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Wellness Features

Wellness Features cover timely and pertinent college health and wellness topics in an effort to keep you informed on how to better your overall well-being. Features focus on a specific issue each time like safer sex practice or the importance of getting quality sleep. They often are connected to awareness weeks/months and highlight resources and new programs and events taking place on or around campus whenever possible. Overall, the goal is to provide information for everyone and keep things fresh!

New features typically come out every week or two, so be sure to check back to see what is being covered! You can easily be notified of new features through the Paw Print and by following HPaW on social media @nuHPaW via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

The Same but Different: What You Need to Know About the Updated 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

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In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After a two-year nationwide transition to expand access and the capabilities of 988, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), along with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs have made 988 a reality for individuals in need. 

What is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and How Can They Help?

Just like the original National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (“the Lifeline”), 988 provides free and confidential services from trained counselors 24/7, over the phone, via text, or through the Lifeline’s online chat feature. Counselors will listen, provide support, and connect individuals to necessary resources across the country and within all five U.S. territories.  

The 988 dialing code will not replace the Lifeline 1-800 number (1-800-273-8255), but will strengthen and expand access to the network of crisis call centers already established. All calls made to either 988 or the original 10-digit number will be directed to the same service center, ensuring that anyone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or any other emotional distress can receive the support they need.  

The Lifeline is currently offering calling services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. Unfortunately, text and chat services are only available in English, but SAMHSA is working to enable text and chat in Spanish and other languages as soon as possible. Lifeline is in the process of expanding to video phone service to better serve deaf or hard of hearing individuals, as well as serving TTY users through their preferred relay service or by dialing 711, followed by 1-800-273-8255.   

Things to Note

Early debate surrounding the updated Lifeline urged that consumers be aware that using 988 may in some cases lead to involuntary detainment and/or hospitalization. Lifeline crisis counselors are required to call 911 if there is serious risk to life (as are other mental health professionals). The Lifeline states that less than two percent of calls require connection to emergency services like 911, and less than one percent of contacts require the crisis counselor to call 911 without consent. There is substantial data that supports what members of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities have been arguing for years—they are at greater risk of involuntary hospitalization. Stigma and the prohibitive cost of care also disproportionately impact BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.   

In response, a growing number of communities, including Evanston, have established mental health crisis response teams. Non-profit Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare has partnered with local municipalities to offer the First-Response Alternative Crisis Team (FACT). If needed, FACT is dispatched in response to 988 calls in Evanston, Rogers Park, Skokie, and surrounding communities instead of police or other emergency services. According to the City of Evanston website, FACT “provides support to individuals in crisis when and where support is needed. Trilogy’s mobile crisis response team of mental health professionals will help you stay safe. In addition, they will create a safety plan and determine options for ongoing support.” The website also states that “988 provides easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed.”  

Confidential Resources for Northwestern Students

Other Campus Resources 

You can also access mental health resources beyond campus like those listed below:   

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or considering suicide, know that help is available. Calling 988 can save a life. 

 

Financial Literacy as a Student

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It is common to hear students bemoan that there is no adulting class in high school or college with a crash course on personal finance (though that is changing). Taxes, mortgages, credit scores, loans, and investments are daunting topics that might seem like pressing problems for a future version of yourself.

Anxiety here can come from growing up with money as a taboo subject. According to this March 2022 study, 31 percent of U.S. parents never talk to their children about household finances. That becomes a problem when those children face financial barriers later and lack the confidence and expertise to make informed decisions. It is even more so an issue for the 20 percent of Americans who do not feel like they have anyone they trust to question about finance.

All this is said not to scare you into befriending a Kellogg student to do your taxes or scrolling endlessly through financial TikTok. Instead, this article lists some digestible resources to start your ongoing journey of financial literacy. As you confront questions on the likes of budgeting for study abroad or negotiating the salary of your first job, there are folks at Northwestern ready to help!

Websites to Explore Personal Finance

Videos to Learn those Finance Basics

Financial Podcasts

Financial security is an important component of your overall wellness. Explore these resources and seek support when needed to best manage this aspect of your life! 

Support Your Mental Health by Getting Outside!

get-outside3.pngWith Earth Day right around the corner and the gradual progression towards nicer weather, the HPaW team thought it would be an ideal time to highlight the incredible health benefits of spending time outside. We are not just talking about taking a lengthy hike or a weekend camping trip. 20 minutes a day spent along the lake or simply in your backyard has been repeatedly shown in research to be just as advantageous for one’s physical and mental health. Strolls outside became quite popular during pandemic lockdowns, and the following facts might convince you to maintain the routine even as indoor spaces become normal gathering spots again. A new habit would set you apart from the average U.S. resident who spends around 90 percent of their time indoors or in a vehicle. Allow this information to both inspire you and remind you to take care of our environment just as it is taking great care of us 

Physical Benefits of Time Outside  
  • Around 40% U.S. residents are deficient in Vitamin D, and time outside can help remedy this. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and helps regulate the immune system.  
  • Outdoor spaces in urban areas have been shown to be more enticing for physical activity and tend to better motivate community members to exercise.  
  • Experiments comparing the ability to complete a strenuous task in different settings found that those participants in a natural, outdoor setting were more successful and able to focus.  

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Mental Benefits of Time Outside  
  • Experiencing nature can lower your cortisol levels and blood pressure, thereby lowering stress and fatigue.  
  • Time outside the home may increase social connectedness and interactions with the community.  
  • In a study following the effects of walking in a forest, this time spent outside was found to decrease hostility and depression and increase liveliness.  
  • Research highlighted by the Yale School of Environment found in a study of 20,000 people that those who spent two hours in a green space were significantly more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who did not partake in outdoor time.   

                           


With the empowering impacts of nature in mind, it is also important to recognize that many Chicagoans and other people across the country do not have easy access to safe, natural landscapes. Communities are not always in close proximity to welcoming and usable parks, and the outdoor industry does not highlight many populations in its marketing materials. It is challenging for those who never see themselves represented in the media partaking in outdoor activities to embrace natural environments. There are many incredible organizations such as Chicago Voyagers and BackYard Nature Center working to defy stereotypes and ensure everyone can enjoy the outdoors.  


 
Some Fun Spots to Visit Nearby!  
  • Bahai Temple Gardens (20-30 min walk) 
  • Chicago Botanic Garden (20 min drive) 
 Additional Resources

 


Past Wellness Features

Accessibility at Northwestern and Beyond

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The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), signed in 1990, legally guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to participate in everyday activities as everyone else. To ensure that equal access exists on Northwestern’s campus, the AccessibleNU office supports students through the provision of accommodations from sign language interpreting to alternative testing arrangements. Regardless of if you use these resources directly, it is important to know what is available at the campus and city level to ensure that people with disabilities are being catered to. This will allow you to be a better ally and community member when creating materials, organizing events, or even just presenting in class.  The sections below outline university resources and accommodations. These sections do not cover everything, so please refer to the AccessibleNU website or the ADA website among others for additional information. Keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible, and you are not entitled to know the personal information of anyone else.    

 Accessibility Across Campus  
  • Students who use mobility aids or cannot use the stairs can access this page to learn more about parking across campus and connect with someone about accessible routes  
  • The Office of Equity at Northwestern has a page to report an accessibility issue 
  • ANU provides an Accessible Event Guide and the office can help organizers estimate the cost of additional resources 
  • The Global Learning Office offers support in ensuring that accommodations can be made throughout the study abroad process
  • The Northwestern library has a disabilities service section on their website that outlines the accessibility of various facilities and the accommodations that can be made 
  • Northwestern Information Technology lists the assistive technology the office provides, some of which can be accessed regardless of ability 
  • As you all know, the Evanston campus is large and so are individual buildings, so that’s something to keep in mind when planning a group meeting or an event  
 Accessibility in the Classroom  
  • The Office of Equity offers several resources to ensure that our new virtual or hybrid format is amendable to everyone. You can find best practices for Zoom or Canvas and training modules if you would like to become more well-versed in the topic 
  • Most schools and offices on campus have a designated Digital Accessibility Liaison dedicated to developing and implementing accessibility plans  
Disability Language  
As is the case with any other identity, individuals have different opinions when it comes to the correct language in referencing a disability. This page for ANU is just a start to understanding how to create a welcoming and respectful environment when speaking or writing. Northwestern has their own set of recommendations available under Brand Tools here. You can also check out this guide created by Stanford and another put together by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
 
How to Engage Further  
  • There are various organizations on campus that cater to the disabled community and its allies 
  • The City of Chicago features the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and has many programs and resources from trainings and emergency preparedness to youth employment services  
  • The OmsteadRights website lists Illinois disability resources and advocacy organizations 
  • WeThe15 is a global coalition of organizations aiming to highlight and create opportunities for people with disabilities  
  • Podcasts such as iWeigh, Equal Too, and any listed here are a great way to educate yourself on the disabled community and become a more informed ally 

 

Additional Resources:

It's OK to Talk About Suicide

suicide-awareness-ribbon.pngAnnually, 11.8% of young adults aged 18 to 25 have serious thoughts of suicide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students which is a statistic that has yet to take into account the isolating effects of the pandemic. Around 54% of Americans report being affected by suicide because of the high rates.   

Though these figures are worrying, suicide is preventable. Oftentimes, individuals will exhibit behavior or make comments that indicate their contemplation of suicide.  If we as a Northwestern community are attentive to our peers and aware of the resources available, we can ensure that our students, faculty, and staff can have a safe and supported return to campus. The transition back to on-campus activities and rigorous schedules is incredibly stressful. This time of change is the opportune moment to take care of yourself and the people around you.  

In recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness month, here are a few key resources offered by Northwestern and outside sources. You do not need to be a mental health professional to take advantage of these resources and make a profound difference in someone’s life.  

This is not an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of resources that pertain to specific identities or scenarios. We encourage you to do your own research and ask questions if you are looking for something different than what you see below.  

Direct Service 

  • The Crisis Text Line is available if you text HOME to 741741 
  • The Trevor Project supports LGBTQIA+ youth - their lifeline is 1-866-488-7386 or you can text START to 678-678  

Training  

  • Mental Health First Aid provides trainings across the country on how to help someone experiencing a mental health or substance-use related crisis 

Advocacy  

  • Northwestern has a number of student-run organizations at the undergraduate level that focus on the mental health of the student body or the greater community 
  • The City of Evanston and NAMI Chicago sites list nonprofits and government organizations related to suicide prevention that accept donations or volunteers 

Additional Resources  

Additional Resources

 

#MentalHealthAwareness | MIND, Body, and Spirit

mh-awareness.pngYour mental health is a pillar to your overall wellbeing and the past 14 months have tested many of us more than ever before. Prior to the pandemic though, more attention has been given to the need to support mental health. As we close out the month of May and the academic year, we want to focus on this critical component to wellbeing to help you better understand this area of wellness and connect with resources that can help both now and moving into your next chapter.

 While 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness over the course of their lifetimes, everyone will face challenges that can affect their mental health.  Yet nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental health illness never seek treatment.  Recognizing your feelings, finding the routines that lift you up, removing toxic influences, and connecting with others can all help you on your path to recovery as you develop your own positive mental health strategies.

Northwestern has a multitude of services to support your emotional and mental wellbeing. From CAPS to RSL, from Wellness Coaching to BREATH, there is something to get you started in exploring your needs connected to mental wellness.

 Beyond the University, countless organizations exist that can provide additional information and connect you to the best service to meet your needs. NAMI, SAMHSA, NIMH, and the JED Foundation are just a few not to mention instant support through the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK and National Helpline 800-662-HELP.

Mental Health Resources

#AlcoholAwarenessMonth | Alcohol's Impact on Wellbeing and the New AOD Resources Website

alcohol-awareness-month.pngThe month of April brings attention to many important health topics including autism, stress, STIs, and sexual assault. It is also Alcohol Awareness Month, a particularly important topic to engage in learning around for college populations. Alcohol use remains the number one misused substance among college-aged students and as a result, causes significant public health issues. An estimated 1,519 college students aged 18-24 lose their lives to alcohol-related injuries, including motor vehicle accidents, every year. But aside from the tragic loss of life that alcohol causes, numerous other negative outcomes are strongly associated with high-risk alcohol use among college students including physical assault (696,000), sexual assault (97,000), academic problems, developing alcohol use disorder, suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sexual behavior, driving under the influence of alcohol, vandalism, and involvement with the police.

While some may wish that college students would simply choose to abstain from alcohol use, we acknowledge the existing alcohol culture and that abstinence from drinking may not be the goal for every college student. Therefore, we approach reducing these negative outcomes through a variety of proven harm reduction methods. As students, we invite you to engage with this topic through educational opportunities as a means to raising your awareness of what you and others can do to push back against misperceptions around use, continue with or shift to lower-risk drinking behaviors, and shape a campus environment where everyone feels safe and able to thrive regardless of their choice to consume alcohol.

We are excited to present the newly designed Alcohol and Other Drugs Resources website at this time. The AOD Resources website provides Northwestern students, parents, faculty, staff, and neighbors with a centralized hub for information, policies, programs, and services related to alcohol and other drugs. It represents the work of numerous campus partners who share the goal of supporting students in making responsible decisions about alcohol and other drugs, including choosing lower-risk use and choosing not to use, to keep the Northwestern community safer and healthier.

Finally, it is imperative to remember that we are still living through a global pandemic and substance use, not just alcohol, can increase risk of exposure to and impact one’s ability to fight off or recover from illnesses. For that reason, we have provided a concise page of information with ways in which to prevent alcohol or other substances from impacting your health and wellbeing during this time.

If you are seeking help in navigating your substance use, there are a number of services you can choose from. Simply navigate to our Support for Students page or contact Health Promotion and Wellness directly by emailing hpaw@northwestern.edu for help navigating next steps.

For additional information, follow HPaW on social media.

Alcohol Resources

#SAAM | Sexual Assault Awareness Month

saam-nu-logo.jpgThis month, the Center for Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE) is focusing SAAM on the broad theme of Collective Healing, with a different piece for each week of April. Collective healing is an approach that’s been used for generations to process and heal from trauma, specifically in Black and Indigenous communities healing from collective trauma. A considerable part of collective healing is acknowledgment of the trauma and understanding of the methods individuals & communities used to survive, and ultimately connecting to the community and the history that bonds and brings us together. Experiences of sexual violence, and more generally collective trauma, can benefit from a collective healing approach to recognize and interrupt its historical, cultural, and collective existence. Collective healing relies on the close relationship between the individual and the community - everyone experiences and heals from interpersonal violence differently, so individual healing is inherently tied to collective healing.

We urge the Northwestern community to participate when able in this month's events and engage on social media as much as possible. Our hope for the month is to bring us together as a community, through support and solidarity, and begin to collectively move toward healing (however defined). We need your support!!

For additional information, follow CARE on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter 

#BrainInjuryAwareness | A Brain Injury Can Happen to Anyone

brain-injury.pngIf you’re a fan of football, you most certainly have seen a player take a blow to the head that knocks them unconscious for a moment or has them unable to stand back up without appearing disoriented. This is one of the more common examples of a person sustaining a brain injury known as a concussion. However, concussions and brain injuries as a whole, are not relegated solely to the world of sports and can occur to anyone as a result from a multitude of factors. 

What is a Brain Injury?

As defined by the Brain Injury Alliance, “A brain injury is an injury to the brain that occurs after birth and is not congenital, degenerative or hereditary. The injury results in a change of the brain’s neuronal activity. There are two types of brain injury: Traumatic Brain Injury and Acquired Brain Injury.”

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): A TBI is caused by an external factor such as a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. TBI can be defined as closed (non-penetrating) or open (penetrating). The severity of a TBI may range from mild (for example, concussion) to severe.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI): An ABI is an alteration in brain functioning or pathology caused by internal factors such as a lack of oxygen. 

How is a person likely to sustain a brain injury?

A brain injury can result from numerous factors. Many brain injuries will occur from a single severe event where the head sustains a significant blow such as during a fall, car accident, or sports related injury resulting in a concussion. A brain injury can also develop over time due to conditions including a brain tumor, infectious disease, or neurotoxic poisoning.

Unfortunately, it is important to note that brain injuries can be the result of physical altercations including abusive relationships. If you or a friend are in an abusive relationship, seek help. Northwestern and the surrounding area have confidential support services to help should you find yourself in this situation.

How can you prevent/lessen the severity of a brain injury?

There are many simple ways in which you can prevent or lessen the severity of a brain injury from occurring.

WEAR A HELMET! It cannot be stressed enough that wearing a helmet during these activities significantly reduces the likelihood and severity of sustaining a head/brain injury:

  • Ride a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or use an all-terrain vehicle
  • Play a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
  • Use in-line skates or ride a skateboard
  • Bat and run bases in baseball or softball
  • Ride a horse
  • Ski or snowboard

PRACTICE SAFE DRIVING HABITS

Always Wear A Seatbelt. Whether you are the driver or a passenger, wearing a seat belt every time you are in a vehicle significantly decreases the chance of suffering an injury, not just head/brain injuries.

Do Not Drink And Drive. Even low levels of alcohol increase the risk of a car crash. If you plan to drink and need transportation use a sober designated driver or public transportation.

Avoid Distracted Driving Habits. Silence, enable the ‘do not disturb’ function, or put your phone away when driving; do not make phone calls or text while operating the vehicle. Do not read, eat, or groom while driving.

Keep Substance Use to Low-Risk Levels and Never Mix Substances. Falls are much more common when a person is intoxicated due to impaired coordination. Mixing substances, including OTC and prescription medications, can result in severe reactions leading to injury.

Make Living Areas Safer. Have you ever bumped your head on a low ceiling or other objects? This can commonly occur when beds are bunked or lofted. Avoid setting your living space this way if at all possible. Otherwise, place padding on any hard exposed surfaces that your head is likely to come in contact with. Ensure handrails are installed and secure on all staircases. Also, ensure any carpeting is secure or install stair tread covers for additional grip.

Signs & Symptoms of a Brain Injury

Brain injuries can cause an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning and result in the disturbance of behavioral or emotional functioning. Many symptoms appear immediately after the injury while others can develop over the coming days or weeks.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Becoming easily confused
  • Slowed thought processes
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Nausea
  • Lack of energy, fatigue
  • Dizziness, poor balance, lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Poor sleep
  • Mood changes (irritable, anxious, or sad)
What to do after sustaining an injury

The good news is, concussions and other brain injuries can be treated and symptoms can go away over time with proper care, which is why it is important to address any injury early on. In the event of a severe accident (the person is unconscious, bleeding, in severe pain, or immobile), call 911 for immediate help. If you are noticing any of the symptoms listed above after hitting your head, you should call the Health Service at 847.491.2204 as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. At your appointment, you will receive a comprehensive cognitive and physical assessment.  Additional follow-up, referrals, and resources will be designated at your initial appointment.

A brain injury can make things like going to class, concentrating, and doing academic work more difficult. If class increases the severity of your symptoms, you should not attend.  At your initial evaluation, you can fill out a release of information to inform the Dean of your school about your academic modifications. Your physician will work with you to help find adjustments during this time.

Avoid all physical activity while healing until you are cleared by your physician.

For additional educational information, contact Concussion Specialist, Brian Vesci, DAT, ATC, at vesci@northwestern.edu

Important Brain Injury Links:

Educational Concussion Video (Students)

NUHS Concussion Video

Concussion Care (NUHS Sports Medicine)

CDC Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion

CDC Helmet Safety

#NationalNutritionMonth | One Size Doesn’t Fit All; Personalize Your Plate!

nnm-website.jpgNational Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. But learning about nutrition should not only take place during the month of March. With the amount of information that is available around this topic, we invite you to bookmark our Wellness Feature page so you can come back to this feature (and others) whenever you need to connect to this content again. We will also be sharing a variety of information through social media @nuHPaW on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Besides following the content being out this month, MyPlate.gov offers an excellent starting point for exploring basic dietary recommendations. MyPlate walks through the basics food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy), how much of each make up a healthy/balanced diet, and why it’s important to eat each type. You can take the ‘What’s on your plate?’ quiz, learn about the Start Simple with MyPlate app, and explore easy recipes through MyPlate Kitchen.

If you are looking for assistance with your dietary needs, Northwestern has many resources available for you to tap into through Northwestern Dining. Most notable is Personalized Nutrition Counseling. Through Northwestern Dining, we offer complimentary nutrition counseling services and guidance from our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Lisa Carlson, MS, RDN, LDN. Lisa takes a personalized approach to nutrition and wellness, and she is dedicated to helping people where they are to achieve a healthier lifestyle through nutrition, mindful eating, and physical activity.

To schedule a personalized nutrition tele-counseling session with Lisa, email her at dietitian@northwestern.edu or lisa.carlson@compass-usa.com. Click to learn more about Lisa and Inclusive Dining at Northwestern.

Finally, the Northwestern Dining Wellness and Sustainability Blog offers a variety of articles to explore around the topics of diet and nutrition. New blog posts come out weekly so that the content stays fresh for your consumption.

Important Diet/Nutrition Links

#CondomMonth | The Condom: King of Contraception and STD Prevention

colorful-condoms.jpegFebruary is National Condom Month so let’s talk about sex…err condoms, baby! No other form of contraception has as long and storied of a history as the condom. Some of the earliest accounts of condom use date back thousands of years! With so much time to fine-tune their construction, condoms have come a long way in both their design and effectiveness. Furthermore, when used properly, no other form of contraception is as effective in its ability to prevent both pregnancy AND the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at the same time. This is just the tip when it comes to condom education. So, sit back, relax and strap in for some more about condoms!

First off, there are two types of condoms. People are probably most familiar with external condoms. However, there are also internal condoms. Internal condoms are sometimes referred to as “female” condoms, but people of any gender can use them for vaginal or anal sex. While each is used in different ways, both serve the same purpose; to prevent sperm from entering the vagina and fertilizing an egg and/or prevent the transmission of STDs to and from partners engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Condoms come in various shapes, sizes, textures, colors, flavors, materials*, with or without lubrication**, spermicide, or a numbing agent. There is literally a condom out there for everyone! So if you have had a poor experience with one brand of condom, don’t write them all off. Just try a different one next time.

Did You Know? 
Condoms can be used in conjunction with sex toys to protect both the user and the toy itself. Sex toys that touch the genitals or are inserted into the body often work best with lube. Like condoms, it is important to use the correct type of lube with sex toys. DO NOT use silicone lubricant directly with a silicone toy as this can deteriorate the toy itself creating abrasions where bacteria can more easily grow. Placing a condom over the toy first allows for water-based and silicone lubricant to be used.

If you are sharing a sex toy, you should put a new condom on before it touches the other person’s genitals. Never put a sex toy that’s been in an anus into a vagina without washing it or changing the condom first. If germs from the anus get into the vagina, it can lead to vaginitis. Sex toys should always be washed with mild soap and water after use no matter if a condom was used or not.

Condoms can be purchased at numerous locations typically for low cost and are oftentimes even available for free at many health centers. Free safer sex supplies are available to students on the third floor of Searle Hall (633 Emerson Street) in the waiting area for CARE and HPaW.

While condoms greatly decrease the chance of unwanted pregnancy and transmission of STDs, they do not make sexual activity risk-free on their own. Combining proper condom use with other forms of contraception and preventative measures will turn safe sex into safer sex. Be sure to refer to the additional resources found in the links in this feature for detailed information on making sex safer and more pleasurable.

You can always reach out to a health care professional to confidentially discuss any questions or concerns you have about sexual health. Appointments can easily be made online with NUHS or CARE. Additional staff who serve as confidential resources that might assist your needs include CAPS and University Chaplains.

If you choose to engage in sexual activity during this time, keep in mind how to do so without putting you or your partner at risk of contracting COVID-19.

*Lambskin condoms do not protect against STDs. Only latex and plastic condoms do.
**Only use water-based and silicone lubricants with condoms to avoid tearing/breaking.

Important Links/Resources

#DentalHealth | Good Oral Hygiene is Important to Your Health and Wellbeing

dental-health.jpgWhen did you last visit the dentist for a check-up and cleaning? Best practice dictates going every 6 months in order to avoid serious issues and to catch any concerns early on. Dental and oral health is one of the most important parts of your overall health and well-being. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities and gum disease and has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment.

Even if you haven’t been to the dentist in quite some time, it is never too late to begin a regular routine to improve and maintain your oral health. If you’re not too keen on going to the dentist, that is understandable. However, it is not a reason to neglect your oral health. Ask around for a referral to a dentist that is highly regarded and ask questions about any concerns you have when you meet your dentist. Being open and honest about your oral hygiene and dental concerns with your dentists can prevent more serious issues from occurring down the road.

Here are the key components to easily maintaining your oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day (Morning and Before Bed)
  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Brush your tongue
  • Floss daily
  • Limit your sugar intake
  • Drink water
  • Visit the Dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and general check-up

While not substitutes for regular brushing and flossing, using both mouthwash and chewing gum benefits oral health as well. On the other hand, behaviors like smoking and chewing tobacco can seriously impact oral health. Tobacco use comes with a myriad of negative oral health outcomes including discolored teeth, bad breath, gum disease, and cancer. For information on quitting tobacco use, visit www.quityes.org.

 Choosing a good toothbrush and toothpaste is also part of the process. While there are countless products on the market, there is no need to overthink this. Generally, use soft bristle brushes to avoid damaging your teeth or gums and toothpaste with fluoride to help strengthen your enamel. From there you can explore variations to help control tartar, aid with sensitivity, or help with whitening. So long as both have the ADA seal of approval you will know you are using a product that has been properly tested. If you do feel overwhelmed, consult your dentist about your specific needs. Also, every 3-4 months you will want to toss out that used toothbrush and start using a fresh one.

Not sure if you have dental coverage under your current insurance plan? All students – regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in the Northwestern University Student Health Insurance Plan (NU-SHIP), may enroll in optional dental and/or vision coverage. Dental coverage helps you save money on dental procedures and allows for regular check-ups and cleanings.

Important Links/Resources

How to Brush Your Teeth (Video)

Oral Health - CDC

NU Dental & Vision Insurance Options

#Refreshed | The Importance of Quality Sleep

refreshed.jpgAs we turn back the clocks and the days get shorter, it seems like the perfect time to touch on the importance of sleep in our life. After all, time changes and seasonal affective disorder are two things that can impact sleep. Consistent quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. Sleep is crucial to many bodily functions, especially our cognitive functioning. In fact, our brains actually clean themselves during sleep, helping maintain brain health and possibly preventing serious illness such as Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. That’s how powerful good quality sleep is.

Waking up still tired and feeling drowsy during the day is a clear sign that adequate sleep is not being obtained. As a student who is learning new things every day, sleep is essential to memory formation and retention. Being tired and not alert can impact your ability to retain and recall information, potentially impacting academic performance. Poor sleep is also linked to chronic health disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

Many things can affect our sleep both in the short and long term including numerous stressors to more severe issues like chronic insomnia and sleep apnea.

What does healthy/quality sleep look like?

  • Getting 7-9 hours each night
  • Falling asleep within ~20 minutes of laying down to sleep
  • Remaining asleep; waking up no more than once per night
  • Awaking feeling refreshed

The good news is, there are a lot of things you can do to improve your sleep and maintain quality.

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol, especially close to bedtime
  • Stay off of electronic devices close to bedtime
    • Use blue light blocking glasses and apps that adjust the color settings in the evening
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep the room cool but comfortable
  • Declutter your sleeping space
  • Use white noise to mask distracting sounds
  • Try guided practices to help relax your body and mind
  • Seek support and treatment for more serious conditions

Another option for addressing sleep disorders are sleep aids, but these should not be viewed as a replacement for good sleep habits or intended for long term use. While many sleep aids are considered ‘natural remedies’ you should still consult a physician before use especially if you are taking other medications in order to avoid any complications. Never take sleep aids with alcohol or other drugs.

There is a lot we know, yet still a lot we do not know about the intricacies of sleep. Explore the multitude of links that have been provided to dive deeper into the world of sleep and how you can work towards consistent quality sleep. If you would like to speak to somebody about improving your sleep, consider signing up for Wellness Coaching.

Important Links/Resources

#DitchJUUL | Understanding the Risks of Vaping and Nicotine Use

vapingstudent.jpgIt is well known that smoking is among the leading causes of death annually contributing to adverse health conditions including cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, flu, and COPD. Now, with COVID-19 there is believed to be an increased risk associated with smoking and risk of severe illness. Major strides in public health efforts over the past few decades have been made and continue to be made to reduce the number of people who smoke. Recent legislation at the Federal, State, and local levels of government across the country have moved the legal age to purchase, possess and use tobacco products to 21 years of age. Changes like this help keep tobacco/nicotine products out of the hands of young people, reducing the chance of addiction from occurring, and ultimately, improving and prolonging people’s lives.

Unfortunately, much of the positive work to curb traditional cigarette smoking rates is being chipped away at due to the rise in vaping among youth. While some view vaping as a less harmful form of nicotine use or even as a way to stop smoking, much is still unknown on the effects vaping has on a person’s health. Chemicals contained in the aerosols produced by vaping are known to be carcinogenic. Vaping is NOT risk free and is not an FDA approved form of smoking cessation.

If you are currently using tobacco or nicotine products, including vapes, there are numerous resources to help you be free from nicotine. The first ever text-based vaping cessation resource launched this year called This is Quitting. Simply text DITCHJUUL to 88709 to begin receiving help today. Other free services to obtain tools, tips and resources to quit include the national tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW and for Illinois residents, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES.

Important Links/Resources