Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back to School Tips

With the Fall semester getting underway, I thought it would be nice to again review a few tips for students who may be managing school on top of other responsibilities, like work and/or family. So, here are some helpful ideas for keeping on top of things throughout the semester:

Creating a Schedule, Staying Organized, and Prioritizing 
I always tell people that "if it's on my calendar, then it will get done." Over the years I have trained myself to let my calendar help me through the week and it has helped me tremendously to stay organized and on top of things. I actually use Google Calendar to help me with this. I plug in all of the things that I know happen at the same time every week (for example, backing up files at work, weekly tasks that I do the same time every week, or, if you are a student this could be discussion board posts, and, if you have kids, it might be soccer practice), every month (for example, days to sit down and pay bills), and every year (for example, Aunt Matilda's birthday). Using the online tool allows me to have it help "remember" for me and I can quickly create repeating instances of the same thing. I then use this tool to help me plan my week by adding in everything else that I have to do that week. When do I have to get to the grocery store? When is a particular work project due? These are all things that get plugged in, and I can even set a reminder to send me an email or give me a pop-up in my computer screen. When I was a student, I would also add things like assignment due dates and then look over my schedule to see when I needed to plug in time for studying - and then I would put that on the calendar and actually use that time to study. Having a visual calendar like this with time slots for everything really helps me stay organized. And, since we are all juggling many roles these days, the reminder aspect of the tool is a life saver!

You don't have to use an online tool, though, and instead you might want to consider getting a paper yearly calendar book that also has hourly time divisions for each day. I have also used the paper format and it can also be very handy! The bonus here is that you can carry this calendar around with you to meetings and pencil in things as they come up. Or, if you are extremely phone friendly, most of the new smart phones have calendar type options that will allow you to have the best of both online and portable benefits.

Actively keeping on top of tasks during the week and month allows me to stay organized. In addition, having things laid out for me in visual form with due dates lets me prioritize my days, weeks, and months more effectively. The end result of this type of effort is that I am more successful in accomplishing my goals, I feel less worried that I might be forgetting something important, and I am able to enjoy my free time - those spaces on the calendar that are blissfully empty - to the fullest!

For more on time management, check out our previous post:

The TWU Counseling Center also has a couple of good handouts on Prioritizing - - and how to manage Reading and Study Time -

Do you have some tips to share for how you keep your life organized? We would love to hear your ideas in a comment!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

World Alzheimer's Day is September 21st

Friday, September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day and throughout the month several organizations are attempting to raise awareness for the different forms of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is named after the man who first described the disease, Alois Alzheimer. This disease "destroys brain cells and nerves disrupting the transmitters which carry messages in the brain, particularly those responsible for storing memories" ( Part of the degenerative aspect of the disease causes the brain to actually shrink and the brain becomes unable to produce certain chemicals that help transfer information. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's reports that "5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's" and "[e]very 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease. At current rates, experts believe the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million by the year 2050" (

While you may be familiar with the terms "Alzheimer's" and "dementia", what you may not know is that dementia is actually a classification that encompasses several different forms of diseases with common characteristics, of which Alzheimer's is possibly the most well-known and which seems to account for the largest amount of dementia cases. Other forms of dementia include:
  • Vascular dementia -- which results from damaged blood vessels that impact the supply of oxygen to brain cells
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies -- which results from an abnormal collection of protein (known as Lewy bodies) in the nerve cells of the brain resulting in degeneration and death of those cells
  • Fronto-temporal dementia -- a more rare situation in which the frontal lobe of the brain is most affected and which typically occurs in younger individuals (in their forties or fifties).
Dementia diseases are personalized, so two people may not exhibit symptoms in quite the same way. However, there are broad early symptoms that typically apply to most forms of dementia:
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems with keeping track of things
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative (
There is no sure way to determine if someone is at risk for dementia, but some factors that could indicate a risk are a family history of others with the disease, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, heart disease, or being overweight ( If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be developing symptoms of dementia, please consult a doctor. There are also associations that can help individuals and families manage dementia. Here are a few places to go for more information:
If you have other resources or information to about dementia, please feel free to share them in a comment!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

National Yoga Awareness Month

September is National Yoga Awareness Month! While most of us associate yoga with bendy twisty postures and would probably feel confident that we could identify it if we saw it, what we see today is actually compiled from a variety of different practices that have been utilized throughout approximately 5000 years of history. Yoga seems to have arrived in the U.S. with the Indian guru Swami Vivekananda in 1893, and has continued to grow in popularity over the years (

Yoga practice also encompasses more than just a physical aspect and is typically described as being comprised of "eight limbs". The article "Ashtanga Yoga: The Eight Parts of Yoga Practice" ( gives a really nice brief discussion of these different parts. Here is just a brief overview:

  • Yama - covers "moral guidelines for human development"
  • Niyama - this is "self-regulation"
  • Asana - this is the part we are typically familiar with, postures "which have specific effects on the endocrine glands, joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves"
  • Pranayama - this is "control of vital energy", and includes a variety of breathing exercises
  • Pratayahara - which is to "withdraw the mind from its attachment to external objects"
  • Dharana - this is the "concentration of the mind at a specific point"
  • Samadhi - this is the result of practicing all of the other elements
So, while we may typically only think of the physical aspect of yoga, it is actually a complete mind/body practice designed to bring our systems into balance.

Additionally, the term "yoga" can cover a variety of different styles of practice. Here are a few of the more popular styles:

  • Ashtanga - this is what has sometimes been called "power" yoga and fairly physically demanding. Breathing is coordinated with movement through various posture series.
  • Hatha - this style is what was probably the first to gain popularity in the U.S. Here you engage in postures, series, and breathing exercises. There is less emphasis on fluidity of movement and more focus on stretching within postures.
  • Iyengar - this style of yoga probably spends the most time in individual postures and focuses on working within the poses.
Yoga, however, is continually evolving. For example, Bikram yoga is a form that is more recent. This style is sometimes called "hot" yoga because it takes place in a very warm room. Additionally, Ana Forrest has adapted her own style of yoga that encompasses both physical and emotional recovery.

There are a variety of health benefits to be obtained from practicing yoga. It can help you increase your strength, regain good posture, and improve lung capacity. There are emotional benefits to be gained such as stress relief and increased concentration. Additionally, yoga can help to lower blood pressure, which helps keep your heart healthy. Many individuals also report relief from a variety of other ailments. However, you should definitely consult with your doctor before undertaking yoga, since this can be a challenging form of exercise. WebMD has some good information on cautions to be considered, as well as the benefits that you can reap from practicing yoga:

To celebrate National Yoga Awareness month, many yoga studios will be offering a week of free yoga! So, if you think that this may be something you would like to try, now is a great time! For more information on National Yoga Awareness month events, check out their web page:

Do you already practice yoga? Or, are you interested in taking up a new challenge like this? Share your ideas about this form of exercise with us in the comments below!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Dr. Sandra Cesario, professor of nursing at the TWU Institute of Health Sciences-Houston Center, is spreading the word that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  As pink has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness, teal is the color to symbolize awareness of ovarian cancer — the most lethal of women’s cancers. For Dr. Cesario, the issue is personal.

“I made a promise to my daughter Anna prior to her death in 2009 that I would spread the word about early warning signs of the disease so others do not have to die simply because they were diagnosed too late,” she said.

Tomorrow, Friday, September 7th, is Wear Teal Day. For those of you in Houston, the Houston City Hall is lit in teal from Sept 1 through Sept 7.  Check it out if you are downtown tonight or tomorrow night.  There is a particularly stunning view from the Ferris Wheel at the Aquarium.

October will be filled with pink ribbons, but spread the word that September is the month to display teal and increase awareness of ovarian cancer - the most lethal of all of the gynecological cancers.  One in 71 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With early detection about 94% will survive longer than 5 years after diagnosis. However, only 15% of ovarian cancer is caught early. Ovarian Cancer is the most lethal of the women's cancers. Every year, 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the US and 16,000 women will die.

Research suggests that the following symptoms may be associated with ovarian cancer:

· Bloating

· Pelvic or abdominal pain

· Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

· Urinary urgency or frequency

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms more than three times per week for a couple of months, please seek medical attention.

For more information or to make a donation, please consider the following organizations:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
OCRF is the largest independent organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to funding ovarian cancer research-- and to finding a cure. Through our three active research programs, we fund the best researchers and the most innovative projects.

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is the foremost advocate for women with ovarian cancer in the United States. To advance the interests of women with ovarian cancer, the Alliance advocates at a national level for increases in research funding for the development of an early detection test, improved health care practices, and life-saving treatment protocols. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance educates health care professionals and raises public awareness of the risks, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The Coalition is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.

Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma In 2001, the Oklahoma Legislature charged OU with providing statewide leadership in cancer research, prevention and education, and treatment and seeking designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) comprehensive cancer center designation.  A major recruiting effort was launched in 2009 to bring nationally-recognized cancer physicians and researchers to Oklahoma. In 2011, the Oklahoma Cancer Institute opened and there is a beautiful gynecologic-oncology waiting area named in Anna's memory.

Sandra K. Cesario, PhD, RNC, FAAN
PhD Program Coordinator and Professor
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University
6700 Fannin Street
Houston, TX  77030-2343