WKU Counseling Center hosts lecture on the essentials of wellness

Abbey Nutter

The WKU Counseling Center taught an audience of faculty members about the essentials of wellness at a “Lunch-n-Learn” event Wednesday afternoon. The session was part of a series of different workshops hosted by the counseling staff and campus colleagues this fall.

The lecture, presented by Katie Knackmuhs, a staff counselor at the WKU Counseling Center, provided an overview of the role stress plays in people’s daily lives, a look into the connection between nutrition, movement and emotional health and briefly looked at the effects of sleep and mindfulness on stress.

Knackmuhs began by speaking on stress and its causes through a wide lens and provided examples of stress-inducing elements that come up in everyday life, such as work, socialization, hobbies, relationships, chores, appointments and multitasking.

“It’s important to know what stresses us out and identify those things so we can pay attention to how we’re changing,” Knackmuhs said. 

Knackmuhs then spoke on the physiology of stress and the internal alarm system known as the fight or flight response and explained that most of the threats people face now are no longer physical, and that most threats people deal with are emotional.

“Fight or flight is the most important instinct to survival, it keeps us alive, it keeps us on target, it keeps us in the know,” Knackmuhs said. “Even though we don’t have this life or death situation on our shoulders anymore.”

After identifying the cause of stress, Knackmuhs suggested the implementation of self-care techniques that address the stress one feels through regulation of sleep, movement, nutrition and inner balance. 

For sleep, Knackmuhs suggested avoiding exercise for the three hours prior to going to bed and explained that exercise this close to sleep would trick the body into thinking that it was time to be awake and energetic. She also stated that caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are also likely to hinder sleep. Knackmuhs also suggested establishing a ritual before bed.

When she spoke about movement and nutrition, Knackmuhs grouped the two together.

“When I talk about movement and nutrition, this has nothing to do with your actual size or your BMI, it’s really about your function,” Knackmuhs said.

Knackmuhs stated that 30 minutes of active movement five days a week can improve physical and mental health.

While talking about nutrition, Knackmuhs linked the health of the gut and brain to emotions and stress and provided a list of foods to avoid and foods to incorporate in a nutritious diet.

Knackmuhs ended the lecture by touching on the self-care technique of inner balance and stressed the importance of self-compassion, mindfulness, breathing and gratitude.

“Forgetting about our stress is not effective,” Knackmuhs said. “Ignoring it, tapering it down, banging your head against the wall, it doesn’t make it go away.”

News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter.