Author Archives: Admin

OMG you’re stressed too??

by Zach Danssaert

We hear it everyday in the dining hall, the café, and the dorm rooms. Someone has a TON of work and they don’t know if they will be able to get it all done. They reach out to their friends, and in return their claim is either validated with a “me too,” or is shut down by someone who might have a “light week.” We all do it, myself included. In times of stress we seek sympathy from friends who are in a similar situation. There is no denying that this interaction can provide a positive feeling for the person complaining. However, for Bowdoin College as a whole I think that we are actually increasing the stress of our entire student body.

Bowdoin College is one of the most rigorous schools in the country. There are times where we are pushed to our limit, and we don’t know if we will be able to overcome. For this reason, it becomes even more important for our student body to create a mental space away from the stresses associated with our schoolwork. This is where complaining becomes a problem. Our ability to get away and take mental breaks is limited when stressful conversations are constantly entering this “stress-free arena.”

In my opinion, our mental health at Bowdoin would be improved if we could create areas on campus where schoolwork is not discussed. Our college is known for having well-rounded happy students. If we could take our minds off of our academic obligations whenever we can, and focus on getting to know the amazing people around us, our mental states would be dramatically improved.

Wellness Wednesday: How to Grow Your Fingernails Back (a guide to the Counseling Center)

Have you been getting somewhere between 4 and 5 hours of sleep a night? Have you been stress-eating trail mix while cramming for an exam at midnight in the union? Have you been biting your nails so far down that they are now bloody stumps that used to be fingers? If all of these are true, you are either actually me, or you are just plain old stressed out.

In honor of Mental Health Month, Peer Health is on a mission to help you grow your fingernails back—or in other words, to help you de-stress.

The first step towards de-stressing is knowing who to go to. The Counseling Center is one of Bowdoin’s most used, but also most underrated resources on campus. Located just a bop away from any first-year dorm, and no more than 7 minutes away from any location on campus, Bowdoin’s counselors reside on 32 College street, right down the road from Ladd House. Services include:
• individual therapy
• psychological consultations and workshops
• alcohol and substance abuse
• treatment for disordered eating
• biofeedback and mind-body work
• group therapy
• psychiatric consultation and monitoring
• Psychological assessment

Biggest myth about the counseling center?

Some people believe that in order to utilize counseling services you have to have some sort of disorder, anxiety, or be sanctioned by health service. If this were true, than 30% of your classmates wouldn’t be attending the counseling center on a regular basis. However, as a result of the 40% increase of students who have been utilizing its services, the counseling center is now encouraging more group therapy and mindfulness exercises in order to ensure that all students will receive care.

However, the Counseling Center insists that all students experiencing crises will be able to receive one-on-one counseling always, whenever necessary. So, next time you’re getting ready to unload your problems on your roommate, or even just the next person you run into, call the counseling center, or just drop by.
Phone: (207) 725-3145

Let’s start a conversation…about our bodies

by Greg Rosen

We’ve all been there. Navigating our way in Moulton, we pass the desserts. We immediately begin to drool over the blueberry crumble. For some, ambivalent questions may surface and take control. Did I exercise today? How much am I going to have to work out to burn off these calories? Am I going to get “fat”?

Body consciousness. It exists. It’s real. And unfortunately, we don’t seem to talk about it that openly. Could you imagine yourself having this conversation out loud at Bowdoin? Most people would shun this type of discourse. But this input-output calculus can still take place in our heads. Perhaps because we don’t talk about the problem we become desensitized to the issues.

The input-output function of food doesn’t just happen at the individual level. It happens at a societal level. We live in a culture that equates health with body size. “Fat,” thus, becomes unwanted. We internalize messages – from television, from magazine, from social media – that “looking healthy” is “being healthy.” Nothing is wrong with looking healthy, but prioritizing looking healthy may actually lead us to make unhealthy choices. Take, for instance, body size. If we as a community value one specific body type, our goals and daily functions become systematized around the attainment of that body type. Exercise becomes a task, not a joy. Eating, additionally, can become a tool for molding our bodies into an ideal type, as if our bodies where malleable clay – things that we not only can alter through controlled actions but should be altering.

Most problematic perhaps is the rejection of difference in body discourse. “Fat talk” associates “fat” as being undesirable and unhealthy. Every healthcare practitioner, however, will tell you that body fat is necessary for survival and improves overall health outcomes. It seems we live in a society – and possibly even a world – that has replaced health with image. Looking like the ideal type not only becomes more desirable than being healthy – but it actually comes to define “healthy.”

This is not the message we should be hearing from a heath perspective. People’s bodies change over time, and likewise, their self-awareness of their bodies changes at different points in time. Body size shouldn’t matter to us as long as we are making healthy choices about our body. But what is a “healthy” body choice? In reality, it depends on the individual. Eating a donut to relieve stress can be just as much a healthy choice as eating a salad for lunch to get the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function at their highest level. What matters is context. Health doesn’t just have to be about what types of food we eat. It also has to do with the context in which we are making particular food choices.

Why does being body conscious matter at all? Because being body conscious sucks. But that doesn’t mean we should accept it. Because body consciousness is a product of culture, we have the power to change that culture through our language. Start a conversation: talk to your friends and your family, be mindful of the language you and others around you use when talking about their bodies, and compliment each other. The only way we can change how we talk about our bodies is by actually talking about our bodies – and talking about them in positive ways.

Please and Thank you, thank you very much

by Maeve O’Leary

Remember what your mother said about using your manners? Maybe to your chagrin, but to her satisfaction, she was right. As it turns out, saying “thank you” can provide the most selfish of benefits: making us happier. Even with Thanksgiving a whole month away, studies show there is never a wrong time to express gratitude towards others, whether that be through a simple “thanks” to a stranger, or through calling your mom to thank her for teaching you to use your manners, or through giving a dramatic recitation to your best friend, listing the reasons you love her, giving thanks helps people fell more positive emotions.

Two psychologists at the University of California, Davis, experimented with the theory to research gratitude. In one study they asked all participants to write a few sentences a week, expressing things they were grateful for. A second group wrote about daily irritations affecting them that week. After 10 weeks, the first group felt more optimistic about their lives, exercising more and requiring fewer physician visits, while the second group grew even more aggravated.

In another experiment done by the online video group, Soul Pancake (link below), volunteers were called in to speak about someone for whom they were grateful. After they expressed themselves, they were told to call that person. Results were positive—most subjects ended up moved in some way by the experience, either through laughter or crying or simply touching the one they had called on the telephone. If you’re in the mood to tear up a little in the union, watch the video yourself.

Or if you need an easy pick-me-up, just say the two words: “thank you.”

*Thanks to Emmy Danforth for her video recommendation!

Bowdoin’s Day of Stomp Out Stigma

by Zach Danssaert

I like to think of social stigma as the severe disapproval of a person because of a trait that indicates their deviance from social norms. The sub-conscious need to differentiate people who we consider different from what we construct to be normal is a flaw deeply ingrained in human nature that has led to some of the most devastating historical atrocities. From slavery to the holocaust, we cannot pretend to deny that our innate need to categorize leaves humankind in a far worse state.
While America as a whole has become more accepting with respect to perceived traits such as sexual orientation and race, social stigma remains extremely prevalent. From my experience, the stigmatizer is generally the person with self-esteem issues. By putting someone down, the stigmatizer enhances their self-confidence. For example, a student with bad grades might pick on a smart student by calling the student a nerd to compensate for his or her own inadequacies in the classroom. The negative stereotyping of individuals like the A+ student can cause stigmatized groups to have low self-esteem and depression. So what is being done to diminish the amount of social stigma in America? Large corporations like active minds and your very own Bowdoin College are working hard to make a difference.
For the tenth year in a row active minds will hold its 10th national “Stomp Out Stigma Walk” held at Georgetown University on November 15th. Those who have been affected by stigma, or just want to support friends and family, come together from all around the country to break the silence about social stigma with mental health. On a smaller, but just as important scale, Bowdoin College will be hosting its very own Day Without Stigma. This event will take place over the span of two days. The first day of the campaign a “Stomp Out Stigma” event will take place where a giant sheet of bubble wrap will be placed on the floor of Smith Union where students can come to literally stomp out stigma. For the second day of the event a table at the Union will be giving out anonymous compliment cards to place in friends’ mailboxes. This will serve to promote positive outlooks around campus. Finally, on Tuesday night a movie screening will be held at Mac House playing the film, “When Medicine Got it Wrong,” which is about the revolutionary movement of the treatment of psychiatric patients.

This is Why I’m Limping

Two Bowdoin Peer Healthers, Greg Rosen and Maeve O’Leary took on 26.2 miles at the Maine Marathon this past Sunday. Here are their accounts of the event:


I am not a runner. I was never on a track team, I’ve never had a coach, I’ve never been relied on to perform for a group of people. So when I finally did start running coming into Bowdoin three years ago it became something sacred—something that I did just for me. I would take off down Maine Street and just keep running until I hit the ocean, and just keep going until I found some more.

I can still barely run 3 miles on a treadmill, but as I explored the outskirts of Brunswick and Freeport, I found I could keep going as long as I wanted to as long as I had ocean to look forward to and my friend Helen by my side, chatting all the while. This summer we just kept running until we realized that there was a chance we could keep going until we hit 26.2 miles, the ultimate bucket-list item for both of us.

Running a marathon was harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean, duh it was. But what surprised me during the actual race was what came around mile 22—a new kind of pain I hadn’t felt before that came from just the constant four and some hours of pounding my legs on Yarmouth pavement. It started in my aching Achilles, drifted up my shins, hit my quads, my knees, hamstrings, and finally up to my precious gluts, as Helen and I repeated aloud: we’re doing this, we’re doing this, we’re doing this, to keep us moving.

But the best part, the part they don’t tell you about in training guides, or articles you find when you google “how to run a marathon for swimmers” as I had months before, is that this pain has the power to just disappear upon crossing the finish-line. That even though today I still hobble like Bambi on newborn legs or a senior citizen without her walker, that pain subsided for just a few moments as Helen and I caught each others’ eyes: We did this.


In some sports, they say no amount of training can mimic the conditions or the experience you will have on “game day.” When it came to training for my first marathon, I thought running outside – in the heat, in the frigid cold, and even in the pouring rain – would test my abilities to adapt to the environment and help me push through extreme weather. There was one thing that training could never prepare me for, but it was the one thing that helped me cross the finish line with a huge smile: the sense of community I felt running alongside other people.

I always enjoyed running outside on my own. Running has always been my meditation – a time when I put the world aside entirely and check in with myself, giving myself the time to reflect. Running the 26.2 miles in the company of others, cheering me on as they even passed me on the racecourse, was reaffirming. It made me delighted to keep running, and it gave me the chance to remind myself about why I loved running. Perhaps the best part of this race was having random spectators give me a high five as I sped on past them, or offer me pretzels and fruit when I needed it most (I started crashing around mile 22). I never thought of running as a team sport, but these acts of kindness made the sense of individuality I felt while running disappear. It felt as though the spectators were invested in my running, even though they did not know me, and they were going to do everything in their power to make sure I crossed that finish line. I felt like these strangers were on my team – and they wanted me to win.

What is Peer 2 Peer Anyway???

The first weeks in college are, simply put, overwhelming. Adjusting to classes, meeting new expectations, making new friends, living constantly in the presence of other people, are major changes in a social environment. There are no exceptions when first-years in their initial month on campus are trying to figure out how best to “do Bowdoin.” There is no simple answer, and that’s why people come up with different answers and strategies. That’s what makes everyone’s four years (or so) at Bowdoin so unique.

And one question all first-years must answer is what they want their relationship to be with alcohol. Bowdoin prides itself on bringing together a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and unique experiences, and this diversity certainly holds true with experiences related to alcohol. Some first-years come to Bowdoin self-identifying as “well experienced drinkers,” and others have yet to lay their hands on a finely brewed Natty Light. Whether students at Bowdoin drink or abstain from it, what unifies the Bowdoin experience is making an explicit choice about the relationship you want to have with alcohol.

Why do we have to make a choice about alcohol? Because all social groups on campus, in one way or another, interact with its presence.

Making these choices can be hard, especially when adjusting to a new environment that is college. That’s what prompted Peer Health to launch the Peer 2 Peer program.

Starting Tuesday, Peer Health members will meet with all 495 members of the First-Year class to facilitate conversations about the role of alcohol in the social scene. These conversations are meant to be reflective, in that they are an opportunity for first-years to take a step back, reflect on the interplay of alcohol and social dynamics in their first month at Bowdoin, give first-years an opportunity to set goals for themselves, and ask questions.

Whether you are student who drinks or doesn’t, you can get something out these conversations. Peer Health is here to talk about what you want out of your Bowdoin experience and help you find ways to make the experience you want a healthy and happy one.

Questions about Peer 2 Peer? Email a Peer Health member, or Whitney Hogan, Coordinator of Health Education, at

Wellness Wednesday: To B or not to B?

To Plan B or not to Plan B

Are you someone with functioning ovaries and a uterus? Do you think you ever might come in contact with sperm?

If so, stay tuned for Peer Health’s next Free Plan B Day, which will happen in the next coming weeks (before Fall Break) in the Polar Bear Huddle of Buck Fitness Center.

Just because something is free, doesn’t necessarily mean you should grab it without knowing exactly what you’re putting in your pocket.

Plan B or Levonorgestrel is an emergency contraceptive pill designed to be taken within 2 days of unprotected sex. The Levonorgestrel prevents fertilization by inhibition of ovulation in order to prevent unintended pregnancy. Side effects can include nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, tiredness, dizziness, changes in menstrual periods, breast tenderness, diarrhea, and headaches.

Debunking some myths: If you or someone you know is hesitant to use Plan B, keep in mind that what you hear isn’t necessarily what is true. So here are some cold, hard facts.

–       Even after sex you can still take steps to prevent unintended pregnancy.

–       Plan B does NOT cause infertility.

–       Plan B is NOT the same as an abortion. 

–       Plan B does NOT protect against diseases.

–       Plan B does NOT protect you until your next period.

–       Using Plan B more than once is not harmful

Debunking the biggest myth of them all, just because you miss a Peer Health “Free Plan B” Day, doesn’t mean you no longer have access to it at Bowdoin. Plan B is available for free at the Health Center, or if you’re nervous, ask a Peer Health friend and we’ll B there to help you out.

Wellness Wednesday: Get Outside!

Before we don our puffy jackets, angrily slam our windows shut, and start our incessant whining about the weather we knew was coming, let’s take a second to look our the windows right now. What do we see? That’s right… sun. Fall is the most spectacular season in Maine and while this good weather and sunshine may not last long, they hold the key to outdoor adventures and your ticket to a happy and serene state of mind.

How do you take advantage of this spectacular season?

Apple picking at Rocky Ridge Orchard and Bakery is possibly one of the Maine-iest and yummiest activities this time of year. Just 15 minutes down the road in Bowdoin, Maine, you can pick as many apples as your heart desires, and if you’re in the mood for something a little more filling, walk inside and fill up before hibernation.

Morse Mountain in Phippsburg, is a 30 minute drive, but so rewarding as you ascend a mountain that overlooks the Atlantic on a short mile hike to a sparkling beach. Even though the area is owned by Bates, it’s actually still pretty breathtaking.

Acadia National Park is the only National Park in the Northeast and home to Cadillac Mountain, one of the first spots to see the sunrise each day. The two hour drive is well-worth the scenery and most definitely worth the hike.

Don’t have access to a car?

Simpson’s Point is an easier way to see some ocean and it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away from campus, 3 miles South down Maine Street. An easy bikeride away, fork left at Simpson’s Point Road and continue until you hit a boat ramp. We can’t promise it’ll be warm, but it sure is refreshing.

Brunswick Farmer’s Market is a great place to grab a piece of fruit or a piece of homemade blueberry crumble. Right on the green in downtown Brunswick, the market is open from 8 am until 2 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Brunswick Town Commons is the Narnia to Bowdoin’s Campus set just behind Farley fields. Enter into the miles of town-owned trails for a run, a bike ride, or just to sit on the banks of the numerous ponds through the entrance that begins right alongside the soccer field, parallel to Harpswell Road.

Soak it in polar bears!

Wellness Wednesday: Chocolate Milk

Looking for an excuse to drink chocolate milk every single day? We are.
And, conveniently enough we can—in fact we should, especially after a long workout, according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. In 2006 the journal published a study comparing the contents and effects of Gatorade to the nutrients found in a simple box of chocolate milk.
Researchers found that chocolate milk contains the ideal 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to proteins, which is found to enhance glycogen replenishment into the muscles after a workout. Chocolate milk also contains whey protein, which gets essential amino acids into the blood stream right after consumption, to build and repair muscle. Finally, it’s a good source of the protein “Casein,” which sustains these amino acids and their circulation through the blood stream to reduce the risk of muscle breakdown.
In one study nine male cyclists biked until exhaustion, rested, then biked again. They repeated the exercise again—this time each given one of three different recovery drinks. The three cyclists who drank chocolate milk were able to bike significantly longer than those who drank standard sports drinks, and longer than their own original tests.
If this wasn’t enough to convert you however, the cost comparison might. While one bottle of Gatorade will run you from $1-$1.50, one box of Horizon chocolate milk (with a straw!) costs only 44 cents per serving, a difference that could save you $20 a month!
So next time you pop your cup under the Gatorade fountain in Thorne, switch it up and try the experts’ favorite chocolatey drink. Your muscles may thank you.

Written by Maeve O’Leary ’14