This is a guest post from Rong (Angela) Ge, a current student at the Language Training Center, she is currently completing her practicum with the Campus Well-Being Unit at RRC Polytech. Angela graduated from Nanjing University with major in Psychology. She worked in an education service centre for the past three years and has helped hundreds of international students settle down in Winnipeg. For now, Angela is moving forward to study in the Health Care field and is focusing on the individual mental wellness in the community.
How Do we improve our mental wellness as International Student?
Studying abroad is a challenge for each and every international student. If you are an international student, do you have a moment like this? Not feeling well but can not tell your parents thousands of miles away, or feeling so lonely and overwhelmed at night?
The main cause of mental health barriers among the international students is that they are taking too much pressure. Therefore, it requires special attention on their mental wellness.
Generally, most of the parents have high expectations. They hope their children can adapt quickly to a non-native language environment and achieve excellent scores. In fact, the students need more time to get used to the new environment, since they just arrived in a different country, meeting different people, having a different life style. However, when the international students are unable to achieve the desired goals, they are considered not working hard enough.
Most international students, therefore, depend on their family savings to fund the tuition and living expenses. Compared with the local students, their tuition fees are much higher, and they need to live on a budget to keep life balanced.
Emotional and social stress
This barrier is particularly acute among international students. Initially, their parents who used to take care of them are far away, and the old friends who used to listen to them are not around. Lacking friends and social activities make international students feel even more lonely.
What can we do?
In this special period, all of us are gripping for a way out, but we should pay more attention to the international students, especially their psychological construction. Every international student is brave and excellent. It is worth praising that they can go abroad to live and study alone. However, since there are some misapprehensive voices in the society, many international students are afraid to seek help when they encounter psychological issues, for fear of being looked down upon.
Hopefully, every international student can be safe and healthy.
Here are some tips for improving mental wellness.
Develop a good habit
Good Habits are essential to our health. They can make the chances of achieving and maintaining our lifestyle goals such as exercising regularly and managing learning time, along with increasing quality of life.
Take a break when we are facing with a tough situation. Take the time to think things through, make a plan, wait patiently before acting.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is an essential function that allows our body and mind to recharge. Healthy sleep helps us reduce stress and improve our mood, think more clearly and do better in school, and get along better with people.
Go outside and in the sun
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping us feel calm and focused.
Live in the moment
Abraham Maslow once said, “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” Only in the present can help us achieve true happiness, peace, and joy.
Seek help in the community
By the time reading this blog, there is no doubt that you are a member of this community. To support students and staff to stay well in spirit and mind, RRC Polytech is committed to providing excellent counselling service and support.
Andrea Schroder, from the Creative Dream Incubator, will lead participants through a 60-minute in-person workshop. Join Andrea to relax, get in touch with yourself, and explore the concept of self-care.
We recognize that the last two years have been hard, and the last thing we need right now is to be hard on ourselves. Therefore, this workshop will focus on JOY as a remedy for stress and look for simple and joyful ways to increase self-care.
The workshop is an experiential workshop where you will be guided through different types of meditation and visualization to relax your body and mind deeply. We will go back and forth between meditation and journaling to process your thoughts and feelings and develop new ideas for simple ways to reduce stress and increase joy in your life.
Bring a journal/notebook and something to write with.
Andrea is a life coach, spiritual counselor, artist and avid journaler. She has a degree in fashion design and is an accredited spiritual teacher. Andrea created the Creative Dream Incubator in 2011. Andrea has over 25 years’ experience teaching and studying the intersection of creativity and spirituality.
You can find more information about Andrea on her website here
While war and strife are not new or rare occurrences, Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has evoked a great deal of concern in our community. Perhaps due to Manitoba’s deep connection to Ukrainian culture or the blatant disparity in power between these nations, many are feeling distressed, angry or generally troubled. This is understandable, given the situation. So, how do we take care of ourselves and our communities during such tragic times, when violence and war are so clearly on our minds? Here are some ideas:
Be a good friend. It would be good to check in with your friends, classmates, and coworkers who have connections to Ukraine. Let them know that you’re thinking of them. Offer practical support and help. Let them know you stand in solidarity and speak out against the invasion.
Take media breaks. Sometimes, in our efforts to remain informed, we become glued to news, radio, and social media updates. While it’s important to know what’s going on, taking breaks from media is key to maintaining our well-being. Select certain times of the day when you will be media free. If images of war keep you up at night, get your news from radio to reduce that impact.
Practice self-care. When times are hard it’s even more important to practice good habits like getting enough sleep, eating balanced meals regularly, and being active. Find a bit of time to do something to nurture yourself. It can be as simple as chatting with a friend, sipping a cup of tea, or playing your favorite game. Self-care may feel selfish when horrible things are happening, but we need to care for ourselves so that we can maintain our strength, stay well, and support others.
Act in solidarity. When things happen that remind us of the bad or negative in the world, we can act in ways that support peace and good. Attending a rally or gathering of others can be helpful. Donating money or time to organizations assisting people impacted can help ease the suffering of those individuals, while also increasing our own feelings of well-being. Consider attending the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ rally at the Manitoba Legislature on Sunday, March 6. Or, you may wish to contribute to a registered charity that is assisting affected people.
Limit ruminating thoughts. If you find thoughts about the war are keeping you from sleeping or concentrating on other tasks, take a few moments to write your thoughts down and then put the piece of paper away. Alternatively, you could imagine the thoughts being placed inside a balloon and floating away. Limiting your ruminating thoughts doesn’t mean you don’t care, it simply means you’re protecting your own mental state and are saving your energy for other ways to show you care.
Reach out for help. Tragedies and uncertain times affect us all differently, depending on our personal circumstances, relation to the tragedy, and our coping skills at the moment. If you could use some support in coping, reach out.
Gender and sexual identity play a significant role in mental wellness across the globe. International Women’s Day (IWD) brings awareness and challenges the stereotypical discourses surrounding gender identity. The goal of IWD 2022 is to promote access to affordable mental health programming, adequate medical services, and create a world that is free from gender discrimination.
Explicitly and implicitly, gender bias influences behavior and attitudes, leading to discrimination that reinforces the experience of inequity and oppression against women. Since the mind and body are connected, to be well we not only have to take care of ourselves, but also critically analyze the systems we interact with. On IWD we can discuss and deconstruct the stereotypes that affect women’s experiences and work to find ways to honor our wellness while challenging the status quo. This might include assessing your boundaries, practicing self-care without guilt, asking for what you need, rejecting diet culture, and identifying the values that ground you.
Below is a list of FREE virtual events, organized by individuals across the world in celebration of International Women’s Day
MindWell has some incredible trainings and programs coming up for you this month:
Mindful Cooking: Healthy Meals Made Simple – Part 4
Performance Management from the Inside Out: Mental Health for Leaders
Building Fitness Habits
Improve Your Sleep
These programs are included as part of your MindWell account. All MindWell Events and Workshops are FREE of Charge for students, faculty and staff at RRC Polytech. Be sure to spread the word to your classmates and colleagues about these events, and make a plan to attend together! Working on our wellness can be a group activity!
Mindful Cooking Thursdays at 1pm ET / 10am PT | Begins Thursday, March 3rd
In Mindful Cooking Part 4, Chef Kristin will show you how to take the stress out of health eating through easy-to-prepare recipes that will keep you full and fueled throughout the day.
Performance Management from the Inside Out: Mental Health for Leaders Wednesday, March 9th, 2022 | 1pm ET / 10amPT
We continue to face new challenges and stressors inside and outside of the workplace as the pandemic continues. As leaders, supporting our own mental health is critical for clear decision-making, effective communication, achieving goals and supporting the success of our teams.
Studio Be Build Fitness Habits- Every Monday in March
Lasting habits begin small.
This March, join Lucia’s fitness class every Monday to build the foundation of movement with a focus on the core and explore how a small but consistent commitment to showing up can shift your mindset around lifelong exercise.
In January, we asked staff, students, and faculty to share the art they created at our January Paint Night- Below are the wonderful creations!
Art can be used to decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels in our brain and releases endorphins that help us manage the experiences of anxiety. Creating art is a fantastic stress reliever! Paint night can mean taking care of yourself in a different way than what we usually do for ourselves. Keep an eye open in the staff news/student news for our next paint night updates.
Painting is just one way that creativity can promote stress management, but if painting is not for you that’s okay! We curated a list of accessible and beginner friendly crafts, take a look at the list below.
With a Cold and Dreary winter, we may be searching for hobbies or ways to help promote our own self-care. We will be holding another paint night for folks to join in and tune in to their creative side. Practicing art and embracing our creativity can help us to feel grounded, assist with managing stress, and an opportunity to focus on creating with our hands. Please join us for a free Paint Night to tune in to that part ourselves as we approach spring.
Kisa MacIsaac, RRC grad and owner of Power of Painting, will (virtually) lead you through an evening of self-care as you create your very own painting.
THRIVE events encourage balance and self-care that in turn supports good mental health. All THRIVE events are offered at no charge to participants and are open to staff, students, and faculty.
For this virtual paint night, you’re welcome to use your own supplies or sign up to borrow a supply pack. Supply packs will include the canvas, paint, and brushes and can be requested when you register. Brushes and unused paint must be returned to your campus so they can be reused.
We have a limited number of supply packs, so be sure to register early.
There is abundant evidence that taking time to express ourselves through creativity in a social group improves mental health and overall well-being. Don’t miss this chance to make yourself a priority.
More on the Instructor
Kisa MacIsaac (she/her) is Métis, a mother, artist, educator, and a RRC graduate (ECE diploma 2005). She works in a nonprofit early learning and
childcare program in Winnipeg’s inner city and leads wellness painting events as well as creating custom artworks. Making art is medicine –
it has the power reduce stress and anxiety, it is relaxing. Everyone can make art, it’s all about letting go of fear and just creating and going with the flow! Check out: Power of Painting – Workshops and Art by Kisa Facebook.com/powerofpainting IG: @powerofpainting204
The Campus Well-Being team is here to support your physical and mental health. Until we can welcome you to our facilities in person, we invite students and staff to join our live, virtual classes.
To join, simply register and show up ready to move. Your camera and microphone will be turned off, but you will be able to communicate with your instructor using the chat box. Our goal is to help you refresh and rejuvenate before you get back to your school or work day.
Full Body Strength and Conditioning with Evelyn Carriere
Mondays and Wednesdays 12:15-12:45pm
Body weight only, equipment is optional for additional challenge
Many of us feel the continued pressure that the global pandemic has brought into our lives. Many of us are still working and learning from home, which can feel not very reassuring for some. In contrast, others may feel comfortable with the continuation of virtual life. Many of us are also sitting in a place where we feel tired and unsure of what the future has to bring. The Campus Wellness Team curated resources that approach wellness through a holistic lens- meaning the body and mind are parts of ourselves that require care during challenging and difficult times. Prioritizing caring for our mind and body during grief helps us combat isolation. And It gives us the tools to be able to support our mental health.
Below you will find some resources to help maintain physical and mental wellness during a time of social distancing. For additional information, continue to check www.rrc.ca for updates.
Many fitness facilities and companies are live streaming classes or providing online content. Check your local yoga studio, gym or other fitness facility to see if they are hosting anything. Alternatively, check out one of the options below.
Stress and anxiety are normal reactions to abnormal situations. Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize self-care and finding activities that help us feel grounded. Reach out to the Campus Well-being Team if you have any questions about campus Mental Health and Fitness resources.
Bell Let’s Talk focuses on destigmatizing, building awareness, acceptance, and action in mental health. Of course, events will look slightly different this year, but continuing conversations about our mental health is more important than ever.
Hearing the stories others have to tell about their experiences overcoming and navigating mental health barriers helps us normalize and minimize the stigma or shame that we may feel concerning our own mental health.
Bell Let’s Talk Day represents a community coming together to learn about ourselves and the experiences of others and to create dialogue about what it means for us to support our mental health and wellness.
The Healthy Minds, Healthy College strategy focuses on ensuring that mental health resources in various capacities are accessible to the staff, students, and faculty at Red River College Polytechnic
For Bell Let’s Talk Day, we have compiled a list of self-led & facilitated activities to encourage participation in the mental health narrative by understanding and destigmatizing our experiences.
Please join us on January 26th from 12:00-1:00pm for a live facilitated workshop where we watch films curated by Student Life on Mental Health and discuss together ways to destigmatize and open up the conversation about mental health and wellness.
On January 26th drop by the Student Association Office at the NDC and receive a free Bell Let’s Talk Package including a toque, worksheets, and key fob. For questions about this please contact Pamela Villafranca
Contribute to the Virtual Photo Booth
Capture and share a photo of you wearing a digital Bell Let’s Talk toque and add a message about how you are taking care of your mental health. Access the virtual photo booth here.
Participate in Self-Led Activities
Download the Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit that has self led activities, such as Self Care Activity Challenge, Kindness Box, Chatterbox, and Mandala Art. Access the toolkit here
Jack.org Pre-Recoded Jack Talk (online)
Attend the Jack.Org event on Mental Health 101- a course designed to help and develop an understanding of mental health through storytelling, and hearing individuals lived experiences. Jack.org
Join the Social Media Campaign
On January 26, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, local or long distance call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, every Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.
Mental Health Film Viewing- Facilitated Live Event
When: January 26th
Join us on January 26th to spend time together and watch a few short films on the topic of mental health, isolation, and stigma. Together we will discuss the films and practice grounding activities. Films are curated by the Student Life team and are chosen to represent various parts of ones mental health. Support will be available to all participants during the event. Register Here
“Cookies with Kerri,” hosted by Kerri Korabelnikov, dean for the School of Education, Arts & Sciences, saw 50 students register for an online chocolate chip cookie baking lesson. While everyone got to enjoy a tasty treat at the end, the aim of the event went beyond baking.
“This wasn’t about just chocolate chip cookies, it was about connecting with people and creating a community,” says Korabelnikov. “It was very energizing; everyone was laughing and having a lot of fun.”
Students now living in Winnipeg but originally from around the world, including Korea, Mexico, and Colombia, collected ingredient kits in advance. On a blustery December evening, they joined together to participate step-by-step in a two-hour online session, hosted by Korabelnikov and supported by Michelle Johnson, manager of Student Integration and Employment Outreach at the LTC.
Students were also encouraged to involve their children in the cookie-making class, which made the experience even more special, says Korabelnikov.
The online baking activity was a family affair for LTC student Heidi Novelo Poot and her eight-year-old daughter, Maya.
“It was something different that you can enjoy with the kids and meet other people,” says Novelo Poot. “She (Maya) was so proud, and I think that was the best part. And those cookies were very good, and the recipe was easy.”
Another student, Gabriel Novelo (no relation to Novelo Poot), has been in Manitoba since moving from Mexico in August and is taking classes with the LTC. Activities like “Cookies with Kerri” are a good way to connect with people, Novelo says, something that is more challenging in the middle of a pandemic.
“I wanted to participate with students from other classes. As a newcomer, I need to be in touch with as many students as possible,” Novelo says. “As a newcomer, you need to integrate and take part in all of the activities.”
For Novelo, who operated a food truck in Mexico, the experience marked another first.
“It was fantastic because I used to cook in my food truck, but I never baked. This was the first time I had the chance to bake something,” says Novelo, adding the cookies “magically disappeared” quickly.
In addition to building a stronger sense of community, there are other positive mental health benefits to activities like baking, says Pamela Villafranca, Mental Health Coordinator at RRC Polytech.
“We want to introduce students to different self-care activities. We may not think of it this way, but cooking, baking and prepping food can be a form of self-care; it can be therapeutic for some folks, the process of working with your hands, mixing the ingredients, and getting to sample the final product can feel really good,” says Villafranca. “This workshop promoted connection and community building, and taking a break from your studies to learn a new skill.”
Villafranca shares some key wellness tips to stay connected and support your mental health:
Find ways to stay connected with your peers and your instructors – join group chats, use instructor office hours, turn on your video in class, and participate, such as asking questions in class
Recognize that we need a variety of forms of self-care, and we may need varying types of self-care at different times of our lives
Try something new! Baking cookies is one example of a self-care activity that helps you get creative, learn something new, and work with your hands
Learn about the services that you can access for support, including the Mental Health Coordinator and Student Support Services department
Above all, Villafranca notes: “We want the students to know that staff and faculty are here for them, and we want to support them.”