Mental Illness Awareness Week

Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week
Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around one in four adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness each year – that’s about 61.5 million people. Furthermore, one in 17 adults is living with a serious mental illness like major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Given these statistics, it’s likely that mental illness affects the majority of us in some way. Yet, it’s a topic that is often misrepresented or ignored altogether in the media and within our society as a whole.

To work towards changing this, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was created in 1990 – Each year, the first full week of October (this year, October 5-11) is designated as MIAW. So that’s happening next week! You might be wondering: what exactly is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and how can I get involved? Keep reading for answers to these questions.

NAMI explains that during Mental Illness Awareness Week, “we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.” As NAMI’s definition states, fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the main objectives of MIAW. According to a study done among students at UNC, 11.3% of Carolina students surveyed said they agreed with the following statement: I would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment. Furthermore, 19% of students surveyed agreed with this statement: I feel that receiving mental health treatment is a sign of personal failure.

As these statistics show, stigma surrounding mental illness in our community is a real issue. For more information on stigma and how to combat it, check out Stigma Free Carolina – a group on campus working to fight stigma and raise awareness about mental health issues in the UNC community.

"People in the summertime," by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons
“People in the summertime,” by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons

There are a bunch of great events happening at UNC for Mental Illness Awareness Week – if you’re interested in learning more, get involved with some of these opportunities! Here’s a schedule of events for MIAW (and beyond):

  • Mental Health awareness event in the Pit – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 3, 2014 from 12:00-2:00pm
    • Location: the Pit
    • Trivia questions and prizes!
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 4, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 2423
    • Register here
  • Redefining Mental Health panel discussion sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 6, 2014 from 5:30-7:00pm
    • Location: Carolina Inn
    • Register here
  • Interactive Theater Carolina performance on mental health issues
    • October 7, 2014 from 6:00-7:30pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3203
    • Register here
  • Mental Health 101 training
    • October 9, 2014 from 6:00-8:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3408
    • Refreshments served!
    • Register here
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training
    • October 25, 2014 from 12:00-4:00pm
    • November 8, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Register here

For more information on mental health services on campus, including individual and group counseling, check out UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Giving your mind a break: the benefits of mindfulness and how to start a meditation practice.

Just about 10 years ago, I was bored and uninspired. I started to ask myself those age old questions: What would be my career path? What are my values? What’s important to me?

Because I didn’t have a great way to answer these questions, I needed to figure what my next move was going to be.

In the midst of scrambling to apply for any job I could get, I came upon an advertisement for the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at Duke Integrative Medicine. The words “stress reduction” jumped off the page. I had almost no knowledge of mindfulness or meditation, but I did have curiosity and time on my hands. I was skeptical that it would do anything to help me, but I was willing to at least give it a shot. So, I registered for their 8-week foundations program.

The program required a lot of time and effort, but it is still one of the single greatest set of skills that I’ve learned in my life.

I still practice every single day.

I’m not one to use these words lightly, but it changed my life in ways that I could not imagine at that time.

Since that time, I have given a talk about mindfulness and its benefits, created a Youtube video on the subject, served as a research coordinator for a study examining the biological, physiological, and psychological benefits of mindfulness meditation, and even developed a mindfulness workshop for UNC undergraduate students with Student Wellness.

You might be wondering at this point, “Mindfulness? What is this dude talking about?” Well, I’m glad you asked!

Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment with intention, without judgment, and with an attitude of acceptance of present moment experience.

It could be something as simple as focusing on how your breath feels, noticing that you’re feeling tired, noticing how the warm sun feels on your skin. You don’t need to do anything about your experience, you just need notice it and then simply turn your attention to whatever comes next.

Even if mindfulness is not a life altering experience for you, there is mounting evidence to suggest that mindfulness can be beneficial to physical health, like reducing blood pressure and enhancing our immune system. There are also mental health benefits like reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, and an increase in overall wellbeing. Here are just a few articles on the subject:

Brown University Health Education

Helpguide.org (in collaboration with Harvard Medical School)

Greater Good – The Science of a Meaningful Life at UC Berkeley

You really want to increase your mindfulness and start enjoying all of these health benefits, but aren’t really sure about how to do that? Well, I’ll give you a hint, it starts with an “m” and ends with “-editation”. That’s right, meditation! You might be saying to yourself, “but I thought meditation were just for people who wear dreadlocks and play in drum circles or for monks?” The good news is that you do not have to be part of a special group to start a meditation practice. You can practice alone or with a group of friends.

mindfulness
Credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=12572&picture=meditation-by-the-lake&large=1

 

Despite what this picture might suggest, you don’t have to be near a lake or even have your legs in lotus position.

Basic Meditation

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit, whether it’s in a chair, on a mat, on the floor, just wherever works best for you.
  2. Make sure not to have your back too rigid and straight, but not so relaxed that you’re slouching. You should sit in a dignified manner.
  3. You can keep your eyes open or even half open. You can also close them if that’s comfortable, but this may encourage you to fall asleep.
  4. Now, bring your attention to the sensation of your breath. Notice how the cool air feels as it enters through your nostrils.
  5. Now move your attention down to your chest and belly. Notice how the chest and belly expand out with each inhalation, and contracts or flattens out on the exhalation. See if you can count at least 5 exhalations.
  6. If you notice that your focus starts to drift away from your breath and to your thoughts, for example, just notice that this has happened and slowly, without any judgment, bring your full attention and awareness back to the sensation of the breath. Just be sure that you don’t beat yourself because your mind wandered
  7. Try and keep your attention on the breath for just 10 minutes. It’s not easy, but keep at it!

Walking Meditation

You can do this as you’re walking between classes, or anywhere on campus, and no one has to know that you’re doing it (unless you want them to know).

  1. Bring your attention to your feet, and notice what it feels like to have them firmly on the ground. You may notice how your shoes and socks feel on your feet.
  2. While lifting each foot and leg off the ground, try to notice how it feels to lift your foot and leg into the air.
  1. While alternating each foot and leg, notice the experience of your weight shifting as you move forward.
  1. Bring your awareness to your upper body and pay attention to your arms as they swing and any other motion you feel in your upper body as you walk.

Moving Meditation for Individuals in a Wheelchair

Use a wheelchair? No problem! You can do this too!

  1. Bring your attention to your arms and hands as they move back and you get ready to push your wheels.
  1. You may notice how the muscles in your back squeeze together or how your shoulder muscles stretch.
  1. Notice what your hands feel as they grip your wheels.
  1. Finally, see what you experience as you start to push your wheels. You may feel the muscles in your biceps and triceps flexing and stretching. Don’t worry if you don’t notice this. Just bring your full attention to what you do feel.

You’re now on your way to having your own mindfulness practice. Now, go out there and start giving your attention to each moment! You never know what you might discover.

Originally posted in 2014, this post has been updated for clarity. In 2014, Dennis Carmody was an MPH candidate in the Health Behavior department at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and enjoying his summer practicum with the great folks at UNC Student Wellness.

Supporting Friends Who Experience Interpersonal Violence

Most of us know someone who has experienced interpersonal violence (sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, or harassment), and supporting that person can be difficult work.  Watching people who we love and care about suffer is never easy, and we often want to do anything that we can to help them feel better.  This is a wonderful impulse!  It can give us energy to provide lasting and meaningful support to others.  However, it can also encourage us to set up unhealthy boundaries as friends and allies.

The most powerful and generous gestures we can make to individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence are to

1) Listen to the experiences and emotions that they are sharing

2) Validate and Believe what they share and

3) Connect them to reporting and support resources that they feel comfortable seeking

Continue reading

What You Need to Know About Binge Eating Disorder

The following is a guest post from Dr. Cynthia Bulik, Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, Professor of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.

If you don’t get this reference, it means you haven’t seen Dirty Dancing. Go watch it…immediately!

Borrowing from Patrick Swayze, “No one puts Binge Eating Disorder in the corner!”

Despite being the most prevalent eating disorder, binge eating disorder, or BED, has been referred to as the “red headed stepchild” or the “third wheel on the eating disorders wagon.” But this will all change in May 2013 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,the DSM-5, the catalog of all psychiatric illnesses. Until this year, BED was included in the wastebasket category “eating disorders not otherwise specified.” It was placed there because the APA believed that further research was warranted before they could deem it a bona fide psychiatric disorder. Well, the research has flourished and BED will now have a home of its own in the DSM-5.

What is BED?

So pretty much everyone knows about anorexia nervosa (low body weight, fear of weight gain) and bulimia nervosa (binge eating and purging behavior), but BED often gets short shrift. The definition of binge eating is eating an unusually large amount of food in a discrete period of time and feeling out of control. It is the critical component of feeling out of control that differentiates a binge from just overeating. Moreover, people with BED feel distressed by their binge eating. Unlike those with bulimia nervosa, they do not engage in regular purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative use, fasting or excessive exercise. For some, but not all, this can lead to energy imbalance and metabolic consequences of eating large amounts of typically unhealthy foods. Many people with BED have difficulty stabilizing their weight and are at increased risk for health consequences commonly associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Who gets BED?

BED does not discriminate. The official numbers in the United States suggest that 3.5% of women and 2% of men in the country suffer from BED. BED strikes all socioeconomic classes, races, and ethnicities, and affects people across the lifespan. Increasing reports of “loss of control” eating in children suggest that it may be a precursor to later BED. In the other direction, many adults with BED recall their binge eating starting at a very young age and recount stories about hiding and hoarding food, lying about what they ate, and feeling ashamed or fearful of being caught eating. BED can occur or continue well into middle and late adulthood with many women reporting that perimenopause can be a trigger for BED.

BED on college campuses.

BED tends to be under-recognized on college campuses, in part because anorexia and bulimia nervosa get so much attention. People fail to realize that BED can be just as distressing and damaging to health and wellbeing.  We hope that now, with official recognition in the DSM-5, we will be able to create greater awareness about BED and help people with the disorder get proper care.

Treatment for BED.

The good news is that BED is treatable. At this point in time, the treatment of choice for BED is cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps get a handle on unhealthy thoughts that might perpetuate binge eating. Here’s a classic example: after eating a small amount of a food that someone views as high risk or triggering they say, “Well, I already blew it. I may as well eat the whole package.” Helping people get a handle on these runaway thoughts can empower them to stop the binge in its tracks. Some people also find medication such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants to be of value; however, these medications do not provide long-term tools for managing urges to binge.

For more information on BED and eating disorders in general see Crave: Why You Binge and How to Stop and Midlife Eating Disorders: Your Journey to Recovery at http://www.cynthiabulik.com.

How To: A Guide To Helping a Friend with an Eating Disorder

Since today marks the half-way point of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we wanted to share some information with you about how to help a friend who’s struggling with disordered eating or how to reach out for help yourself.

So, you’ve noticed that your friend has become overly concerned with what she eats or how much she weighs. Or maybe you have a friend who excuses himself from the table immediately after eating and you’ve heard him throwing up in the bathroom several times.  How do you show your concern and encourage your friend to get help? Here are a few tips.

  • Learn all that you can about eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex problems that require lots of support, care, and professional guidance. Check out http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and  www.something-fishy.org.
  • Approach your friend in a caring, nonjudgmental way.  Explain WHY you are concerned and WHAT you have specifically observed.
  • Know that your friend might be in denial or react in anger.  Your friend may insist that everything is fine.  Do not back down, but rather continue to be available for your friend.
  • Continue to encourage your friend to seek treatment, even though he or she tries to convince you that nothing is wrong.  Do not accept or support their unhealthy behaviors.
  • Consider informing the parents or the resident advisor of your concerns.
  • Remain friendly and open to the possibility that your friend may choose to seek help in the future.
  • Remember…if your friend is over 18 years old, she or he is an adult and cannot be made to seek help.

Now that you’ve had the difficult conversation with your friend and he or she wants to reach out for help, what are the next steps? UNC has a variety of great resources to support someone struggling with disordered eating.

Counseling and Psychological Services
Speak with a trained professional to receive a referral for a therapist in the area. Body image groups are also occasionally offered.
Appointment: Walk-in to the 3rd floor of Campus Health

Campus Health Services
Speak with a health provider who specializes in Eating Disorders.
Katie Gaglione, N.P.
Appointment: 919-966 – 2281

Nutrition Counseling from a Registered Dietitian
Antonia Hartley, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N.
Appointment: 919-966 -2281

Nutrition Counseling from a Sports Dietitian (for athletes)
Mary Ellen Bingham, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Appointment: 919-966 -6548

For a free online eating disorders screening assessment, click here.

And don’t forget to come support the rest of the NEDA Week events going on around campus!

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

In case you haven’t heard, it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and there are some awesome events going on to raise awareness here at UNC!

First, a little information on eating disorders from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): In the United States, approximately 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Many others struggle with disordered eating behavior/attitudes and body dissatisfaction. The emotional and physical consequences of eating disorders are wide-ranging and can include social isolation, depression, muscle wasting, bone loss, and even cardiac failure and death. In fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, there’s help! For more information about eating disorder signs and symptoms and how to help someone dealing with an eating disorder, visit the NEDA website. If you are struggling with food, exercise, and/or body image issues, please visit UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services at Campus Health for a walk-in appointment 9-12 and 1-4 Monday through Friday. For general healthy eating questions and advice, you can make an appointment with the Nutrition Education Consultant at Student Wellness at 919-966-3658. For those with medical conditions and/or eating disorders, you can schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at 919-966-2281.

So, what’s happening this week? These fun events will increase your knowledge and awareness of eating disorders, promote a healthy view of food and activity, support positive body image, and raise much-need funds for eating disorders research. Come to any and all events – your name will be entered into a prize raffle for each event you attend. Visit the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders Facebook page for more information on all of these events.

 Monday

  • Eating Disorders Myth Busters, 11:30am-1pm, Lenoir
  • Eating for Exercise, 5:30-7pm, SRC
  • Benefits for Eating Disorders Research, Sweet Frog, all day; Clothes Hound, 6-9pm & party at 7pm

Tuesday

  • Eating Disorders Myth Busters, 11:30am-1pm, Rams Head

Wednesday

  • Information and Research Fair, 11am-1pm, The Pit
  • Hip Hop Master Class with Joseph Nontanovan, 6:30-7:45pm, SRC
    Come celebrate your body at a FREE Hip Hop Dance class with renowned dancer and choreographer Joseph Nontanovan from Step Up! Every day your body allows you to walk, dance, breathe, and laugh – so celebrate that fact! Joseph’s hip-hop class will be about having fun and feeling good (not about burning calories or changing your shape). When you feel good about yourself, you project a confidence that makes you beautiful, so come to dance and appreciate all that your body can do!
  • Free Film Screening: CHISEL, a CWS Peer Health Organization and the MRC are co-sponsoring a showing of Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation, 8pm. Undergraduate Library Room 205. Come watch the film, enjoy free snacks, and participate in a discussion afterwards

Thursday

  • Greek Groove, 7pm, Memorial Hall
    Greek Groove
     is a dance competition open to every Panhellenic chapter on campus, requiring each team to submit a dance of around 3 minutes.  This year’s event benefits NEDAwareness Week!

Keeping Your Mind and Heart Healthy: Mental Illness and Dating Relationships Part 2

Although dating relationships in which one partner has a mental illness are not often spoken about, we know that such relationships can’t be all that unusual since one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness[i] and more than 25% of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year[ii]. Given that dating and relationships are a huge part of college and mental illnesses affect folks in various but impactful ways, it’s not surprising there are some specific considerations for dating when you have a mental illness.

Here are some tips for folks with mental illness navigating the dating world!

  • On Disclosure
    Remember that you are more than your illness and that it does not define you. Give your partner a chance to get to know other parts of you before disclosing your illness. Check out this article on Strength of Us for more on disclosure of mental illness in relationships.
  • Self-Advocacy
    Once you choose to disclose, don’t assume your partner will understand everything about your illness, how it affects you, or how you’re handling it. You can advocate for yourself by being open with your partner about how they can support you and seeking out professional help when you need it.
  • Self-Care
    Taking care of yourself and adhering to any treatment regime a professional has laid out for you is not only good for you, but can also be good for your relationship. Being your best self on your own is important for anyone, whether or not they have a mental illness, before entering a relationship. Check out the counseling and medication management available for students at UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and these self-care tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Don’t Settle
    Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person or any less worthy of a happy, fulfilling relationship than anyone else. Don’t settle for an unhealthy or unhappy relationship because you think your illness lessens your value as a partner and what you have to offer.

If the relationship ends, know that a tough breakup may exacerbate the symptoms of your illness. You can help buffer this by asking for help when you need it, reaching out for resources, and keeping in mind that although breakups can be hurtful and difficult to transition, it will get better.

I see love.

Check out this article by Arthur Gallant about his experience as an adult with Bipolar Disorder in the dating world. If you have a mental illness and are thinking about exploring online dating, you may want to check out one of the numerous online dating sites specifically for folks with chronic physical or mental illness.

For information on how abusive relationships specifically impact folks with mental illness, check out this mental illness and relationship abuse fact sheet from Safe Place, in Austin, TX.

_____________________________________________________________________

[i] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (n.d.). Mental health: What a difference student awareness makes. Retrieved from http://www.stopstigma.samhsa.gov/publications/collegelife.aspx?printid=1&.

[ii] American College Health Association (2012). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2012. Retrieved from http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2012.pdf.

Keeping Your Mind and Heart Healthy: Mental Illness & Dating Relationships Part 1

Any relationship can feel strains when one of the partners has a bad day. For folks struggling with mental illness, letting their partner know they’re having a bad day is made significantly more difficult due to the stigma of their struggles and the complexity of disclosure of a mental illness to an intimate partner. Mental illnesses affecting college students vary and may include disorders related to anxiety (e.g. generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.), mood (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder, etc.), or eating (e.g. bulimia or anorexia nervosa).

mental-illness-sketch-2Before we get into the reality of dating relationships wherein one or both partners has a mental illness, I’d like to toss out some myths about folks with mental illness. Contrary to what recent media coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy may be implying, having a mental illness does not make you a violent and/or dangerous person. Studies actually show that folks with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it[iii], and are even more likely to be victims of violent crime than those without a mental illness[iv]. While mental illness may be portrayed in television and movies as something that leads folks to an inevitable life spent in hospitals or prisons, folks with mental illness often lead typical lives going to college, working, and dating, just like anyone else.

Here are some tips for folks navigating that (it turns out, not so unique) situation!

Let’s start with some tips for partners of folks with mental illness:

  • Use Person-First Language and Behavior
    Your partner is a person, individual, and a bunch of wonderful things other than their illness. Don’t refer to them in a way that categorizes them as a disorder, and instead reflect in your language what you know to be true: that your partner is a devoted fan of How I Met Your Mother, a hardworking Russian Language and English Lit double major, a lover of sweet frog and Carolina basketball, a supportive friend, and a super-hot and hilarious individual, who happens to have a mental illness.  e.g. Your partner is not “anorexic”, your partner is “a person with anorexia”.
  • Respect Your Partner’s Privacy
    Mental health is a really private thing for most folks, so even if your partner is open about their struggles to others, don’t take it upon yourself to share their story or press for details or feel entitled to know everything about the origin, onset, or current treatment of their illness.
  • Be Flexible
    Be understanding and patient with your partner surrounding things that may be particularly difficult for them as a result of their illness. Depending on their particular struggles, this may involve not eating out for dates, hanging out in small groups rather than going to huge parties when you spend time together, avoiding certain sexual activities, or various other things. How do you find out how you can support your partner and not unknowingly agitate their symptoms? Communicate with your partner and ask, instead of assuming.
  • Play Fair
    Don’t throw a diagnosis into an argument where it doesn’t belong, or use your partner’s illness as an excuse to treat them unfairly.
  • Remember Self-Care, and Seek Out Support for Yourself
    Although you may care very much about your partner and it may be understandably frustrating to watch someone you care about struggle with a mental illness, it is not your job as their partner to “fix it”. You can however, be a resource for your partner. Just as you would recommend the Learning Center for a friend who is struggling with classes, you can let your partner know about the resources available at CAPS at UNC Campus Health. You may want to seek out support for yourself, by joining UNC’s campus chapter of NAMI or perusing NAMI’s website for local support groups available for partners and family members of people with a mental illness.

If you’re interested in learning more about mental illness and college students, check out National Alliance on Mental Illness’ 2011 survey report College Students Speak.


[iii] Appleby, L., Mortensen, P. B., Dunn, G., & Hiroeh, U. (2001). Death by homicide, suicide, and other unnatural causes in people with mental illness: a population-based study. The Lancet, 358, 2110-2112.

[iv] Hiday, V. A. (2006). Putting Community Risk in Perspective: a Look at Correlations, Causes and Controls. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 29, 316-331.

(Probably) Not Your Parents’ Summer Book List

It’s summer! Classes are out, the beach is calling your name, and your favorite coffee shop has recovered from finals and has some couches available for your leisurely enjoyment. Summer is the perfect time to crack open a book for pleasure instead of assignment or requirement.

 

I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite books about healthy relationships, GLBTIQ experiences, and general sex-positive vibes. Check them out for some positive, educational, and enjoyable summer reading!

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
Eds. Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Yes Means Yes aims to end sexual assault by beginning with changing society’s view of women as sexual conquests and instead viewing them as sexual collaborators in the framework of enthusiastic consent. The book provides commentary on media, pornography, and sex education as it encourages both men and women to enjoy sex and sexuality instead of being ashamed about it.
There is a Yes Means Yes blog that you can check out. Both of the authors have Twitter accounts linked on their names above that you can follow as well!

The Guide to Getting it On, Sixth Edition
Author: Paul Joannides
This sex guide has been translated into 12 languages and won 5 awards. Its 928 pages have tips and reliable but down to earth info on everything you can think of, from uncircumcised penises to sex play to myths about menstruation. It is GLBTIQ friendly and very non-judgmental about people’s bodies and their sexual behavior. There are fun illustrations and you don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it’s the perfect book to pull out and flip to a random page to start learning!
The Guide also has a website where there are exerpts on specific topics from the book, as well as links to the book’s facebook page and youtube channel.

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma
Author: Staci Haines
Haines, an educator in the areas of sex education and somatic healing, put together this sex-positive guide for survivors of sexual assault to support them in saying “yes” to wanted sexual experiences. The author is very direct in her writing, so it’s a good idea to be in a good space when you sit down to read this as it could be triggering. The focus of the book is that not only can sex can be good, positive, and feel safe after you’ve survived a sexual assault, but that having such positive sexual experiences can be an integral part of a survivor’s healing process.

These last two are all super interesting reads and could offer great support to anyone who is questioning their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, or who is super sure they’re queer and proud of it!

Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary
Eds. Clare Howell, Joan Nestle, and Riki Wilchins
This is a collection of 31 true personal stories of gender construction, exploration, and questioning from folks who don’t fit the traditional male/female binary.

Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Second Edition
Authors and Eds: Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley
Robyn Ochs, one of the authors and editors of Getting Bi, is a bisexual activist who travels to colleges and universities around the country hosting workshops and lectures on breaking beyond or out of the gender binary.
You can “like” Robyn on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you dig her book!

You can check your local public library or search the UNC library system catalog online here for these books, or see if they’re available on your  kindle, nook, or other fancy electronic reading device!

Avoiding the Stress Competition and 6 Other Tips for Surviving Finals

Finals period! Oh what a wonderful time of year!

Sike. Let’s just be blunt. Finals. Period. Sucks. It’s a stressful time of year. End of story. There is really no way that a 2 week period testing your knowledge on ALLLL the things that you learned during the past 14 weeks could be anything but a little stressful.  But there are some ways to make it suck less, and maybe to even harness some of that stress for good.

  Above all- Don’t Engage in the Stress Competition at all costs!!!

Person 1:“I’m so stressed. I have 2 papers, and 3 finals to go. I’ve been up since, like, 6:30 this morning.”

Person 2: “Uh, me too. I’ve had like 6 cups of coffee today. I only got like 3 hours of sleep.”

Person 1: “Oh yea, I only got like 2.5. I had to finish that take home we had due for biochem.”

How often have you been hanging out with friends during high-stress times like finals period and suddenly found yourself in a similar conversation, wherein, one person’s stressors just feeds off the other’s. BEWARE! While this might seem like simple commiseration, it only serves to perpetuate an atmosphere of stress! In fact, let’s all actively FIGHT the stress competition. When you find yourself beginning to engage in a Stress Competition, immediately say something nice. Something positive. Do jumping jacks. Make a scene. ANYTHING but engage in the stress competition- for serious.

Oh and here are 6 other handy tips for finals times…

1.       Make a Schedule: Sound familiar? You’ve probably received this advice on repeated occasions, but it’s a good suggestion, so it bears repeating. Many times, stress stems from trying to squeeze too much into too little time. By setting out a schedule, you help to structure your time, ensuring that you’re not left at the 12th hour with 20+ pages to read/write. (Bonus: By creating a schedule and using your time wisely you have more time for #3 and #4!)

2.       Prioritize: Much like making a schedule, prioritizing helps you to avoid that last minute cram.

3.       Avoid Productive Procrastination (Or Procrastination At all): Personally, I often try to do smaller easier tasks, while ignoring my looming larger assignments, something a friend of mine calls productive procrastination. While this might seem like at least I’m getting something done, it really just causes me extra stress when I have to scrabble to finish the BIG assignments in the end. Those little assignments aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be just as easy when you’re done with the big one. Same thing for procrastination at all. It’s only going to sneak up on you in the end. Facebook, Twitter, that trip to Taco Bell will still be there when you’re done (and can even serve as a pleasant reward for finishing!)

4.       Take Care of Yourself: I CANNOT repeat this enough. If your body is not well, your mind is not well. Deprive it of the essentials– sleep, nutrients from good food– it’s just not going to perform the way you want it to, and you’re not going to perform the way that you want to. So treat your body right. Take care of yourself.

5.       Don’t Forget Balance: Staying balanced during finals period can be hard. But don’t forget to intersperse some of the activities that really make you happy in between papers and study sessions.

6.       Set Realistic Goals: Know what you can and cannot do. Finishing an X page paper in X amount of time might be realistic for some, but not for you. Use this knowledge to help guide you in #1 and #2.
Any other great suggestions on avoiding finals time stress?