Counseling

Tips for Flourishing 

We are flourishing when we are feeling good and functioning well. Both may become challenging depending on what we may be going through. What we did to feel good and function well in the past may not work right now. This guide puts Flourishing to work in our current moments of challenge and trying times as an acronym: 

F.L.O.U.R.I.S.H.

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F: Focus on what you can control

The alternative to uncontrollable worry is to focus on what actually is in your control. Unfortunately, we can’t reliably control our thoughts or feelings. But we do have control over what we do right here and now. This includes your routine (your sleep, your eating, your studying, and your media exposure). This also includes reaching out to loved ones, exercising, starting a gratitude journal, or following any of the other fantastic tips you have heard.

Keep your routine in a healthy way

Routines help to keep us feeling safe and well. It’s important to focus on a healthy sleep routine, eating well, studying, working, socializing and anything else in your routine. Moving away from routines create more stress.

Ways to Support Yourself

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Source: CDC

Manage input of information

Spending too much time researching information on what is creating your stress often only creates more stress. It is important to remain informed, while also not overwhelming yourself with information. Utilizing reputable information sources, such as the CDC or your county Public Health Agency will provide you with the information you need to stay informed. Be intentional about setting time limits.

Try this exercise: Unplug and Connect

L: Listen to yourself

Listening to yourself, trusting yourself to know what you are feeling, thinking, and what you need are hard skills in times of uncertainty, challenge and stress. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings are so difficult, unpleasant, or just overwhelming that we do everything in our power to try to ignore them. It can be a powerful shift to choose to simply acknowledge whatever thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, or even urges are rising up inside of you. Embracing a mindset of curiosity about your experiences rather than judging yourself too harshly.

Looking for a quick 5-minute option to do a guided meditation check-in with yourself? Utilizing meditations like this can help bring some intentionality to your practice even when it is difficult to give yourself some time and space! Check out this Mindfulness Connection Exercise from the UWO Counseling Center Podcast! 

Why is Self Care So Important?

Practicing self-care every day can help your mind, body and soul.

Mind—to quiet your mind, be more productive and improve mental health

Body—to prevent disease and illness, maintain your weight, and have more energy

Soul—to feel happy and relaxed, connect with yourself, and nurture your soul

Be MINDFUL of what you are experiencing.

Pay attention to what you are feeling and know that there is a range of feelings one experiences during crisis and with everyday stressors. Being aware of what you are feeling and how you are reacting to stress so you can better use coping mechanisms to feel better.

Here are some mindfulness resources:

Use your senses to ground yourself in the here and now, try these exercises Mindfulness of the Senses 

Putting one foot in front of the other is how we learned to walk, taking one moment at a time is important in these times. Focus on this moment, this hour, this day, rather than overwhelming yourself with ALL the details.  This can help you break down problems into more manageable pieces.  

O: Open Up

Opening up to let others in to know and share your struggle is a courageous act. It takes bravery to ask for professional help. Connecting with others in integral to our ability to flourish. During challenging times, we may feel like we don’t want to burden others, but there are resources available here to support you.

What can opening up look like?

  • Reaching out to a friend and/or family member
  • Finding a mentor on campus for support
  • Being open to counseling
  • Trying mindfulness exercises to increase awareness of emotions
  • Finding ways to improve our flexibility will allow you to move more smoothly through challenges.
  • Name specifically what you need from your support network (e.g., “today I need to talk about the ____ situation” versus “today I need a break from _____ situation”)

Resources for support: (campus and community)

  • UW Oshkosh Counseling Center: (920) 424-2061
  • Student Health Center: (920) 424-2424
  • Dean of Students: (920) 424-3100
  • University Police: (920) 424-1212
  • Winnebago County Crisis: (920) 233-7707
  • Fond Du Lac County Crisis: (920) 929-3535
  • Outagamie County Crisis: (920) 832-4646

U: Understanding your values

Having a clear sense of purpose can make a big difference to your mental health. Values are things that matter to us most. Living out our values helps us experience deep and lasting flourishing because we don’t depend on fleeting emotions to determine our well-being.

Journal Prompts to help you discover your values in the midst of challenging times:

  • What do I want to stand for in the face of challenging times?
  • How do I want to treat others and myself during this challenging time?

Core Values Activity:

  • Step 1 – List 5-7 of your Core Values. Possible examples listed below.
    Acceptance, Adventure, Caring, Commitment, Contribution, Courage, Creativity, Curiosity, Efficiency, Engagement Fairness Friendliness, Forgiveness Genuineness, Gratitude, Honesty, Integrity, Intimacy, Kindness, Loving, Respect, Responsibility, Self-care, Supportiveness, Trust
  • Step 2 – Prioritize those 5-7 values in order of importance. (It’s important to do this because when values conflict, we often defer to the values of priority.)
  • Step 3 – For each core value, list some behaviors that reflect that value. For example, integrity behaviors could be telling the truth, behaving ethically, and maintaining trust.
  • Step 4 – Reflect on whether or not there is alignment between your core values and your actual behavior. Explore ways you could bridge the gap. One way of doing this may be to think about how you have seen a certain value emulated by someone you respect. How might you act in that way too.

Other Activities:

  • What charities or organizations are you passionate about? Explore ways to be more involved with their mission. This can help you feel like you are living out your values and help in moments where you feel helpless.
  • Take the VIA Character survey to explore your strengths. https://www.viacharacter.org/

 

Learn Something New or Something about Yourself

Learning has multiple benefits, including fostering psychological well-being.  Learning something new can help build more self-confidence and a sense of self-efficacy.  Taking some time to focus on learning something new, or learning more about yourself can be an effective and fun way to maintaining overall health.

Click here to begin Career Exploration

R: Recharge and Rejuvenate

Exercise, yoga, stretching, and all sorts of activities can be helpful in getting you connected with your body. When you get physical, it helps you to not get so caught up in your mind. Worries and fears tend to feed the mental and emotional storm, but getting connected with our body helps to interrupt worries. However, you don’t have to do anything dramatic. Try these:

  • Slowly push your feet into the floor to feel the solid ground beneath you
  • Intentionally straighten your spine and notice your head held high
  • Subtly press your fingertips together being sensitive to the sensation
  • Mindfully move and stretch your arms, legs, and neck
  • Take 5 deep and slow mindful breaths

 

Stay Active

We know that staying physically active reduces stress levels and helps prevent many of the negative effects of stressful life events. Staying active doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or be intimidated by the activity. It just means getting up and moving for at least 30 minutes every 3 to 5 days.

 

Wellness Workshop Activities:

Find ways to RELAX

It is always important to take time for yourself to find ways to unwind and relax. During stressful times it becomes even more important. Here are a few tips for relaxing and some resources as well.

Tips:

  • Take a long bath or shower
  • Spend some time with your pet
  • Find ways to laugh
  • Get physically active..that could mean dancing to your favorite song, doing yoga moves at home, etc
  • Do mindfulness activities
  • Doing something creative…color, draw, etc
  • Read a good book
  • Play a game
  • Do a craft
  • Research online things that bring you joy.
  • Journal
Click to view Journal Prompts

What would I like my future self to remember about today?   

Who is someone I appreciate and why? 

What’s something new I could try today and what might it be the benefits if I did?

What are some unexpected positives that have come out of my current situation? 

What is an experience I would like to savor today from my past, present or future? 

Imagining myself five years from now, what would I like to see?  What might that feel like? 

What do I need to forgive myself for?  What would the benefits be and what words, or actions, could I use to help with this? 

I appreciate my body because… 

Some things I’ve learned recently about others (or the world) have been… 

What has surprised me about myself this past week is…

An activity I’ve been missing the most lately has been… 

If I were to write a book, it would be about… 

Describe a situation where everything worked out for you.

What would you be doing if money was no object?

Create a Pros and Cons List for a future decision.

Write a caring, and compassionate, letter to yourself as you would write one for a family member or friend that you love.

What’s a new hobby you would like to try if you had the time, resources, etc.?

If I could meet anyone in the world I would like to meet ____________ because…

Write a thank you, or encouragement, letter to someone you think could use it.

I’m most proud of myself for…

Some things that have helped me to choose what I would like to do for a career have been…  

What I’m going to take away from this school year is…

Some changes I’ve noticed in my family are…

If I could go away to a summer camp, it would involve doing… in …

Describe your biggest accomplishment and why it means so much.

What’s currently on your nightstand (or near your bed) and what might this say about you?

When did being patient pay off and how?

Some positives in my family are…

Some meaningful experiences in my life have been…

If I could be someone else for a day it would be____________, because…

My thoughts about hope are…

Some of my favorite experiences in nature have been…

Something I’d like to explore more is…

Some ideas I have about laughter are…

Some things that I’m liking about summer are…

Think about your daily routine. Do you have one? What does it look? Think about whether some changes might be nice and what those changes could be.

What does family mean to you? Describe your family dynamic, and what you liked about it. What did you dislike? Do you believe your idea of family aligns with society’s?

Pick a challenge you’re having right now. Write down your ideas of options for dealing with this challenge and then add possible pros and cons for each.

One thing that gives me inspiration is…

What is a new hobby, activity, or sport you would like to try if you had the resources and what would the positive effects be? Write a letter of gratitude to yourself as you would write one to someone close to you.

Congruence is a term used to describe a state in which a person sees their ideal self and actual self, consistent or very similar. It is rare for a complete state of congruence to exist and that all people experience a certain amount of incongruence.  What is something you can do today to move toward your ideal self or to become more congruent.

Some shows I’ve been finding entertaining have been… Similarities and differences to past shows I’ve liked are…

An adventure I’d like to take some time in the next year would be… One I’d like to take in the next 5 years would be…

My thoughts about random acts of kindness are… Some I might like to try are…

Is there a difference between happiness and fulfillment? What does it take for you to be happy? What does it take you to be fulfilled? Are the qualities the same?

Things I notice improving in my life are…

My favorite thing to do lately has been… Some reasons I think it’s been a favorite are…

What would you like your future self to remember about this time?

Who has inspired you in a positive way, and how does that reflect on others?

What is your favorite time of the day, and why?

How would you respond if a friend told you they aren’t good at anything?

If you could live during any time in history, when would it be, and why?

What is the greatest non-monetary gift you have ever received?

How would you inspire a friend who is having trouble with a challenging task?

What does emotional growth mean to you?

Describe your three greatest accomplishments, why are these accomplishments so important to you?

What are the three things that scare you the most, and why?

Describe a time in your life when you felt like you were going to fail, but you didn’t.

What does “honesty without compassion is brutality” mean to you?

Write about your first love — whether a person, place or thing.

When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is…

What does unconditional love look like for you?

I really wish others knew this about me…

Make a list of everything you’d like to say “yes” to.

What’s surprises you the most about your life or life in general?

If I could talk to myself 4 years ago, the advice I would have would be…

In what ways do I impact others around me each day?

Some of my biggest victories and successes have been…

I feel fulfilled and truly alive when…

When you are distracted and lose focus, what are some new things you could try to regain your focus?

Describe a moment or specific event that inspired you to be a better person?

Imagine sitting on a park bench and a stranger sits down next to you who appears to be having a bad day. What are some things you could say or do that could help change their mood?

What are you grateful for about yourself? 

Pretend you are writing a letter to your younger self, and your younger self is going to read it. What would your younger self need to hear the most?  

Think about the happiest place you’ve ever been. Whatever place comes to mind, describe it in detail. 

Write about a random childhood memory you have in your head. Why do you think you still remember that moment? 

What’s something you’re looking forward to, no matter how small? List as many things as you can.  

At the beginning of the day, write down everything you’re worried about. Close your journal, walk away, and go about your day as if you’ve left your worries behind.  

If you had all the money you wanted, what would you buy? What do you think your answer reveals about you? 

What do you want your day to look like today?  

Write something down that’s been weighing you down, no matter how small. Try to let it go once it’s out of your head and onto the paper.  

Look for a quote that you find particularly meaningful to you. Write it down, and write about why you find it meaningful, or how you can apply it to your own life. 

What is something that you need to hear today?  

What is something you feel like could have gone better today?  Any ideas of what you can learn from this, accept from this and move on from it?

If all your responsibilities for the day disappeared, what would you do with your day? 

What gift would you love to receive right now? 

If you could live anywhere for a year, where would that be? What is appealing about that place to you? 

Write about a lesson you learned from the last book you read or the last movie you watched. 

What is your favorite compliment to get or your favorite compliment you’ve ever been given?  Describe details of what this was like when it was received or given.

How at peace does your mind feel today? Try to write down some of the anxieties and worries that are clouding your head.  

What is one thing you could do right now to make yourself feel just a little happier? 

What do you think is your most unhealthy coping mechanism?  What could you substitute for it; how might you go about doing that and what might be the effects of making this change?

What material object means the most to you? Why? 

Do you consider yourself to be a daydreamer? What do you think the things you daydream about say about your self-image or your ideal self? 

If you could live in any TV show, which one would you pick? Why? 

Write down something you want to forgive yourself for.  

Would you describe yourself as confident? What do you feel most confident about? 

What is your most unhealthy relationship, whether it’s with a person or an object? What boundaries could you create with that relationship? 

What is something that you find scary, but would like to do anyways?  Describe what the pros and cons of doing that might be.

Write a letter to someone that’s frustrated you.  

What do you think other people first notice about your personality when they meet you? 

What personality traits do your closest friends have that you appreciate the most? How have their traits impacted you, them and others? 

If you could give yourself a personality trait of your choice, what would you choose and why? 

What things do you do to calm yourself down when you’re feeling nervous? 

What is something you look for in a significant other? Why is that trait so important to you? 

What is one seemingly meaningless thing that you think reveals a lot about someone’s character?

I: Identify your supports

Sometimes we feel lonely or distressed when going through challenging times. It is important to connect with others to mutually support each other. Connection is very important to our well-being.

Tips for Connecting:

  • Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in awhile to reconnect
  • Spend time with your significant others by talking, playing games, etc.
  • Watch a favorite TV show with a friends, even virtually
  • Join a virtual interest club, such as a book club
  • Support others with encouragement. Give others validation when they share their struggles.
  • Plan a random act of kindness. Who is someone that needs a note or a virtual gift?

 

Wellness Workshop Activities

 

S: Self Compassion

We are often our own worst critic, fill in the blanks: “you should be more….”. “you should be less…” Would we ever use these statements to someone we love? Usually, the answer is “No!” When we can develop our voice to be gentle, compassionate, and nurturing, like we would use when talking to a friend, it can change our world!

Practice Self Compassion

During stressful times, we can be unkind towards ourselves. It is important to practice self-compassion through challenging times in order to support ourselves in a kind way.

Tips for Self Compassion:

  • Spend time taking care of yourself to show you are a priority
  • Treat yourself as your own best friend
  • Understand you are not alone in experiencing struggles
  • Be kind to yourself, especially when you are struggling

20 minute Giving and Receiving compassion

10 minute Loving Kindness

Check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s website to work on being more self compassionate.

Wellness Workshop Activities

H: Healthy Coping

There has never been a time in history without challenge and struggle, those that have come before us have survived and flourished. We can choose to cope with struggle in healthy and unhealthy ways. We know that looking for what is going well, looking for the good in people and events, and being curious about our environment helps us find creative and healthy ways to cope. When we listen to our own needs and honor them, we can feel better. When we take time for ourselves, to be creative, to play, to relax, we balance the struggles with what is right with us.

 

Focus on what is going well

  • Start a gratitude journal- List three things that went well today (and every day).
  • Share with a friend or family member what you appreciate about them or how they have been there for you.
  • Think of a specific happy memory that you cherish. Spend time going over the details, feelings, sensations for 5 minutes. Visualizing with your eyes closed can help.
  • Who do you know that could use some positive feedback today? Let them know of the things you see them doing well or those qualities that you appreciate.
  • Allow yourself to feel gratitude for even the tiniest things, such as a beautiful tree outside or enjoying a song on the radio. It’s okay to find it difficult to feel grateful in difficult times, and you don’t need to pressure yourself to always feel gratitude while you are struggling.

 

Living in Hope-

  • Believe in the possibility of good to come
  • Create small daily and weekly goals believing you can accomplish them
  • Think of a time when you couldn’t imagine things getting better, but they did. Remember that hope exists in the unknowns of possibilities that can’t always be seen. Leave room for hope!
  • Assume that you are capable of attaining your goals
  • Times can be scary with worries for yourself and/or others. Think of what you have the power to control and do and let go of the worry that only holds you back.
  • Look at history for other challenging times people have faced and how they have overcome these. Solutions can be hard to see but perseverance will help you to find them. Patience and hope help with perseverance.

 

Identify unhealthy coping mechanisms

Sometimes when things are stressful, we do things that aren’t helpful in helping us to feel better. Try to be more aware of these things and do things that are more positive to your well-being.

Here are a few unhealthy ways of coping you can try to minimize:

  • Withdrawing from others
  • Oversleeping or eating
  • Use of substances
  • Checking out watching too much TV or playing video games
  • Becoming irritable and taking stress out on others
  • Not reaching out for support when needed

 

Here are some resources to help you find healthier coping:

UW Oshkosh Counseling Center
Student Success Center, Suite 240
750 Elmwood Ave
Oshkosh, WI 54901