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Wholeness Topics

The topics here consist of a reference for information about many issues that impact college students. If there’s specific information you’re looking for, or if you have any questions, send us an email at

Wellness doesn’t actually function in distinct “topics,” or course; they’re all inextricably interrelated. Your stress can affect your body image and your drinking, and vice versa, and every other combination of issues. What “wellness” boils down to is practicing adaptive strategies for managing negative affect. (“Negative affect” just means bad feelings—specifically stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness and anger.) Being able to deal effectively with your emotions, without increasing your risk of unwanted consequences, is what wellness is all about.

Check out each topic to learn a little bit more about specific issues that are common among college students.

The Basics

So alcohol is kind of a thing in college. If you choose to drink, here are the essential things to know:

  • Measure your drinks: 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor, 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer
  • Count your drinks: no more than four in one night; two is average
  • Pace yourself: About 1 drink an hour. You can alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages if that helps.
  • Eat food before and after drinking
  • Drink 32 oz of water between each drink and once before you go to bed

Simple enough, right?

Additional Tips

  • Set a drinking limit before you begin to drink. Alcohol clouds decision-making and increases confidence, a combination that often leads to risky situations.
  • When going out to drink, plan to get home without driving. Use a designated driver, call a taxi, take the bus, or walk. Alcohol-related accidents account for more than 40 percent of all driving fatalities.
  • Sip and enjoy your drink. Let the taste and good feeling linger. Drinking for speed and quantity skyrockets your BAC, diminishing the pleasurable effects of alcohol and increasing the likelihood of blackout, vomiting, or passing out.
  • Avoid drinking games. Competitive drinking puts pressure on you to drink more than the right amount for you. Remember, BAC level per drink differs radically according to weight, gender and metabolic factors. Maximize the quality of your experience. Don’t try to match someone else.
  • Remember, alcohol doesn’t necessarily improve sex. Often the opposite is true. Unwanted and unprotected sex can also occur under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol Poisoning

What is alcohol poisoning? 

Just what happens to your body when you get alcohol poisoning? Alcohol turns off nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.

It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious.

You should also know that a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Critical Signs for Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
  • Vomiting—if the person cannot keep even water down, go to the hospital immediately!
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish fingernail beds and fingertips, paleness

What To Do If You Think Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning

  • Know the danger signals
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die
  • If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help. Don’t try to guess the level of drunkenness

What Can Happen If Alcohol Poisoning Goes Untreated

  • Victim chokes on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops
  • Heart beats irregularly or stops
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death

Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking (which often happens on a bet or a dare) is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious.

Don’t be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Don’t worry that your friend may become angry or embarrassed—remember, you cared enough to help. Always be safe, not sorry.

Support Options

St. John’s Church, 48 Elm Street, Northampton

  • Tuesday and Friday: noon–1 p.m., Cochran Parlor (currently in Edwards Church due to construction)
  • Thursday: 8:30–9:30 p.m., Undercroft
  • Friday: 7:30–8:30 p.m., Undercroft (LGBTQ meeting)
  • Saturday: 5:30–6:30 p.m., Cochran Parlor (non-gendered language meeting)

First Churches of Northampton, 129 Main Street, Northampton

  • Thursday: 6 p.m., Rec Room
  • Saturday: 6 p.m., Rec Room
  • Saturday: 7 p.m., Rec Room (beginner’s meeting)
  • Saturday: 8:30 p.m., Rec Room

Edwards Church of Northampton, 297 Main Street, Northampton

  • Friday: 6:30 p.m., Addis Hall
  • Wednesday: 10 a.m., the Edwards Room (women’s group)
  • Tuesday and Friday: noon, the Edwards Room

Cooley Dickinson Hospital, 30 Locust Street, Route 9, Northampton

  • Thursday: 7–8:30 p.m., Conference Room D

UMass Amherst

  • Monday and Thursday: noon–1 p.m., CC 802

The Prezi

Wanna know a little more? Check out this Prezi presentation (15-30 minutes)

Alcohol and the Smithie

The Basics

Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work or school. In people with GAD, the worry often is unrealistic or out of proportion for the situation. Daily life becomes a constant state of worry, fear and dread. Eventually, the anxiety so dominates the person’s thinking that it interferes with daily functioning, including work, school, social activities and relationships.


GAD affects the way a person thinks, but the anxiety can lead to physical symptoms as well. Symptoms of GAD include:

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Trembling
  • Being easily startled

In addition, people with GAD often have other anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias), suffer from depression, and/or abuse drugs or alcohol.


The exact cause of GAD is not fully known, but a number of factors — including genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stresses — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Some research suggests that family history plays a part in increasing the likelihood that a person will develop GAD. This means that the tendency to develop GAD may be passed on in families.
  • Brain chemistry: GAD has been associated with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are special chemical messengers that help move information from nerve cell to nerve cell. If the neurotransmitters are out of balance, messages cannot get through the brain properly. This can alter the way the brain reacts in certain situations, leading to anxiety.
  • Environmental factors: Trauma and stressful events, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools, may lead to GAD. GAD also may become worse during periods of stress. The use of and withdrawal from addictive substances, including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, can also worsen anxiety.


At Smith College, students are advised to seek aid from Health Services (413-585-2800) or Counseling Services ((413-585-2840).

The Basics of the “Ideal” Body Type

The “ideal” body type that modern American culture has taught you to want has no relationship at all with health. In fact, women who are just 5 pounds under their medically defined “ideal” weight have more health risk than women who are up to 75 pounds OVER their medically defined “ideal” weight. In effect, that weight is your MINIMUM healthy weight.

So How Should You Decide If You’re Healthy?

The correct way to measure your HEALTH is with your blood pressure and your resting heart rate (measured in the morning, before you even get out of bed). When you monitor these over time, you can get an accurate sense of the health of your cardiovascular system.

How Do You Stop Having a Negative Body Image?

Knowing the above probably doesn’t make the self-critical voices in your head go away. Most women have a lot of noise in their brains around what their body looks like and the ways that they feel inadequate. It takes time, practice, and patience to learn to recognize that negative voice for the liar and charlatan that it is and replace it with a healthy voice.

You can make this process move faster if you:

  • Stop reading mainstream women’s magazines, which are designed to make you feel like shit—because people who feel like shit buy more shit, ya know?
  • Practice thought-stopping. When you notice yourself criticising how your own body or someone else’s body looks, stop yourself and replace that thought with something positive about what that body DOES.
  • Emphasize health. Eat whole foods (foods that look the way they looked when they were alive – plants, animals, etc), avoid processed foods (especially sugar), get some regular physical activity, and spend fun, joyful time with your friends.


Policy on Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana/Cannabis

The Basics

As cannabis becomes legal in more states, it will probably become more common on college campuses. If you choose to use cannabis, here are the essential things to know:

  • Pace yourself: take time between each hit, as it may take you some time to feel the cannabis’ effect. This is especially important if consuming an edible because you may not feel the effects right away.
    • Wait at least two hours after taking an edible before consuming additional cannabis. Additionally, note that the effects of edibles can last 4–8 hours depending on how much you ingest. Clarify with your source whether the edible is made with only THC (the psychoactive chemical in cannabis), only CBD (the nonpsychoactive chemical of cannabis that calms the effects of THC), or a combination of the two. Edibles will get you more high than when smoking cannabis, so consider a lower dosage than what you usually smoke when consuming an edible.
  • Think about your company, especially if it is your first time consuming cannabis: Who are you with? Are these people you trust to take care of you if something goes wrong or you feel unwell? Never try something new either alone or with people you do not know well.
  • Think about your provider: Where did the cannabis come from? Do you know the dealer and is it someone you trust? When buying cannabis illegally, it is important that you trust your source because without government regulation, your product could be laced or tainted.
  • Short-term cannabis use can have harmful effects: Short­-term effects of cannabis use include memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem­ solving, and anxiety. Students who use cannabis  may find it hard to learn, thus jeopardizing their ability to achieve their full potential.

Additional Tips

  • Clean your device regularly
    • How to clean a bong/bubbler: Source 1, 2, 3
    • How to clean a cannabis vape: Source 1, 2, 3
    • How to clean a pipe: Source 1, 2, 3
  • Know what you are consuming: Try to stay away from vape oils with carbonyls, which are a group of cancer-causing chemicals. Also consider the strain of cannabis. Indica strains are known to give users a relaxing body high ("indica = in da couch," remember that) while sativa strains deliver a more cerebral high, designed to enhance. Hybrids are mixtures of the two and cover all the areas in between "totally chilled" and "omg my hands are huuuuuge!"
  • Talk to your doctor about your cannabis use so they can provide you with better care more tailored to your life.
  • Know yourself and your limits: If you have utilized cannabis enough times to know how much gets you to a good place and how much gets you to a bad place, respect that. Don’t use more than you need or want to.


Cannabis can be addictive! Around 9 percent of people who use weed heavily will grow dependent in their lifetime, compared to 15 percent of heavy cocaine users and 24 percent of heroin users.

Signs that you may be misusing cannabis:

  • You have trouble falling asleep without cannabis
  • You need more and more to reach the same high
  • You need cannabis to feel good
  • You prioritize cannabis over social interactions, events, academics, etc.

Having Conversations About Cannabis

How do we talk about weed? Start by asking questions like “Am I smoking too much?” or “Is my friend smoking too much?”

Utilize this resource to begin conversations with friends whom you believe to be using cannabis (or alcohol) too much.


When do you use cannabis? Is it to help you relax? Before you eat? Before you sleep? What are some alternatives to cannabis in these areas of life?

  • To get a high, consider running to produce endorphins and a “runner’s high.”
  • Note: cannabis cannot cure anxiety. While some people are prescribed medical marijuana to combat anxiety, it can actually have the reverse effect on a lot of the weed-smoking population (read: extreme paranoia). It is this kind of untested duality that makes proving the legitimacy of medical marijuana to combat mental illness such a complicated issue. To relax without cannabis, refer to our Stress Management Techniques Wellness Topic.
  • For food, consider cheese and chocolate to stimulate your taste buds as well as cinnamon and salt to enhance flavors in food. However, be sure to control and limit how much of these you consume as well.
  • To sleep, refer to our Sleep Wellness Topic.

Ways to Intake Cannabis

There are lots of ways to consume cannabis. Here is a breakdown of the most common ways.

  • Bong/Bubbler
    • How it works: External pipe arm is lit and then the smoke travels through water bowl to be filtered.
    • Perceived health benefit: The health benefits associated with the addition of water are up for debate: water cools the smoke before it enters your lungs.
    • Risks: It is uncertain whether a bong/bubbler acts as an effective filter for harmful constituents. Users often do not clean the bubblers properly which can lead to colonies of yeast, fungi, and bacteria.
  • Blunt/Joint
    • How it works: Joints are cannabis rolled in a paper, the composition of which varies across an assortment of plants including but not limited to hemp, bamboo, and rice. Blunts are cannabis rolled in cigar paper made from the tobacco plant and containing nicotine.
    • Risks: Smoke inhalation. Nicotine in blunt rolls.
  • Edible
    • How it works: Edibles are infused with a staple infused ingredient high in fat — like butter or olive oil — that enable extraction of the plant’s therapeutic properties. Adding tinctures to dishes is another great option for dosage control and simplicity.
    • Perceived health benefit: Since cannabis is not heated to as high of temperatures when made into an edible than when smoked, less carcinogens are taken into the body.
    • Risks: Overdosage from the 2 hour delay and difficulty of self-dosing.
  • Vape
    • How it works: A vaporizer steadily heats herbs to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.
    • Perceived health benefit: Temperatures are too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion.
  • Pipe

The Basics

Major depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks in a row, including sad and/or irritable mood (see symptom list), that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Disabling episodes of depression can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.

Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms and some many symptoms, also called warning signs. The severity of symptoms also varies with individuals.


  • Persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gain
  • Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
  • Crying spells
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and/or chronic pain

Symptoms pertaining specifically to adolescents

  • Poor school performance
  • Persistent boredom
  • Frequent complaints of physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Teen depression may be characterized by the adolescent taking more risks, showing less concern for their own safety.

Types of Depression

Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as do other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Major depression was discussed above; dysthymia and bipolar disorder are discussed below. However, remember that within each of these types, there are variations in the number, timing, severity, and persistence of symptoms.


Dysthymia is a less severe but usually more long-lasting type of depression compared to major depression. It involves long-term (chronic) symptoms that do not disable but yet prevent the affected person from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with dysthymia also experience episodes of major depression. This combination of the two types of depression is referred to as double-depression.

Bipolar Disorder

Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders that were formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive disorders, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania and may include episodes of depression as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual.

When in the depressed cycle, the person can experience any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, any or all of the symptoms listed below may be experienced. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, indiscriminate or otherwise unsafe sexual practices or unwise business and financial decisions may be made when an individual is in a manic phase.

Mania symptoms of manic depression

  • Inappropriate elation
  • Inappropriate irritability or anger
  • Severe insomnia or decreased need to sleep
  • Grandiose notions, like having special powers or importance
  • Increased talking speed and/or volume
  • Disconnected or racing thoughts
  • Severely increased sexual desire and/or activity
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate social behavior


At Smith College, students are advised to seek aid from Health Services (extension 2800) or Counseling Services (extension 2840).

Nutrition: Daily Serving Recommendations

The USDA recommends eating a variety of food groups every day. Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, we should consume:

  • 6 oz. of grains. Make half of your grains whole grains for added fiber!
  • 2 ½ cups of vegetables. Vary the kind and color of your vegetables to make sure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Dark green veggies provide iron while orange veggies provide beta carotene.
  • 2 cups of fruit. Choose a variety of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit for fiber and vitamins.  Choose fruit juice that is 100% juice, but be aware that juices contain a lot of added sugar. Limit fruit juice as a part of your daily recommended consumption.
  • 3 cups of dairy. Opt for low-fat or fat-free options. If you’re lactose-intolerant, Smith offers a variety of soy and rice milk and yogurt options to supplement your calcium intake.
  • 5 ½ oz. of meat and beans. Choose lean protein that has been baked, broiled, or grilled to limit fat intake. Fish, legumes, beans, seeds and nuts are protein alternatives to meat.

Incorporate good fats into your diet. This includes heart-healthy omega-fats from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Try to limit your trans-fat intake by limiting butter, margarine, and shortening. Read labels of products to determine their trans fat and sodium content, and make sure both ingredients are low. Opt for low added sugar foods since refined sugar provides calories with little nutrients.

Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all science. Everyone’s calorie-needs vary based on their lifestyle.  Go to this website to calculate your daily recommended caloric intake:

Nutrition Labels

Products boasting to be healthy options often use phrases such as those in the following chart. Here are guidelines companies must follow in order to label their products with these phrases:

NO FAT or FAT FREE Contains less than a 1/2 gram of fat per serving.
LOWER or REDUCED FAT Contains less the fat or calories of the original version or a similar product.
LOW FAT Contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving.
LITE Contains 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat per serving of the original version or a similar product.
LOW CALORIES Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version or a similar product.
NO CALORIE or CALORIE FREE Contains less than 5 calories per serving.
SUGAR FREE Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving.
NO PRESERVATIVES Contains no preservatives (chemical or natural).
NO PRESERVATIVES ADDED Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. Some of these products may contain natural preservatives.
LOW SODIUM Contains less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.
NO SALT or SALT FREE Contains less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.
BAKED NOT FRIED Used mostly for potato chips, crackers or corn chips, this label means the product is usually sprayed with a lite oil then baked in an over instead of fried in the oil.

Portion Size

Portion size is tough to master when food is served buffet-style.  Learn to gauge a proper portion size of foods from every food group at these websites:


Being physically active is part of a balanced diet. Sitting with a book or in front of a computer all day makes your body and your mind tired.  Get up and move to give your mind a boost and to jumpstart your metabolism!

Smith College Dining Services

Dining Services at Smith is making it easier to get a balanced nutritious diet every day.  They have listed the type of foods they provide in the houses.

Lamont, Morrow/Wilson and Hubbard offer “healthy options” menus for students. The dining staff is very friendly and willing to answer all your questions about preparation and ingredients. If you’re unsure of what you’re eating, ask!


The following list of websites provides a selection of nutrition information that you may find useful in maintaining healthy nutrition in your eating habits.

  • CalorieKing Food Database – Nutritional facts for name-brand and generic American foods, including those on fast food menus.
  • Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – agency of the USDA that researches and develops nutrition guidelines for consumers.  Links to MyPyramid, the Food Pyramid of dietary guidelines, menu planners, tips and suggestions for a healthy lifestyle.
  • Cooking Light – Recipes, menus, and fundamental cooking techniques as well as articles on healthy lifestyle tips.
  • Eating Well – Recipes and food and health news.
  • Food Fit– Recipes and healthy eating and cooking tips.
  • Nutrition Data – Discover the nutrients and ingredients of your favorite foods. Information on fatty acids, food additives, and processing.  Links to tools such as a daily caloric needs calculator.
  • Spark Recipes – Healthy recipes and a recipe calculator to find out the nutritional information for each one.

The Basics

Boiled down to the core, distress is usually caused by one or more of the following: Low self esteem, high self criticism, poor coping skills, inadequate social support, negative effect (stress, depression, anxiety), history of trauma, or chronic health problems.

First, Check In with Yourself

While it’s natural and admirable to want to help a friend when they are suffering, you have to make sure you yourself are feeling good. The more positive you feel as a helper, the more effective you can be!

Understand That Change Takes Time

A major thing to keep in mind when trying to help a friend, is that change is incremental. For example, just because you have one conversation with someone about their drinking problem, doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop drinking altogether or seek help then and there. Respect your friend enough to allow them to change at their own pace and in their own way.

Your Role in Helping a Friend

Your job as a helper is to let the person know you love and support them, even as they struggle, you’re there to listen and support. You’re worried because you care; let your caring be more important than your worry. It is also your job to raise awareness of the available resources and refer your friend to them as needed. It is also your job to take care of yourself so that you can be mentally and physically strong enough to support your friend during their time of need.

The Basics

What are opioids?

  • Opioids are a type of drug derived from the poppy plant that are sometimes prescribed for pain relief, however they can easily become addictive.
  • There are many types of opioids including the ones prescribed by doctors, fentanyl for severe pain, and heroin which is an illegal opioid.

What is this “opioid crisis” I’ve been hearing about?

Risk Factors for Opioid Misuse and Addiction

  • Having prescriptions for opioids from multiple doctors and pharmacies at the same time
  • Taking high doses of a prescription opioid
  • Having a mental illness
  • Having a history of substance abuse
  • Living in rural areas and having low income
  • Being an athlete
    • Athletes push themselves to compete, which can lead to seeking opioids to numb and relieve physical pain.
    • Athletes in the age range of 12-24 still have developing brains, so pathways for addiction can develop more easily.

How to Avoid Opioids and Opioid Addiction

  • Immediately report injuries to a physician, and if you are an athlete report injuries to your athletic trainer and do not play with an injury.
  • Use rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to manage pain from injuries; also consider physical therapy, acupuncture, meditation, sports massage, and rollers.
  • Use ibuprofen or another over-the-counter analgesic to relieve pain without the addictive risk.
  • If a doctor prescribes a pain medication to you, ask if their are safer alternatives you can use.
  • If a prescription is necessary, have someone help you monitor how much you take. Most people find that prescription drugs are only effective for the first two or three days. If pain is unbearable, return to your doctor or the emergency room. Do NOT self-medicate or supplement with other medication.
  • Find out if your prescription is an opioid and make sure your doctor knows if anyone in your family has struggled with addiction.
  • If you have an excess of prescription opioids, do NOT keep them in the house, throw them away, or flush them. Unneeded pills should go to a drug collection box, often found at your local police station.

The Basics

The process of becoming an adult is the process of taking on responsibility for meeting your own needs. If you feel that your needs are not being met in your relationship, it’s up to YOU, not your partner, to find a way to meet that need.

High quality partners will want to support each other in meeting their needs, so there is mutual collaboration. In order for that collaboration to work, each partner must bring:

  • Respect for the other partner – i.e., unconditionally accept the other person for who they are, 100 percent. (Note: Respect should be unconditional, because it’s about who the other person is; Trust, on the other hand, can be earned or lost through choices and behavior.) If you don’t respect the other person, or they don’t respect you, the relationship is not functional or healthy.
  • Gratitude. Appreciation and feeling cherished, validated, celebrated, and admired is the foundation of intimacy. The fastest way to improve your relationship is to increase the level of gratitude you express together.
  • Autonomy. The paradox of human relationships is that we need to be with other people, but we also need those other people to grant us permission to be free from those relationships. In healthy relationships, partners grant each other the freedom to make decisions separately and develop self-efficacy.

The Prezi

Wanna know a little more? Check out this Prezi presentation (20-30 minutes)

Relationships and the Smithie

Sources and Resources


If you’re having potentially reproductive sex (penis-in-vagina) and you are not interested in getting pregnant, choose a highly effective birth control method that suits you, whether it’s hormonal (the Pill and others) or barrier (condom and similar). Hormonal methods are the most effective, followed by barrier methods. While the “perfect use” efficacy rate of abstinence is 100%, it has a real-world failure rate of 50%.

STIs and Safety

If you don’t know your partner’s history, or if either of you has a history that puts you at risk for STI transmission, use barriers (dams, condoms, Saran wrap, etc.) or engage in behaviors that reduce the contact of one person’s genital skin and fluids with the other person’s genital skin and fluids.


The best bet is to give and receive explicit verbal consent for everything you do with a sex partner. (“May I touch your breast?” “Yes please!” or “Would you kiss my neck?” “I would love to!”) Sometimes nonverbal consent is clear enough, and if you feel uncomfortable saying the words, this can be a reasonable strategy until you are ready to use language. If you are not quite sure if you want something, or if you are not quite sure that your partner is into it, stop or else go very, very slowly. Most non-consensual sex happens when one person is oblivious to the other person’s lack of consent.

Sexual Pleasure

Sexual pleasure is as important to sexual health as preventing unwanted pregnancy, STI transmission, and non-consensual sex. The core of sexual pleasure is the ability to pay attention to the positive emotional and physical experiences during an interaction, while letting go of distractions, self-critical thoughts, and socially constructed expectations about sex. Obviously this is easier said than done. Mindfulness practice is the most efficient strategy to enhance sexual attentiveness, along with education from reliable, non-commercial sources.


In the No Consent Podcast: Part 1

;In the No Consent Podcast: Part 2

In the No Consent Podcast: Part 3

Consent in Modern Culture: Legal Precaution or Sign of Care?


Smith College provides a wide range of resources to support students who have experienced sexual assault:

  • Emotional. Smith College Counseling Service, located in the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness, provides counseling for crisis and healing. Emotional support is a major part of the recovery process. Friends and family can contribute greatly to recovery, but sometimes an objective outsider can be an important support.
  • Medical. Medical evaluation is a valuable resource if a person is sexually assaulted. Smith students can go to Cooley Dickenson emergency room to be seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who will provide preventive treatment for STIs, treat for injuries and illness, and provide emergency contraception, as well as collect evidence in case you decide to prosecute. It is up to the survivor whether or not to seek medical evaluation.
  • Academic and Co-Curricular. Your class dean and the Dean of Students office can assist in arranging accommodations for academic, residential, and other domains of your life at Smith.
  • Legal. Information from Campus Police on prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence: “Survivors are involved in all decisions about proceeding with criminal charges. If the survivor of a rape or sexual assault chooses to proceed in this manner, DPS will provide assistance and guidance and will serve as a liaison with the District Attorney’s Office. The survivor name in all reports of sexual assault is kept confidential, by Massachusetts law.”

Supporting a Survivor

Part of the trauma of sexual assault is that the survivor’s freedom to choose what happens to their own body was taken away, so their support system can help by allowing them to have control over what happens next. Regardless of what you may feel is the “right” thing to do, the best course of action is the one that feels safe and right to the survivor. Listen compassionately and without judgment, knowing that assault is never the survivor’s fault!

Preventing Sexual Assault

Stepping up as a bystander is one of the best ways to prevent sexual assault, from unpropping doors to speaking up when you see a sketchy interaction.


“Is there a problem?”

Not knowing when to intervene is one of the main barriers to bystanders stepping up. Cues that a situation is sketchy or even dangerous might be obvious or they might be more subtle:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Trying to get someone drunk in order to “hook up”
  • Physically separating a person, to get them alone
  • Intimately touching someone in public, especially if they’ve just met and/or the other person is drunk

“There’s a problem! What do I do?”

General tips for bystander interventions:

  • Be friendly. Antagonism begets antagonism, and we want you to be safe too. Also, being friendly will decrease any awkwardness you might feel. You’re not confronting, you’re just checking in.
  • Recruit help. Multiple people means more diffusion of the situation.
  • Be as intrusive as necessary. You’re making sure both people are safe. If the building were burning down, you’d break up the conversation or knock on the door, right?

Some intervention strategies

  • Delegate. Find a friend of one of the two people and let them know the situation is uncool. Ask them to step in and help their friend. Or get a friend to step in with one person while you step in with the other.
  • Direct. Take one person aside and talk to them about anything – the party, their drink, your toenails. Or step between the two people to diffuse the situation – you can just say, “Hiya! What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” Your presence will help diffuse the situation.
  • Distract. Knock on the door. Or just walk in. Better to interrupt a scene than standing around while someone is assaulted. Say, “Hey, we need you downstairs,” or, “Is everybody okay?” or anything to change the mood.


It’s absolutely true that “No means no,” but there’s more to consent than that. “I’m not sure,” means no. “Wait,” “Stop,” and “Hold on” all mean no. Pushing a hand away means no. Pulling away means no. Not responding means no. Silence means no.

Consent IS... Consent is NOT...
An active, ongoing “yes!” between people who want to engage in sexual activity The absence of a “no.” Just because someone does not say “no” does not mean they are saying “yes!”
Communicating every step of the way, every time Implied or assumed, even in a relationship. Saying “yes!” in the past does not mean “yes!” in the present or future
100 percent voluntary When someone is coerced, pressured, forced, or threatened
Sober, between adults Given by someone who doesn’t have the mental or physical capacity to give it (e.g., under the influence of alcohol)
Everyone involved has willingly agreed on what to do Silence, passivity, or lack of active response
When everyone involved can freely express their needs and wants without being scared of their partners’ reaction Definitive. Just because someone has said “yes” does not they can’t also say “no” at any given time


  • Center for Women and Community Rape Crisis Hotline: 413-545-0800
  • Smith College Counseling Services: call 413-585-2840 for appointments and services.

The Basics

We get so many questions about sleep! Basically, the bare minimum is four hours consecutively. Most people need six to seven to be minimally functional. But really? People around the 19–22 age range really need eight to 10 hours to be functioning at their prime—the average is 9.25 hours.

This varies from individual to individual of course, but just remember that there’s no such thing as sleeping too much. (Exception: if you’re sleeping more than nine hours every night and still don’t feel rested, that’s a sign that there’s something more complicated happening and you should talk to a doctor!) If your body doesn’t need to be sleeping, it will wake up on its own. If it doesn’t, that means you probably still have sleep debt.


If you are a natural napper, naps are a great way to get over sleep debt! Sleep cycles are usually 90 minutes, so if you nap, try to nap in hour and a half chunks. If you can’t fit in the full 90 minutes, then aim for something under 30 minutes. In between 30 and 90 minutes, you’re in deep sleep. If you wake up then, you’ll be groggy and still half-asleep.

Getting Sleep and Being Tired

Some people say that when they get a lot of sleep, they feel more tired and sleepy. This is because you’re finally rested enough to feel how tired you actually are! Before then, you were probably so pumped up with adrenaline that you couldn’t feel the signals your brain was sending you to “GO TO BED!”

Tips to Get to Sleep More Easily

  • Avoid caffeine after noon and avoid alcohol and nicotine
  • Exercise in the morning
  • Limit your screen time before bed
  • Dim lights 2–3 hours before sleep
  • Meditate


The Basics

Stress is the body’s involuntary response to changes in the environment. The “stress response” is a cascade of neurochemical and physiological events that happens in the presences of a stressor (i.e. a lion chasing you, an upcoming exam, or relationship troubles). This biochemical reaction is meant to trigger a behavioral change so that you do something about that stressor. Stress is exhausting because staying in this chemically charged state takes a TON of energy! If stress accumulates, it can make you tired, sick, and depressed.

Stress is a cycle: it starts with an environmental trigger (the stressor), and ends when you give your body what it is asking for, leading to the relaxation response (i.e., the happy-making neurochemicals like oxytocin and dopamine).

Stress management is the body’s capacity to respond to all kinds of stressors in an effective and efficient manner. This capacity is gained through practicing the learned skill of letting go of tension. Stress management is essentially paying attention to your biochemistry and physiology and doing things that complete the stress response. We practice stress management so that stress does not accumulate and become chronic stress, which is bad news.

Daily Strategies to Combat Stress

  • Beat procrastination! Buy a calendar or planner to keep track of important events and deadlines.  Keep a to-do list to prioritize your tasks.
  • Choose your own goals. Accept that you have limits and keep expectations for yourself realistic. Sometimes it’s ok to say no to a commitment or taking on another project.
  • Be willing to compromise and learn to forgive other people and yourself.
  • Sleep on it. Clearing your mind and coming back to a problem will help put things in perspective.
  • Eat healthy and make time for exercise.  Incorporate daily vitamins into your diet. Feeling good physically will help you feel good mentally.
  • Look at everyday activities as breaks from a stressful situation.  Taking a shower or bath, sitting down at meals, and walking from place to place are all activities to be enjoyed.
  • Be positive! You have handled stressful situations before.  Become proactive and handle your stressful situation without letting it control you.
  • Sometimes life’s problems really are out of your control.  Accept that you may not be able to change the situation.
  • Make time for yourself! You are the most important person in your life. Relax.
  • Make a list of what is bothering you. Come up with reasonable solutions to each problem. If you can’t come up with solutions to every problem, ask for help.  Smith peer groups, administration, friends, and family are all here to talk.

Quick Fixes

  • Laughter is the best medicine– read jokes, call a friend, watch funny videos, whatever makes you smile.
  • Make a list of reasons to be happy or what you are grateful for in that moment.
  • Count to ten! Just like counting sheep before bed…
  • Stand up and DANCE!
  • Stand up and STRETCH!
  • Stand up and BELT OUT A SONG!
  • Take a walk outside or around the building you’re in.
  • Get a drink of water or tea/coffee (in moderation).
  • Take a thought break! Works best if you look away from your computer for a few minutes.
  • Take a power nap for 20 minutes.
  • Blast your favorite song.
  • Go for a run or use the Smith gym!
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Procrasti-clean or get organized.
  • Snack on some fruit or healthy carbs.
  • Watch your favorite show.
  • Practice mindful breathing.
  • Scream.
  • Squeeze a stress ball.
  • Scribble, craft, knit, paint, etc…


For more techniques to combat stress, please see our “Stress Management Techniques” section.

Meditation Practice

You’ll need...

  • A quiet environment.  Choose a secluded place such as your room, a garden, a place of worship, or the great outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
  • A comfortable position. Get comfortable, but avoid lying down as this may lead to you falling asleep. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.
  • A point of focus. Pick a meaningful word or phrase and repeat it throughout your session. You may also choose to focus on an object in your surroundings to enhance your concentration, or alternately, you can close your eyes.
  • An observant, non-critical attitude.  Don’t worry about distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.

Deep Breathing

It may sound silly that simply breathing is a way to manage stress, but the physiology of stress is such that by changing the way you breathe, you actually change your body chemistry. Shallow breaths high in your chest can trigger your physiological stress response, while breathing low in your abdomen triggers your relaxation response.

The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.

We suggest that you:

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

If you have a hard time breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor.  Put a small book on your stomach, and try to breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

 Most progressive muscle relaxation practitioners start at the feet and work their way up to the face.

  • Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
  • When you’re relaxed and ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
  • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
  • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
  • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
  • Move slowly up through your body — legs, abdomen, back, neck, face — contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.


Acupressure stimulates the same points as acupuncture, but with fingers instead of needles. Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D., director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, CA, recommends pressing on the following three points:

  • The Third Eye, located between the eyebrows, in the indentation where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead.
  • The Heavenly Pillar, on the back of the neck slightly below the base of the skull, about half an inch to the left or right of the spine.
  • The Heavenly Rejuvenation, half an inch below the top of each shoulder, midway between the base of the neck and the outside of the shoulder blade.

Breathe deeply and apply firm, steady pressure on each point for two to three minutes. The pressure should cause a mild aching sensation, but not pain.

Self-Massage Techniques

Scalp Soother Place your thumbs behind your ears while spreading your fingers on top of your head. Move your scalp back and forth slightly by making circles with your fingertips for 15-20 seconds.
Easy on the Eyes Close your eyes and place your ring fingers directly under your eyebrows, near the bridge of your nose. Slowly increase the pressure for 5-10 seconds, then gently release. Repeat 2-3 times.
Sinus Pressure Relief Place your fingertips at the bridge of your nose. Slowly slide your fingers down your nose and across the top of your cheekbones to the outside of your eyes.
Shoulder Tension Relief Reach one arm across the front of your body to your opposite shoulder. Using a circular motion, press firmly on the muscle above your shoulder blade. Repeat on the other side.


For quick fixes and daily strategies to combat stress, please see our “Stress” section.