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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

Resources by Topic

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

During your time in college, you may find yourself at parties or other events with alcohol. How you choose to engage with alcohol is up to you—some students drink socially and others abstain. Here at Wellness, we want to provide you with the information to make your own choices about how you engage with alcohol.

  • It’s important to define what “a drink” is. How much alcohol is in a drink varies based on the type of alcohol. Generally, beer is the most dilute, followed by malt liquor and ciders, wine, and then hard liquor.
  • Measure your drinks: 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor, 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer
  • Count your drinks! Two drinks in one night is about average. If possible, try not to exceed 4 drinks in a night.
  • Pace yourself! Try to aim for one drink per hour or less. Some people find that alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks helps with pacing.
  • Drink at least 8 ounces of water between every alcoholic drink! That’s about two of the standard dining hall glasses or about one-fourth of a Nalgene.
  • Have at least a glass of water before bed and try to leave a full glass on your nightstand for the morning.

Additional Harm Reduction Strategies

  • 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 or alter drinking games.
    • Remember that it’s just a game—competitive drinking puts pressure on you to drink more than the right amount for you.
    • If you want to try a drinking game, remember that you do not have to drink every time the game stipulates! The people you’re playing with should allow you to drink water or alternative drinks instead. If they are pressuring you, you may want to remove yourself from the situation.
  • Don't try to match someone else. Remember, blood alcohol content level per drink differs radically according to weight, gender and metabolic factors.
  • Remember, alcohol doesn’t necessarily improve sex. Often the opposite is true; alcohol can lead to high-risk sexual situations.
    • If someone is under the influence of alcohol they cannot give consent.
  • Medications you are on may interact with alcohol. Speak with your prescriber about possible interactions! Some common medications for anxiety and depression can decrease alcohol tolerance or alcohol can decrease their effect. You can check interactions here!

Alcohol Poisoning

What Is Alcohol Poisoning? 

When someone consumes a large amount of alcohol, they may experience alcohol poisoning. This occurs when 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.

Alcohol poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and in some cases can be fatal.

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

  • Be aware of danger signs, but do not wait for all symptoms to be present.
  • If you are supporting someone in a medical emergency, be sure to explain your actions—talk with them as you help them.
  • Try to keep the person awake and drinking water if possible.
  • Keep the person warm—cover them with a blanket if that’s available. If you’re outside, try to get inside or get something in between the person and the ground.
  • If they pass out, turn them to their side to prevent choking.
  • 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.
    • Smith College has an amnesty policy, which means individuals who seek medical care related to alcohol use will not be sent to the conduct board.
    • If you or a friend are worried about the cost of medical attention, know that the Emergency Medical Fund will assist with medical costs you cannot pay.
  • If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call Campus Safety or 911 for help.

Your Relationship with Alcohol

Everyone has a different relationship with alcohol that can be informed by factors like socialization, identity, and genetics. When you consider your relationship with alcohol, it’s important to understand what those factors are for you and how they influence your relationship with alcohol.

Some signs it might be time to have a conversation about your relationship with alcohol include:

  • Your friends and/or family are concerned about your drinking behaviors
  • You have started to worry about your drinking habits
  • You find yourself turning to alcohol when you are feeling stress or difficult emotions
  • You often drink more than you expect to
  • You constantly think about when you can get your next drink
  • Your drinking has put you or someone else in danger
  • Your drinking is interfering with your ability to live a life that brings you meaning—as a friend, student, family member, or in your relationship with yourself

If you are resonating with any of these signs, you are not alone and you may benefit from speaking with a professional about your concerns. Please consider reaching out for help.

  • The Schacht Center is available for individual consultations. Members of Counseling, Wellness or Medical Services are all available to speak with you confidentially.
  • Chase House offers a substance-free community for interested students. You can apply to live in Chase through the special interest housing form in the res-life portal. Applications are processed in the spring semester.

We have included some additional resources for individuals working to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol.

  • AA Meetings in Northampton: 12 step programs are run by volunteers and often have a strong connection to spirituality. They have a foundation of accessibility and anonymity, and meetings are often very easy to find.
  • SMART Recovery: Similar to AA, SMART has a foundation of anonymity. However, this program does not have sponsors and is based on a psychological model of addiction recovery rather than being oriented towards spirituality.
  • Women for Sobriety: Women for Sobriety is an organization that hosts weekly meetings to support women in their recovery. They use a secular approach and focus on self-esteem building as foundational to recovery.
  • Moderation Management: This national organization has weekly meetings. However, they differ from AA because they focus on harm reduction and reducing use rather than total abstinence.
  • Less - Alcohol Tracker: This app allows individuals to track alcohol use over time, think about shifting towards mindful use, and make room for drink-free days.

If you have ever found yourself experiencing anxiety, you are not alone. About 41.6% of American college students report feeling anxiety.

What exactly is anxiety? Anxiety is the cognitive experience of excessive worry or fear about everyday situations. These thoughts are accompanied by physical sensations like a racing heart or sweating.

Some symptoms of anxiety 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

While everybody gets stressed and worried sometimes, people who suffer from anxiety experience anxiety at significant enough levels to interfere with their daily lives. Stress is a short-term reaction to a situation that can sometimes even help a person function. Anxiety is persistent, often out of proportion with the actual situation, and sometimes is not linked to a specific event. GAD often interferes with daily functioning, like one’s ability to be a good friend, attend to school work, or other important parts of life.

People with anxiety can find treatment helpful. Treatment can look like a variety of therapies that include learning about yourself and learning about skills that might be helpful in the context of a safe therapeutic relationship, medication, a combination of treatment and medication, and physical movement/exercise. If you find yourself resonating with the symptoms of anxiety, you may want to consider getting support for those symptoms from a therapist and/or doctor.

Sometimes anxiety is persistent enough that it meets criteria for a mental health diagnosis. Some of these are diagnoses are: generalized anxiety disorder, which is the most prevalent anxiety disorder; panic disorder (mentioned below); separation anxiety; social anxiety disorder; and specific phobias. Anxiety comes in all different shapes and severities, and if you feel that one of these might apply to you, you can seek support from the Schacht Center, Counseling Service or resources outside of Smith.

Additionally, other mental health symptom clusters, including trauma-related disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Panic Attacks

Many people experience a couple of panic attacks across their lifetime, triggered by a variety of stressful or traumatic situations. But when panic attacks take place relatively frequently and unpredictably, with no apparent trigger, that can be an indicator that it’s time to reach out for help.

Panic attacks differ widely from person to person, but some signs you are experiencing one might include sudden and extreme feelings of:


If you resonate with some of the symptoms of GAD, it may be time to reach out for support. Here at Wellness, our team is happy to speak with you at open hours. Some additional Smith resources include:

  • The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness has therapists who can speak with you about your experience with anxiety.
  • If you are interested in pursuing off-campus therapy, PsychologyToday is a great resource for finding a therapist who accepts your insurance.
  • Another option for off-campus therapy is going through the Schacht Center - we maintain a database of therapists in Northampton and can help connect you. Call 413-585-2840 to get off-campus therapy referrals.
  • Resource guide to coping with anxiety
  • Self-help guide to coping with anxiety – Guide to the signs, symptoms and treatment of different types of anxiety disorders.
  • 5 Senses Grounding Exercise

For more information on anxiety disorders and other mental health topics, here are some places to begin:

The Basics

It is important to put time and effort into our relationships, including our relationship with ourselves. Your body image is the way you relate to your body—it includes the way you see yourself, the way you talk to yourself, and the way you feel inhabiting your body.

Creating a healthy relationship with your body is one of the most important ways you can care for yourself. However, this process requires intention, care, and may require support.

Four Aspects of Body Image

  • Perceptual: Refers to the extent of alignment between the appearance of your physical body and the appearance you perceive your physical body to be.
  • Affective: Refers to the feelings and emotions as well as neutrality, praise or criticism that may arise when thinking about how you perceive your body.
  • Cognitive: This is the way you think about your body.
  • Behavioral: Behavioral body image is the way an individual acts as informed by their body—this may include alterations to eating or movement based on body image.

Oftentimes, developing a positive body image can feel like an uphill battle. It is important to recognize the way socialization and the expectations placed on us impact the way we see ourselves. We want to explicitly name that certain groups may have difficult relationships with their body based on the way those bodies are gendered or racialized.

Challenges to Body Image

Many people have difficult relationships with their body image. However, negative body image can enter the territory of clinical concern.

Body Dysmorphia

This is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnosis which is identified when someone becomes so preoccupied with negative thoughts about their body that they are unable to focus on their daily life. There is often a focus on physical traits that appear minor to others, but become a negative fixation for the person experiencing body dysmorphia.

Some people with body dysmorphia experience the following symptoms:

  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can't be seen or appears minor
  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding social situations

If you resonate with some or all of these symptoms, it might be time to have a conversation with a mental health provider about your body image.

Body Dysmorphia & Race

Beauty ideals and racialized physical expectations can significantly influence the way someone relates to themselves. These expectations are present everywhere — in the media we consume, in the way we view ourselves, and more. Recognizing that there is a relationship between socialization/racialization and body image is a crucial first step in deconstructing internalized racism related to body image. You may also benefit from having conversations about the relationship between race and your body image—you are welcome to sign up for a Wellness one-on-one or make time to speak with a therapist about this important topic.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria can be closely related to body dysmorphia; however, this term is specific to a marked incongruence between one’s physical form and one’s experienced gender identity that can occur for members of the TGNC+ community.

Some signs of gender dysphoria include:

  • A difference between gender identity and genitals or secondary sex characteristics, such as breast size, voice, and facial hair. In young adolescents, a difference between gender identity and anticipated secondary sex characteristics.
  • A strong desire to be rid of these genitals or secondary sex characteristics, or a desire to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics.
  • A strong desire to have the genitals and secondary sex characteristics of another gender.
  • A strong desire to be or to be treated as another gender.
  • A strong belief in having the typical feelings and reactions of another gender.

Gender dysphoria can be an uncomfortable and upsetting experience and you deserve support around it. If you believe you are experiencing gender dysphoria, we encourage you to speak with a Schacht Center staff member about your experience—we are here to support you!

Cultivating Positive Body Image

Beginning to name some of the outside forces that impact our body image is just the first step. We encourage you to engage with these subjects in your communities, but also recognize that you may require additional support as you explore your identity and relationship to your body.

  • Develop positive self-talk: Give yourself compliments and recognize the amazing things your body can do. It may not feel natural at first, but if you keep at it you can start to shift the way you think about your body.
    • It may help to start by brainstorming things you like about yourself!
    • Try considering things you do that make you feel good in your body, like dancing or standing in the rain.
    • You can write affirmations for yourself in places you will see them—like by your mirror, or as reminders that come up on your phone.
  • Shut down comparison—instead of focusing on traits you covet in others, focus on things you like about yourself.
  • Don’t make comments about your body and what you eat to others, and ask others to do the same.
  • Use mindfulness to support your self-talk—when you have judgmental feelings coming up, try to notice them, name them, and let them pass, rather than fixating on them or accepting them as true.
  • Consume media with diverse bodies.

Cannabis is another substance you may find yourself exposed to during your time at college. Deciding how you want to relate to cannabis is an individual choice and through this resource, we hope to provide you with information that can help you make informed decisions about if and how you engage with cannabis.

Important Information

While cannabis is legalized for medical and recreational use in Massachusetts, there are still restrictions on where it can be. It is not permitted on Smith campus because we receive federal funding.

Policy on Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana/Cannabis

People consume cannabis in a variety of ways—the most common are smoking and taking edibles. Some other forms of consumption include teas or oral solutions. Different forms of consumption have different lag times between consumption and effects. Effects of edibles can last 4–8 hours.

Tolerance to cannabis varies from person to person—if it is your first time trying it, start small, either with a few puffs of a joint or with a small edible. Edibles can take time to kick in, so make sure to wait at least two hours after taking one before taking more.

  • The standard size for most edibles is 5 mg; however, some experts recommend starting with 2.5 mg.
  • In one study, cis women were more sensitive to the effects of 5 mg of TCH than cis men.

Just like alcohol and other drugs, there are both positive effects and potentially negative effects of consuming cannabis.

  • Reported positive effects include help sleeping, enhancing exercise, supplementing sexual well-being, supporting spiritual development, and increasing creativity.
  • Some individuals engage with cannabis for medicinal use; people find it supportive for pain management, nausea, anxiety relief, and more. Consider speaking with a doctor if you are interested in pursuing medical use cannabis.
  • Cannabis is often reported to be a mood booster—this can be true for some people. However, it’s important to know that your frame of mind going into use can really impact the experience you have. It may be smart to avoid use if you are having strong negative emotions.
  • Reported negative effects include nausea, dizziness, mental fog, increased anxiety and feeling too high.

Your Relationship with Cannabis

Everyone has a different relationship with cannabis that can be informed by factors like socialization, identity, and genetics. When you consider your relationship with cannabis, it’s important to understand what those factors are for you and how they influence your relationship with cannabis.

Some signs it might be time to have a conversation about your relationship with cannabis include:

  • You experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and cannabis cravings if you try to stop consuming cannabis.
  • You use cannabis despite continued negative consequences to your social, academic, or psychological well-being.
  • You experience intense cravings for cannabis.
  • You find yourself needing to consume higher amounts to achieve the same high.
  • You prioritize cannabis use over things that used to matter more to you, like time with friends, family or schoolwork.

If you are resonating with any of these signs, there is no reason to be ashamed. Please consider reaching out for help—a member of the Wellness Team or Counseling Team are happy to speak with you about these concerns. You can email or call counseling at 413-585-2840 to set up an appointment.

Content note: This section discusses suicide and suicidality.

The Basics

What exactly is depression? Depression is a sustained sad and/or irritable mood (see symptom list) that interferes 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.

Depression is different from feeling sad. It is a set of symptoms that often interfere with daily functioning, like one’s ability to be a good friend, attend to school work, or other important parts of life.

Not everyone who is depressed experiences all of the following symptoms, but these are some signs common in people with depression. If you resonate with some of these signs, it might be a good idea to reach out for help.

  • 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 young adults:

  • 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

  • Major depressive disorder is characterized by persistent, intense depressive symptoms.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs when someone experiences depressive symptoms linked to the changing seasons; in particular, people may notice increasing depression symptoms during the winter months.
  • Dysthymia is the experience of some milder depressive symptoms that are chronic; the symptoms cause a prolonged gloomy mood that is less severe than major depression but decreases the quality of life.


If you resonate with some of the symptoms of depression, it may be time to reach out for support. Here at Wellness, our team is happy to speak with you at open hours. Some additional resources include:

  • The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness has therapists who can speak with you about your experience with anxiety.
  • If you’re ever having a particularly hard day and the Schacht Center is closed, you can call 413-585-2480 to get connected with Proto-Call, which is staffed by counselors who can provide crisis support.
  • Call 988 to connect with the free suicide and crisis lifeline
  • If you are interested in pursuing off-campus therapy, PsychologyToday is a great resource for finding a therapist who accepts your insurance.
  • Depression and Symptoms – Definition of depression, causes, symptoms, tests, and treatment information.
  • Depression in Women – Guide to understanding depression in women. Includes risk factors, causes, signs, and treatment specific to women.
  • Self-Help Guide to Coping with Depression – Strategies to help yourself cope with depression.
  • Symptoms of Mood Disorders – Signs and symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.

Developing a healthy relationship with food can be difficult for many people, especially because we are met with so many societal messages about what food means, what “good food” is, and more. It is especially important to consider that there are many gendered and racialized messages about eating in our society.

Step back and consider: how do you relate to food? What messages did your family of origin give you about food and eating? How do your friends relate to food? How does the media you consume talk about food and eating?

A good relationship with food has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your diet or the types of food you eat, but rather how and why you choose the foods you eat. At Wellness, we believe that food is fuel—we do not put value judgments on different kinds of food.

Signs It May Be Time to Think Critically About Your Relationship with Food

  • You feel guilty about eating.
  • You avoid or restrict foods that are “bad” for you.
  • You have developed rules that dictate the foods you can and cannot eat.
  • You heavily use calorie counters or apps related to your diet.
  • You ignore signs that your body is hungry.
  • You have a history of following different diet fads.
  • You feel immense stress and anxiety when eating in social settings due to fear of what others may think of your food choices.
  • You find yourself restricting and/or binging food.

Some Signs of a Healthy Relationship with Food

  • You give yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods you enjoy.
  • You listen and respect your body’s natural hunger cues.
  • You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
  • No foods are off-limits.
  • You don’t obsess over the number on the scale.
  • You don’t let the opinions of others dictate which foods you eat.
  • You don’t feel the need to justify your food choices.
  • You understand that you’re not defined by the foods you eat.
  • You enjoy all food in moderation.
  • You choose foods that make you feel your best.
  • Calories are not the focus of your food choices.


  • Smith has a nutritionist who you can speak with about your relationship with food
  • Counseling and wellness have appointments available to discuss this topic

The Basics

Gender identity refers to an individual’s personal sense of how they fall on the spectrum of gender identities. Gender identity can be related to gender expression, which is the way an individual presents themselves, or gender identity may differ from an individual’s gender expression. The way someone identifies may be consistent across a lifetime, it may evolve, or it could be fluid from day to day.

If you find yourself questioning your gender identity, this may be accompanied by feelings of depression or anxiety. We want to affirm that having an expansive gender identity is not the cause of mental health challenges; rather, living in a society that perpetuates transphobia and cissexism is often the cause of these difficult emotions. If you find yourself struggling, we encourage you to reach out to the Schacht Center or another trusted resource.

On-Campus Resources

Smith gives many people the space to explore their gender identity; if you are doing some exploration of your own identity, you are not alone. The Schacht Center strives to support your explorations through all of our services.

  • Medical: Individuals can make appointments at medical services to initiate gender-affirming care, including hormone replacement therapy. Providers are also able to provide reference letters for gender-affirming surgery.
  • Counseling: If you are exploring your identity, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist at our counseling services. Counseling also has a TGNC support group, which meets every semester and gives gender-expansive students the chance to connect.
  • Wellness: You’re welcome to sign up for Wellness Open Hours to speak about your gender identity. We also house the binder library, through which students can try on binders, learn about safe binding, and apply for funding for binders.
  • Changing Your Name: Smith has compiled information on how to change your name in a variety of places, including your transcript, institutional email account and more.
  • Resources Center for Sexuality and Gender: The RCSG is a student-run center that provides students in the LGBTQIA+ community with a venue to learn and engage with the community.

Other Resources

What Are Opioids?

Opiates are drugs derived from poppy; these include opium, morphine, and codeine. Opiates are synthetic drugs including oxycodone, oxymorphone, and fentanyl. They are often prescribed for pain relief and can easily become addictive. Other opioids like heroin are illegal.


  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin


  • Dextromethorphan (found in robitussin, NyQuil, and other over the counter medication)
  • Dextropropoxyphene (e.g., Darvon)
  • Loperamide (e.g., Imodium)
  • Hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (e.g. Dilaudid)
  • Oxycodone (e.g., Oxycontin, Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone (e.g., Opana)
  • Meperidine (e.g., Demerol)
  • Methadone (e.g., Dolophine)
  • Fentanyl/fentanil (e.g., Ultiva, Sublimaze, Duragesic patch)
  • Carfentanyl/carfentanil (e.g., Wildnil, for veterinary use)

Opioid Misuse and Addiction

Risk Factors for Opioid Misuse and Addiction

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 you are prescribed opioids, make sure to take them as advised by your doctor and closely monitor how they impact you. Employ safe use strategies, like tracking how much you take to ensure you don't take too much.
  • 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 or pharmacy.

Signs of an Opioid Overdose

  • Unresponsiveness or unconsciousness
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Discolored lips or fingernails
  • Small or pinpoint pupils

Harm Reduction and Opioid Use

Consider becoming trained to administer Narcan (naloxone).

  • Narcan is an opioid receptor agonist; this means it blocks opioid receptors and can reverse the effects of an overdose.
  • Narcan can save lives if it is administered in a timely fashion to an individual experiencing an opioid overdose.
  • Narcan administration has no major negative effects; if an overdose is suspected, Narcan should be administered because there is no risk.

If using injectable drugs, you can get access to safe needles through local harm reduction programs like Tapestry Health.

If you choose to use drugs, use reagent kits to check that they are labeled correctly and stay updated about what drugs are being cut with in your area.

There are sharps disposal containers at the Schacht Center and Forbes Library. You can also purchase an individual sharps container to keep in your room from most pharmacies or online.

Recovery Resources

  • Narcotics Anonymous: 12 step programs are run by volunteers and often have a strong connection to spirituality. They have a foundation of accessibility and anonymity, and meetings are often very easy to find.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
  • You can visit the SAMHSA online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you.
  • The Schacht Center is available for individual consultations. Members of Counseling, Wellness or Medical Services are all available to speak with you confidentially.

Types of Relationships

There are many kinds of relationships. Here at Wellness, we do not want to hierarchically organize or put value judgments on what kinds of relationships you put energy and thought into.

Each individual may have different ideas on what the balance between their different relationships looks like and we hope to empower you to explore your own thoughts around relationships. We also want to recognize that the lines between these relationships might get blurry—for example, some people find their friendships can be romantic.

Some types of relationships include:

  • Relationships to family—family of origin, chosen family, etc.
  • Friendships/platonic relationships—friends
  • Professional relationships—coworkers, professors, etc.
  • Romantic relationships—one or more partners, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.

Cultivating Healthy Relationships

Whether you’re thinking about a relationship with a friend, a partner, or a family member, it’s important to make sure that you feel safe and respected in every relationship. In a healthy relationship, each person is responsible for bringing:

  • 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.
  • GratitudeAppreciation 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.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Your relationship with yourself is another important relationship that deserves time and intention. Taking time to nurture yourself is beneficial to both you and the people you are in community with.

Don’t feel guilty for needing time alone—everyone needs it and you do not have to justify needing space from people.

It can be difficult to determine when to set a boundary—here are some signs that it might be time to talk about boundaries in a relationship:

  • You feel like you are the only one who can help someone.
  • The relationship or support you are giving to another person is negatively impacting your life—your ability to take care of yourself, your other relationships and your work/academic life.
  • If you feel like someone is issuing ultimatums about the way you spend time with them.

A good formula for setting a boundary is [validate the other person’s experience] + [state your boundary clearly] + [OPTIONAL: offer an alternative]

  • e.g., "It makes a lot of sense that you're feeling upset right now. I do not have the capacity to have this conversation. Can I help you connect with someone else?"

Another crucial skill is being responsive when people in your life set boundaries with you. Here are some tips for navigating those interactions:

  • Remember that if someone sets a boundary with you it is a sign of trust. By taking the time to communicate their needs with you, they are saying that their relationship with you is meaningful and they want it to feel good for both of you.
  • When you hear someone setting a boundary, try to center your focus on what they are saying and consider their perspective. It can be helpful to take a deep breath before responding.
  • If you find yourself feeling defensive, try to examine what needs you have. Where are healthy places where you can get those needs met?

Unhealthy or Abusive Relationships

Sometimes relationships can become unhealthy and/or abusive. People of all identities may experience this and abuse can look different in different relationships.

Some signs of an unhealthy relationship include:

  • One person becomes controlling. This can look like taking the other person’s phone or setting limits on how they spend their time.
  • An individual emotionally or physically harasses another individual with unwanted or unwelcome behavior.
  • Physical violence is an unmistakable sign of an unhealthy relationship.
  • Coercive or forced sexual interactions.
  • Using love bombing after perpetrating physical or emotional violence.
  • Belittling, talking down, or being disrespectful to someone.
  • Issuing ultimatums or threats—especially if someone says they will harm themselves if a partner sets a boundary with them.

Where to Get Support

  • Speak with a staff member at the Schacht Center—Counseling, Wellness and Medical are all here to support you.
  • Healthy Relationship Quiz to determine if your relationship is healthy
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233
  • Review this help guide for leaving an abusive relationship
  • Contact The Network / La Red, a hotline for LGBTQIA+ survivors of abuse at 1-617-742-4911

Content Note: This section discusses sex and consent.

When we think about sex, we conceptualize it as a variety of behaviors. Different people can understand sexual activity in different ways, so it’s important to communicate with partners about your thoughts on sex. There is no perfect definition of sex, but we broadly conceptualize sex as physical activity between one or more people that results in sexual pleasure/stimulation for one or more of the involved parties.

Sex & Pleasure

Sexual pleasure is a necessary part of conversations around sexual health. The core of sexual pleasure is the ability to pay attention to the positive emotional and physical experiences during an interaction. Preoccupation with distractions, self-critical thoughts, and socially constructed expectations about sex are absolutely normal to experience, there are ways to manage these pressures. Mindfulness practice is the most efficient strategy to enhance sexual attentiveness, along with education from reliable, non-commercial sources. Some people find it helpful to explore sexual pleasure on their own before involving a partner(s).


Consent is necessary for all people taking part in sexual interactions—it is an agreement that each person makes to engage in certain behaviors. Explicit verbal consent is the best method for receiving consent from parties involved in sexual engagement. Consent is best communicated through clear, open, and honest conversations.

If you are not quite sure if you want something, or if you are not quite sure that your partner is into it, stop. Taking the time to discuss consent and boundaries with your partner is necessary. Regardless of sexual history or relationship status, consent is needed for every sexual encounter. Remember, consent is sexy!

Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of Yes Means Yes (2008), explains consent this way: "Sexual consent isn't like a light switch, which can be either "on," or "off." It’s not like there’s this one thing called "sex" you can consent to anyhow. "Sex" is an evolving series of actions and interactions. You have to have the… consent of your partner[s] for all of them. And even if you have your partner's consent for a particular activity, you have to be prepared for it to change.”

Asking for Consent

It’s important to check in with yourself—if you’re about to ask consent, make sure it’s something you want too. If you’re being asked for consent, make sure it’s something you want to do before you say yes.

Ask for consent before you act. The person initiating a sexual activity is responsible for asking for consent.

Consent is about getting an idea of how your partner is feeling and what they’re thinking. Try asking open-ended questions rather than yes or no questions. Really try to understand what your partner is feeling, rather than just listening for a yes or no.

Some examples of ways to ask consent:

  • May I [do whatever sexual thing]?
  • How do you feel about doing [whatever sexual thing]?
  • Is there anything you need to feel comfortable or safe when we do [whatever sexual thing]?

Checking in during sexual interactions is also important:

  • How does this feel?
  • Are you still liking this? Are you comfortable?
  • Is there anything you need or want right now?
  • You seem quiet, are you okay?
  • I feel good, are you feeling good?

Key Reminders about Consent

  • Consent is something that should be communicated throughout a sexual interaction—and it may change during the sexual interaction.
  • Someone cannot give consent if they are under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • Power dynamics and age differences can influence consent, or even make it impossible. It is important to consider the context of sexual interactions, including what identities each person brings to the situation.
  • Consent cannot be coerced.
  • Consent is not the absence of a no—it is an enthusiastic and freely given yes!
  • If someone seems hesitant about giving consent, STOP and talk about it.

Mitigating Risk of Pregnancy During Sex

When engaging in sexual behavior in which there is the opportunity for sperm to seek an egg, individuals involved may want to have contraception to decrease the odds of pregnancy. There are many forms of contraceptives which can be used to reduce the chance of pregnancy. Popular methods of contraception include the use of condoms and hormonal birth control, such as IUDs, birth control pills, patches, or shots. If you are a Smith College Student in need of contraceptives or are interested in them, the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness has services that can help you. For more information on birth control methods, the Planned Parenthood Birth Control Methods & Options is a great place to look.

Emergency Contraception

The Health Center generally recommends Ella because it’s more effective than other morning after pills. Ella works for up to five days after unprotected sex and can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 85%. A prescription is needed. You can call Health Services at 413-585-2800 to make an appointment for Ella. Health Services will provide you with Ella for $25, or give you a prescription to fill it at a pharmacy.

Plan B is available over the counter at most drug stores. A prescription is required for it to be covered by your insurance. Plan B isn’t for everyone—you can take this quiz to find out what option is best for you.

Other Resources

Mitigating Risk of STIs During Sex

Many forms of sex come with the risk of STIs. Some methods of preventing transmission of STIs include barrier methods (like condoms), medication (like PrEP), or engaging in behaviors that reduce the contact of one person’s genital skin and fluids with the other person’s genital skin and fluids.

If you are using sex toys and/or prosthetics, make sure to wash them thoroughly between different individuals/orifices. Using a condom over dildos can also make clean up a lot easier.

Additionally, individuals who are sexually active should consider screening for STIs every time they become sexually involved with a new partner(s).

Non-Monogomy and Safe Sex

Some people may choose to be involved with multiple partners or engage with non-monogamous relationships. It is possible to practice safe sex and practice polyamory. Some strategies for safe sex in the context of polyamory include:

  • Think about what your personal boundaries are in terms of safe sex. What kind of protection do you want partners to use? What STI testing cadence do you expect from partners? Communicate these boundaries and ask about your partner’s boundaries.
  • Think about who you would like to fluid bond (aka have unprotected sex with) if anyone. Are they fluid bonded with other people? Are you? Communicate with everyone involved.
  • Be in touch with your body—take note of things that feel out of place, like sores or burning sensations, and discuss them with a doctor as soon as possible. This protects both your health and the health of your partner(s).
  • When in doubt, communication is key—with ALL your partners. Communication about what kind of sex you’re having, what kind of protective measures you’re taking, and what you’re noticing in your body is crucial to practice safe sex and respecting the health and well-being of all your partners.

Defining High-Risk Sex

At the Schacht Center, we conceptualize safer sex as sexual interactions that account for the dignity, emotional/physical safety, and wellbeing of every involved individual. We take a harm-reduction approach and work with students to develop safer sex practices that align with individual needs. When you are in a clinical environment, your provider might bring up the concept of “high risk” sex. The definition of high risk sex can vary with culture, age, and time. Generally, we view “high risk” sex as sexual interactions in which fluid exchange occurs without any form of barrier or STI prevention.

STI Screening & Testing

Did you know that most insurance companies offer free screening for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV once a year?

The Schacht Center is now offering Express Testing for these four STIs, without having to see a nurse or a provider in most cases. STI screening testing (in the absence of current symptoms) can be requested through the Health Portal. You will be asked a few questions prior to orders being placed. Once the screening questionnaire is completed, a lab order will be placed for you within 48 business hours.

Labs will be ordered to the Baystate Reference Lab at the Schacht Center.

If you are experiencing symptoms or would like to meet with a medical provider, please contact the Schacht Center at 413-585-2800 to make an appointment. Insurance will be billed for testing. Students are responsible for any costs not covered by their insurance company. You are encouraged to call the number on the back of your insurance card if you have questions.

The Basics

Unfortunately, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and interpersonal dating violence occur on almost every college campus. These traumatic events can happen between people of any age, race, or gender identity.

Individuals who have experienced sexual violence may feel shame or stigma, which can make it difficult to reach out for help. The Schacht Center is here to support survivors of sexual assault.

On-Campus Resources

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

  • Medical: Medical evaluation is a valuable resource if a person is sexually assaulted. Smith students can go to Cooley Dickinson 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: The Title IX office at Smith is present to support survivors of sexual assault to explore their legal options within Smith and outside of the college. They can also support any accommodations that survivors may need.

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!

Bystander Intervention

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, but if you're ever concerned, speak up. Some risk signs from an individual may include:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Trying to get someone drunk in order to “hook up”
  • Physically separating a person from others 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 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?
  • 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.


The Basics

Sleep hygiene is a common concern for Smithies! The bare minimum amount of sleep to get is four hours consecutively. However, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to be minimally functional. Additionally, people around the 19–22 age range often need 8.5 to 9.25 hours to be functioning at their prime.

If you’re curious about the ideal amount of sleep for you, try going to sleep without an alarm on a weekend and timing how long you sleep. It’s best to do this when you’re already well-rested, because having a sleep debt can increase how long you sleep in.

Sleeping more than 9 hours a night consistently may indicate that you have an underlying health issue. If you find yourself oversleeping, it may be time to talk with a doctor.


If you are a natural napper, naps can be a great way to re-energize. Naps can also be great if you’ve experienced sleep loss, like pulling an all nighter. Mayo Clinic suggests taking short, 10–20 minute naps to decrease the risk of waking up feeling groggy. Additionally, try napping before 3 p.m. to limit your nap’s impact on your nightly sleep.

Tips to Get to Sleep More Easily


What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are a class of drugs that result in increased central nervous system behavior—this looks like heightened arousal, increased heartbeat, and other physical side effects, as well as some feelings of euphoria.

There are many stimulants. Some are legal and unregulated, like caffeine and nicotine. Some stimulants are prescription only, like Adderall and Ritalin, which are often prescribed to people with ADHD. Finally, there are illicit stimulants like cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine.

Stimulant Misuse and Addiction


Risk Factors

Signs of Stimulant Overdose

  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Flushed skin
  • High fever
  • Convulsions
  • Cardiovascular collapse

Harm Reduction & Stimulant Use

About 20% of college students have abused prescription stimulants at some point, primarily by taking medication that was not prescribed to them. It may not feel like a big deal to share pills, but preventing stimulant misuse begins by only taking medication prescribed to you.

If you choose to use drugs, use reagent kits to check that they are labeled correctly and stay updated about what drugs are being cut with in your area.

There are sharps disposal containers at the Schacht Center and Forbes Library. You can also purchase an individual sharps container to keep in your room from most pharmacies or online.

Recovery Resources

  • Narcotics Anonymous: 12 step programs are run by volunteers and often have a strong connection to spirituality. They have a foundation of accessibility and anonymity, and meetings are often very easy to find.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
  • You can visit the SAMHSA online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you.
  • The Schacht Center is available for individual consultations. Members of Counseling, Wellness or Medical Services are all available to speak with you confidentially.

The Basics

Stress is your body’s natural response to situations that you perceive as risky. Stress occurs when you encounter a stimulus (like a bear, a test, or a social situation) that puts you on edge—your body releases cortisol in response and you may experience sensations like increased heart rate or sweaty hands.

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 or depressed.

Stress differs from anxiety in that it is usually an acute response to a concrete stimulus, whereas anxiety is chronic and typically not linked to a discrete stimulus.

Signs You May Need Support

Chronic stress is consistent pressure that occurs over a long period of time. It can come from a variety of life situations, including coursework, family situations, or the ongoing experience of societal oppression. When someone is experiencing chronic stress, it may have a wide array of symptoms.

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • Trouble having sex
  • Weak immune system

Stress can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like:

  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Sadness


If your stress is making you feel overwhelmed, unable to do the things that make you happy, or unable to attend to your life, consider reaching out for help.

  • The Schacht Center is available for individual consultations. Members of Counseling, Wellness, or Medical Services are all available to speak with you confidentially.
  • NAMI Fact Sheet on managing stress See below for stress management techniques.

Stress Management

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 refers to a consistent feeling of being pressured and overwhelmed for an extended period of time.

Daily Strategies

  • Beat procrastination! Buy a calendar or planner to keep track of important events and deadlines. Keep a to-do list to prioritize your tasks.
  • Take it one step at a time. Break it up into reasonable, manageable tasks and focus on completing those.
  • Talk it out! Have a conversation with someone you trust. (Family member, friends, professor, therapist, etc.)
  • Choose your own goals. Accept that you have limits and keep expectations for yourself realistic. 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 food that fuels your body and make time for exercise.
  • Look at everyday activities as breaks from stressful situations. 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, and you will get through this.
  • Acknowledge that sometimes life’s problems really are out of your control.
  • Accept that you may not be able to change the situation and look for ways to improve it.
  • Make time for yourself! You are the most important person in your life.
  • 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 Ways to Address Stress

  • Laughter is the best medicine—read jokes, call a friend, watch funny videos, whatever makes you smile.
  • Talk to a loved one! (Family, friends, partner…)
  • 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…
  • Wiggle break! (Dance, stretch, move)
  • 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.
  • Enjoy a delicious snack.
  • Watch your favorite show.
  • Practice mindful breathing.
  • Scream.
  • Squeeze a stress ball.
  • Scribble, craft, knit, paint, etc…

Meditation Practice

You’ll need...

  • A welcoming 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 and find a position where your spine is straight, whether this is sitting in a chair or laying down. 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

Breath is a powerful tool for wellness, 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.

When you breathe, begin by filling your lower abdomen with breath first. 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.

  • Sit or lay 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. Sometimes it is easier to follow instructions than direct yourself. This is normal, and there are many online sources that offer a range of guided breathwork for you to practice. If you would like a suggestion on where to look first, you can check out the work of Shanila Sattar on Instagram (@Shanila.Sattar) or Youtube (@Shanila Sattar).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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

  • Get comfortable and find a safe place that is inviting to sit or lay down.
  • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths. Allow yourself to let go of outside distractions and focus your energy inwards.
  • 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.
  • When you are ready to end your practice, take a moment to reflect on any changes you notice after completing this technique. Slowly begin to wiggle your toes and fingers, and return to your day.

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.

When You Should Ask for Help

You should seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed by your stress, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with your stress, or if you are having thoughts about hurting yourself. Ask for help if you feel like your stress management techniques aren’t working.

You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself.

Crisis Resources

  • ProtoCall: (After hours or when the Schacht Center is closed): 1-413-585-2840, option 1. This is for immediate on campus intervention only and not for administrative needs.
  • 24/7 Crisis services in Northampton, MA: 413-586-5555
  • Trevor Project 24-hour, an LGBTQ hotline: 1-866-488-7386
  • Trans Lifeline suicide hotline: 1-877-565-8860
  • Online therapy and free text/chat counseling
  • Call 988 to connect with the free suicide and crisis lifeline
  • Self-harm text support line