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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

The Flourish, February 2022

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Supporting the well-being of all students at Stanford

What do you like on your pizza? This month's edition of The Flourish highlights relationships, sexual health and sexuality while offering tools to support our journey. We start with tips on how to grow in our relationships by creating a culture of consent and learning about our (and others') boundaries. Through the acknowledgement and respect of our relationships and communities, we can further foster healthy relationships with ourselves and those closest to us. Take time to check out the Trans Resource Guide and other tools which offer support and resources to support our well-being and flourishing. 

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Let’s explore these areas together.

A relationship is like a garden graphic. Credit: Allison Piwowarski
A relationship is like a garden. Regular watering and exposure to sunlight: Relationships take constant maintenance. Need for fertile soil: Relationship need a strong foundation. Weeding & pruning: Relationships need healthy conflict management.

In Focus

A relationship is like a garden.

This may be because one very important characteristic of a healthy relationship is that it is a container in which all involved are supported in their growth (aka blooming) and flourishing. Gardens, like relationships, take constant maintenance, including regular watering and exposure to sunlight. This is an important point because many of our romantic love narratives would have us believe that the goal is to FIND the already perfect relationship and go on to “live happily ever after” RATHER than a more realistic mindset (Literal GROWTH mindset!) in which we understand that, like a garden, a relationship is something that, if we invest in it and maintain it, will grow over time, with a little luck. 

Former Harvard Happiness Teacher, Tal Ben Shahar suggests that we focus on “cultivating” a healthy relationship (maybe he likes the gardening metaphor too) vs finding a “soulmate” or the perfect person or relationship. Additionally, with a garden metaphor, we MUST talk about the need for fertile soil. Soil represents the strong foundation of the relationship. The soil contains the nutrients/elements that support growth. In a relationship this might include shared vulnerability, strong communication, openness to change, patience, mutual respect and admiration, shared core values, and, of course, the ability to repair after a rupture. 

Speaking of ruptures, all gardeners must spend some time weeding and pruning, which refers to conflict management in this metaphor. Unprocessed conflict can lead to resentment which can overtake a garden like a vine growing out of control, strangling other plants or blocking access to water or light. “How do I know if my relationship is healthy?” is a question that many ask. The answer is quite complicated. 

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The good news is that there are thousands of books and videos on relationships based on some very good research- why not check them out for yourself? In the meantime, apply the garden metaphor to your relationships and it just may shine some light on your inquiries and help you and your partner(s) to grow together.

Donnovan Somera Yisrael, ‘89, Well-Being at Stanford

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Resources to help you maintain your relationships

Tree Graphic


Prioritize your self-care, lean on your support, and use all resources available to you!

In the Spotlight

Leslie Abrams, Nurse Practitioner, Vaden Health Services

Check out the frequently asked questions among Stanford students regarding their sexual health.

  • How often should I be tested for sexually transmitted infections?
    • Frequency of testing depends on your anatomy and your activity. First of all, if you have any symptoms you are concerned about such as burning with urination, a change/increase of vaginal discharge or penile discharge, or an uncomfortable genital rash, please schedule an appointment for evaluation. If you are curious about routine screening (i.e. you have no symptoms), the CDC website is a great place to start to learn about the most recent recommendations:

  • My partner(s) tested positive for something and told me I should get tested for STIs. What tests do I need?
    • While it’s a great idea to get tested, treatment is the most important. Find out what infection your partner was treated for so we can test and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

  • Why isn’t a blood test for herpes included when I ask to be tested for everything?
    • Testing people without symptoms is not recommended. Herpes is much more common than most people realize, and sometimes people don’t even have symptoms. Based on its low specificity, the lack of widely available confirmatory testing, and its high false-positive rate, the CDC does not recommend genital herpes testing for people without symptoms. 

  • When should I test for herpes?
    • Herpes testing is generally only recommended for people who have herpes symptoms. Testing may also be considered if you have a partner with herpes. Please visit the CDC website or schedule an appointment if you have any questions. 

  • What if I missed a dose or was late with taking birth control pills?
    • You’re not alone. We get this question all the time. Here’s a “Stay on Schedule (SOS)” handy guide from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada:

  • What birth control method is right for me?
    • There’s no such thing as the right method for everyone - all methods of contraception have benefits and disadvantages. Do you want long-term or short-term protection? Protection from sexually transmitted infections? Do you want to reduce your periods? Are you willing to use a method that contains hormones?

      • Take this quiz on Planned Parenthood’s website to learn more, or read about different options on Bedsider’s website.
      • Once you narrow down the options, schedule an appointment at Vaden so we can support you with your final decision. 


  • Will my birth control pills make me gain weight?
    • The short answer is NO. There’s been a lot of research on birth control side effects, and studies show that the pill, the patch, the ring, and the IUDs have little effect, if any, on weight. Estrogen containing birth control may cause fluid retention but this usually has just a small effect on body weight and is temporary. 

  • Will I be able to get pregnant when I stop my birth control?
    • The short answer is YES. You will likely return to your natural fertility immediately after you stop the pill, patch, ring, IUDs, and arm implant. The Depo Provera injection may delay your return to your natural fertility. Everyone is different, but it may take up to a year for periods and fertility to return to normal after stopping the Depo Provera shot – this however, should not be relied upon to prevent pregnancy.   

Resources to help you take charge of your sexual health

Trans flag. Credit: Monica Helms

Official Trans Guide

Navigating college, changes, and the pandemic while trans and non-binary can be difficult, lonely, and isolating. It’s important to prioritize your self-care, lean on your support, and use all resources available to you! 

One such resource is the newly digitized Official Trans Guide. This is an official digital guide to resources and information pertaining to trans, non-binary, and gender questioning students at Stanford. This resource guide is a constantly evolving collaborative effort between members of the Stanford trans community, staff, and the many offices, services, programs and organizations at Stanford committed to supporting them. Now, you can view the guide and also add comments to the guide if you have any edits or new information! (Instructions on how to do so can be found in the guide).


Additional student support resources at Stanford
Mental Health Resources at Stanford
• Trees Together, Transition Together
• ​​​​​​​Loneliness and Connection


Tip graphic. Credit: Allison Piwowarski

Giving and getting the pleasure you want

Consent is about more than checking off a “yes” or “no.” Consent is about co-creating a pleasurable experience between you and another person, or other people. This involves paying close attention to what feels good to you and another person, and communicating about it! By doing this, we honor our own and others’ sexual citizenship: each of our right to our yes’s and no’s.

Check out Sexual Citizenship at Stanford to learn about 5 ways you can develop your sexual citizenship.

This fun, enlightening TED talk shows how we can think about sex like making pizza – full of options and pleasure! If you’re making pizza with another person, communication is essential to know what you and another person likes and doesn’t like. The same goes for sex or other intimate interactions. What feels good to both of you? What doesn’t feel good to each of you? Setting boundaries and saying “no” takes practice.

Check out the following resources to help navigate your own and others’ boundaries:
• Reflect on your personal boundaries in this Knowing your Yes’s & No’s activity
• Learn about the basics of consent, relationship-oriented consent, and community-oriented consent in the Building a Culture of Consent video series,