Long distance relationships have negative psychological effects

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

University of Kansas sophomore Ryan Xiao recalls sitting back in his apartment after a long day of research. He relaxed by talking to his girlfriend about her day, listening as she told stories about her work as a server in a retirement community. After an hour or so they said goodnight. Xiao logged out of Skype and shut down his computer, crawling into bed 1,028 miles away from his significant other.

During the summer of 2011, Xiao lived in Washington, D.C., doing research for the National Institutes of Health Summer Research Program while his girlfriend stayed with her family in Lincoln, Neb., working a summer job and taking classes through the local university. For approximately three months, his relationship was labeled “long distance.”

“It was really rough. It was frustrating, being that far away from her,” Xiao said. “I’m just glad we’re together now and that time is done.”

According to www.statisticbrain.com, Xiao was only one of 14 million couples who claim they are in a long distance relationship. What Xiao and other couples in long distance relationships may not know is that the strain of being so far from a loved one can produce negative psychological effects, such as depression, heightened anxiety, and loneliness.

Common Problems

Oregon State University licensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz said that the negative perception of long distance relationships has probably developed from harmful emotions.

“I think it probably brings up fears in people because of the difficulty and the emotions that can come up around being separated from your partner and your support,” Schiltz said. “You can experience stress, loss of focus, sadness, loneliness. Those are all things that can lead to bigger issues over the long run, like depression or anxiety.”

Schiltz said that feelings of stress can be higher for students, who have the added responsibilities of classes. Although Xiao said he doesn’t feel any lasting negative emotions from his time in a long distance relationship, he does remember the pessimistic attitude he sometimes felt.

“It was hard for me to be so far away and see her so infrequently. I didn’t know what she was doing,” Xiao said.

Xiao said that although he attempted to Skype his girlfriend every day, it wasn’t enough. They saw each other only twice—once over the fourth of July weekend when he flew to Lincoln and once when his girlfriend flew to Washington. Xiao said that the expenses initially bothered him, but were worth it.

“Plane tickets were around $400 per round trip,” Xiao said.

Coincidentally, Schiltz said that expenses, such as the cost of plane tickets, gas and phone bills, are one of the most common complaints in long distance relationships. Conflict, jealousy and loneliness are also common problems.

“I think it’s important to have a real solid sense of yourself and your self-worth, so you can stand through some of that,” Schiltz said.

Most couples expect their long distance relationships to be short term, lasting an average maximum of 14 months according to www.statisticbrain.com. However, some couples find themselves distanced from each other for much longer, just as Zach Rose of Metamora, Ill., and Kristen Adams of Bloomington, Ill., have for the entire two year and eight month span of their relationship.

For almost three years, Rose and Adams have lived roughly an hour apart, traveling to see each other only on the weekends. Their separation began during high school.

“When we started dating, we were from different high schools and different counties,” Adams explained. Their time together was not frequent.  “I had dance practice as much as he had football. The time schedule of only seeing each other for maybe four hours a week was the hardest.”

Making it count

Now Adams attends Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Rose attends Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Ill. With extracurricular activities and busy college schedules, they can go weeks without seeing each other.

“It’s that downtime in between seeing each other that can be the hardest, but we make it work,” Rose said. They spend that “downtime” by taking advantage of technology—Skyping, talking on the phone, texting and using the iPhone app FaceTime.

“Name it, we have done it,” Rose joked. Both Rose and Adams said they work extremely hard to maintain their relationship, especially when it comes to quality time. They dedicate time to one another by avoiding their phones when they’re together to keep their relationship lively.

However, Rose and Adams have their fair share of long distance relationship problems as well. Rose and Adams both resent the constant planning for time together and absence of daily interaction.

Schiltz said that “proximity influences similarity,” and a lack of daily interaction with someone can increase unfamiliarity, which distances couples over time.

“Even something as simple as a haircut can be a reminder of what you’re missing out on,” Schiltz explained.

But Adams and Rose both agree that despite multiple setbacks and missing out on day-to-day intimacy, their long distance relationship is worth it.

“It sure would be nice to go see her in the spur of the moment,” Rose said. “But whenever I see her after a while, it’s almost like the first time seeing her. It is amazing.”

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Therapist gives advice on long distance relationships

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

TRANSCRIPT:

KAYLA OVERBEY: This is Kayla Overbey from “Live, Eat, Sleep,” bringing you an excerpt from my story on long-distance relationships.

[sound of phone ringing]

MALE VOICE: Hello?

OVERBEY: The stereotype of long distance relationships, otherwise known as LDRs, is usually negative. The difficulties include travel expenses, loss of communication, and anxiety.

Long distance relationships can also instigate feelings of jealousy, depression and loneliness, says Oregon State University licensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz. Schiltz said that one of the most common complaints she hears about is the distance and unfamiliarity that can develop between a couple.

KATHLEEN SCHILTZ: It can actually be a disruption to your normal routine and you kind of have to get reacquainted. Like, you had time apart so you kind of have to like… it’s almost like dating again every time.

OVERBEY: This distance can spur arguments and tear loved ones apart. Despite the increase of stress and other negative setbacks, Schiltz believes that with effort, long distance relationships can be rewarding.

SCHILTZ: I mean I think there are things you can do, but, again it’s an effort, or a concerted effort that you have to make, so… I understand looking at the negative aspects but then I think there are things that can balance that out.

OVERBEY: Schiltz said that one of the best things to do to maintain a long distance relationship is to simply pick up the phone, and call.

[sound of phone dialing]

OVERBEY: This is Kayla Overbey, with “Live, Eat, Sleep.” Thanks for listening.

14 million claim they are in a long distance relationship

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 27, 2012

While long distance relationships are not considered the “norm” of dating, they are becoming more common. Information from www.statisticbrain.com states that 14 million couples claim they are in a long distance relationship. Oregon State University liscensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Schiltz said that the expense of travel and communication is one of the main reason long distance couples fight.

Non-drinkers have mental, physical benefits over drinkers

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Almost every weekend, University of Kansas student Kyle Boge watches students stumble onto his dorm floor in Templin Hall. They are intoxicated, their eyes droopy and their smiles heavy with alcohol. Boge has come to accept the fact that if his friends decide to party, he won’t join them. Instead, he works on homework.

“I would say academics is the number one reason that I don’t venture out with friends,” Boge said. “If I don’t go out, it’s usually because I have a lab report to write or some homework that needs to be done.”

Boge can’t control his friends, but he can control himself. Unlike many KU students, Boge does not participate in alcohol consumption, whether at house parties, social gatherings or sporting events.

Many non-drinkers are stereotyped to behave a certain way, or have an introverted personality. They are categorized as “the quiet ones” at a party who stand alone in the corner. Many people accuse those who don’t drink as boring or uptight. But nondrinkers have clear health benefits over drinkers, experts say.

Boge says that he fights stereotypes attached to nondrinkers by attending small parties. He even went to Mass. Street after the Final Four Championship game.

“Most of the group I was with had consumed some alcohol,” Boge said he was offered alcohol, but didn’t find it hard to decline. “I avoid drinking in these situations by simply saying ‘No, I don’t drink’ or ‘I’m the designated driver’ and moving on.”

The decision to abstain from drinking differs for everyone. Some chalk it up to health, safety reasons or family upbringing. Boge’s decision to avoid alcohol was confirmed after the traumatic death of a friend in a car accident.

“She got in a car being driven by a drunk driver, and she was also inebriated at the time,” Boge said. “Obviously, this made a very large impact on my perception of drinking, and the result is me not drinking today in college.”

Risks of Drinking

What many habitual drinkers don’t know is that those who avoid alcohol have many health benefits. They avoid increasing risks of cancer, high blood pressure, liver damage and illnesses like cardiovascular and heart disease. They also avoid mental side effects like depression and nerve damage, according to www.webmd.com.

One of the biggest problems that many drinkers face is the chance for addiction.

Nurse Practitioner Colleen Blackburn from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center  says that alcohol can become increasingly addictive if the social environment advocates frequent use.

“Alcohol can be very casual, and in that casualty comes dangers,” Blackburn said. “Especially in the college atmosphere. Everyone condones drinking alcohol, and if you don’t drink, it can be weird. College students also don’t worry about long-term health risks like cancer. They all think, ‘oh, it won’t happen to me’ when there’s actually a high risk of medical complications.”

The fact that non-drinkers avoid the chance of ever being addicted to alcohol and avoid unsafe situations should cause drinkers to rethink their assumptions.

Emotional Turmoil

However, non-drinkers aren’t exempt to everything that drinkers go through. The decision to avoid alcohol can put people in uncomfortable situations. Aaron Pope, KU student and Templin Hall resident assistant, says a failed relationship made him really contemplate his decision not to drink.

“Toward the end of my senior year of high school I was dating a girl. We got along really well and I loved everything about her,” Pope said.  After visiting the KU campus, the conversation turned to alcohol. “I brought up the subject of drinking and we started talking, and then it turned into an argument. Months of work building up our relationship were torn apart in hours.”

Pope’s main decision to avoid alcohol comes from a Christian upbringing. His family always warned him of the dangers of alcohol, but he never assumed alcohol would damage him if he avoided it.

“That was the first time in my life that not drinking actually caused me to lose someone really important to me,” Pope admits. He also said it was the first time he was forced to take a stand in defense of his personal non-drinking policy.

Despite his bad past experiences, Pope said the lessons he learned simply reconfirmed his belief in alcohol abstinence.

“Do I regret losing this person? Definitely. Do I regret standing up for my decision? No.”

Dangers of binge drinking

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, April 13, 2012

  • College students have been stereotyped for their use of alcohol for years. Binge drinking has been popularized by games like beer pong, tip cup, and many more. Unfortunately, what most college students fail to realize is the risks that correlate with frequent alcohol consumption. Sources like the Center for Disease Control and www.top-10-list.org are dedicated to presenting the facts as they are.
  • Click here to read my story on non-drinkers.

Students rock climb for alternative exercise

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, March 16, 2012

The steady rhythm of feet hitting treadmills and sounds of physical exertion fill the air. People walk around, red-faced and tired. But in the basement of the David A. Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center at the University of Kansas, student Kevin Dinh sits on the ground, positions his feet onto the wall and climbs.

Kevin Dinh is a rock climber. He completes the 45-foot-tall roped course in less than ten minutes. During those minutes, he burned roughly 100 calories.

According to nutristrategy.com average, a 200-pound man can burn over 1,000 calories during an hour spent ascending a rock wall. The intense workout is what initially attracted Dinh to the sport.

“I think the real reason I climb is because I know I need to work out, and rock climbing offers so many different ways to work out,” Dinh says. “And it’s not the same thing every day.”

Dinh is one of many students who have turned to the alternative sport of rock climbing to increase muscle development in atypical parts of the body.

Climbing benefits

While spending 30 minutes on an elliptical or treadmill is sufficient for a routine workout, it can be boring. Varying exercise improves stamina, strength, flexibility, and coordination. Dinh says he hasn’t noticed significant change himself, but his friends and family disagree.

“A lot of people freak out because of how huge my forearms are,” Dinh said. “I don’t see the difference, but everyone keeps telling me I’ve changed. So I’m assuming I’ve changed.”

Rock Climbing Club President Ryan Surface says that although the changes are subtle, muscle development does occur in unexpected areas of the body.

“Generally, your biceps can be sore, your forearms can definitely be sore. Those are usually the first thing to fail [when climbing],” Surface said.

Surface also described how different routes target different muscle groups.

“Climbing definitely works your core, especially on overhanging routes. There are some routes that are kind of like corners, like a dihedral. Oftentimes those are really leg, foot intensive,” Surface said. “It can definitely be a full-body workout.”

Climbing styles

Surface said that three of the most popular styles of climbing are sport climbing, bouldering, and traditional climbing. Sport and traditional climbing are vertical climbs and use safety equipment.  These types of climbing are most popular in North America, Surface said.

Bouldering, on the other hand, requires no gear except for a mattress-like pad below the climber. Bouldering is limited to sequences of no longer then 15 or 20 feet, and requires more muscle concentration than the other two styles.

“Bouldering, to me, really seems like getting down there and doing the most difficult moves you can do. It’s kind of acrobatic, gymnastic kind of stuff,” Surface said.

Because climbing is so physically demanding, the International Olympic Committee is considering lead climbing (similar to traditional climbing), bouldering, and speed climbing for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic summer games. KU student Daniel Siegel understands why.

“There are definitely forms of rock climbing that are legitimate [for competition]. Bouldering is a good example,” Siegel said. “It’s just as much of a mental game, just like chess, as it is physical.”

New climbers

While watching climbers scale KU’s 45-foot rock wall can be intimidating, those new to the sport shouldn’t be shy.

There are five routes on the main wall, each a different skill level. The easiest route is on the far right, and students familiar with climbing are available to belay. There are countless student-created routes on the bouldering walls.

The KU recreation center’s Outdoor Pursuits room rents out free climbing shoes and harnesses to students without equipment. Those who do own equipment are welcome to bring it.

The climbing gym is publicly open to students Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. From 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, the wall is exclusive to the KU Rock Climbing Club.

Dinh says he’ll continue rock climbing to introduce variation into his workout and simply because he enjoys it.

“I always have fun rock climbing, that’s why I do it so often,” Dinh said. “There’s always an ending feeling where you feel good.”

On-campus health centers provide benefits for women

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, February 24, 2012

University of Kansas senior Meredith Kurc recalls her last experience at the Watkins Memorial Health Center as uncomfortable and a little awkward. She visited for gynecology reasons.

“Gyno appointments aren’t exactly the most fun,” Kurc said.

However, Kurc remembers the experience as altogether positive, despite the circumstances.

“They made me feel comfortable in an awkward situation,” she said. “I was completely satisfied with the service.”

But when it comes to service, many women are clueless about the extent of what the KU campus health center can provide. They are unaware of the services and as a result, don’t benefit from the lack of cost.  Kurc admits to being one of these students.

“I am only aware of the gynecology services,” she said. “I have no idea what other services they provide.”

Watkins Registered Nurse Candyce Waitley says she doesn’t think enough information is publicized about the benefits of women’s health at Watkins.

“During new student orientation in the summer the services are talked about,” she said, but she doesn’t think that’s enough.  “A lot of patients we see, we see as a result of somebody coming in and then just spreading the word.”

Waitley believes the most opportune time for students to start using the health center is now.

“It’s extremely important in terms of current health protection,” Waitley said. “Also, for the future, for young women to get into the habit of having an annual exam, and being seen in a gynecology clinic, then they get in that habit for a life-long practice.”

Women’s Health Services

Waitley says it’s common for many students to have their first gynecology exam at Watkins.

“We do many, many first exams on young women. We start many young women on oral contraceptives,” Waitley said.

According to Waitley, many young women use Watkins as an alternative to talking to their parents about sex.

“Because they’re away from home, they aren’t comfortable talking to parents—I mean, many parents are really great about that, but not all parents, and so they come here, and they do have the freedom.”

Beyond physical exams—like Pap tests and breast exams—the gynecology clinic offers vaccines, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception distribution and more. It also provides counseling for a range of reasons such as fertility, preconception, pregnancy and unintended pregnancy.  Counseling happens in-person or over the phone.

“Sometimes students come in and they’re worried about their sexual relationships…They don’t necessarily need an exam or need to start on pills or anything like that,” Waitley said. “They just want to talk.”

Top Visits

The gynecology clinic sees students Monday through Saturday. Waitley says she and her colleagues see anywhere between 30 and 40 patients a day in the gynecology clinic.

“It just depends, we double-book often. That’s daily, Monday through Friday,” Waitley explained. “And on Saturdays we’re open from 12 to 4. It adds up to a lot of patients.”

The most visits to the gynecology clinic are for annual Pap smear exams and oral contraceptive counseling, says Waitley.

“With the annual Pap, often contraception is associated with that too, as is sexually transmitted disease testing. It all goes together,” Waitley said.

Affordability

The Watkins Memorial Health Center is a non-profit organization, and has discounted prices significantly for students in all areas of the clinic. To help keep it running, there is a $108.80 mandatory health fee included in each semester’s tuition.

Associate Director of Student Health Services Joe Gillespie says he’s surprised that students don’t explore what this student fee gives them access to.

Gillespie says the costs of some procedures such as x-rays and blood tests are reduced to ease financial burdens on students. Any visitor to Watkins is also exempt from copayments. He says that one of the top benefits is the time and cost savings when compared to travelling off-campus for healthcare.

“We continue to be surprised how some students are unaware of the benefits to which they are entitled by paying the health fee.  Along with that, many students are not aware of what we have to offer,” Gillespie says.

Meredith Kurc says she appreciates all that Watkins has to offer. “I could personally still afford health care without it, but it really saves a student like me money and time.”