Caring Canines at CAPS

Feeling anxious about finals week?  Research shows that spending time with a dog can decrease your anxiety.  A study at UCLA found that anxiety scores dropped by 24% in heart failure patients who were visited weekly by a human volunteer and dog team versus a 10% drop in those who were visited by only a human volunteer. More specifically, the level of epinephrine, a stress hormone, dropped by 17% in patients who were visited by the volunteer & canine team compared with a 2% drop for patients who were visited by only a volunteer.

This Tuesday you can destress with Caring Canines on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 from 11am to 2pm at the Student Health Center lawn (Bigler Road).  The event is sponsored by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Smith, M. A. (2016). Calm; Calm the mind, change the world. New York: Harper Design.

caring canines

Take a Break in Nature

Spending time in nature can provide valuable benefits to your mental and physical health.  Penn State’s campus offers beautiful outdoor locations such as the Penn State Arboretum and the duck pond at the Hintz Family Alumni Center.    There will probably be some days when you just cannot get outside or it may be raining.  On those days, find a quiet spot indoors and try the following excerpt from “Calm; Calm the mind, change the world” by Michael Acton Smith.

Nature meditation

Begin by sitting comfortable in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.  Take a few breaths, allowing your mind to relax.

With your body planted firmly on the ground, feel the earth beneath you.  Picture yourself in a field or forest beneath a large, leafy tree with strong branches.  Smell the rich soil and clean air.  Listen to the wind rustling through the leaves and notice if you hear any birds or animals stirring within.

Visualize the tree’s leaves, ranches and trunk, then picture yourself reaching out to touch it.  Fell the texture of the bark. 

Be aware of the shade the tree offers, the wood it provides, how it cleans the air, and its beauty.

Appreciate the tree as a living organism.  Imagine it drinking up the water through its complex root system.  Visualize the lengthening, spreading branches, and the leaves opening toward the sun.

Smith, M. A. (2016). Calm; Calm the mind, change the world. New York: Harper Design.

Out of the Darkness Walk

The Out of the Darkness walk raises awareness about suicide prevention and provides support for suicide survivors and those who are struggling with suicidal experiences.  The event also raises funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  The walk will begin at the Sidney Friedman Park (off of Fraser St near the State High football field) this Sunday, April 24th.  Students and community members are invited to participate in this 5K non-competitive walk.  There will be a prewalk ceremony and educational materials will be available.  You can register at the event beginning at 11am or online until Friday the 22nd.  our of the darkness flyer

Sun Screen Tips

Happy Valley is wakening from its winter hibernation.   Blue-White weekend typically marks the start of warm weather in State College. Whether you are heading to the game on Saturday or running the Beaver Stadium Run on Sunday, here are a few tips to help you handle a full day in the sun.

  • Use SPF 30+ on exposed skin; UV rays are harmful year round.
  • Choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen. This means that it protects against both UVA and UVB
  • Use waterproof sunscreen. It will stay on longer, even if you perspire or get wet.
  • Overexposure to UV radiation can suppress your immune system. This will impede your skin’s ability to properly protect itself and heal.
  • Wear a hat or visor to protect your eyes.
  • Seek shade. The Blue-White Game is the only game when you can choose your seat in the stadium.  Choose the shady side; you’ll be glad you did!

Shocking amounts of sugar have been found in hot flavored drinks.

Action on Sugar, a UK charity staffed by medical experts, analyzed the sugar levels of 131 hot drinks, 98% were rated as having excessive sugar or more than 13.5 grams of sugar per serving.  Thirty-five percent contained more sugar than a can of Coke.  So, what’s the problem?

It is widely known that too much sugar leads to increased risk of cavities, obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Research has also found a possible link between the consumption of excess sugar and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, some cancers, and non-alcoholic liver disease.  Even if you are slim and appear healthy, too much sugar can have a negative impact on your health which may only appear later in life.  [1][2]

Naturally occurring sugars, found in whole fruits or vegetables, are not considered harmful to your health.  Free sugars, sometimes referred to as “added sugars,” are those that have been added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer.  This includes sugars in syrups and fruit juices.  Foods containing free sugars often have very little or no nutritional benefit.

Don’t be misled by a food or drink product that has been labeled as a “good source of energy.”   Many of these products contain added sugar.  Carbohydrates generate energy for the body and can be found in fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta and rice.  There is no nutritional value in added sugars.[3]

The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume no more than 10% of their daily calories from sugar (around 50 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet). Ideally, the WHO  recommends lowering sugar intake to 5% for added health benefits.[4]

If you’d like to lower your sugar intake, try making small adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.  Try a cup of hot tea in place of your typical latte or pack a healthy snack for your afternoon pick-me-up.  Drink water (using a reusable water bottle) instead of energy drinks, soda, or juices with added sugar.

Learn more about sugar at




[4] Sugar Intake for Adults and Children; Guidelines, World Health Organization

Thank you to our Students

FoamBoard Sign w Names 2016As the semester winds down, we’d like to take a moment to recognize and thank our student staff at University Health Services for their dedication throughout the 2015-16 academic year.

Each day our clinic and physical therapy volunteers, HealthWorks peer educators, and EMTs are hard at work assisting patients, educating students to make healthy decisions, and providing vital services for the campus and local community. Their efforts are instrumental to University Health Services’ ability to heal, educate, and care for students and the Penn State community.

Thank you to all of our student staff—we wouldn’t be able to do it without you!