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Campus Well-Being


Mindful Ways Through the Holidays

December 21, 2016

th01di7dl5With the holiday season upon us, there are some common stressors that many people face.

Jennifer Wolkin, over at lists these as experiences through which many people struggle:

1.Demands on Time

2. Loneliness During the Holidays

3. Expectations of Perfection

4.The Indulge/Guilt Cycle

5. Stress and Family Anxiety

She provides some thoughts on these as well as “mindful antidotes.” Mindfulness is simply the process of training the brain to be aware of the present moment. I encourage you to take a read through the full article: 5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress. 

Best wishes for a peaceful and healthy holiday season!


‘Tis the Season for Stress

December 5, 2016

holiday-season-2014As if the holiday season is not stressful enough in and of itself, many students will also be writing exams and completing major assignments in the coming weeks.  What makes these events so stressful? Well, I’ve heard stress described as your body’s reaction to any demand on it requiring change. This definition resonates with me because it can be applied to both positive life events (eg. new job, loved ones visiting from out of town) and negative life events (eg. losing a pet, unexpected bills).

The holiday season brings a lot of changes to our routine. We usually have more events to attend. We spend time with people who we don’t often see. Some people cook elaborate meals, decorate their homes, or purchase numerous gifts for friends and family. Even if you’re someone who loves these types of traditions, finding the time, money, and energy to participate can cause a great deal of stress.

stressAdd to this that many students have multiple exams and final projects due this month, and you have a recipe for difficulties. Even when stress is caused by positive changes, too much at once, or ineffective coping can lead to decreased ability to function and even burnout.

So how can you help yourself thrive throughout this time of year?


The AAAbc Model

A few years back I was introduced to the AAAbc model of managing stress. The timing could not have been better as I was 1. selling and buying a home, 2. starting a new position at work, and 3. seven months pregnant! I really found this model helpful in coping through that stressful time and I’d like to share it with you.

First, you define your stressor. Choose just one and write it at the top of a page. It might be:

  • Too many presents to buy and not enough money!
  • So many exams!
  • Seeing (insert name of critical family member here) at holiday dinners.

Next set up your page like the photo example below:.aaabc1

Alter: How could direct communication help? Is there any problem solving work you could do? Would organizing help? How about planning or time management?

Think about each of these questions and jot down some of your options in this situation. Write all your options down, even if you don’t think it’s a great option or something you’d be comfortable doing. This is just a brainstorm. You’ll decide what options are best when you’re done all of your brainstorming.

Avoid: Could you just walk away? What could you let go of? What could you delegate and to whom? What can you say “no” to? Choosing your battles and knowing your limits, could you withdraw?

Once again, jot down all your options, even if you don’t think they’re great options.

Accept and…

Build resistance: Could you take in better nutrition? Better sleep? Seek social support? Take a break to recharge? Pray or engage in other spiritual traditions/rituals? Would some time in nature help? Some exercise? Some time doing something you love to do?  Could you use positive self-talk? Are there unhealthy habits you I could stop?

Change perspective: Could you look at the situation in a different way? Are you exaggerating anything? Could you change your thinking to something more realistic? Could you think about the big picture? Could you focus on now and not the future?

Jot down the options that come to mind.



Now look over all the options you’ve come up with and decide on a strategy to try out. If you have trouble deciding, bring your sheet to a trusted friend or a counsellor. They’ll likely be able to listen and help you choose a path forward. In my example below, I’ve placed a check mark beside and underlined in read the options I have decided choose.


Each stressful situation is different and each of us has a different personality and life circumstance, so there is no one right way to handle stress. Working through a system like this, however, can help us feel less overwhelmed by our stressors and more capable of coping in a healthy way.

I hope you try it out this season!


P.S. The AAAbc’s of Stress model was designed by Whole Person Associates.


Beating stress

December 8, 2014


Lauren MacLean is president of the Red River College Students’ Association. She is completing her second year of Business Administration with an accounting major. After receiving her RRC diploma she plans to continue her studies towards a Commerce degree. 

School is enough to stress anyone out, particularly at a fast-paced applied institution like Red River College.

In my program, Business Administration, we take six classes at a time. So when I decided to run to be the VP External of the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA) in February of my first year, it wasn’t an easy decision. I knew things were going to be intense and I wasn’t sure if I could do it, so I turned to my personal supports for advice.

I asked my parents, grandparents, sister, teachers, the VP External at the time and my friends what they thought. I received contrasting advice at times, everything from that they thought I would be fabulous at the job to others saying it was too much for me and that I would likely quit early.

In the end, I decided to go for it. After receiving the great news that I was voted in, I extended my program and delayed my graduation by one year so I could work with the RRCSA. I was so nervous and scared that going into my first term I was half-expecting my marks to tank and to have to resign. I figured I would be overwhelmed with responsibilities that I would collapse into a teary mess.

Then, on May 1, 2013 when it actually came time for me to step into the role, I was soaring! Each day got better and better as I launched projects with my team and flew around the country representing the RRCSA at conferences. It was like a light came on and I immediately understood what it meant to be driven, want to give back and thrive under pressure.

Then school hit, and man the pressure on! I went from having time to work on things, to having lightning-fast deadlines. Right before winter break hit was the most difficult time as I was attempting to tie up what felt like hundreds of loose ends before everyone left. December was the worst month I’d had in a long time.

But the funny thing is, I never once considered quitting. It’s like that option didn’t exist. I simply didn’t want or need an exit, no matter how hard things got. Through the all-nighters, massive projects and tight deadlines, I was still having fun! My support network was growing and soon my stress level became more manageable, which gave me the confidence to continue on.

This experience is what gave me the strength to run for President this year. Believe me, this position is a whole other beast, but every day I’m reminded of how many amazing people work and go to school at RRC. There’s simply no challenge I wouldn’t take on for these people, especially because I know I’m not in this alone. When the going gets tough, I’m not afraid or ashamed to turn to my support network to help get me through.

Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

September 9, 2014

young man pulling funny face on white background

Trying to find balance as a student can feel impossible. There are so many demands academically and personally that we often feel that we can’t keep up. Between class, homework and work, who has time for anything else?

Well, chances are if you schedule 20-30 minutes a few times a week to talk with a friend, get yourself organized or engage in some positive talk, it could do a world of good. Even if you don’t think you can fit it in, doing so could mean that you start to feel less stressed.

Set boundaries

It’s OK to say “No”. Take inventory of the commitments you have going on. Is there anything you can take a break from while you’re a student? Can you negotiate household responsibilities with other family members when you’re particularly busy? How about letting your friends know that there will be times coming up that you will be less available?

Setting boundaries can be difficult for some people, but it’s perfectly OK to do. It will help take some of the pressure off your shoulders so you can focus on doing your best in school.

Talk to someone

Don’t let feelings of fear, anxiety or depression keep you silent – reach out and talk to someone. Phone a friend, talk to a classmate, meet with a counsellor — whatever you need to do to get things off your chest. Whether its to vent frustration, identify solutions, get perspective and feel connected, talking can be a means to all of these things.

Get organized

In whatever way works for you, get organized. It will take some time right off the hop, but it’s well worth it. With all your different classes and projects, your life is only going to get busier and more complicated as the semester goes on. Having some sort of system will help you feel more in control.

Practice positive self-talk

Are you having helpful conversations in your head or unhelpful ones? Negative thinking will likely increase your stress and anxiety. Try your best to change your negative thoughts into positive ones. For example:

Negative thoughts

  • “I can’t do this, I’m going to fail.”
  • “I’m never going to get everything done.”
  • “What’s wrong with me, everyone else seems to get it.”

Positive thought

  •  “All I can do is try my best.”
  •  “Just one thing at a time.”
  • “It feels like I’m the only one struggling,
 but I’m sure I’m not alone.”

Ask for help

If school is the source of your stress, you may want to connect with Tutoring Services. A few sessions with a tutor working on challenging course material might help you get to where you need to be.

If personal issues are starting to interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may want to connect with Counselling and Accessibility Services. You can meet with a counsellor for a one-time appointment or on-going support.

Do you have any tips for minimizing stress during school? Share them below!