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Health Minds Healthy College

Healthy Minds Healthy College

Coping Skills

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.


The #COVIDkindness Grows

April 21, 2020

RRC students and staff are practicing #COVIDkindness and paying attention to the kind acts of others. As we do this, our resilience grows. The stories below inspire us all to keep kindness and gratitude a priority throughout these challenging times.

From James Turner, Creative Communications Instructor

From Wade Parke, Co-op Coordinator in Indigenous Student Support & Community Relations

“What does it mean to be part of a team? Like many of you, I miss working together in a communal space with my team. We miss the things that give us meaning. I miss watching and cheering on our Winnipeg Jets. As a Winnipegger, I felt part of that team. As individuals we all pursue our goals and missions in life to the best of our abilities, but what really brings us together is our teams and communities; the coming together to support each other to bring out our best.

Our teams over the last couple of weeks have had to adapt to a new way to work and live. Our families, our jobs, and our community have adjusted, to work together to be the best we can under this cloud of uncertainty. But, what keeps my spirit up and keeps me motivated is being able to connect with my team to work together, talk, laugh, and check in with one another. So as we move forward I want to encourage everyone to be a good teammate at work, at home, and in the community. There’s a saying in hockey called taking one for the team So let’s all take one for the team during this time of adjustment.”






From Paula Amaral, Hospitality and Tourism Instructor

“I want to give a big kindness shout-out to our tech support specialist at the School of Hospitality and Culinary Art: Danny Lam.

When I first started teaching online using WebEx, Danny made himself readily available as he attended my classes while I was teaching. The support Danny showed while being present in the classroom over several sessions was really appreciated and comforting. Not only did he answer my questions when I was unsure of some of the features in Webex and provide valuable information to me and the students, but he also made himself available via cell phone/texting/emailing if I still needed help after I became somewhat proficient with the program. All of this was very much appreciated and put me at ease knowing I could fall back on him if I didn’t know how to navigate my way around. Thank you so much, Danny!”

Join the Movement! Here’s how it works

Over the next few weeks:

  1. Pay attention to acts of kindness you witness (or perform yourself).
  2. Send a description and photo (where possible) to
  3. Post on your social media channels, using the hashtag #COVIDkindness and tag in RRC.

Each week, Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky will collate your acts of kindness and share them in a Wellness Blog post. All students and staff are invited to participate.

The Goal

This movement is meant to foster a supportive community environment along with gratitude, both of which promote good mental health.

Everyone who participates will be entered in a prize draw. Prizes are to be determined, based on availability, but will certainly lift spirits.


The #COVIDkindness Movement is Growing

April 7, 2020

As we adjust to the new reality of working and learning remotely, the RRC community has answered the call and joined the #COVIDkindness movement. Since one of the best ways to take care of ourselves is to be kind to others, we asked you to share your acts of kindness and the kind acts of others. Here’s some of what you’ve shared:

From Kylie Clark in Campus Living

“I really want to shout out the Culinary Arts & Hospitality team for putting together Emergency food packages (free) for Residents yesterday that requested help! So amazing!!!





From Sen Duong, Bachelor of Nursing student

“In the community group that I follow on Facebook I had noticed many people currently struggling with the current situation. With money, with food, with everything. I decided I was going to help. I talked to my sisters and asked if they wanted to put some of our money together and purchase groceries for 2 people in our community. It attracted a few of our friends and family members that wanted to help as well and they donated some money. It even attracted a random stranger in the group who sent me $100 to help! In total instead of just helping out two families we ended up helping 8 families!”



From Paula Amaral, Instructor in the Hospitality and Tourism Program

“The School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts organized and collected over 1068 lbs of perishable goods like onions, carrots, potatoes, etc., and assorted fruits. My colleagues, Graham Martin and Jean-Marc Blanc, personally delivered these goods to Winnipeg Harvest on behalf of the school.”




Join the Movement: Here’s how it works

Over the next few weeks:

  1. Pay attention to acts of kindness you witness (or perform yourself).
  2. Send a description and photo (where possible) to
  3. Post on your social media channels, using the hashtag #COVIDkindness and tag in RRC.

Each week, Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky will collate your acts of kindness and share them in a Wellness Blog post. All students and staff are invited to participate.

The Goal

This movement is meant to foster a supportive community environment along with gratitude, both of which promote good mental health.

Everyone who participates will be entered in a prize draw. Prizes are to be determined, based on availability, but will certainly lift spirits.

Coping with loss during COVID-19

April 3, 2020

The following is a guest post by RRC Counsellor Lindsay Storey-Iliffe, MSW. 

During this time of COVID-19, we’re all experiencing loss. As a student, you might be missing your daily routine, including activities like:

  • commuting to the college,
  • getting coffee with friends,
  • gathering in the Library to study,
  • having face-to-face interactions with instructors or classmates,
  • going to the gym, mall, or bar.

You might be processing the loss of plans and ideas related to school or career. If you live alone you might be missing your connection to other people or if you live with your family you might be missing your “alone” time. You might be experiencing many different losses.

What is grief?

Grief is our reaction to loss. It can affect the ways we behave, how we feel physically, how we feel emotionally and how we think. It is ever changing. In one moment, you might feel like you’re okay, you’re getting your work done, you feel like you can do this and then out of nowhere you feel angry and frustrated and like you can’t do this.

What helps?

Understand that grief is a natural response to loss. If your feelings, thoughts and behaviors are somewhat erratic and out of the ordinary right now, that makes sense. Recognize that you are probably already doing many things to cope and get through each day. There is no one thing that will help everyone, but here are a few things to think about.

Physical Strategies

Check in with your body. How is it doing? Taking care of your physical needs can help your whole system cope better. Schedule time (literally) each day to check in with your body and practice some kind of physical self-care. You might schedule 1 hour once per day or 15 minutes a few times per day. Do what works for you.

Choose activities or physical self-care that you like. This might include a walk around the block, taking a long bath, cooking or eating something healthy, cleaning or tidying your space, dancing, or practicing yoga or breathing exercises.

Emotional Strategies

Make lots of room for feelings! Whatever you are feeling, it is okay. If you can acknowledge your feelings with compassion, they will often settle. For example, “I’m feeling so anxious and that’s okay, there is a lot to feel anxious about” or “I’m feeling happy and that’s okay. I can feel happy and it doesn’t mean I’m ignoring or minimizing what is going on in the world”.

Finding ways to express your feelings can also help. That might mean talking to a friend, family member or counsellor or you might try journaling, painting or drawing. If your emotions are overwhelming you, try self-soothing or distracting exercises like, using a stress ball, spending time with your pet, aromatherapy, listening to music or trying a guided meditation.

Cognitive  Strategies

Check in with your thoughts many times per day. Your thoughts will influence how you are feeling and coping. If your thoughts are increasing your sadness, fear, worry, or anxiety, try to stop them. Try saying to yourself “this isn’t helping; I need to think about this differently” or “I need to think about something else”.

It’s hard to stop thoughts because we’re usually trying to make sense of something, figure it out or fix it. Some things that can help with shifting your thoughts include writing them down, responding to them with compassion, making a list of strengths, or keeping a gratitude journal. You could also watch a movie, play a game, listen to a guided visualization, read a book for pleasure or even sink yourself into some school work.


This is not an easy time and you are not alone. If you are struggling, please know that Red River College has supports ready to assist you. 

Join the #COVIDkindness Movement!

March 31, 2020

Daily life sure has changed rapidly. A global pandemic has forced us to alter how we work, study, and relate to one another. While there isn’t much we can do about this reality, we can take steps to help ourselves and others cope through the changes.

A fantastic way to minimize the impact of this virus on our community is to be kind to one another. That’s why we’re launching the #COVIDkindness campaign at RRC.

Even our Federal Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, is concerned about the toll that isolation and anxiety will take on the mental health of Canadians and is encouraging people to help themselves and others with kindness.

Here’s how it works

Over the next few weeks:

  1. Pay attention to acts of kindness you witness (or perform yourself).
  2. Send a description and photo (where possible) to
  3. Post on your social media channels, using the hashtag #COVIDkindness and tag in RRC.

Each week, Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky will collate your acts of kindness and share them in a Wellness Blog post. All students and staff are invited to participate.

The Goal

This movement is meant to foster a supportive community environment along with gratitude, both of which promote good mental health.

Everyone who participates will be entered in a prize draw. Prizes are to be determined, based on availability, but will certainly lift spirits.


What are some examples of #COVIDkindness?

  • A fellow student helps you figure out a new mode of technology.
  • A supervisor sets up a meeting at a time that works around your child care responsibilities.
  • An instructor is patient and understanding as you express frustration or worry.
  • A colleague shares funny memes or kindhearted humour to boost your spirits.

There are so many ways to be kind, so join the movement and share your acts of kindness.




Coping through this uncertainty

March 19, 2020

During this time of uncertainty it’s natural that our stress response will kick in. We are likely being bombarded with constant updates from the news, social media, our workplace, and our friends and family.

Our routines along with the expectations placed on us are changing quickly. We may also be in a state of waiting for answers or direction, which can be unsettling. With this heightened state of stress, it’s not surprising that our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours will be affected.

In addition, people who have experienced traumatic medical or other experiences in the past may have some of those feelings, memories, and fears come flooding back.

Here are some common ways that experiencing this stress can effect our body, mind, spirit and emotions.

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tearfulness
  • Frustration
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Desire to use drugs or alcohol
  • Hopelessness

Everyone is different and your response is neither right nor wrong, it’s simply your response. You may be experiencing something that is not listed above and that’s okay. What matters is that we are not helpless in the face of this stress; we can do our best to actively manage it.

Think about what you normally do to manage stress and reflect on how you can adapt that to the current circumstance. If you usually spend time with friends, can you chat on the phone or have a video call? If you usually go to the gym, can you walk or run outside? Or stream an online workout video?

Here are some immediate actions that can be helpful at this time.

Limit news and social media consumption. Stay informed, but be sure to take breaks from the feed and focus on information from reputable sources like the RRC newsletter and Manitoba Health. Is there someone in your feed who is triggering extra anxiety? Don’t be afraid to mute or unfollow them for now.

Remember the basics. Be sure to eat nutritious food, get fresh air, move your body, and get enough sleep. Without those basics, it’s hard to manage stress well.

Connect with others. Telephone, text, or video calls can be a great way to stay in touch. Instead of rehashing all the details, try to focus your conversations on how you are feeling, how you are coping, and mundane everyday matters.

Practice kindness. Everyone around us is likely experiencing heightened stress as well. Be kind, be patient, and leave space for people who are not at their best. We can get through this better if we work together.

Breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths that fill you belly can reverse the stress response and bring some clarity to your thoughts and actions. You can find a helpful video tutorial here.

Reach out for support. Sometimes, in order to be at our best we need to consult a mental health professional. There are several people ready to assist you. Read more here.

Wellness in the time of COVID-19

March 17, 2020

We are going through an unprecedented time at Red River College. Many of us have been asked to work or study from home, and aren’t participating in our usual activities. When our usual routine is disrupted, it can have an effect on both our physical and mental health.

Below you will find some resources to help maintain physical and mental wellness during a time of social distancing. Whenever possible, the following resources are free to either Red River College staff and students (look for the ^), or free for t0 general public (look for the *). For additional information, continue to check for updates.

Fitness and Physical Health Options

RRC Recreation Services ^

Fitness Apps

Several are free, but check to ensure before you download. Some examples include:

Fitness Bloggers

Follow your favourite fitness professional on social media, or check out a new community to share your progress.

Fitness Streaming

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.

  • Planet Fitness – Facebook
  • Host your own! Use a video chat or meeting service to join your friends in a virtual group workout.

Subscription Services

Please note that these options may involve fees.

Mental Health and Wellness Options

Mindfulness & Meditation


  • ADAM* audio guided relaxation
  • Get outside and observe nature
  • Clear the Deck exercise to calm worry*
  • Have a cup of tea
  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower

Social Connection

  • Schedule an informal coffee break on WebEx. Grab your beverage and just chat about whatever you feel like.
  • Send voice messages or hold video calls with friends and family
  • Virtual friends/family meals
  • Proactive #COVIDkindness, while keeping physical distance
  • Send thank you notes
  • If children are home from school, consider creating a daily schedule


Remember, taking care of your wellness will help sustain you through this challenging time. Be sure to make your well-being a priority.

Better Mental Health Through Digital Therapy

March 3, 2020

For so many of us, mental health is an important topic – every day, conversations related to mindfulness or self-care come up. Frank discussions about our mental well-being are also top of mind.

There are no quick fixes to our mental health, and some of us feel overwhelmed, like we’ve lost control of things; others simply can’t shake feeling down. These are issues that many students deal with every day. But the good news is that there’s help available with BEACON digital therapy – now available to Red River College students at no cost with referral.

BEACON can empower you

Designed to improve your mental health and build your resilience to life’s challenges, BEACON provides Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT), an evidence-based form of psychological therapy. It’s also considered the gold standard when it comes to helping people with mild to moderate depression or anxiety.

How CBT works

The premise behind CBT is that, with regular practice and guidance, we can manage the distressing thoughts and behaviours that come along with stressful, challenging situations – in a way that positively impacts our lives. It can be difficult at first, but with commitment to therapy, you can see your resilience grow.

Therapy on your terms

You use BEACON wherever and whenever you choose – all on your phone, tablet, or computer – with no appointments to keep. And your BEACON therapy is guided by a registered mental health professional, to help you develop crucial lifelong coping skills.

To get started, connect with any of the following:

Students attending a regional campus may contact an Academic Success Coach at their campus.

Staff who are interested in BEACON should inquire about extended health plan coverage. Many of our employee benefit packages do cover BEACON’s services, since they’re provided by registered social workers or psychologists.

This service enhancement aligns with the Healthy Minds Healthy College strategic priority to improve access to mental health services, using innovation. If you have questions about BEACON’s partnership with RRC, please contact Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator.