Health Minds Healthy College

Campus Well-Being

Mind it!

Shorter Days Bringing You Down?

November 17, 2020

This time of year, the shortened days and chilly temperatures can take a toll on our mental health. Even in a usual November, less daylight, more time spent indoors, and less physical activity can lead to a case of the winter blues. This year, as many of us are studying and working from home with less reason to leave our home, those winter blues can really drag us down.

Yes, it’s not technically winter yet, but here in Manitoba, we feel it already. Many people report having less energy, experiencing lower mood, and having more intense food cravings.

There are things we can do, however, to help promote good mental health. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get outside during daylight hours. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, the light and air will help.
  • Exercise regularly. Whether indoors or outdoors, regular exercise boosts your mood and energy levels. Movement of any kind helps. Try our livestreamed Friday lunchtime yoga class.
  • Connect with friends virtually. Make a point of spending time with people with whom you can chat and laugh.
  • Develop good sleep habits. Whenever possible, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Leave smartphones and tablets in another room.
  • Eat a balanced diet. We tend to crave carbs more in the winter, so make sure you’re still eating some veggies and fruit daily.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sometimes, the seasonal change can trigger the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a treatable mental health condition. SAD is a type of Clinical Depression that is related to changes in the seasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD symptoms that are specific to winter depression are:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

If you’re feeling low for days at a time, have thoughts of suicide, or are using alcohol/drugs to cope, see your doctor or access RRC supports for students or staff.

Getting Better

Treatments for SAD can include medication, talk therapy, and light therapy. Light therapy involves sitting near a special lamp so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.

Borrow a Light Therapy Lamp from Library Services

Interested in trying light therapy? SAD Lamps are availaible on loan from Library Services. Simply complete the booking request to arrange the loan.

If you’re feeling the winter blues, whether it’s SAD or not, please reach out to someone and talk about it.

Anti-Racism: A Dialogue about Transforming Higher Education

November 10, 2020

An interview with Priyanji Mediwake, RRC’s Diversity and Inclusion Specialist

B.S. Hi Priyanji! I understand that RRC students and staff are invited to an upcoming virtual event that tackles the topic of racism in higher education. First, can you tell us more about your role at the College?

P.M. I am the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the College. I am part of the Human Resources Services team supporting and overseeing work relating to the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) portfolios. My focus is on building an accessible, safe, welcoming and inclusive campus environment for our students and staff. It has been my privilege to work alongside Red River College’s Anti-Racism Steering Committee to organize this event.

B.S. In what way is racism related to wellbeing?

P.M. Here in Canada we know that racism still exists within our communities. Racism can occur on a structural/institutional level (education, government, etc.), at the individual level, or through the process of macro- and micro-aggressions. Experiencing or internalizing racism can have significant impacts on one’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Feeling a sense of belonging, whether that may be at work, school, or in the general community, contributes to good mental health. Experiencing racism really prevents that positive sense of belonging. Further, research has shown us that experiencing racism negatively affects mental health and leads to increased risk factors for dying by suicide or developing depression, anxiety, problems with substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, when people experience stressful situations such as discrimination, their body moves into a state of fight or flight. When this system is frequently engaged, it causes inflammation that can lead to chronic, long-term health problems.

Racism also fuels intergenerational trauma, leads to harmful internalized beliefs, and contributes to feelings of helplessness or avoidance behaviors.

B.S. What can an RRC student or staff do if they’re experiencing racism?

P.M. If you or someone you know is struggling with issues related to racism, please reach out to us. If your mental health is being negatively affected by this, there is a suite of supports available within the College for students and staff, including Counselling Services, Mental Health Supports, and Elders in Residence.

If you are seeking BIPOC-specific mental health resources within Winnipeg, please refer to the BIPOC Mental Health Workers Resource List. 

B.S. What do you want staff and students to know about the upcoming event?

P.M. Our upcoming virtual panel discussion, Anti-Racism: A Dialogue about Transforming Higher Education, takes place Wednesday, November 18 at noon on WebEx.

The discussion will unpack the ways in which racism and discrimination present themselves in our society. Panelists will discuss how each of us can be a stronger ally and anti-racist on and off campus. We will delve into ways to safely talk about race and discrimination, and explore how post-secondary institutions can transform themselves into more inclusive spaces for staff and students.

This panel is presented in partnership with the RRC Students Association. Ginger Arnold, an Instructor in Social Innovation and Community Development, will moderate the discussion.

Please join us in starting this important dialogue at the College!

B.S. How can people participate in the event?            

P.M. You can visit the link below to learn more and register! Once you register, you will be sent a WebEx link to join us on November 18 from 12 noon to 1 pm for this panel discussion.

B.S. Thank you Priyanji. I hope many students and staff will tune in for this important event. 

Friday Lunchtime Yoga is Back!

October 13, 2020

Holly Pluchinski, owner of Kayfabe Yoga, is back to teach a weekly 30 minute yoga class exclusively for RRC staff and students.

Yoga is a fantastic way to connect mind, body, and spirit while giving yourself the mindful movement you crave. As we all do what we can to cope with change and uncertainty, a regular yoga practice can take the edge off all of that stress.

Book the time in your calendar and do something good for yourself.

Date: Fridays, beginning Oct. 16
Time: Noon – 12:30pm
Location: WebEx, register here for the December 18 session

Participants will be able to see Holly demonstrate, however participants themselves will not be visible to others. The class is suitable for all ability levels.

You don’t need fancy equipment, or the perfect setting — just the desire to tune in and move.

Questions can be directed to Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator.

Mental Illness Awareness Week: A time for understanding

October 6, 2020

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. At any given time, 1 in 5 Canadians are experiencing a mental illness, yet the topic is often surrounded by silence and shame.

The rapid change and stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more strain on people, making this the ideal time to talk about mental illness openly and respond to everyone with compassion. There are many ways that you can observe Mental Illness Awareness Week; below are a few suggestions.

Faces of Mental Illness Campaign

The Faces of Mental Illness is a national outreach campaign featuring the stories of Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Each year several Faces of Mental Illness are highlighted.  Check out these lived experience stories to expand your own understanding.

Movies for Mental Health Event

Register for our first virtual Movies for Mental Health event, which takes place the afternoon of Wednesday, October 21. This free virtual workshop uses the power of film to unite folks in community, connection, and conversation.

Learn About Supports Available to RRC Staff and Students

Exploring available mental health services prepares you to take those important first steps when you need to seek help. It also prepares you to support others, directing them to supports when they are in need.

The Wellness microsite contains information on supports for students, supports for staff, crisis resources, and supports for all. Spend a bit of time exploring these.

A Confidential Consultation

If you feel overwhelmed by the many options, book a confidential consultation with Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky, who can help you select a place to begin.

Mental illness is a reality for many, including our coworkers, students, family members, friends and ourselves. Having solid knowledge about the realities of mental illness as well as resources for healing can help us all feel more understood and supported. So, this Mental Illness Awareness Week, take some time to enhance your own understanding.

Movies for Mental Health: Join Us Virtually

September 22, 2020

On October 21 RRC is hosting Movies for Mental Health, a virtual workshop that uses the power of film to unite folks in community, connection, and conversation. This FREE event is delivered by a non-profit called Art With Impact and will be hosted online.

The interactive, online experience will feature an anonymous, chat-based discussion on mental health, the stigma that frequently surrounds mental illness, and media portrayals of mental health issues.

Following this will be a live screening of three award-winning short films and therapeutic activities to consciously connect minds and bodies.

The event will culminate in a panel of lived-experience speakers and mental health resources, empowering us to share our own stories and access support available to us in these uncertain times.

Last year, students who attended found the workshop helped increase awareness of mental health, reduce stigma, and improve knowledge about where to go for help.

The Details

Date: Wednesday, October 21

Time: 1-3 pm

Location: Online! Register here.

For any questions or accessibility needs, please contact Amy.

This event is sponsored by the Healthy Minds Healthy College Initiative and RRC Students’ Association. All students and staff are welcome.

Want to Share Your Story?

We’re looking for a student participate the panel discussion. By volunteering your time and expertise, you play a crucial role in creating an event that will reduce the stigma around mental illness and encourage others to seek the help they need.

Being a Student Panelist

As a student panelist, your role is to share a real, lived-experience story to show the power that live storytelling can have in reducing mental health stigmas. Your generosity in talking about your experiences – the good parts and the bad – will actively help your peers to overcome their own inhibitions that might prevent them from getting help. You are living, breathing proof that recovery and healing are possible and that mental wellness is real and attainable!

As you begin to put together your five-minute story, we invite you to reflect on what your main message is – what you’d like the audience to take away from your story. That can help guide you as you decide what you’d like to share. It can also be helpful to decide what pieces of your story, if any, you’d prefer not to share. You are in charge of what you share, and there is no pressure to go beyond what is comfortable for you.

If you’re interested in this opportunity, please contact Breanna today.

Volunteer Information Session Today

September 22, 2020

A Volunteer Advisory Group member helps with a planning session, prior to remote learning.

Don’t miss our Volunteer Information Session!

Learn about how you can assist our Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative by devoting ten volunteer hours.

All hours will be completed remotely, with plenty of training and support. Students will use and enhance a variety of skills in the roles of:

  • Ambassador
  • Advisory Group Member

The Volunteer Information Session will be held on Wednesday, September 23, from 12:00 – 12:40. Register here!

Can’t attend? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording.

The First Thrive Event of the Year: A Virtual Paint Night!

September 15, 2020

Create your own version of this painting on Sept. 24

Take a break from the grind and explore your creative side at our first THRIVE event of this academic year.

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 Autumn themed 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.

The Details

Date: Thursday, September 24

Time: 7-9pm

Platform: WebEx

Register here.

Need Supplies?

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 picked up at your campus between September 22 and 24. Brushes and unused paint must be returned to your campus by October 1.

We have a limited number of supply packs, so be sure to register early.

There’s ample evidence that taking time to express yourself through creativity in a social group improves mental health and overall well-being. Don’t miss this chance to make yourself a priority.

A portrait of Kisa MacIsaacMore on the Instructor

Kisa MacIsaac (she/her) is Métis, a mother, artist, educator, and a RRC graduate (ECE diploma 2005). She works in a non profit early learning and child care 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
IG: @powerofpainting204

How to Not Feel Helpless: Managing what we can and cannot control in times of crisis

June 2, 2020


Guest post by our friends at BEACON. 

When it feels like bad news is an everyday occurrence, it can be a difficult and challenging experience. For many, the stress and anxiety that come along with this may also be accompanied by the feeling that we’re losing control, that we’re powerless, and we lack the resilience to properly cope – extreme situations tend to bring about extreme reactions.

Even when the news seems bleak, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of perspective. There will always be things that we can and cannot control in life – it’s often a question of how much we worry and obsess over the things that we have little or no control over, that can cause the most anxiety.


There are ways, however, to manage these things, and maintain a healthy outlook.

Compare Your Troubling Thoughts with Reality

Be aware of thoughts that you’re having and the extent to which those thoughts correspond to reality – and to the reality of your family and your immediate circle. If you have thoughts about people getting sick or about the news being more than you can handle, counter that by remembering that there’s a good chance that no one you know has COVID-19.

And if you do know someone who does have it, remind yourself that you can’t control the outcome. Practice realistic thinking limited to people you know personally, rather than about people from other cities who we don’t know.

Focus Your Attention Elsewhere

Find activities and things to do that are enjoyable, and that won’t bring your attention back to thinking about stressful events such as the coronavirus pandemic. It seems like when people talk, they often spend the whole time doing so about their anxiety and discussing worst-case scenarios. Make a point of having conversations about other topics, and consider designating talking about coronavirus as “off-limits” for a while.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself with News

Try to limit the news that you consume, both in terms of the amount of time spent and from certain sources. You’re unlikely to miss anything important, so there’s no need to spend an excessive amount of time reading articles that all say the same thing.

Make sure that the sources you’re reading from are scientifically-based and reliable – that kind of news is likely to not change very quickly.

• • •

It’s never easy to deal with bad news and trying times, but it’s also important to know that there are always things you can do to limit the stress and worry you may feel. But remember that freaking out or panicking doesn’t help the situation; calm thinking will actually help with better decision making.  It can be easy to get swept up into a state of panic but at the end of the day, we’re better equipped to make good decisions if we remain calm.

A Final #COVIDkindness Story

May 26, 2020

As the academic year winds down for most programs, we share our final #COVIDkindness story. Those who participated will be contacted soon regarding the promised prizes. Despite the campaign coming to a close, we encourage you to continue practicing kindness in whatever ways you can. After all, it’s kindness, innovation, and teamwork that will get us through this.

Remember, paying attention to the kind acts you see around you and practicing kindness yourself will help strengthen your wellbeing and resilience. So keep making kindness and gratitude a priority.

From Manvir Kaur, BAM student, Portage La Prairie Campus

“Since this #COVIDkindness movement started, I searched a lot and looked everywhere to notice something that could I send as #COVIDkindness, but unluckily when we search something it’s never found on time. Just like whenever we are in a rush and looking for a hair brush and it is somewhere at home, but you can’t find it on time. Eventually, I received an email, that was from our college and it says, ‘you don’t need to pay for the laptop that you borrowed from the college and the money from you student loan account is 0’. Finally, I got something great for this #COVIDkindness. I was so happy and want to thank College management for this act.”

If you’re interested in developing a daily gratitude practice as a coping tool, check out the Three Good Things exercise outlined by the Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkley. This is a powerful and evidence based strategy for cultivating good mental health. Whether you work on a formal practice or not, remember to notice the kindness around you.


How I Completed My Diploma During a Pandemic: One student’s story

May 8, 2020

Guest post by RRC student, Stuart Maddocks

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the hardest experiences I have faced as a student. It disrupted my routine of having to leave my home to sit in a classroom with my friends and classmates. Additionally, being at home made me more distracted than I would be in the classroom. To overcome these challenges, I had a few strategies to help me get through the rest of my program. Here are some highlights of the methods I used to complete my final year as a Red River College Library and Information Technology student.

RRC Student, Stuart Maddocks

Work on Mental Fitness

For my first strategy, I used the Headspace meditation app. This application is a subscription-based service that provides meditation and yoga exercises for overcoming negative feelings. Exercises on Headspace range from simple guided meditations to “Everyday Exercises” with a different theme each day. As a student, I love Headspace’s student support section which covers topics from presentation stress to job interview anxiety. These exercises helped me get a good night’s sleep after a stressful day of online learning.

Current and future students can visit Headspace at: or download the Headspace app on Apple Store or Google Play.

Get Moving

In addition to Headspace, I exercised at least 30 minutes each day. I would go for walks around my neighbourhood and through parks. It helped me get some fresh air after an intense study session. Walking outside provided me a change in scenery away from my usual surroundings at home. These daily exercises also helped me stretched my legs after sitting at my desk for a few hours. Lastly, walking helped me be more active with the gym being unavailable during the pandemic.

Reward Yourself

As a Red River College Alumnus, I cannot stress enough the importance of awarding yourself. In my case, I would watch movies after I complete assignments. Additionally, watching movies allowed me to escape my day to day life from the stresses of the pandemic and college life. I usually watch escapist movies from the Star Wars or James Bond franchises. The locations and settings transported me to another world for a much-needed distraction.

I hope these strategies will be useful for you when you are studying or starting your careers.

If you are an RRC student, staff or alumnus who would like to write a guest post, please contact Breanna Sawatzky.


RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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