help someone who appears depressed

You can seek out the depressed individual, express your concern, and encourage that person to seek professional help. Let the person know that depression can be relieved with professional assistance. Follow the intervention process to accomplish this goal.

The intervention process

  • examine your own values and attitudes about the problem and about the individual
  • become informed about the problem
  • develop the skills and a plan to communicate your concern
    • should you be the person to intervene?
    • who else should be involved?
    • express your caring and concern
    • be specific in your examples of problem behaviors
    • do not "label" or criticize
    • assess suicidal risk (see below)
  • learn about appropriate referral sources and help the individual to make and keep an appointment; provide support during the treatment
  • do not be discouraged if the intervention doesn't work; however, serious depression or suicidal risk requires action (see below)
  • get help for yourself if you are negatively affected by your relationship with the person who has the problem

Suicide assessment

Anyone who appears depressed should be asked directly and actively if there are thoughts and plans of suicide. Ask "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" It is a myth that talking about suicide will encourage the person to do it. In fact, if you talk about it you may reduce the risk of suicide. The risk of suicide becomes higher the more specific and available and lethal the plan. A plan for a specific time, place, and method is high risk. Risk is higher if the person has the means available or easily accessible. Risk is higher if the method is more dangerous, rapid-acting, or irreversible. Risk is high if consciousness is clouded by alcohol or other drugs. Those who have made previous suicide attempts are at higher risk. Ask specific questions to bet this information.

Suicide intervention & prevention

Many suicides can be prevented. Most people do not want to die but want some relief from pain and problems which seem to have no solution. To intervene you must acknowledge the pain and also instill hope that the problem can be solved. If you believe that a person should be allowed to suicide, find someone else to intervene. Talk about suicide must be taken seriously, even if you think a person is trying to "get attention." The individual may very well need attention and be asking for help. Always get help from others with the intervention and do not leave the person alone if you have assessed that the person may suicide. Serious suicidal risk requires action on your part and a forced hospitalization may be the immediate solution. Call the police or your local Crisis Intervention Center. Finally, find someone to talk to about your feelings. Dealing with a suicidal person is a difficult emotional experience.

(Prepared by: Elizabeth Yarris, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center and Ross J. Rapaport, Ph.D., Central Michigan University Counseling Center)

To learn more about suicide and depression please vist Ulifeline link.

Do you know someone who has an eating disorder?

First of all, what is an intervention? Sometimes we worry about someone when that person doesn't seem to be willing to acknowledge a problem. An intervention is a way to help that individual. It is an active confrontation of specific behaviors by caring others and is designed to increase awareness of problem behaviors, to prevent problems from becoming worse, and to promote referral for further assessment and possible treatment. An intervention takes advantage of a unique opportunity to really make a difference and to help someone you care about.

Eating Disorders

Some behaviors which may require an intervention are related to food, eating, dieting and exercise. Many of us occasionally use food in ways that are not beneficial to us. It is common to overeat for pure enjoyment or in response to stress. It is also common to try to lose weight, sometimes in a manner that is harmful to our bodies. Occasional overeating or dieting does not result in a serious problem for most people. However, certain predictable patterns may develop in some individuals which are cause for serious concern.

An eating disorder is a pattern of food abuse with harmful physical and psychological consequences. Ninety to ninety-five percent of those with eating disorders are female. Probably this is due in part to an exaggerated emphasis on thinness in our culture. This problem is more common among groups such as dancers, gymnasts, and wrestlers for whom a certain body weight is seen as essential. Both overeaters and undereaters equate self-esteem with body shape, use excessive measures for weight control and are frequently preoccupied with food, with high standards for themselves, and with the use of either overeating or restrictive dieting or exercise as a way to cope with problems.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, a disturbance of body image ("feels fat" even when emaciated), and extreme weight loss which is achieved by restrictive diet, extensive exercise, and sometimes by self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives or diuretics. Peculiar patterns of handling food may be observed. The individual may be noticeable underweight, have sensitivity to cold, absent or irregular menstrual periods, depression, and other serious medical problems. She will usually be socially withdrawn and deny any problems. This is a serious condition which requires attention by physical and mental health professionals. Without intervention, anorexia nervosa can result in death.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating (either rapid consumption of a large amount of food or the subjective experience that the amount eaten is a binge) usually followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of diuretics or laxatives or excessive exercise. Weight may remain normal or fluctuate due to alternating binges and fasts. Frequently, high-caloric, easily ingested food (e.g., ice cream) is consumed in secret. The individual is aware that the eating pattern is not normal, fears loss of control, and feels very guilty and depressed about the eating behavior. Consequently, there are sometimes thoughts of suicide as a solution to the problem. Harmful physical effects can occur which will vary in severity depending upon individual circumstances: erosion of tooth enamel, sores in the mouth, digestive tract damage, electrolyte imbalance, irritation of throat and esophagus, burst blood vessels in the face, irregular menstrual cycle. Bulimia nervosa typically requires professional medical and psychological attention.

How to help someone who appears to have an eating disorder:

You cannot make someone stop a pattern of food abuse, but you can let the individual know that you care and encourage that person to seek professional help. Don't be judgmental. Express your concern and back it up by your knowledge of the symptoms of eating disorders. Let the individual know that eating disorders can be treated by physical and mental health professionals working together.

The Intervention Process:

  • examine your own values and attitudes about the problem and about the individual
  • become informed about the problem
  • develop the skills and a plan to communicate your concern
    • should you be the person to intervene?
    • who else should be involved?
    • express your caring and concern
    • be specific in your examples of problem behaviors
    • do not "label" or criticize
  • learn about appropriate referral sources and help the individual to make and keep an appointment; provide support during treatment
  • do not be discouraged if the intervention doesn't work
  • get help for yourself if you are negatively affected by your relationship with the person who has the problem
  • serious medical risk, as in anorexia nervosa or suicidal plans, may require forced hospitalization. Call the police or your local Crisis Prevention Center if you are concerned about suicide.

(Prepared by: Elizabeth Yarris, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center and Ross J. Rapaport, Ph.D., Central Michigan University Counseling Center)

Helping others with grief

What does it mean to grieve? Many of us think of "grief" as the intense sadness which is experienced at times of major loss, such as when a loved one dies. Yet grief can include much more than sadness. For instance, when we grieve, we can often experience feelings of anger or guilt as well as various physical reactions (for example, headaches, digestive problems, loss of weight, fatigue, or an overall decline in health).

Furthermore, grief is not only something which happens to us, it is also an experience over which we can exercise some control. Grieving can be thought of as an active process of coping with a loss. In this process, we have the opportunity to make some choices about how we wish to grieve even if we have no choice about many of the losses that we must face.

Although losses of any kind can be painful, the death of a loved one is particularly traumatic. Many of us find it especially difficult to be helpful to someone whose grief is due to death. We don't know what to say or to do, and our attempts often feel futile. This article is designed to offer a few suggestions for what we can do to help someone who is grieving over the death of a loved one.

Confronting another's grief: an uncomfortable prospect

When faced with another's grief, it is common to experience feelings of discomfort and helplessness. We may feel uncomfortable because we fear that we will say something that sounds insincere or the griever might remind us of our own losses. Our discomfort can also stem from our believing that, to truly be helpful, we should act in ways which reduce the griever's suffering. Such a belief can cause us to make the following kinds of statements: "At least her suffering is over now.""At least you had a chance to say good-bye.""At least it was over quickly.""Your loved one is in a better place now." Although such statements are intended to be comforting, they can give grieving individuals the impression that we do not understand their experience and that we are downplaying their loss. They may interpret our message as: "Your loss is really not so bad if you look at it this way." Many grieving individuals need to be allowed to face the fact that their loss really is bad. They may therefore feel much more supported by us when we acknowledge their suffering rather than when we make it our job to take their pain away.

Changing your view of "help"

One way to reduce our personal feelings of discomfort and helplessness around a grieving person is to redefine what constitutes "being helpful." Rather than viewing "help" as the removal of suffering, we can think of it as assisting grieving persons in finding their own best ways to cope.

Offering such assistance involves recognizing that there is not just one "right way" to grieve. Reactions can differ greatly from one grieving person to another. For instance, some people will have a greater need to dwell on past memories than others will. Some will desire privacy whereas others will want company. Some will need considerable time to acknowledge that their loved one is truly gone. Others who quickly acknowledge this reality on an intellectual level may require far more time to do so on an emotional level. Some will struggle to make sense of the death--to find a reason for it. Some will wish to hold onto many of the deceased's possessions while others will prefer to put them away or give them away. If we wish to be helpful, our role is not to decide which of the above behaviors is correct, but rather to assist grieving individuals in doing what they feel they need to do. In the next section, some specific suggestions will be offered for how we can best provide such assistance.

Being helpful to a grieving person: Some DOs and DON'Ts

Given the above considerations, what can you specifically do to be helpful to someone who is grieving? The best ways to offer assistance will vary depending on the griever's personality, the nature of the loss, and your particular relationship with the grieving person. Nevertheless, certain guidelines can be offered for what are generally appropriate and inappropriate ways to be helpful.

DO: Offer to be with the grieving person. While you should not insist on being with the griever, offering to be available is very important. It can be comforting to the griever to know that you are not frightened away by his or her grief. Grieving persons often are already dealing with profound feelings of loneliness and abandonment and do not need such feelings compounded by your absence. Your presence can provide considerable support, especially when you are prepared to listen. Most grieving individuals are more in need of a friendly, available ear than a mouthful of advice.

DO: Help the griever to regain a sense of control. When someone dies, those left behind can feel quite helpless and lacking in control. They may be struck by the fact that they had no choice in whether their loved one lived or died and have no way of bringing the loved one back. By allowing grieving persons to make decisions about the funeral, the loved one's possessions, and their own grief process, you can assist them in regaining some sense of control over their lives.

DO: Offer to assist the griever with practical matters. As mentioned above, grieving persons need to be allowed to do things for themselves in order to regain a sense of control over their lives. Yet many grievers report finding it helpful to have others provide some assistance with taking care of certain household chores or various practical matters--assistance which can free the griever to attend to other concerns, including the work of grieving.

DO: Express your feelings honestly but with sensitivity to the griever's needs and desires. If you were close to the person who died, sharing your feelings about the death can be appropriate at times. However, in doing so, it is best that you allow the griever to have considerable input into just how much and how often you convey such feelings. It can also be very useful to share your feelings about the griever (particularly your positive, supportive feelings). Let the griever know how much you care.

DON'T: Tell the griever how to feel or act. Do not assume that there is one right way to grieve. Respect the griever's right to find his or her own best way to cope, even though this will probably mean that the person will experience some pain and suffering. If you are concerned that the griever is coping in unhealthy ways, you might consider suggesting that the person talk with a professional.

DON'T: Pretend to fully understand what the griever is experiencing. Telling a griever "I know just what you're going through" is usually a good way of showing that you in fact do not understand. Such a statement is likely to produce resentment and leave the griever feeling more distant rather than closer to you.

DON'T: Postpone contact with the griever. Telling yourself, "She probably needs to be alone" or "I'll give him some time before I contact him" may enable you to avoid the often painful process of interacting with a griever. Yet such avoidance denies the griever any choice in the matter. Allow the griever to decide whether privacy or company is desired. You can make this the griever's decision by offering your availability to him or her. This is not to suggest that you must be available at any time. You may personally be experiencing grief or have other priorities which set some limits on your availability.

DON'T: Paint an unrealistically pretty picture of the loss. By making statements designed to give the griever the sense that the loss is not that bad, you are unlikely to reduce the griever's suffering. Instead, you will probably be viewed as minimizing or discounting the loss. Even in the rare event that the griever accepts such efforts, it is questionable how helpful you are being; often, the griever needs the chance to work toward accepting the reality of the loss and dealing with all of its painful, very real consequences.

Feeling helpful vs. helpless: The choice is ours

Whenever we come into contact with someone who is grieving, we are presented with a choice. At such times, we can choose to focus on what is outside of our control--such as the irreversibility of the death or the fact that the griever is going to suffer. Concentrating on these matters is likely to leave us feeling helpless. Alternately, we can focus on what is within our control: for instance, our ability to be with grieving individuals, to offer our assistance, to listen, and, above all, to convey that we care. Such a focus can enable us to feel helpful rather than helpless. While others' grief has the potential to make us painfully aware of our personal limitations, it can also open our eyes to new and important ways of helping those around us.

(Written by Craig J. Vickio, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center)

Feeling homesick? Here are a few tips to help you cope with your transition to college:

  • Acknowledge how you are feeling. You are going through a major life change. For some, homesickness is a natural response to the sense of loss you may be feeling.
  • Remember that many other students are sharing similar feelings, even though they may not tell you about it.
  • Talk with an older sibling, friend, or student who has gone away from home.
  • Put up some photos of home, family and friends on your bulletin board. Mix the photos with photos of your favorite campus buildings, activities, or events and new friends you are making at BGSU.
  • Get to know the BGSU campus and the surrounding Bowling Green community. Take a friend and explore interesting things to do and pla ces to see. Share what you have learned with family and friends back home.
  • Remember to get enough food and sleep. Proper rest and nutrition are important in making a successful transition.
  • Consider getting more exercise by using the Student Recreation Ce nter.
  • Seek some involvement in a student organization or activity. If you are living on campus, your residence hall is often a good place to get involved.
  • Keep in touch with the people back home but place a limit on telephone usage. Tell or write to them about your activities and experiences.
  • Set up e mail connections with friends at other colleges and universities. Share your experiences and activities with them.
  • Plan a date to go home and make arrangements. This helps to curtail impulsive home visits and helps ease the adjustment process.
  • Give yourself time to adjust. Feeling satisfied with your new home, surroundings, and roles will be a gradual process. If your feelings of homesickness or sadness persist or interfere with the academic performance or social relationships, consider talking with a counselor in the Counseling Center

Why care?

While we all tend to view our caring relationships as important to us, we don't often stop to think exactly why they matter so much. Take a moment to think about the caring relationships in your life. What do these relationships offer you? What would you be missing if you didn't have them? Did the following come to mind? -a chance to feel appreciated for who we are -a feeling of stability -a sense of renewal -an increased ability to tolerate stress and frustration -a feeling of being connected to something outside of ourselves.

Successful caring

There is no magical formula for succeeding in your caring relationships--there is no single "best" way to care. Because of the many differences between people, ways of expressing care in one relationship may be unsuccessful in another. However, it is still possible to offer a few general suggestions about the kinds of caring attitudes and behaviors which tend to promote healthy relationships and those that can lead to problems. Here are six suggestions for caring successfully:

  • Cultivate different kinds of caring relationships. Different relationships can and should serve different needs. With some friends, we may be able to talk about anything. With others, we may discuss little but enjoy participating in common activities. With still other friends, we may rarely see each other but know that the friends would be there to offer assistance at a moment's notice. With our spouses or lovers we may be able to feel a sense of free abandon--of letting go--that we cannot experience with anyone else. And with parents, grandparents, or teachers, we may receive guidance and role modeling in ways which our romantic partner and friends cannot provide. Because one relationship is less intimate, less personal, or less intense than another does not mean it lacks value or that something is necessarily wrong or "missing" from it.
  • Ask ourselves, "What would life be like without the people I care about?" It is human nature to notice change and to pay little attention to aspects of our environment which stay the same. As a result, we often fail to fully notice and appreciate life's blessings, including our caring relationships. When we are made to think about what life would be like without our loved ones--for instance, when we dream of losing someone special or hear that someone we care for has had a close brush with death--we realize just how much these people mean to us. And in such instances we can rejoice in the fact that we still have them. We do not need to wait for dreams, close calls, or other external events to cause us to think about how much we value the people we care about. We can increase our appreciation for them by considering what life would be like without them.
  • Risk being honest about our feelings. When we fail to be open and honest about what we're feeling, there can be many negative consequences: We can prevent other people from understanding and appreciating us; we can fail to give them the chance to consider changing what bothers us; and we can miss out on the opportunity to see if our relationships could withstand anger and other feelings. Furthermore, when we hold our feelings in, they can build up inside us so that even a small frustration can trigger an emotional outburst. Honest communication does not mean constantly having to express every feeling which arises, nor does it mean that feelings must always be shared immediately. We have the right to some privacy, and withholding certain rude or critical comments is common human courtesy. In wrestling with whether or not we should share our feelings, the important consideration should be the consequences--both immediate and long term--for ourselves and those we care about.
  • Invite the people we care about to be honest with us. Honest communication, like other kinds of giving, is a two-way street. Encouraging the people we care about to risk sharing their feelings can enhance our relationships just as being honest about our own feelings can. Listening with interest and respect and responding to feedback without attacking, criticizing, or ridiculing are two ways of creating a sense of safety that will help others to be open with us. As others feel comfortable in being open and honest with us, they may sometimes say things that are difficult for us to hear. For instance, they may say things which sound critical or overly demanding. We may be tempted to react with anger or hurt in these situations, reactions which tend to break off communication. To keep communication open, we need to make sure that we've heard others correctly. We can do this by first telling them what we think they've said and then asking them to correct any misunderstandings.
  • Never stop giving to ourselves. Caring relationships are usually most successful when they allow for "give and take" to occur. When we care in a manner which involves continually giving to others-- and not "taking" for ourselves--we often feel used and used up. We miss out on opportunities to replenish ourselves and to be replenished by others. As one psychologist has said, "By giving to yourself you will feel more able to give of yourself to others." Continual giving not only depletes us, it also deprives others of the joy which can accompany giving.
  • Give up the expectation that caring will always be easy and pleasant. It is a commonly held disbelief that when we care for another, our feelings are supposed to be entirely positive. It is quite normal to experience many different feelings toward the people we care about. We can dislike certain qualities, attitudes, and behaviors in others and still deeply care for them. Similarly, we can sometimes experience anger and even hateful feelings toward others and still care. The key issue in caring is not whether we have such feelings, for we sometimes will. What is important to consider is how often such feelings arise, how we choose to deal with them, and how much they interfere with our enjoyment of our lives and of other people.

Unsuccessful caring

Sometimes we try to demonstrate our caring feelings for others by acting in ways that are based on mistaken assumptions of what caring involves. Unsuccessful caring occurs when we:

  • Constantly criticize the minor shortcomings of others. By focusing excessively on the frustrating behaviors of those whom we care about, we fail to notice positive, desirable qualities in other persons. Such a focus can prevent us from appreciating the value of our relationships.
  • Accept destructive behavior. Genuine caring does not require us to always accept another's behavior, particularly when that behavior is emotionally or physically harmful to us or the person we care about. Urging someone we care about to seek professional help for personal problems can demonstrate caring, but to personally try to change the person's behavior rarely works.
  • Require that others always do things our way. When we have extensive rigid rules for how others must act if they truly care about us, we give people little freedom to make decisions for themselves. They can then feel provoked to do just the opposite of what we want as a way of proving (to themselves and to us) that they are free to make their own decisions. They can also resent us for demanding too much, and this resentment can prevent them from noticing their positive feelings toward us. While it is both normal and appropriate for us to have certain expectations of other people, these expectations should be reasonable and should respect the need of others to take responsibility for their own welfare.
  • Interpret disagreements as a lack of caring. If we believe that differing opinions, occasional disagreements, and conflict are incompatible with caring, we may force ourselves to deny our own feelings, wishes, and needs when they differ from others. If someone we care about also believes that disagreement is wrong, then we may find ourselves doing things together that neither of us really wants to do. Alternatively, if people we care about do not share our belief that differences interfere with caring, they may frequently act in ways which leave us resenting their "selfish, insensitive" expressions of their feelings.
  • Neglect other priorities. If pizza happened to be your favorite food, would that mean you would want to have it for every meal, every day? Probably not. Similarly, when we care about someone, we do not give up our right to devote time to other priorities. In a caring relationship, the amount of time two people spend together will vary depending upon their personalities, their living arrangements, and the demands on their time. Two people are probably spending too much time together when important priorities such as sleep, other relationships, or job responsibilities are continually being ignored. Another sign of trouble is when one or both persons in a relationship repeatedly feel pressured into being with the other against their will--a perfect setup for resentment. In healthy caring relationships, people usually spend time together because they feel they want to, not because they have to. Healthy caring allows for time spent apart.
  • Give until it hurts. As with denying ourselves the right to have outside priorities and the right to differ in our feelings and opinions, continually catering to others can prevent us from adequately taking care of ourselves. When our caring involves always doing what others wish regardless of our own needs, we can begin to resent others for taking advantage of us. We can also feel burdened with too much responsibility for others' welfare rather than respecting and supporting their ability to care for themselves. And, when we expect that other people will do as we do and cater to our every whim, then we inappropriately place responsibility for our well-being into their hands.

Conclusion

Successful caring presents us with a number of complex challenges: it challenges us to balance our needs with those of others, to work toward compromises, and, in some instances, to determine whose needs and feelings require more immediate attention. Relationships which meet these challenges are not always easy or fun. They rarely serve to meet our every need or whim and they sometimes include negative as well as positive feelings. However, even though caring has its limitations, it also has its rewards. Caring relationships tend to give us an extra boost through good times and to cushion us when we fall. When we care in successful ways, our relationships can energize and enrich us and the people we care about.

(Written by: Craig J. Vickio, Ph.D. & Claudia A. Clark, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center)

Planning a better time schedule

The effectiveness of your time schedule will depend on the care with which you plan it. Careful consideration of these points will help you make a schedule which you can control and which will work for you.

  • Plan a schedule of balanced activities. College life has many aspects which are  very important to success. Some have fixed time requirements and some are  flexible. Some of the most common which you must consider are: FIXED;  Eating, organization, classes, work, FLEXIBLE; Sleeping, personal affairs, recreation, relaxation, study.
  • Plan enough time in studying to do justice to each subject. Most colleges are  planned (classes) to require about three hours work per week per credit in the  course. By multiplying your credit load by three you can get a good idea of the  time you should provide for studying. Of course, if you are a slower reader, or  have other study deficiencies, you may need to plan more time in order to meet  the competition of college classes.
  • Study at a regular time and in a regular place. Establishing habits of study is  extremely important. Knowing what you are going to study, and when, saves  a lot of time in making decisions and retracing your steps to get necessary  materials. Avoid generalizations in your schedule such as "STUDY". Commit  yourself more definitely to STUDY HISTORY or STUDY CHEMISTRY at  certain regular hours.
  • Study as soon after your lecture class as possible, one hour spent soon after  class will do as much good in developing an understanding of materials as  several hours a few days later. Review lecture notes while they are still fresh in  your mind. Start assignments while your memory of the assignment is still fresh.
  • Utilize odd hours during the day for studying. The scattered one-hour or  two-hour free periods between classes are easily wasted. Planning and  establishing habits of using them for studying for the class just finished will  result in free time for recreation or activities at other times in the week. Psychologists doing research on learning have discovered that, in the long run,  several short distributed sessions of study produce better results than one or  two long highly concentrated study sessions.
  • Be alert to studying or review that can be done while you are doing something  else. Each day you do a number of routine physical tasks which require  minimal intellectual involvement.
  • Limit your blocks of study time to no more than 2 hours on any one course at  one time. After 2 hours of studying you begin to tire rapidly and your ability to  concentrate decreases rapidly. Taking a break and then switching to studying  some other course will provide the change necessary to keep your efficiency. If  you find that your schedule of available time requires that you do your study in  long time blocks, stop for a few minutes and change activities. If you are  reading, switch to writing, then to studying your notes, and finally return to  your reading.
  • Trade time--don't steal it! When unexpected events arise that take up time you  had planned to study, decide immediately where you can find the time to make  up the study missed and adjust your schedule for that week. Note the three  weekend events. Most students can afford no more than two of them for recreation, but may wish to use different evenings on different weeks. This  "trading" agreement provides for committing one night to study but rotating it  as recreational possibilities vary.
  • Provide for spaced review. A regular weekly period when you will review the  work in each of your courses will help to keep you up to date. This review  should be cumulative, covering briefly all the work done thus far in the  semester. Such reviews will reduce the need for cramming later.
  • Practice self-recitation as a device for increasing memory. Organize your notes in a question and answer form and think in terms of questions and answers  about the main ideas of the material as you review weekly. When preparing  for exams, try to predict the questions the instructor may ask.
  • Employ the principles of self-reward and self-punishment. Be sure to keep the  level of the reward/punishment appropriate to the amount of studying done,  and be consistent. Treat yourself to a half-hour of television for every 2 hours  of studying chemistry. Forfeit your Saturday evening movie if you don't  complete your architecture project.
  • Continually revise your study schedule. The more you learn about yourself  and your study habits, the more you will be efficient in your use of time.  Making time work for you is a skill one acquires after considerable practice.

Some Brief Relaxation Exercises

Exercise 1: Tense-Relax. Clench your fists. While keeping them clenched, pull your forearms tightly up against your upper arms. While keeping these muscles tense, tense all the muscles in your legs. While keeping all these tense, clench your jaws and shut your eyes fairly tight. Now, take a deep breath and hold it for five seconds.... Then, let everything go all at once. Feel yourself letting go of all your tensions. Just enjoy that feeling for a minute, as your muscles let go more and more. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 2: Heaviness and Warmth. Just imagine that your feet and legs are getting heavier and heavier and warmer and warmer. It's almost as if you are wearing some lead boots. Feet and legs, heavy and warm, heavy and warm. . . . warm and relaxed. Your forehead is cool . . . cool . . . relaxed and cool. And your breathing is regular . . . easy and regular. Just feel the warm and heaviness spread all over the body. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 3: A favorite scene, place or person. As you're sitting quietly, recall in your mind the most relaxing thought you can. Perhaps its a favorite place (a vacation spot or somewhere you feel at peace, or whatever works for you). Take a few seconds to get that in mind . . . Now, see or imagine that in your mind. Be sure to feel those good feelings you have when you are in that place. Just let them take over your whole awareness. . . If your thoughts wander, just take them gently back to that peaceful, relaxing place. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 4: Cool Air In. Warm Air Out. With your eyes closed and while relaxing quietly, focus on the end of your nose. As you breathe in, feel the air coming in the tip of your nose. As you breathe out, feel the air coming out the tip of your nose. . . Notice that the air coming in is cooler than the air going out. . . Gently focus on the cool air coming in, and the warm air going out. As your attention wanders, just gently bring it back to the tip of your nose. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 5: Focus on a Word. Pick some word which has "good" vibrations associated with it-- a word which you associate with relaxation, comfort and peace. It could be a word such as "serenity," or "cool, peaceful, joy, free," etc. . . Now, just let that word hold the center of your thoughts. As your mind wanders to more stressful thoughts, gently bring it back to that word. . . After awhile, perhaps your mind will drift to other gentle, restful thoughts. If so, just let it wander. When it does drift to stressful thoughts, go back to your original word. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 6: Breathing your Body Away. Gently focus your attention on your feet and legs. Be aware of all the sensations from your feet and legs. Now, inhale a long, slow breath, and as you do, breathe in all the sensations from your feet and legs. In your minds eye, imagine that you are erasing this part of your body. Now, as you exhale, breathe out all those sensations. . . Repeat. . . Now, with another long breath, breathe in all the parts of your body to your neck, and, as you exhale, breathe it away. Now, beginning with your fingers, breathe in your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms, and exhale them away. Now, your necks and head . . . as you breathe in, imagine your neck and head being erased and, now breathe them away. Let's go back over the whole body in one breath, beginning with the feet. A long slow breath in, and as you do, erase any little parts that still remain. Now, a long slow breath out, as you exhale all the remaining parts. Now, just sit quietly for a minute and enjoy feeling yourself relax deeper and deeper. Slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes at your own rate.

Exercise 7: Something for Use Anywhere. With practice, you will become more adept at relaxing, while awake, anywhere. As you do, here's a way to let yourself relax while going about your day. You can do it while walking, sitting in class, taking a test, on a date, etc. First, smile, to remind yourself that you don't actually have all the cares of the world on your shoulders--only a few of them. Then, take a long deep breath, and let it out. Now, take a second long deep breath, and as you let it out, feel yourself releasing the tensions in your mind and in your body. Just let yourself relax more and more, as you continue whatever you were doing.

(Adapted from David G. Danskin, Kansas State University)

Taking lecture notes

Besides listening, the main job of the student in a lecture class is to take good notes. Most students know they should take notes in class but many don't know how to go about it. They either take too many or too few, and they don't take the best ones. Taking lecture notes is an art that must be developed by practice. However, once developed, note-taking skills can be the key to remarkable academic improvement.

The following is a step-by-step guide to improved note-taking:

Utilize your active listening skills. They provide the basis for an increased comprehension of what a particular lecture is all about, as well as serving to make the lecture more interesting.

Try and get a preview of what a particular lecture is to be about. Most lecturers actually help the student out with this, either by giving out a handout containing an outline of the lecture, writing an outline on the Canvas, or at the very least, making a few introductory comments at the beginning of the lecture. This preview or outline should permit you to see the orderly development of ideas in the lecture, and to anticipate the point in the lecture at which questions raised in your mind may be answered.

Once the lecture actually starts, you must comprehend and note the organization of what the lecturer is saying. Your preview plus any handouts the lecturer gives out should help you identify main points and themes. Even an apparently disorganized lecturer provides many clues to his organization. Pay attention for statements like "The main point is" or "Note this" or "The three main assumptions of this theory are". Another clue may be the mere repetition of a statement if the lecturer takes the trouble to say something twice, then h/she must think it's important. Changes of pace may also serve as clues. When a lecturer suddenly slows down and says something as though they want you to get it, the statement is probably important. Changes in voice tone or loudness may also signal important points.

While you are organizing what the lecturer is saying, you should also be taking notes. Take notes according to the lecturer's organization. Write down the main ideas and the important details connected with them. Do this in your own words, so that you are sure that you really understand what the lecturer is saying. If the lecturer gives a technical definition or states something obviously intended to be a precise statement, you should take this down verbatim.

Compared with your textbook, your lecture notes are incomplete, imperfect and not well organized. It is therefore important to review them as soon after the lecture as possible. If you review within a few hours of the lecture, much of what the lecturer said is still fresh in your mind, and you can fill in essentials that did not get into your notes. And if you feel that you should rewrite your notes, this is the best time to do it.

Studying for an exam

No tricks or short cuts will help you if you don't know your subject. Review your work, reading, and lecture notes periodically. In reviewing for an exam, it is necessary to memorize and understand factual data; find organizing principles and see interrelationships. Organize your material around main points and make sure you understand it.

Reflect on what you have learned. Reflecting means examining material from your own viewpoint, making implications not explicitly stated. See how all of the facts are combined.

Know your instructor. Your notes are a good clue to the type of questions and the material s/he will cover in the exam.

The danger of cramming should not be downplayed. Cramming blocks the learning process. You easily forget what you have learned after the exam. Cramming may not get you through because it forces you to learn material out of context. Also, cramming for one subject may force you to let another subject slide which you have to cram for later; it leaves you no time for real learning.

During the exam, don't be in such a hurry to start that you forget to read directions. Read the questions carefully and plan your time. An exam tests your judgment as well as your knowledge; it calls on your ability to select as well as to display information.

For essay exams, read all the questions first to see what information fits best and where. Jot down ideas briefly as you read. Make a brief outline before you start writing. A well-organized essay should contain the following: a thesis statement, supporting material (show relationships, give examples, add facts), and transitional words and phrases (make your train of thought clear to the reader).

For objective exams (true-false; multiple choice; short answer; matching; etc.), survey the exam and divide your time accordingly. Go through the exam once, answering the easy questions--then go back to the ones you left out. If you're in doubt about an answer, stick to your first choice. For true-false exams, analyze the qualifiers and pick out the key words. If there is not too large a penalty for guessing, guess intelligently.

In general, read the directions carefully, and then follow them. Write legibly--you may be correct, but if it can't be read, you deserve a lower mark. And above all, keep calm. Naturally, knowing your material is the best way to insure passing an exam. But it will also help if you have an efficient approach to exam taking. Good luck!

Reducing Test Anxiety

Test anxiety consists of two basic components: physical tension (which can be decreased by relaxation training) and negative thinking patterns (which test anxious students have learned). Sometimes these patterns have been learned so well over the years that they have become automatic, and the student doesn't realize that negative thoughts are disturbing the test taking process.

The problem with test anxiety is that negative statements interrupt the attention needed to test well. Focusing on negative thoughts such as, "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm too slow at this" distract from the task of thinking about the test items. So, your goal is to recognize your negative statements, develop some positive statements to replace the negatives, and practice substituting the positive statements to be more productive.

Here are some examples of positive statements:

  • "I'm OK no matter what."
  • "I did that well."
  • "I can't be perfect, but I can do my best."
  • "It's OK to make mistakes."
  • "I'll skip this and come back later."
  • "Just do them one at a time."

(Material adapted from "How to Study", by Morgan & Deese)

To reduce your risk of becoming a victim

The following tips are intended to assist you in reducing your risk of being a victim or perpetrator of sexual assault. Unfortunately, there are no guaranteed strategies in the prevention of sexual assault. While anyone can sexually assault another person, male or female, be aware that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, and most victims are women. Use your knowledge to raise awareness among potential perpetrators and end sexual assault.

Observe your feelings and behaviors

Trust your own instincts at all times. If you feel uneasy, there is a reason for it. Listen to the voice inside you and act on it. Ask yourself: "Am I able to say no if I am uncomfortable with what is happening?"

Observe the behaviors of those around you

Be aware when others attempt to violate your personal space. Do not assume that someone who has been nonviolent in the past will be nonviolent in the future.

Communicate your feelings and needs

Before you find yourself alone with a date, clarify your intentions with each other. Men who consciously or subconsciously believe in the myth of endless female sexual desire (i.e., girls really want it even when they say no) are dangerous. Behaving passively or submissively can foster that myth. Always be direct and assertive in all communications throughout an evening, from what you choose to eat at dinner to what you are interested in sexually. Be verbally assertive. Assertive responses are direct, honest, appropriate and spontaneous. Speak in a calm, controlled manner while looking directly at the harasser. Examples include, "I don't want you to touch me like that. I want you to stop now." Be physically assertive. Do not "shrink physically. Look confident and competent. It's important that your words and actions be consistent. Be prepared for men to react to assertiveness. Oftentimes, men are not prepared for women to demand respect and do not know how to deal with it. Some men may react nastily, others may be sheepish and shrink away, while some may critically examine their behavior for the first time, and move toward change.

Use your power to be in control

Maintain your boundaries and rules of conduct at all times, regardless of how well you know someone. If you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or do not like how you are being treated emotionally or physically, then leave the situation immediately. Emotional abuse escalates to physical abuse. Be aware of the amount of alcohol consumed by you or by an acquaintance. Sexual assaults are more likely to occur after one or both individuals have consumed alcohol. Be aware of your environment and escape routes within your environment. Be prepared to provide yourself with the means of leaving a dangerous situation. Have a back-up plan in place, including access to a phone, cab fare, a friend with a car, Campus Escort Service, etc. Because there is an unfortunate desire by some of our society to resist intervening in an abusive situation--particularly when the conflict involves a couple--yell "Fire!" rather than "Rape!" or "Help!" if you need help in getting out of a dangerous situation. Do not give out personal information. Many times, women are asked to disclose a lot of personal information, i.e., their name, residence, place of employment, etc. Always ask a repair or delivery person for identification before opening the door. Rely on your own resources. Maximize and develop your strength, power, and control. Take self defense classes and be prepared to protect yourself.

To reduce the risk of perpetrating a crime

It is a crime to force another person to have unwanted sexual contact. And, it is a crime to have sex with someone who is passed out due to drug or alcohol use and is unable to express consent.

Observe your behavior

If you find yourself being manipulative towards others, emotionally or sexually, STOP. Do not exploit others. Do not feel as if you always have to initiate sexual contact. Do not initiate if you do not want to. Sustain your integrity. Take responsibility for your behavior.

Observe the behavior of those around you

Pay attention to all messages, verbal and nonverbal. "NO" means no. "STOP" means stop what you are doing immediately! Use peer pressure positively to stop abusive behaviors which may lead to acquaintance assaults. Condemn, rather than condone, the behavior of a peer who has taken advantage of a sexual partner.

Know the facts

Most sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. Acquaintance rape and other sexual assaults are crimes. It is a crime to have intercourse with someone against their will. Are you willing to g o to jail for a nonconsensual sexual act?

(Several of the above suggestions were developed by Women Against Rape in Columbus, Ohio and have been taken from their Confrontation Training brochure)

other online self-help resources