World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day! The focus is to unite collectively to prevent new HIV infections, support those with HIV/AIDS status, and celebrate the memory of those who have lost their lives to HIV-related illnesses.  World AIDS Day is the first global health day, and was founded in 1988.  According to the CDC in 2018 (most recent statistics available), nearly 38,000 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the United States, with people ages 25 to 34 representing the highest age group of new diagnoses.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells in the body that assist with fighting infections, and it makes a person more susceptible to other infections and illnesses.  HIV is spread through bodily fluids, such as those transferred through unprotected sexual activity with someone who is infected, through needle sharing, or other contacts where bodily fluids are exchanged.  If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).  There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, but through the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), people are living longer, healthier lives, and limiting the exposure of HIV to their loved ones.  Also,  pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can assist with limiting transmission through sex and substance use.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.  You can utilize a home self-test, locate HIV testing centers and resources, learn about PrEP, and use prophylaxis during sexual activity as options to protect yourself from exposure to HIV.  You can participate in the Red Ribbon Project, and through the use of the following hashtags social media: #WorldAIDSDay #WAD2020 #StopHIVTogether #EndHIVEpidemic #HIV

Let’s do what we can to stop the spread of HIV together!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Annually, the week before Thanksgiving, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is observed.  This week aims to highlight that many in the United States and nations around the world struggle with finding their next meal, and having to choose whether to eat, or having a place to stay.  This reality faces more of us than openly acknowledged;  as uncomfortable as it can be to confront this crisis, it is immensely more uncomfortable for those struggling with hunger and homelessness.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness,  approximately 43 million people live at the poverty level in the United States, and over half a million people are homeless on any given day.  Additionally, 42 million Americans live with food insecurity.

Three ways that you can you help address hunger and homelessness in geographic areas nearest NOVA campuses are by educating yourself and others about available resources; volunteering; and sharing the initiatives highlighting these needs.

  1. Area agencies that address housing needs and food supports include (but are not limited to):

2. The following local agencies are seeking volunteers during this       awareness week:

3. Learn about the #shareyourtable initiative,  and share via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Further expand your awareness and advocacy efforts by learning about and sharing organizations not included here, and speak with your community members about what you can do in your neighborhood and community circle to address this issue impacting so many, especially with its amplification during this holiday season during a pandemic.

If you have questions about food or housing for yourself or another NOVA community member, please contact Financial Stability and Advocacy Centers at financialstability@nvcc.edu or The Office of Wellness and Mental Health at wellness@nvcc.edu.

Warmest wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Concluding Words of Gratitude

With the season of gratitude upon us at a time when we could all use a bit more kindness, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Wellness & Mental Health encouraged the NOVA community to share anonymous words of gratitude throughout the week of Nov. 2nd – 6th. Each submission answered the following question. “For what or whom are you feeling most grateful for and why?” With over 80 total submissions and many specific individuals named, we wanted to share out the meaningful responses and lift the spirits of our community. Take a few minutes and watch the concluding video here!

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Presenting Day 4 of Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness, brought to you by the Office of Student Life and Office of Wellness and Mental Health!

Did you know that practicing an attitude of gratitude, rather than focusing on negatives, can impact your overall happiness at NOVA, work, and at home?

Practicing gratitude is a form of self-care that with practice can enhance “optimism, better sleep, fewer physical ailments, and lower levels of anxiety and depression” (Van Woerkom, 2019). Don’t know where to start? You are not alone! Try one of these helpful FREE gratitude apps to coach you through the process of having an attitude of gratitude.

  • Gratitude: This app aims to be an avenue for those suffering from anxiety and depression. It helps users improve their mental health and change their perception of life by teaching user how to love and care for themselves.
  • 365 Gratitude: This app teaches user to focus on the good in life and motivates usage by celebrating accomplishments with rewards and prizes (medallions).
  • Gthnx: This app is my personal favorite since it incorporates journaling meditation, and pictures to help users spark joy in their life.
  • Live Happy: This app connects the science and psychology of happiness and gratitude to actions so that users can create a more meaningful life.

Want more resources? The Office of Wellness and Mental Health can help. Visit https://www.nvcc.edu/wellness/ to learn more.

Van Woerkom, M. (2019). SEL Tip: Practice gratitude as a form of self-care. Retrieved from https://www.morningsidecenter.org/teachable-moment/lessons/sel-tip-practice-gratitude-form-self-care.

As a reminder, you can participate by:

  1. Take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here, which will be displayed on a “virtual bulletin board” and become a video to be released on Nov. 11.
  2. Complete and email the “Kindness Card” to someone you really appreciate or someone who could simply use some extra words of encouragement at this time. The link to access the card is here.

THE GIFT NO ONE WANTS OR DESERVES: TOXIC POSITIVITY

Presenting Day 3 of Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness, brought to you by the Office of Student Life and Office of Wellness and Mental Health!

Over time, we’ve all been conditioned to say things to others that can be defined as “Toxic Positivity.”  Toxic Positivity phrases are blanket statements that are not helpful to the person going through a life issue.

Toxic Positivity Definition: “Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”

“Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. The truth is humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat out suck. By pretending that we have “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience. “ (Quintero & Long, 2019)

It’s okay to not be okay!  In life we should get to “experience the rainbow of our emotions” and be able to learn from them. While it’s okay to be a cheerleader and try to motivate your peers and friends, it is imperative that you examine your message to make sure that it is helpful and not full of toxic positivity. Having a positive attitude is not necessarily a bad thing and can be welcomed in appropriate situations, but it is also possible to overdo positive messages! Overdoing it can cause resistance and unintended stress in the receiver and make it less likely that they will consult you in the future for advice or even to just let you know what is going on with them in their life struggles.

Toxic Positivity Statement Non-Toxic Acceptance & Validation Statement
“Don’t think about it, stay positive!” “Describe what you’re feeling. I’m listening.”
“Don’t worry, be happy!” “I see that you’re really stressed. Anything I can do?”
“Failure is not an option.” “Failure is a part of growth and success.”
“Everything will work out in the end.” “This is really hard. I’m thinking of you.”
“Positive vibes only!” “I’m here for you both good and bad.”
“If I can do it, so can you!” “Everyone’s story, abilities, limitations are different, and that’s okay.”
“Delete Negativity” “Suffering is a part of life. You are not alone.”
“Look for the silver lining.” “I see you. I’m here for you.”
“Everything happens for a reason.” “Sometimes we can draw the short straw in life. How can I support you during this hard time?”
“It could be worse.” “That sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”

(Quintero & Long, 2019)

Quintero, S. and Long, J. (2019). Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes Retrieved from https://thepsychologygroup.com/toxic-positivity/

Want more resources? The Office of Wellness and Mental Health can help. Visit https://www.nvcc.edu/wellness/ to learn more.

Check out this video:  Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes

As a reminder, you can participate two ways:

  1. Take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here, which will be displayed on a “virtual bulletin board” and become a video to be released on Nov. 11.
  2. Complete and email the “Kindness Card” to someone you really appreciate or someone who could simply use some extra words of encouragement at this time. The link to access the card is here.

Giving Gratitude Virtual Bulletin Board Preview

As a part of the NOVA initiative of cultivating care, and reaching out in kindness, the Office of Student Life and The Office of Wellness and Mental Health are sharing a preview of the Giving Gratitude virtual bulletin board.  See some of the things NOVA community members are grateful for, and look out for the full virtual bulletin board video on November 11!

To participate, take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here.

Click image to enlarge.

 

CULTIVATING CARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Presenting Day 2 of Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness, brought to you by the Office of Student Life and the Office of Wellness and Mental Health!

With technology usage at an all-time high, you may experience joy and frustration with life online.  We use social media to stay connected with friends and family, keep up with news and celebrities, inform others about our lives and more.  The convenience of smartphones means we can get up-to-the-second updates from our app notifications, and for many, this leads to being stuck in a pattern of grabbing our phones at every chime and engaging in constant scrolling.  Topics, such as the pandemic’s impact on our lives and economy, racial discourse, and political sparring are splashed all over our timelines.

So how do you take care of yourself while enjoying social media?  Check out these tips!

  1. Before you open an app and start scrolling, ask yourself if you’re in the mood for what you might see. Check in with yourself during and after your time online.
  2. Do you have people whose posts trigger you? Consider muting them, so you cannot see their posts when you scroll.  This can be done on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!
  3. Schedule your time online. Be purposeful when you engage instead of just reaching for the phone when you hear a notification.  This will help you with not being overwhelmed.
  4. Turn off your notifications! It is hard to stay focused on the world around you with constant pinging, and it may cause you to start a scrolling session and lose track of time and task.  You may also feel anxious knowing there are posts, messages and videos waiting for you to observe.  Control how and when you engage instead of the notifications shaping that for you.
  5. Remember that what you see of others (and what you post of yourself) isn’t fully representative of the real world. Others are choosing what they share with you online, just the same as you are choosing when you post.  Be careful not to compare yourself to polished images.
  6. Be careful in the comment section. Think before you comment, and consider the source when you read what others say- it is easy to get caught up in negativity when you end up doomsurfing or doomscrolling (pattern of seeking or viewing negative content, even if it makes you sad, anxious, or angry).
  7. Don’t ignore cyberbullying. We all have a right to respect when online- if you are mistreated, see something offensive, or view content that just doesn’t feel right, report it.  People can feel emboldened behind anonymous screennames, and algorithms miss questionable content all the time, so it is up to us as an online community to keep it safe for us all!
  8. If it all just seems like too much, feel free to take a break! Let your followers know so they don’t worry about you.  Take care of you first!

For another perspective on taking a break online, check out Social Media Detox…This Changed My Life!!   Happy Scrolling!

As a reminder, you can participate by:

  1. Take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here, which will be displayed on a “virtual bulletin board” and become a video to be released on Nov. 11.
  2. Complete and email the “Kindness Card” to someone you really appreciate or someone who could simply use some extra words of encouragement at this time. The link to access the card is here.

Self-Care– Taking Care Of Your Own Wellness

Brought to you by the Office of Student Life and Office of Wellness and Mental Health

“We have to cry sometimes before we can smile. We have to hurt before we can be strong. But if you keep on working and believing, you’ll have victory in the end” – Ann Davies

Self-care involves supporting yourself in ways big and small, from honoring your emotions, to being gentle in the demands you place on yourself, to allowing others to assist you in times of need.

Imagine that you were helping a loved one to recover from an injury. You would make sure they were getting enough rest and had nourishing food to eat. You would encourage them to do the things that make them feel better, be it exercise, socializing, or activities they enjoy. You would take the time to listen to what they were experiencing and to what they needed. You would discourage them from putting too much pressure or stress on themselves to feel better right away. Most of us instinctively know how to care for others, but forget to apply those same skills towards ourselves. Give yourself the gift of attention, time and compassion.

Self-care is just as important as your work or your education. Being overloaded with work can add to your stress and slow you down. Self-care helps to keep you positive and energetic. It gives you time to reflect on yourself and to consider what may enhance your overall wellness.

Learn to control what you can control! Stress can have a direct impact on your ability to function properly and your overall health. It can stop you from accomplishing many goals in life. Learning how to cope with stress may improve your lifestyle and increase your chances for success. Try setting small weekly goals to better manage your time. As you start to cross off the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment which will help reduce stress.

Check out these links to learn more!

7 Self-care Tips during Pandemic

Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up

Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness, Nov. 2-Nov. 6

Office of Student Life and Office of Wellness & Mental Health present Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness!

NOVA is a community committed to showing care for all. Consider how you show care to others as well as yourself. Whether through a generous act of kindness or an enriched expression of gratitude, authentic care is what keeps us connected through the greatest of times and through the toughest of times. Let’s be even more intentional in cultivating and intensifying that care this season and beyond. For the week of Nov. 2 through Nov. 6, be on the lookout for daily posts, and check out the two options that we hope everyone will participate in for the betterment of us all.

1. Take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here, which will be displayed on a “virtual bulletin board” and become a video to be released on Nov. 11.

2. Complete and email the “Kindness Card” to someone you really appreciate or someone who could simply use some extra words of encouragement at this time. The link to access the card is here.

Thanks for ensuring that NOVA’s culture of care is solidified with actions.

The “S” Word- What To Do To Prevent Suicide

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act has passed in the US House of Representatives today!  It aims to create a three-digit number (988) for suicide prevention and mental health crises, and direct calls to the already-established National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Having previously passed in the Senate, it is awaiting presidential approval and signature, and will require all telephone service providers to route calls from the Lifeline to 988 by July 16, 2022.

In the meantime, here are some resources to assist you in finding suicide prevention information, contacts and resources for yourself and others.  As safety is paramount, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or know of someone that is, calling 911 is the first line of intervention.  You may also go to your local emergency room for assistance.

Note: This information is not exhaustive, nor is its inclusion an endorsement by The Office of Wellness and Mental Health.

Who to contact:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
    • Available 24/7
    • 1-800-273-8255, or chat
    • 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish Language)
    • 711 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
    • 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or chat (Veterans)
  • PRS Crisis Link Hotline (Northern Virginia):
    • Available 24/7
    • 703-527-4077 or text CONNECT to 85511
    • 711 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
  • Crisis Text Line:
    • Available 24/7
    • Text HOME to 741741
  • The Trevor Project (LGBT):
    • Available 24/7
    • 1-866-488-7386
    • Text START to 678678
    • TrevorCHAT

Warning signs that intervention may be necessary:

  • Talking about:
    • Killing themselves
    • Having no reason to live
    • Not wanting to live
    • Feeling trapped
    • Not wanting to be here anymore
    • Experiencing unbearable pain
    • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Exhibiting behaviors of:
    • Withdrawing from activities
    • Isolating from others
    • Increased drinking or substance use
    • Recklessness
    • Aggression
    • Planning ways to kill themselves, including internet searches and gathering means to inflict harm
    • Cutting, or other self-harm actions
    • Sleeping too much, or not enough
    • Giving away treasured possessions
    • Goodbye calls and/or visits to others
  • Displaying signs of:
    • Abrupt/erratic changes in mood
    • Depression
    • Irritability
    • Anhedonia (lack of interest in activities once enjoyed)
    • Rage
    • Feeling humiliated, attacked, dismissed or singled out

Resources on suicide and self-harm:

Although suicide is a difficult topic and experience for many, we cannot remain silent.  If you or a classmate/colleague/friend/family member is struggling, remember, there is hope and help is out there.  Let’s work together to quell our fear of the “s” word, to keep each other safe and well, and to end the stigma of self-harm and suicidal thinking.  You are not alone, your life is precious, and you are worthy of becoming your best self; you just have to be around to see how far you can fly!