Congratulations Class of 2012

Bowdoin Peer Health has grown so much in the last few years with the help of this year’s senior class.  Best of luck to all graduated polar bears – Peer Health wishes you the best of luck.  Stay healthy.

Congratulations to the Peer Health Class of 2012:
* Ellery Gould [egould]
* Erin Hatton [ehatton]
* Liz Huppert [ehuppert]
* Alex Jacobs [ajacobs]
* Sydney Miller [srmiller]
* Georgia Nowers [gnowers]
* Anna Schember [aschembe]
* Lizzy Tarr [etarr]
* Antonio Watson [amwatson]

Wellness Wednesdays: Beauty through the Ages

Abandoning pen, brush, and potter’s wheel, Anna Utopia Giordano’s thoroughly modern artwork uses only Photoshop software. With this program, Giordano digitally replicated and altered Renaissance classic masterpieces to fit within modern standards of beauty. Perusing the 15 slides of her work featured in The New York Daily News last month, one can see just how much ideals of attractiveness have changed in the past few centuries. The luscious curves of Botticelli’s radiant Venus slide away, leaving a taunt stomach and toned thighs, while Artemisia Gentileschi’s Venus is shrunk to half her size. An image of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “La Naissance de Vénus,” and Giordano’s altered version of the work are placed side by side. The new Venus has a whittled down waist, frailer arms, and more prominent knees, yet her breasts remain exactly the same size. This same phenomenon occurs slide after slide, flesh vanishing away, rolls and folds forsaken for bony statures that somehow retain their voluptuous breasts. This, we are told, is beauty.

Giordano discusses her new depictions of Venus, claiming the role of art is to find and create physical perfection. These admired and sought after proportions of skeleton bodies with curvaceous breasts are the “perfection” of modern society, the aesthetic we all must pursue to be beautiful. But who decides that this is beautiful? Once upon a time, as the Renaissance artists show us, perfection was a fuller, rounder figure. A body type we would now think of us as “plump,” “chubby,” or “out of shape.” Beauty changes with the times as money, fashion, and of course men, determine the way women should maintain their bodies. Yet if these aesthetics truly are this fickle, how much energy should we expend on the pursuit of perfection? If Venus, the most beautiful goddess of all Mount Olympus, can have both rotund, sensuous thighs and lean, muscled legs, then are not all bodies beautiful? People come in all shapes and sizes and throughout history vastly different body types have been coveted and adored. The bodies we yearn for and worship in today’s society are digitally perfected images, images in which all flaws, quirks, and uniqueness have been erased in the name of flawless skin and uniformity. If nothing else, Giordano’s digital changes show us that there is not one set definition of beautiful and there is no such thing as physical perfection. As the old saying goes, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

To see the slide and read the full story on the New York Daily News check out this link.

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

Like Us on Facebook

For everyone who is actively using Facebook currently, this is your chance to win a $40 gift certificate to Wild Oats!  The first 100 people to “like” the Bowdoin Peer Health Facebook page will be entered in a raffle to win!  And the best part?  You will be among the first to know about all the health happenings on campus.


Wellness Wednesday: The Healthy Touch

The following post was written by a guest contributor.

People in my family have a history of depression. Thankfully, none of us struggle with crippling bi-polar disorder or severe clinical depression, but every few years we tend to ruminate on negative thoughts and feelings and question our place and purpose. Personally, I think that these periods of rumination can be beneficial in helping us re-evaluate who we are and who we are striving to be. However, sometimes rumination becomes a rut and it gets difficult to shift my emotional outlook from contemplation to gratitude or genuine happiness.

For this reason, I am always looking for non-medical techniques to boost my mood. Recently, my mom bought me a book by Dr. Andrew Weil called Spontaneous Happiness. Among other techniques, this book discusses touch as a way of boosting oxytocin (a good hormone), lowering cortisol (a stress hormone), and increasing white blood cells (boosting your immune system) – ultimately improving your outlook and combating depression.

Healthy touch is any positive touch you recieve from your special someone, friends, or yourself. Healthy touch makes you feel safe, loved, trusted and cared for. Finding healthy touch at Bowdoin can be difficult. Many of us on campus can feel isolated from family, old friends, and trusted pets.  This week, some of us will be going on dates and getting busy in the sack, but others of us will be spending the night in the library or hanging out with good friends. So, what are some ways to get some healthy touch and boost your mood this Valentine’s week, regardless of your relationship status?

Some tips:

  1. Hug your friends more
  2. High five people
  3. Get a massage (submit your 1 <3 Health cards and be entered to win a gift certificate for an hour massage)
  4. Buy a loofa and enjoy your shower more
  5. Snuggle with whoever is willing
  6. Pretend you have a sprained ankle and ask for a piggy back ride across campus

Health Fair in Smith Union

Looking for a nice massage?

Want to try acupunture or reiki?

How about a paraffin hand wax?

Care to learn about your resources?

This is your chance!!  Stop by the Health Fair in Morrell Lounge, Smith Union on Friday, February 17 between 1:30pm and 4:30pm, where campus and community health resources will be tabling with information, stickers (and other fun things), and the option to get a quick massage, reiki, or paraffin hand wax.  What better way to relax for a bit on Friday afternoon?

In addition, all students who come will be entered into a raffle for massages and other gift certificates!  Hope to see you there.

Brought to you by AFAM and Peer Health.

Wellness Wednesdays: QiGong

The start of a new year and a new Bowdoin semester is always an exciting time. Between fresh notebooks for class, friends back from abroad, and subtle (but still immensely important) changes at Thorne, the campus is ready to spice up last semester’s old habits. For some students this also includes new sport seasons, changing fitness routines, and spring health and wellness classes. While many of us might have skimmed the list of classes and signed up for yoga or spinning yet again, why not try a new class you haven’t experienced yet? For example, qigong is a wellness class often overlooked at Bowdoin. Maybe you are turned off by the fear of mispronouncing the name, or maybe you just have no idea what to expect, but trying something entirely different can be wonderful for your body, mind, and state of being. Supposedly you should do something everyday that scares you, why not make qigong that something?

Qigong is an ancient Chinese art made up of different postures, circular movements, and breathing techniques. “Qi” translates to “the vital energy of the body,” and “gong” refers to “the skill of working the qi.” Thus, the idea behind this practice is not just working your muscles or breaking a sweat, but working the energies of the body. The goal is to train the mind to utilize and control the body’s various energies. In the hectic days of Bowdoin life, we often are forced to move from class to meeting to rehearsal and find our energy slumping. Thus, using your workout time to harness your energy and learning how to re-direct your energies is a very valuable skill. Likewise, learning how to work the qi has many medicinal healing effects that might just help you avoid the health center.

There are two main energy types worked during qigong. Through physical exercise and breathing focus, the internal qi is worked for healing one’s own body. However, advanced students also learn how to work external qi, which is emitting your energies to heal another person’s body. Both these processes have been clinically found to lower stress levels, bolster the immune system, lower blood pressure, improve balance, increase stamina, and improve digestive and circulatory function. Although heading to the gym is a form of stress release for many, qigong’s de-stressing effects extend beyond the moment of exercise. Learning to increase the mind-body connection will help you make it through a late night cram session and stay sane in the stress of midterm periods.  Qigong is a great way to shake up last semester’s exercise rut and improve your health and mental sanity in the process. So as you work to add some variety to your Bowdoin life this semester, consider trying this valuable ancient practice. You might just be able to improve your health and the health of those around you in the process.

For further qigong reading:

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

The Perfect Pour

Did you miss your chance at the Perfect Pour with Peer Health during dinner hours at Thorne last Thursday?

No worries!  Click on this link for all the information you could ever want related to Blood Alcohol Content and standard drink sizes.  Have more questions?  Ask a Peer Health member.

Wellness Wednesdays: Stress

Winter break is a welcome respite from Bowdoin life, and whether you spend break lounging on the beach or sitting on the couch watching TV, you were most likely able to relax. With homework and meetings finally coming to a standstill, winter break is a time to recharge and de-stress. But now as the spring semester begins, the stress we gladly abandoned has come throttling back at full force. Although eager to see friends and be back on campus, stress is a feeling we would rather not greet again.

However, stress is not an entirely bad feeling. Sure, slaving over a paper until 3 am is no fun and anxiety brought on by a jam-packed assignment notebook is not exactly pleasurable, but certain levels of stress enhance our physical and mental well-being. Adaptive stress is the adrenaline surge that propels us forward. During adaptive stress, blood vessels dilate and allow more blood flow to the brain and the muscles. This reaction results in the extra speed the body suddenly gains at race-time, the backstage nerves that sustain beautiful dance concerts, and the enhanced mental clarity and memory that appears during exams. This is a stress we should aim to have so we can constantly be performing at our best. Unfortunately, the stress many Bowdoin students experience frequently is harmful stress. Instead of dilating, blood vessels constrict resulting in dizziness, pins and needles, and irregular heartbeats. This anxious, panicked feeling is unpleasant, exhausting, and often dangerous. So how do we turn the harmful stress we often carry at Bowdoin into this adaptive stress?

A key difference between adaptive and harmful stress is the role of the mind. When harmful stress is in full force we become subject to our bodies, unable to control blood flow or think logically. On the other hand, during adaptive stress we are able to take a step back from the situation at hand and put things in perspective. Relaxation techniques are a great way to break free from the all-consuming nature of harmful stress and calm the nervous system down. For example, 4-7-8 breathing, which consists of inhaling for 4 counts, holding the breath for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts, helps re-charge the mind-body condition. Wellness classes like yoga and tai chi also help with this same mind-body connection. While stress seems like an inevitable reaction of the body to the flurry of Bowdoin life, the mind has the power to soothe the body, re-frame stressors, and turn levels of stress from harmful to adaptive. If you feel yourself already overwhelmed by new classes and tired from long days, remember that you have the power to turn the stress in your life from a negative to a positive force. Try enrolling this week for a Bowdoin wellness class, practicing breathing at your desk, and most importantly take a step back from the Bowdoin Bubble to put everything in perspective. If your mind can find peace, your body will follow suit.

For more information on the difference between adaptive stress and harmful stress check out this article:

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

Wellness Wednesday: New Semester, New Goals

Hey Polar Bears!  Welcome back.  It’s a new semester, and many of us have set new resolutions for the year and new goals for the semester.  Yet, after lounging around for a month, finally reuniting with long distance friends, it suddenly seems like those goals aren’t as important to you as they originally were.

It takes three months to develop a new habit, these three months may seem like a long time.  Here are a few ways to break down your goals so you can achieve them in three months.

Set specific positive goals, rather than rigid or vague goals:

Resolving to “get better grades” is a vague goal, which may set you up for failure.  Halfway through the semester you decide a C is better than a D, so you’re still making your goal.  Is that what you really intended when you made your goal?  Yet, resolving to “get an A in every class” is too lofty.  When you remember you signed up for organic chemistry and multivariate calculus, you may just resign all together.  Instead, keep goals specific and manageable.  Break down your class schedule, strive for an A in your psych class and B in your chem class.  Or, set a goal to go to the gym Monday and Wednesday at 2:30pm when you get out of class, rather than just “go to the gym more.”

Measure incremental changes:

So you decide you want to get in bed by 11pm every night so you’ll have more energy and avoid sickness this semester, yet you’re used to going to bed at 2am.  For the first week you get to bed by 1:30am every night, and upon realizing you aren’t even close to getting to bed at 11pm, you simply toss your goal out the window.  Remind yourself that change doesn’t happen quickly.  Going to bed at 1:30am is a half hour earlier than before, which is a great beginning step for success.  You are on the way to reaching your goal, maybe next week you can get in bed at 1am or 1:15am.  Celebrate the small steps in order to notice that change is actually happening, no matter how gradual it is!

Plan for your success, schedule time for reaching your goals:

Between class, practice, dinner date at Thorne, study group after dinner, then a capella rehearsal, finding time to reach your goals is no easy feat.  If you truly desire to make a change in your life, you have to take responsibility and pride in reaching it, and make room for achieving your goals.  Don’t schedule a meeting with your advisor at 2:30pm on Monday when that’s your planned gym time.  Tell your lab partner, “sorry, I can’t meet at 10:30pm to work on our lab because I want to get to bed at 11pm.”  If your goal is to be less stressed this semester, schedule a half-hour break in the afternoon for “me time” and watch your favorite tv show, go for a walk, or call an old friend.  Make your goal time as mandatory as class time or a meeting; and if you have to forgo that time or change that time, try to fit it in somewhere else.

Good luck!