Mental Health Resources for Students

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Self-Help Resources

Online Resources Expand answer
  • ULifeline
    Resources for mental health information on a wide variety of issues (including suicide) and resources, libraries for mental health and drug information, and numerous mental health screenings.
  • Half of Us
    Resources for dealing with or helping a friend with mental health issues.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    National network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Crisis Text Line
    Crisis Text Line is the free, nationwide, 24/7 test line for people in crisis.
  • Trevor Project
    The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.
  • Student Guide to Managing Stress
    Education specialists at created this resource, which includes information on the effects of stress, managing stress, and getting help for stress.
  • WellTrack
    WellTrack is a confidential, online, and self guided platform to provide you with information and tools to help better understand and deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Click the link to create an account and get started with your self-assessment and treatment.
  • Alcohol e-CheckUpToGo
    Alcohol e-CheckUpToGo is an interactive web survey that allows college and university students to enter information about their drinking patterns and receive feedback about their use of alcohol. The assessment takes about 6-7 minutes to complete, is self-guided, and requires no face-to-face contact time with a counselor or administrator. When you access the Alcohol e-CheckUpToGo, you are prompted to enter information about your drinking habits, family history, and to complete the World Health Organization’s AUDIT. It will calculate a number of variables and compare your responses to national and local college norms. Then, your personalized feedback will be displayed in an easy-to-read format.
  • Healthy Sleep Awareness
    Resources for healthy sleep habits, healthy sleep awareness, symptoms of sleep disorders, bedtime calculator and other information regarding sleep and benefits of getting the right amount of sleep as it relates to your health.
24-Hour Crisis Support Expand answer

Office of Student Mental Health and Counseling providers work on an appointment basis, but in most instances, providers should be able to respond to a mental health emergency during business hours. If a particularly urgent situation (suicidal thoughts, assault, extreme panic) presents itself during these hours, students can contact the office and indicate the need for immediate attention. We will then make every effort to respond promptly.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., please contact Dr. Holder directly (call 717-531-8658 or page 6529).

24/7/365 options for crisis situations include:

The Penn State Crisis Line is an extension of the services offered by the Office of Student Mental Health and Counseling. Reports from calls made to this crisis line are received by our office.

Students experiencing a life-threatening emergency should call ext. 8888 if on campus, and 911 for off-campus emergencies, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Stress Management Tip Sheets

101 Ways to Reduce Stress Expand answer
  1. Go for a walk
  2. Shrug your shoulders
  3. Read a book that’s not required
  4. Call your mom or dad
  5. Take a five-minute break
  6. Do projects now instead of later
  7. Plan a hot tub party
  8. Draw your version of what stress looks like
  9. Make a new friend
  10. Play in the rain
  11. Count backwards from 100 in Swahili
  12. Make a daily “to do” list and check off those you have accomplished
  13. Hug someone
  14. Get a massage
  15. Pet a dog or cat
  16. Talk about it
  17. Watch cartoons
  18. Breathe deeply
  19. Trade dirty jokes with a friend
  20. Iron your clothes
  21. Ask someone out on a date
  22. Smile at a stranger
  23. Cry
  24. Make a budget
  25. Do a crossword puzzle
  26. Eat a healthy meal
  27. Leave a note on a friend’s car and let them know you care
  28. Just say “no” when you’ve got too much to do
  29. Take a nap
  30. Learn from your mistakes and move on
  31. Go for a swim
  32. Give yourself a compliment
  33. Find a quiet place to be alone
  34. Take a long, hot bath
  35. Arrange a surprise picnic for someone
  36. Go to church
  37. Think about soaking up the sun in Jamaica
  38. Clean your room
  39. Volunteer for a good cause
  40. Dance around your room in your underwear
  41. Buy yourself a new shirt
  42. As yourself, “Does it really matter?”
  43. Get rid of things you don’t need
  44. Go for a bike ride
  45. Go rollerblading
  46. Catch the new movie at the theater
  47. Listen to music
  48. Incorporate fun activities into your everyday routine
  49. Write a letter to an old friend
  50. Change the message on your voicemail or answering machine
  51. Stop drinking anything with caffeine
  52. Go to work/school using a different route
  53. Look for shooting stars
  54. Walk around a mall
  55. Rent old movies
  56. Make a CD or tape of your favorite songs
  57. Write down your dreams for the future
  58. Snuggle up with a teddy bear
  59. Have a water balloon fight with friends or family
  60. Play Frisbee
  61. Plan a weekend trip to the zoo
  62. Play a board game like Pictionary or Monopoly
  63. Bake cookies and give them to your neighbors
  64. Wash your car
  65. Make eye contact with a person you’ve been admiring
  66. Write a love letter
  67. Read poetry
  68. Send flowers to a friend “just because”
  69. Walk in the moonlight
  70. Watch the sun rise
  71. Take a leisurely drive
  72. Wink at someone you think is cute
  73. Visit historical landmarks in town
  74. Go out to eat
  75. Flirt with the waiter or waitress
  76. Cook your favorite food
  77. Look at old pictures
  78. Start a new hobby
  79. Do your holiday shopping early
  80. Watch the sun set
  81. Go bowling
  82. Send a funny card to you dad or mom
  83. Plan a candlelight dinner
  84. Eat frozen yogurt
  85. Buy yourself something you don’t need
  86. Ask for help
  87. Get up ten minutes early
  88. Catch some rays
  89. Feed the squirrels
  90. Talk to your boss or professor
  91. Join a new organization or club
  92. Call your best friend
  93. Adopt a grandparent
  94. Eat your vegetables
  95. Go to bed early
  96. Visit the toy store
  97. Play in the park
  98. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister
  99. Organize your calendar, address book, and phone numbers
  100. Go for a run or walk
  101. Have a marshmallow fight with your friends
13 Ways to Reduce Stress While Sitting Expand answer

Try these 13 ways to reduce stress while sitting in a straight-backed chair.

  1. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Try to pull the chin to the sternum. Chin up, return to neutral.
  2. Look up first with the eyes. Let the chin follow. Stretch the neck. Return to neutral.
  3. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Turn eyes and head to the right side. Bring head to neutral.
  4. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Turn eyes and head to the left side. Bring head to neutral.
  5. Keeping head at neutral, turn head to right. Count to 10. Return to neutral.
  6. Keeping head at neutral, turn head to left. Count to 10. Return to neutral.
  7. Lean forward in chair. Pull the shoulders down, and then squeeze them back for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  8. Lift elbows, put fingers at your ears. Squeeze shoulder blades together for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  9. Grasp hands in front. Stretch and round shoulders for 15 seconds. Push away from the table. Return to sitting position.
  10. Sit tall in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Lift shoulders to your ears for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  11. Sit tall in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Press down with both hands at your side for 15 seconds. Return to the neutral sitting position.
  12. Sit tall in the chair, extend hands diagonally back. Press back for 15 seconds. Return to the neutral sitting position.
  13. Sit tall in the chair. Reach diagonally across and up with the right hand. Alternate arms. Return to the neutral sitting position.
Concentration Expand answer

When you’re studying, distracting thoughts will slow you down (e.g., less efficient/study longer). Even worse, you are practicing distracted thinking while you study.

What you practice, you perform. Research indicates that when people are stressed (like at the time of a test), it is more challenging to think critically. Stressed individuals typically resort to automatic thinking (or thinking that has been practiced repeatedly). If you are studying in a distracted state, you are practicing distraction and this may manifest on the exam.

To enhance your concentration and decrease distraction while studying:

  • As you read or review the study material, attend actively to your “running dialogue.” Your running dialogue is your thoughts, attitudes, or feelings about what you are reviewing or may be distracting thoughts.
  • Examples of distracting thinking include:
    • Reading the same paragraph or page three times and you still cannot recall what you’ve read.
    • Thinking about another assignment, test or project while you are studying.
    • Thinking about non-academic-related activities (e.g., what’s for lunch? I wonder what so-and-so is doing now, etc.)
    • Thinking about what you reviewed 10 minutes ago or what you are going to review 10 minutes from now.
  • Remind yourself that all of the things that intrude in your thinking (i.e., distracters) are likely important, just not at this time.
  • Write out distracting thoughts on paper as they come to you.
  • Say to yourself, “These things are important, just not at this time.”
  • Re-direct your focus to your study material.
  • During each study break, allow yourself to actively worry about what you have written down as a distraction.
    • Intentional worrying tends to be more productive than intrusive worry.
    • The distracters likely have some significance if they called your attention away from the material.
  • Remind yourself: You are preparing not only by learning the content, but also by training the state of mind you hope to have when you take the exam (i.e., high concentration/low distractibility). If you practice this enhanced concentration, this state of mind will most likely occur automatically at the time of the exam.
Decreasing Negative Thinking about Exams Expand answer

Negative thinking is much like distracting thinking, only worse. With negative thoughts, not only are you distracted, but also you practice critical or self-debasing thinking.

The more you practice negative thinking, the better you get at it, and the more it becomes automatic in your thinking.

When individuals are stressed (like at the time of an exam), they tend to not think clearly and use automatic thinking more often. If you’ve rehearsed negative thinking, you will most likely think negatively automatically at the time of an exam.

To decrease negative thinking and practice more functional thinking while preparing for an exam:

  • As you read or review the study material, attend actively to your “running dialogue.” Your running dialogue is your thoughts, attitudes, or feelings about what you are reviewing or may be distracting thoughts.
  • Examples of negative thoughts include:
    • “I should know this by now.”
    • “I am never going to get through all this material.”
    • “I may know this stuff now, but I’ll surely forget it by the time the test occurs.”
  • Remind yourself that you do not want to have such negative thoughts become rehearsed and to occur automatically at the time of an exam.
  • Write out negative thoughts on paper as they come to you.
  • After writing, take the opportunity to reframe the negative thought and make it more functional or positive. This must be done in a realistic, non-fluff way. Your reframed thought (the thought you hope will become automatic) is something that you have to believe.
  • Examples of reframed negative thoughts include:
    • “I should know this by now” … “I learn different content areas at different paces. Some info will be remembered easily and some will be more challenging” OR “If I continue to follow my study plan, I will remember and be able to verbally recall more and more” OR “It doesn’t serve me to be frustrated right now. I need to ‘stay the course’ and continue to focus until the break.”
    • “I am never going to get through all this material” … “Although there is a lot to go through, I’m going to prioritize the study material and focus upon the most important information first.”
    • “I may know this now, but I’ll likely forget it on the test” … “I have recalled important details on previous tests” OR “If I relax, concentrate, and take one section at a time, I’ll succeed” OR “A relaxed mind recalls much more information than a stressed mind.”
  • Although initially reframing negative thinking is time consuming, the more you do it, the more proficient (or automatic) you do it. As you become more proficient, you’ll reframe negative thinking automatically.
Healthy Thinking Expand answer

(Adapted from the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook, Time Life Medical, 1996)

Optimistic thinking can have an effect on your overall health. It can help improve your mood and self-esteem, and decrease depression, anxiety, and hostility. Research suggests that optimistic thinking also can lessen pain, speed recovery from surgery, and enhance immune system functioning.

You Feel What You Think

People assume that outside events cause our moods.

However, we can experience the exact same situation and, at different times or in different moods, we can feel and respond differently in that same situation. This is because we are constantly talking to ourselves and we use this self-talk to explain the world around us. These explanations or interpretations influence how we feel and what actions we take. However, we are often not aware of these automatic thoughts we are having.

Instead, we notice anger, depression, or anxiety without connecting these feelings with the negative thoughts that are going on in our minds. For example, after getting a grade that was lower than you expected, you might say to yourself, “I shouldn’t be here — I am a bad student.”

This type of thought is often followed by sadness—which you typically will notice.

The good news is that this distorted or negatively skewed self-talk can be changed and healthier thoughts can be cultivated.

How to Think in a Healthier Way

The first step in changing your thinking is to recognize unhelpful negative thoughts. On a piece of paper, write down the situation that is bothering you. Only write down the facts at this point, no interpretation or judgment. You have to practice this — simply reading the exercise below or doing it in your head will not change your thinking.

  • Draw three columns on the sheet. Label the far left column “Feelings/Body response,” and write down what you feel (angry, depressed, anxious, guilty, neck ache, heart racing, etc.).
  • Label the middle column “Negative Thoughts,” and list the thoughts or pictures that went through your mind just before and during the situation.
  • Label the far right column “Alternative Responses,” and list the arguments against each of your major negative thoughts. Write down a more rational response to it. See below for questions to help you challenge your negative thoughts.

Example situation: I didn’t get the grade that I wanted on my test.

Feelings/body responses | negative thoughts | alternative responses: I feel depressed | I’m a bad student | I’m successful in many ways.

I feel discouraged | I’ll never be successful | I can ask for help with my study strategies.

Next, challenge your automatic thoughts. Each time you discover a pessimistic thought, use the following questions to challenge them:

  • Have I really identified what’s bothering me?
  • Am I greatly exaggerating the situation?
  • Am I overgeneralizing? For example, “I’ll never be successful.” Simply because something happened once, doesn’t mean it will happen again.
  • Am I over-worrying?
  • Am I assuming the worst? When I consider the worst thing that could happen, would it truly be a disaster? With catastrophic thinking, small events can become exaggerated. Counter these thoughts with facts and reason.
  • Am I making an unrealistic or unfair comparison? Who am I comparing myself to?
  • Do I have the evidence for my conclusion? Am I reading someone’s mind or predicting the future? For example, if you think: “I will never get a good grade,” you are attempting to predict the future.
  • Am I taking it too personally? For example, if you think: “If I would have treated him better, he wouldn’t have left me.” It is healthy to accept personal responsibility, but not to blame yourself for situations that aren’t entirely under your control.
  • Am I discounting the positive? Do you say, “I was just lucky” or “She just said that to make me feel better,” you may be ignoring positive aspects of the situation. Then, the negative thoughts can affect your mood.
  • Am I expecting perfection? Give yourself a break. Mistakes are part of being human and can be opportunities to learn and grow.
Relaxation Techniques Expand answer

This is a list of some brief relaxation exercises that you may wish to employ any time during your day, in between classes, before exams, while studying, before a presentation or speech, or prior to a big date or an appointment.

General Directions

For all of these exercises, it is best to be seated, eyes closed, feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles, and hands resting comfortably in the lap. Begin each exercise with a deep breath that you let out gently. As you let it out, feel yourself beginning to relax already.

Gentle Arousal

After the exercise, slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply, wiggling your fingers and toes, and opening your eyes at your own rate.


(Follow general directions first). Clench your fists. While keeping them clenched, pull your forearms tightly up against your upper arms. While keeping those muscles tense, tense all the muscles in your legs. While keeping all those tense, clench your jaws and shut your eyes fairly tight… but not too tightly. Now while holding all those tense, take a deep breath and hold it for five seconds. Then, let everything go all at once. Feel yourself letting go of all your tensions. Just enjoy that feeling for a minute as your muscles let go more and more. If we had a finely-tuned electromyography hooked up to you measuring the level of tension in your muscles, it would show that you relax more and more for up to 20 minutes. Just enjoy focusing, gently, on letting go (gentle arousal).

Heaviness and Warmth

(Follow general directions first). Just imagine that your feet and legs are getting heavier and heavier and warmer and warmer. It’s almost as if you are wearing some lead boots. Feet and legs heavy and warm, heavy and warm. Now, imagine your stomach and the whole central portion of your body getting warm… warm and relaxed. Your forehead is cool… cool… relaxed and cool. And your breathing is regular… easy and regular. Just feel the warmth and heaviness spread all over the body (gentle arousal).

Breathing Your Body Away

(Follow general directions first). Gently focus your attention on your feet and legs. Be aware of all the sensations from your feet and legs. Now, inhale and long, slow breath, and as you do, breathe in all the sensations from your feet and legs. In your mind’s eye, imagine that you are erasing this part of your body, so that in your mind, you can see only from your hips up. Now, with another long breath, breathe in all the parts of your body to your neck, and as you exhale, breathe it away. Now, beginning with your fingers, breathe in your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms, and exhale them away. Now, your neck and head… as you breathe in, imagine your neck and head being erased and now breathe them away. Let’s go back over the whole body in one breath, beginning with the feet. A long slow breath in, and as you do, erase any little parts that still remain. Now, let out a long slow breath as you exhale all the remaining parts. Just sit quietly for a minute and enjoy feeling yourself relax deeper and deeper (gentle arousal).

Sleep Hygiene Expand answer

Good sleep leads to excellent performance. Follow these sleep hygiene tips:

  • No caffeine (including cola and chocolate) 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Set your body clock. Keep the same sleep schedule daily. Don’t try to catch up by sleeping late on the weekends.
  • Avoid naps. In general, taking naps during the day leads to poorer sleep patterns. If you must nap, do so for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes (“power-nap”). Six hours before bedtime, no power naps.
  • Develop a bedtime routine (for one hour before bedtime). This may include hot bath, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, meditation, etc.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment. Cool, dark and uncluttered space. Use white noise, eye shades or ear plugs, if noise and/or light interfere with sleep.
  • No large meals at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan such as peanut butter and cheese may help with sleep.
  • Only use sleep-inducing aids on occasion, such as Benadryl and Tylenol PM.
  • No alcohol or tobacco within four to six hours of bedtime.
  • No computer, TV, or arguments half an hour before bed. Listen to soothing music or read.
  • Exercise regularly, but complete it four hours prior to bedtime.
  • Take a hot bath one hour prior to bedtime.
  • No work or studying one hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t study, work, read or watch TV in bed.
  • Don’t take worries to bed. Set aside a worry period earlier in the evening. Write out the issues and how you will tackle them the next day.
  • If you wake up and cannot get back to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Keep your bed associated with falling to sleep.

Test Anxiety

Overview Expand answer

Test anxiety is “worry or fear caused by having to take tests.” Students may describe symptoms of test anxiety in several ways. For example, some students describe test anxiety as “mental distraction” in which they are unable to concentrate, because they are distracted by a variety of external factors. Some students experience test anxiety as physical symptoms, such as “butterflies” in the stomach, a quickened heart rate, rapid or shallow breathing, nausea, sweaty palms, headache, etc. Students also have characterized test anxiety as a “mental block” during which they are unable to focus on the assignments (exams, oral quizzes, etc.) that they are confronting.

There is no magic cure for “test anxiety.” However, students who develop an understanding of what test anxiety is and who acquire and practice techniques to allay the potential debilitating aspects of test anxiety are better able to prepare themselves for a successful educational experience.

The material in this section was adapted from About Test Anxiety, Channing Libete Co., Inc., 1987.

Who is affected Expand answer

Many students face anxiety when approaching an exam. However, for certain students, this anxiety may become severe enough that it affects how they function during the exam. Some students become quite anxious because they have failed exams in the past and they fear that they will experience this failure again. Students experiencing “test anxiety” may remark that they studied and believe they mastered and comprehend the material; yet, because of the anxiety, they may not perform adequately on the exam.

Managing Test Anxiety Expand answer

Test anxiety may result from “pressure, past experience, and fear of failure” (p. 4). Suggestions for managing test anxiety include the following:

  1. Give yourself permission to believe that one test will not influence all future educational and career endeavors.
  2. Learn about stress and develop relaxation techniques. Practice the techniques daily and use them when you’re experiencing anxiety.
  3. Believe that active study procedures yield positive results.
  4. Remember that the important people in your life (parents, friends, significant other, etc.) will still care about you despite your test score.
  5. Develop appropriate study strategies to curb or eliminate test anxiety.
  6. Remember that studying is an individual process. Each student establishes study strategies that are effective for him/her. A study approach that works for your best friend may not be the one that is most beneficial to you.
  7. Acquiring relaxation techniques might help in testing situations in which anxiety is so high that test answers are forgotten during the exam but recalled minutes after handing in the test.
Effective Study Techniques Expand answer
  1. Select an appropriate place to study that is free from distractions. Attempt to study in the same location on a daily basis. Be alert and rested when you are studying.
  2. Look over class notes as soon as possible after each class. Incorporate review time each 2-3 days to re-review your class notes.
  3. Schedule your time so that you are aware of test dates, review periods, and social/recreational time. Consider studying in shorter blocks of time (such as 30 minute sessions) rather than one 4-hour period.
  4. Determine study strategies that are effective for you. For example, some students learn well with note cards. Others find that notes in the margins of their class notes or brief outlines enable them the most effective learning.
  5. Acquire good eating and sleeping patterns so that your mind and body are functioning well. Make a concerted effort to practice study strategies so that “cramming” is eliminated.
Some Test-Taking Skills Expand answer
  1. Plan your time. Check to see how many points each question is worth. Spend more time on the questions that are worth more points.
  2. Determine which questions are the easiest and do those first.
  3. Budget time to review your answers before handing the test in.
  4. Try not to panic when confronting a difficult question. Place a mark beside the questions and continue. Go back later, and try to answer the hard questions.
  5. Be alert to words such as “always,” “never,” “after,” etc.
  6. Take time to assure yourself that you understand what the questions is asking in a multiple-choice exam.
  7. If there is no penalty for guessing, take time to go back and answer any questions that were skipped earlier in the test.
Methods for Controlling Anxiety Expand answer
  1. Attempt to replace negative thoughts with positive or more realistic statements. For example, assume that a lower exam score might be O.K. rather than assume that you are a failure.
  2. Try to imagine yourself as calm and in control. Strive to eradicate dismal thoughts and feelings that contribute to anxiety. Develop positive thinking skills.
  3. Invest some time in acquiring relaxation techniques to manage anxiety.

If tension and anxiety increase during an exam, try the following exercise:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take a long, deep breath (from your belly, not shallow breathing from your chest)
  3. Let it out slowly
  4. Concentrate on your breathing—actually feel or hear yourself breathe. Don’t allow yourself to worry about the time or tension.
  5. Repeat once, then return to the test (p. 13).
Prevention Strategies Expand answer
  1. Seek assistance from an academic support counselor or other qualified professional on the University campus. Tips on how to combat test anxiety and other study strategies are usually available.
  2. Talk to your friends and classmates. Perhaps they have experienced similar concerns and can provide some ideas that may help you.
  3. Visit the class instructor if you are encountering difficulty with course material or with comprehending lectures.
  4. Discuss your feelings with the important persons in your life (parents, spouse, girl/boyfriend, etc.) Receiving their support and concern may help in calming your fears.

Communication Resources

Assertive Behavior Expand answer

Assertive behavior includes standing up for your rights without infringing on the rights of others. Assertive behavior results in an “I win; you win” outcome.

Assertion involves expressing beliefs, feelings and preferences in a way which is direct, honest, appropriate and shows a high degree of respect for yourself and for others.

“When you talk, I can’t hear the movie. Please keep it down.”

“I really like it when you wear that shirt. You look great!”

Passive/nonassertive behavior is when someone gives up their own rights and (directly or indirectly) defers to the rights of another person. Passive behavior results in an “I lose; you win” outcome.

Passive behavior includes violating your own rights through inaction or by failing to express your thoughts, feelings or desires.

“We can do whatever you want. Your ideas are probably better.”

Aggressive behavior is when someone stands up for their own rights without regard for others. Aggressive behavior results in an “I win; you lose” outcome.

Aggression is self-expression that demands, attacks or humiliates other people, generally in a way which shows lack of respect for others.

“Hey, I’m in a hurry. Get out of my way.”

Passive-aggressive behavior occurs when someone acts out aggressive impulses in an indirect way. When people act passive-aggressively, they attempt to get what they need or want indirectly or manipulatively. Passive-aggressive behavior is an indirect attempt to control or punish others.

“I’m sorry I’m so late. I didn’t realize this was such a big deal.”

“Oh, don’t bother, I’ll just have to do it myself.”

Assertive behavior is: Self-Expressive; Honest; Respectful of the Rights of Others.

Direct and Firm; Socially Responsible; Learned, not Inborn.

Equalizing – benefiting self, other and relationship.

Verbal – includes feelings, thoughts, desires, rights, facts, opinions.

Nonverbal – eye contact, voice, posture, facial, gestures, timing.

Appropriate – for the person, culture and situation.

Assertiveness script: “When you behavior, I feel/think feeling/thought, so, I would like new behavior.”

Types of Assertion

Basic assertion: Simple expression of standing up for personal rights, beliefs, feelings or opinions.

Example: When being interrupted, “Excuse me, I’d like to finish what I’m saying.”

Empathic assertion: Recognition of other person’s situation or feelings followed by another statement standing up for speaker’s rights.

Example: “I know you are feeling angry and frustrated while you wait for a response. But, the best I can do is give you a ballpark estimate of how long it will take.”

Escalating assertion: Start with a “minimal” assertive response… Other fails to respond… Gradually escalate the assertion, increasingly firm without being aggressive.

Example: From the first example, “I know what you have to say is important but I really want to finish what I was saying.”

“I really want to finish before you begin to speak.”

Confrontive assertion: Describe what was to be done. Describe what actually occurred… Express what you want.

Example: “I told you to complete the forms by Nov. 15, and you agreed to do so. Now it is Jan. 15 and you are telling me that you forgot the forms but you still expect to complete our business on time. What is it that you want me to do?”

I-Language assertion:

Description of behavior: “When you ______,”

How it affects your life: “It affects ______,”

Describe your feelings: “and I feel ______;”

Describe your desire: “Therefore, I would like _____.”

Example: “When you shout, the effect is I am unable to work with you and I feel angry. Therefore, I would like for you to stop shouting and tell me what you want.”

Positive assertion: Expressing positive feelings about yourself or someone else.

Examples: “I’m glad you came back to see me.”

“I did a good job working with that upset student.”

Repeated assertion: Sometimes called “Broken Record.” Opposite of escalation. Simple, calm, repetition – saying what you want over and over again, rote repetition.

Example: “You said you would complete this form and there is missing information.” (Person gives a sarcastic reply.) “The form has not been completed.” (Person makes another comment.) “I have to have this form completed.”

Fogging assertion: Acknowledging possibility of truth to what other person is saying; agreeing in concept but not necessarily in fact.

Example: “I know these rules may appear to make no sense, but they are the procedures I must use.”

Fair Fighting Expand answer

Use these guidelines for “fair fighting” to increase communication effectiveness.

  1. Own Your Response. Use “I-language” instead of falling back on the “make-feel” myth. For example, say, “I feel worried and scared when you drink so much beer” instead of “your drinking is making me crazy.”
  2. Be Specific. Avoid using extreme or global language like “always,” “never,” “everyone.” Instead, use more modifying or tentative statements, “sometimes,” “often” or “maybe.” Avoid character assassination. Talk about incidents rather than personality traits.
  3. One at A Time. Solve one problem at a time, stick to the present situation and stay focused.
  4. Listen As Much As You Talk. Make reflective or clarifying statements in order to show that you understand the other’s position. Seek information as much as you give your opinion.
  5. Avoid Intention-Reading (aka Mind-Reading). Get “reality checks” instead of acting on assumptions of the other person’s intentions or motives. “I think you’re afraid of letting me have space because you’re afraid of losing me. Is that right?” Instead of “You just want me to live a miserable life, held hostage in this disaster you call a relationship.”
  6. Avoid Arguing Reactively. Stay calm, keep control of your behavior and as much as possible speak in a neutral tone of voice. Give yourself the luxury of a “time out” to rethink your position and make effective decisions.
  7. Admit Your Part of the Problem. Ongoing conflicts are like dances; “It takes two to tango.” Focus on identifying your own dance steps that keep a conflict going then learn a new step.
  8. Ask Yourself, “Whose Problem Is This?” Avoid taking too much responsibility for another’s behavior. In most cases, allow others to experience the consequences of their behavior and thinking instead of needlessly protecting them.
  9. Argue Sober. Avoid discussing important issues with any individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  10. Sleep On It. Sometimes it is OK to “let the sun go down on your anger.” Agree to discuss “hot” topics at a time when each person is rested and alert. A good night’s rest can facilitate a refreshed perspective. However, it’s important not to collude with your partner to avoid the problem the next day.
  11. Agree To Disagree. Know that many arguments are about opinions, not facts, or at least opinions about facts. Be tolerant of different opinions and perspectives.
  12. Avoid Power Struggles. Power struggles are about me trying to get you to do, be, or think like me so that I’ll get what I want or will feel more comfortable. Focus on resolving the power struggle instead of getting caught up in big arguments over “little things.”
  13. Declare A Cease-Fire. If you at an impasse, then it’s time to declare a cease-fire. Carefully learn the other person’s perspective and wishes. Thoughtfully examine and express your own. Then consider compromise, creative alternatives, going along or sticking to your guns. Take your time.
  14. Focus On What’s Right. Acknowledge the accuracy of the other person’s statements instead of focusing on how they are “wrong.”
  15. Clarify Your Wants. Realize that most of what are called “needs” are really “wants”. You need to breathe air, drink water, etc. Ask for what you want without making demands.
  16. It Takes Time. Realize that effective problem-solving takes time, effort and practice. Tolerate disappointing results and use feedback to help improve your skills.
  17. Ask For Help. Be willing to get help from a neutral, third person if you are in a stuck or deteriorating relationship. Friends, family members, ministers or counselors can often provide assistance to help you get things back on track.

Unfair Fighting and Mistakes In Communicating

  1. “You Make Me Feel” myth.
  2. Globalization or extreme language.
  3. “Gunnysacking” – Saving all your gripes and using them all at once.
  4. Listening means I agree.
  5. Mind-reading or intention-reading.
  6. Speaking loudly or yelling helps your partner hear better.
  7. It’s all your fault (and I had no part in the problem).
  8. For your own good… (overprotection).
  9. A drink will take the edge off (and help us communicate).
  10. Marathon arguing.
  11. Everyone thinks, processes, values similarly.
  12. I win-you lose (what were we talking about?)
  13. Fight until the fight is finished (without a break).
  14. Lawyering or being a philosopher – pick apart flaws in arguing (what were we talking about?)
  15. “I need…” myth (as opposed to “I want…”).
  16. Expecting immediate change or results. Unrealistic expectations for change.
  17. Doing it alone – not seeking assistance from a neutral third party.

Suggested Apps

iPad and iPhone Apps Expand answer
  • A Friend Asks – Help a friend who might be contemplating suicide.
  • Fooducate – Learn more about healthy food to fuel your body and mind.
  • MindShift – Stop anxiety and fear from controlling your life.
  • Unstuck – This app helps you move past things in your life making you feel stuck.
  • The Now – Learn how to live fully in each moment.
  • Take a break! – Meditations for stress relief.
  • WellTrack – Interactive self-help therapy.
  • What’s up? – A free app utilizing some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more.
Android Apps Expand answer
  • A Friend Asks – Help a friend who might be contemplating suicide.
  • Boost Me – Provides positive activity suggestions to aid with increased mood.
  • Breathe2Relax – This portable stress management tool teaching diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Conscious – Increase your mindfulness and awareness.
  • Daily Feats – Encourages you to incorporate worthwhile and productive activities into your day.
  • Fooducate – Learn more about healthy food to fuel your body and mind.
  • Lightning Bug – Ambience and white noise mixer.
  • Self-Help Anxiety Management – Learn to manage your anxiety.
  • Slumber Time – Comprehensive sleeping app.
  • Thought Challenger – Gain control of how you feel by challenging negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • The Worry Box – Lock your worries away in a box.
  • WellTrack – Interactive self-help therapy.
  • What’s up? – A free app utilizing some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more.
  • Worry Knot – Teaches you to manage your worry with lessons, distractions and proven worry management techniques.