LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 8, 2021) – Everyone has a lot on their plates this year. Students are juggling online and in-person classes, parents are trying to work from home and watch children, and things can quickly pile up. When this happens, it is easy to put other things above your own wellness; a behavior that can have serious consequences on your mental health.
University Health Service has created a holistic approach to wellness for students in their Health & Wellness Coaching Program. The program offers coaching in six main areas: time management, sleep and relaxation, study skills, stress management, general nutrition and active living and lifestyle. The program emphasizes that coaching is not the same as counseling; it is designed to assist you in setting goals, identifying barriers and providing accountability to enhance well-being.
Meghan Wolf, a University of Kentucky alumnus, is the health education specialist at UHS, and is a National Board Certified health and wellness coach. She described her role as being an accountability partner for the students, as they are walking through the process of developing healthier behaviors.
“I always tell them to imagine we are in a car together, but they are behind the wheel,” said Wolf. “They really get to decide how they want to go about changing their behavior – where they want to go, which turns they want to take, how quickly they want to get there – and I’m just in the passenger seat to keep them company and discuss and think through their options.”
The program has become fully virtual as a result of COVID-19. What could be seen as a drawback actually allows Wolf to see more patients and help more people reach their goals. Health & Wellness Coaching is available to all full-time students, or any student that has paid their semester health fee.
Taylor Estepp is in her third year working toward her Ph.D. in Biostatistics and Epidemiology. While making an appointment online to receive her flu vaccine, she came across Health & Wellness Coaching and thought it could be a good fit for her. At the time, she had been strictly dieting.
“Coming in, I don’t think I had a very healthy relationship with how I was thinking about food and wanting to lose weight,” said Estepp. “I was practicing behaviors that were just way too restrictive, and I was allowing guilt over food to take too much space in my mind.”
In their sessions, Estepp and Wolf took a deeper look at the reasons she was feeling that way, and what changes they could make in her life. After a while, she started to notice a difference. She felt less stressed and had more energy to focus on school.
“Meghan helped take the power away from the food,” said Estepp. “It no longer has a hold on me like it did before.”
Hunter McCormick is a sophomore at UK and a newer addition to Health & Wellness Coaching. His original interest was in the time management section of the coaching program. When he started the program, he said Wolf helped him lay out a clear roadmap to reach his goals, which made them feel more achievable.
“I really like how the program incorporates interesting ways to do things, rather than just a linear path from your problem to your solution,” said McCormick. “The activities we do help us actually break down our problems into smaller sections and think about them productively.”
While coaching McCormick, Wolf quickly found that he was going to be successful, because of how much he committed to the program.
“Saying you want to make a change in your life is one thing, but doing the work to lay yourself a good foundation is a big step, and Hunter did that really well,” said Wolf. “He is a great example of how to successfully use this program.”
Although the semester is coming to a close, students can continue to make appointments with a health & wellness coach during the summer, and in the fall. Appointments can be made through the MyUK portal, or by calling the UHS appointment line at (859) 323-2778.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.