Common Questions & Answers

All questions are posted and shared with the permission of the person sending the question to The Café.

 

Relationships

Q:        I am getting ready to go home for the semester, but my family life is very stressful and I             don’t know how to handle my time at home. Can you help me?

A:        It’s important to learn how to take care of yourself. The following tips are some ways to do so.

1.         There is no need to go through this period alone. It is essential to have the support and acceptance of friends, mentors and others who are sympathetic to your situation. Reach out to your social support network and, if you don’t have one, consider seeking outside professional help.

2.         Care for yourself emotionally and physically. Exercise is a great way to improve not just your physical health, but your mood too. Developing self-compassion and reaching out to others when you’re stressed can also make you feel less anxious and worried. What do you like to do for fun and are you enjoying yourself enough outside of home? If not, see if you can find a way to do more of what excites and interests you.

3.         Focus on what you have control over. Identify what is stressing you out. Determine which aspects of the stressor you have control over. Make a list of things you can do to try and change the situation. Doing something about what’s going on often makes people feel more in control and less worried.

4.         Listen to your feelings. Our emotions can provide us with important information about what’s working in our life and what isn’t. Though it’s tempting to want to ignore our negative feelings, doing so may make us miss out on how to improve our life.

5.         Find out what works for you. Different people react to different situations in a variety of ways. There are no fool-proof methods for getting through a family conflict or crisis.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue, remember that the Middle Earth Hotline is available at 442-5777, when UAlbany classes are in session. The hotline is open from 1pm to midnight Monday through Thursday and twenty-four hours on the weekends until Sunday at midnight. Counseling and Psychological Services is also available at 442-5800.


Relationships

Q:        I am gay but I have not told my family or friends yet. How do you suggest that I do                        this??

A:       “Coming out” is the term used to describe when a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender shares their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others for the first time. This can also include the time when the individual first comes to terms with their sexual and/or gender orientation internally. Some individuals have more support than others when they come out and so may find the process easier. Others will struggle with how their friends and families respond. There are many things to think about when considering coming out, such as the potential positive outcomes that may result, including increased self-esteem, greater honesty in one’s life, and a sense of greater personal integrity. In addition, there is often a feeling of relief when one stops trying to hide or deny such an important part of one’s life. This can further lead to increased levels of self-expression.

One safe and great way to begin the coming out process is to read articles about others in similar situations. Such activities help convey the fact that you are not the first to go through this and are not alone. There are a number of books, articles, and magazines on all facets of LGBT life, from clinical studies on being gay to collections of “coming out” stories. During this time of self-exploration, it can also be very helpful to seek help from a professional who is familiar with the process of identity exploration, such as a therapist or professional from a campus or local LGBTQ organization.

After spending time getting in touch with one’s own feelings and coming to terms with these, the next step is often relating these feelings to others. It is usually advised that one should start with those individuals in one’s life who are most likely to be supportive. Others who have come out are often an excellent support system because they have experienced some of the things you are now dealing with. Sharing feelings with people who can best relate to the process often helps relieve tension and reduce loneliness.. Within the LGBT community, there are a number of helpful resources. These include support groups, social outlets, and political and cultural activities and organizations.

The process of coming out is likely to be more successful as an action, not as a reaction. Some important points are:

  • Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully.
  • Be aware of what the other person is going through as well. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else.
  • Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday.
  • Be prepared for an initially negative reaction from some people. Do not forget that it took time for you to come to terms with your own sexuality, and it is important to give others the time they need.
  • Have friends lined up to talk with about what happens.
  • Don’t give up hope if you don’t initially get the reaction you wanted. Some people need more time than others to come to terms with what they have heard.

Most of all, be careful not to let your self-esteem depend on the approval of others. If a person is not willing to accept you for who you are you may need to re-evaluate the nature of the relationship and its importance to you. After all, in no way is such rejection evidence of your lack of worth or value. Coming out may be one of the most difficult tasks that people in the LGBT community confront throughout their lives, but it may also be the most rewarding. Coming out is one way of affirming your dignity and the dignity of others in the LGBT community.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue, remember that the Middle Earth Hotline is available at 442-5777, when UAlbany classes are in session. The hotline is open from 1pm to midnight Monday through Thursday and twenty-four hours on the weekends until Sunday at midnight. Counseling and Pscyhological Services is also available at 442-5800.

Alcohol/Other Drugs

Q:        I have a friend who is drinking too much and I am concerned about him? How can I help            him?

A:       If you decide you want to intervene, you need to formulate a method for confronting the person about his or her problem. Make your friend aware of how drinking is affecting his or her life as well as personal relationships. Try to address the issue in a non-threatening, sensitive manner. Avoid labeling him or her as an alcoholic, a bad person, or a burden in your life, because doing so might drive a wedge through your relationship.

Try to be as specific and objective as possible when citing the effects that the person's drinking has had on his or her life, and your relationship. For example, the person may now exhibit violent behavior much more frequently than in the past, may not be concerned about his or her appearance, or may not be performing as well academically as in previous semesters. Helping the person recognize the results of his or her current drinking behavior is a vital step in changing that behavior.

If your friend agrees with you, start working out a plan to obtain help and support, and find alternatives to drinking. If he or she is willing to try, you should be willing too. Don't become the person's caretaker or babysitter, but remain a supportive friend.

As a result of the changes your friend makes, you may need to change some of your behaviors too. Try to avoid situations that would make your friend uncomfortable about drinking. For example, if every Friday night you go out to a club or a bar, you may want to avoid that for a few weeks until he or she feels comfortable about going into that environment again.

Set limits to protect yourself. Some examples of limits you might set for yourself are:

  • Do not talk to your friend unless he or she is sober.
  • Do not give your friend money to go out, do his or her work, or make excuses for him or her.
  • Do not spend time with him or her when he or she is drunk.
  • Know when to quit.

Unfortunately, if all attempts to help the person have failed, you may need to end the relationship - but keep in mind that it was the person's drinking that ended the relationship, not you.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue, remember that the Middle Earth Hotline is available at 518-442-5777 when UAlbany classes are in session. The hotline is open from 1 pm to midnight Monday through Thursday and twenty-four hours on the weekends until Sunday at midnight. Counseling and Psychological Services is also available at 518-442-5800.


Emotional and Behavioral Health

Q:        Something weird is going on with my girlfriend. She never wants to do anything with me anymore. She cries all the time and has pretty much quit eating. I don’t know what to do to help her. Sometimes I think she just doesn’t want to be with me, but she says that’s not it. I’m really worried about her. What’s wrong with her?

A:       It sounds like your girlfriend may be experiencing depression. Depression is a disturbance in mood characterized by varying degrees of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, hopelessness, self-doubt and guilt. Most people tend to feel depressed at one time or another, but some people may experience these feelings more frequently or with deeper, more lasting, effects. In some cases, depression can last for months or even years.

Some signs and symptoms of depression are crying spells, feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness, and feelings of extreme guilt or self-blame. Some people suffering from depression experience a lack of feelings or emotions. They may find it impossible to find pleasure in anything, and may withdraw from friends and family with whom they were previously close. There may be a loss of interest in appearance, irritability and a general dissatisfaction with life. Depression may also cause cognitive disturbances such as impaired memory, confusions and the inability to concentrate. Day to day coping can become extremely difficult for the depressed person.

Depression can manifest itself physically as well. A depressed individual may experience a total lack of energy. They may sleep more than is usually required or they may be unable to fall and stay asleep. They may eat excessively, or like your girlfriend, lose their appetite completely. They may experience unexplained headaches, backaches, stomach problems or other aches and pains.

Identifying the source and understanding the causes of psychological stress is a major step in learning to how to cope with depression. Counseling can help a depressed person get to the root of what might be troubling them and can teach them skills to help them to cope with these issues as they arise in the future.

Exercise is a great way to work off tension and stress. It can also produce feelings of well-being and restore a normal sleeping pattern. If these measures don’t seem to lift mood and to alleviate other symptoms, professional help should be sought for both the physical and the emotional complaints.

Depression is highly treatable provided that it is recognized and dealt with. It sounds as though your girlfriend could really benefit from professional help. You have recognized that something is wrong. Let her know you care, that you are there for her and help her to get the help she needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue, remember that the Middle Earth Hotline is available at 442-5777, when UAlbany classes are in session. The hotline is open from noon to 1pm Monday through Thursday and twenty-four hours on the weekends until Sunday at midnight. Counseling and Psychological Services is also available at 442-5800.


Stress and Anxiety

Q:        I’ve been feeling really anxious and stressed about school. I’m behind on a lot of my work and I haven’t even started studying for my finals. But I can’t concentrate enough to get my work done because I feel too overwhelmed by all I have to do. Help!

A:       Feeling stressed and anxious about school is pretty common, you’re not alone. Here are some suggestions for how to handle your stress and anxiety to help you get your work done.

  • Avoid self-medication. Sure, taking a sleeping pill, sedative (like Xanax), or drinking alcohol, smoking weed or cigarettes might offer short-term relief, but they can compromise your health in ways that ultimately make it harder to get your work done. For instance, many of the above solutions will make it harder to concentrate, not easier, and are addictive as well. The ability to handle stress comes from within you, not the outside.
  • Prioritize your tasks into “essential”, “important”, and “trivial.” Follow that order for completing tasks. Consider dropping all the “trivials”. Take one thing at a time.
  • Meet with your professor or TA to discuss a plan to get back on track. Though professors vary on their availability, all must make time to meet with you if you want, it’s part of their job. Who better to ask for help in class than the one teaching you?
  • Create a study group. Studying with others can help you feel less alone and also provide you with information you might have otherwise forgotten or missed in class. Teaching others is a great way to learn too. Break up the material you must master and present it to one another.
  • Change your internal language. Instead of saying, “I have to...,” say “I choose to ...” Instead of getting down on yourself, support yourself the way you would support a close friend.
  • Share your worries with someone--It helps to share worries with someone you trust and respect. This may be a friend, family member, clergyman, teacher, or counselor. Sometimes another person can help you see a new side to the problem and thus, a new solution. If you find yourself becoming preoccupied with emotional problems, it might be wise to seek a professional listener, like a guidance counselor or psychologist. This is not admitting defeat. It is admitting you are an intelligent human being who knows when to ask for assistance.
  • Take care of your body.Eat well, sleep enough (7-8 hours a night), and exercise regularly (3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes if you can).
  • Learn some relaxation techniques. Different people prefer different ways of relaxing. Find out what works for you and make time in your schedule every day to unwind. Some ways of relaxing that might work for you:
    - Playing a game outside (like basketball, frisbee, etc…)
    - Meditation
    - Yoga
    - Deep diaphragmatic breathing
    - Hypnosis
    - Listening to music
    - Playing video games
    - Spending time with friends or family
    - Watching a movie
    - Reading
    - Attending religious services
    - Praying
    - Taking a hike in the woods

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue, remember that the Middle Earth Hotline is available at 442-5777 when UAlbany classes are in session. The hotline is open Monday through Thursday 1pm to midnight and twenty-four hours from Friday at 1pm to Sunday at midnight. Counseling and Psychological Services is also available Monday through Friday 8:30 am- 4:30 pm (8-3:30 in the summer) at 442-5800.

~ASK A QUESTION~