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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Mind it!

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!

2013/14 Events Recap

August 17, 2014

Check out this video recap of the mental health events Mind it! held on campus during the 2013/14 academic year.

Make Friends!

August 12, 2014

In November 2013, Mind it! partnered with St. John Ambulance to put on two dog therapy events at Red River College.

Our first event was held in the Library Hallway at the Notre Dame Campus. Five certified therapy dogs and their handlers were on hand to help more than 80 people take a break from school and work. The day was a big success that saw students and staff leaving with smiles on their faces and a better idea of how taking care of our mental health can be simple, fun and as easy as petting a cute animal!

Our second dog therapy event was held in the Atrium at the Exchange District Campus.
Approximately 100 people stopped by over the course of the two-hour event to meet the pups and many more people stuck around to ask questions and find out more about mind it! and how animals can play a role in maintaining our mental health.

Make Art!

August 1, 2014


In October 2013, Mind It! partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Winnipeg to bring two art therapy-inspired events to students at Red River College.

On two different days, tables in the hallways at the Notre Dame Campus and Exchange District Campus were stocked with blank canvases, paint of every colour, decorating supplies such as glitter and plastic gloves for students who felt like finger painting.

From landscapes to abstract shapes to portraits of pets and people, students spent more than two hours painting whatever they desired and chatting with friends.

Overall, it was a great way to break up the day and help everyone de-stress. After the two events were said and done, 105 blank canvases had been transformed by students, staff and others from the community who stopped by!

Make Laughs!

July 16, 2014


There’s good reason the saying, ’laughter is the best medicine’ exists. It’s because the natural link between comedy and mental health is very real. Many people with mental health issues turn their lived experience into positive, inspiring and often comical stories and important lessons for us all. Some even wind up making audiences laugh for a living — including award-winning comedian Big Daddy Tazz who paid a special visit to RRC in February 2013 at the Make Laughs! comedy show.

With a fantastic lineup of local comedians, Big Daddy Tazz as the show’s headliner and Ace Burpee as the emcee, this comedy show at RRC’s Exchange District Campus was an absolute hit! Not only did students have a great time but the event helped to increase mental health awareness on campus through Big Daddy Tazz’s performance that had the audience laughing one minute and emotional the next as he opened up about his personal struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and suicide.

If you missed the show last year, you may get another chance to laugh it up! Planning is underway for mental health events held on campus during the 2014/15 academic year. Keep checking our events page for updates!

Don’t let finances frustrate you

March 25, 2014


Many students struggle with budgeting and managing their finances while going to school. It’s a normal part of student life as not many students can pay for their education without taking out a loan or line of credit, or working at least part-time during the school year.

This can be a significant source of stress for students and certainly does nothing for our focus and concentration!

If you’re worried about your finances, here are some ideas for helping you take control of the situation so you can feel less stressed (preferably sooner than later!):

  • Create a plan. 

When it comes to finances, information is power. So take avoidance off the table as a coping strategy. Make a date with yourself to sit down and go over what you spent in the last month and plan a budget going forward. Force yourself to look at the hard numbers and keep in mind that money comes and goes. You will (presumably) be working and making money eventually so you can worry about the details of paying back any money you owe then. For now, you need to think about how much money you have to work with for the remainder of school.
  • Enlist the help of an expert. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed going through your finances (or even just thinking about starting to), see if you can make an appointment with a financial advisor where you do your banking. Don’t be nervous — they meet with clients all day, every day so this is hardly something new for them! Just be honest about your concerns. You will likely feel much better after talking with them and coming up with a plan.
  • Look into student-specific resources

. Red River College’s Student Awards and Financial Aid office offers a number of scholarships and bursaries that you may qualify for. If you don’t have a student loan already, it could be worth looking into Manitoba Student Aid (you can apply for a student loan throughout the year). Manitoba Student Aid also offers grants and loans that don’t require immediate repayment while you are a full-time student.
  • De-stress. 

After trying one or all of the above, it’s a good idea to do something fun or relaxing to help reduce your stress levels. There are lots of things that you can do that don’t cost money. It can be as simple as getting some fresh air with a friend or using the fitness facilities at RRC. You can also check out the free entertainment and events happening downtown or in your area.
  • Talk about it

. Don’t ignore the stress you’re feeling. The problem and your uncomfortable feelings won’t go away until you work through them. If you need some help figuring out what steps you should take first, the Counselling and Accessibilities Services can help. To book an appointment, fill out the online intake form and someone will contact you to set up an appointment.

Lauren MacLean: talking helps take care of my mental health

March 16, 2014

LaurenLauren 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. 

When Lauren MacLean, president of the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA) started feeling stressed out, she didn’t hesitate to do something about it. She called her friends and talked to them about what was going on in her life. When that didn’t translate into her feeling much better, she made an appointment with a counsellor.

“At one point, talking to my friends was actually making things worse for me because I was feeling guilty about going on and on about the same things, said Lauren. “It was a relief to talk to a counsellor because there were no expectations and I didn’t feel like I was burdening anyone.”

Reaching out for help

Lauren started seeing a counsellor in Counselling and Accessibility Services once a week. After working through her feelings and coming up with a plan for minimizing stress and other negative feelings, she didn’t need to visit as often. Now, she simply checks in when she feels she needs to — about once a month.

“I’m in a good place now. It’s not often that I have intense feelings of anger or frustration or lots of stress that I need to work through like I did when I first started going,” said Lauren. “What I get out of sessions now is mostly feedback about whether I’m on the right track with something or that my goals are realistic.”

Sometimes a fresh perspective from someone we aren’t close to is exactly what we need to move forward. It was, and still is, something Lauren finds helpful.

“When I talk to my counsellor, Chad, he asks questions and points things out that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of on my own,” said Lauren. “This is great because in my role with the RRCSA, I need to examine issues and decisions from many angles and think about how they affect different people. This kind of thinking also comes in handy when I’m working with other students on group projects.”

A great resource for students

For Lauren, Counselling and Accessibility Services is a vital resource that more students should take advantage of.

“I don’t want any student to feel ashamed or weird about seeing a counsellor. The counsellors at RRC are free and honestly, they’re awesome. There is no one solution to coping with mental health issues — some people will find solace in drawing or spending time with their dog — but counsellors are one great resource that I highly recommend.”

Interested in scheduling an appointment?

If you’d like to make an appointment with a counsellor, complete the online intake form. Someone will be in contact with you to schedule an appointment.

Perception is not reality

February 9, 2014

Perception is reality

Post written by Lauren MacLean

Back in high school, I was very interested in fashion and design, so of course I bought tons of magazines, tried lots of different styles and played with makeup. I had some majorly weird outfits that I’m happy I never took photos of! (This was before the selfie made it big). Think pink eye shadow, furry lace-up boots with miniskirts, mixing patterns and trying on my mom’s clothes from the 70’s. Yeah.

Teen Vogue was one of the magazines I bought religiously. Every month, waiting for the newest issue was almost painful. Once I got it, I’d read it cover to cover, advertisements and everything. If you’ve never read this magazine, it contains lots of picture stories (editorials), articles on the latest health trend (or scare), a spotlight on a trendy starlit and lot and lots of ads. All the clothes and accessories featured are horrendously expensive, and most of the fashion editorials are really out there.

Looking back, It’s hard believe I wanted to be like the thin models with their bones sticking out of their clothes because now, I think having muscles is so much more attractive. But it’s true, I was no exception to those who fell for the media’s messages about beauty. I remember thinking about how being able to fit into small, expensive clothes like the models was a measure of success.

As I read these magazines, I soaked up all the latest fashion tips and tricks like a dry sponge. I also found myself vulnerable to believing everything in the articles. There were articles about everything from prescription drug abuse to date rape to one on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) that particularly stuck out to me. BDD is a condition where the person becomes excessively worried about one body part. I remember finishing the article and thinking, “If so many people have this, I wonder if I have it too”.

Over the next few weeks, I became convinced that I had BDD. I eventually went to my mom and confided in her. She was dumbfounded that I would self-diagnose myself using Teen Vogue. She forbade me from ever buying another Teen Vogue.

It seemed harsh at the time, but as the weeks went by, not looking at those images or reading those articles was a relief. I even started to notice how phony the media can be sometimes. It took a little while but I was able to stop comparing myself and my ailments to others and just focus on doing my own thing. I continued experimenting with my hair, makeup, and accessories, of course, but I didn’t need anyone or any magazine telling me what to do or believe. I started concentrating on what matters — just being me.


About Lauren

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. 

Don’t sweat a visit to the counselling office

February 2, 2014

ChadChad Smith is a counsellor at Red River College in Counselling & Accessibility Services. He holds his Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work from the University of Manitoba.

So you’ve heard Red River College (RRC) offers free counselling to students and you think you might want to give it a try, but what should you expect at your first visit? And what types of things can a counsellor really help you with anyway?

Well, we spoke to Chad Smith, one of the counsellors at RRC’s Exchange District Campus, and it turns there’s a lot they can help you with!

Here’s the lowdown on everything from what you can talk to them about (anything), how often you can visit (as often as you need), who will know you’re going there (nobody) and much more.

mind it!: What types of things can counsellors help students with?

Chad: We can help students work through a wide variety of issues. We offer personal counselling, career counselling and academic counselling — there really isn’t any topic that’s off limits. From homelessness to addiction to childhood traumas such as sexual abuse, we can talk about anything the student feels we need to address.

mind it!: What can students expect the first time they come to your office?

Chad: The first time we meet with a student we will do what’s called an ‘intake’ where we ask them lots of questions to determine what they’re looking to achieve through counselling. It’s really just an opportunity for us to meet the student and for the student to meet us. It takes approximately an hour.

mind it!: What are the most common issues that come up during sessions?

Chad: The most common reasons students seek counselling is for depression and anxiety, stress and relationships troubles.

mind it!: How do you help them work through these issues?

Chad: Let’s take a student experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety for example. First, we’ll explore what it means to them when they say that they’re feeling stressed and anxious. This is because there’s normal stress and anxiety that students can expect while in school, but then there’s stress and anxiety levels that are unmanageable.

After we’ve established the level of stress and anxiety, we’ll take a look at different ways that they have coped in the past and try to determine what has been helpful. We’ll also talk about environment, because it’s often not about the student but their surroundings. For instance, if you live in poverty and you’re constantly worried about safe housing, that stress is going to impact your success in school.

Lastly, I’ll connect the student to other resources, if necessary. If I’m working with a student living in poverty for example, we may talk about student loans, grant programs, or bursaries and awards they may be eligible for.

mind it!: How long will a student usually see you for? Once? Many times throughout the year?

Chad: It really depends on what the student is going through. We see some students once and others regularly throughout the year. On average, I’d say we probably see students for about eight sessions, but if it makes sense to see them more often then we’ll do that. If a student needs longer-term counselling or more specialized counselling we may refer them to a community resource or agency. But we can still be that students’ on-campus support person.

mind it!: Will my instructors and peers know that I’m seeing a counsellor?

Chad: Counselling is completely confidential. We will never disclose information about a student without their consent. So in other words, no one will know you are seeing a counsellor if you don’t want them to.

mind it!: What if I’m in crisis, can I see someone right away?

Chad: There’s always one counsellor available to meet with students who are in crisis. Sometimes the student won’t get in to see someone right that minute, but we always do our best to get them in and they will definitely see someone that same day.

mind it!: What if I’m in crisis when your office is closed?

Chad: There are some great resources in the community including drop-in counselling at Klinic, the mobile crisis unit and a few different 24 hour crisis help lines. Students can call these resources anytime to talk with someone at no cost.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

Klinic Community Health Centre
(204) 786-8686 or toll free 1-888-322-3019 or TTY (Deaf Access) 204-784-4097

Got the winter blues?

January 21, 2014

winter blues

If you’ve been feeling down lately, there may be more to it then the fact winter break has come to an end.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people starting in the fall and throughout winter. This is because as the days get shorter and the weather colder, we spend less time outdoors soaking up sunlight and our much-needed Vitamin D.

On average, SAD affects 2-3 per cent of Canadians. Living in cold climates like ours (yay for Manitoba!), we’re especially susceptible to developing SAD. Some of the symptoms include irritability, moodiness, fatigue, a lack of motivation and increased appetite.

“The two things people notice most is that they want to sleep longer and eat more often”, says Tessa Blaikie, youth mental health promotions worker at the Canadian Mental Health Association Winnipeg. “This is because our bodies are lacking the energy we typically get from the sun and is looking to get it from somewhere else. It’s one reason people experience weight gain during the winter.”

Think you might be experiencing SAD? There are a couple surprisingly simple ways to feel better fast.

Since the best way to absorb sunlight in the winter is through your eyes, one of the ways to do this is by spending at least 10 minutes outdoors (I know, I know — it’s freezing!) without sunglasses on. Another possibility is to take a Vitamin D supplement each day.

For people who may be experiencing more severe symptoms, there are lamps that recreate the same light waves the sun does called SAD lamps. The lamps are easy to use (you wear them on your head) and the light is always in your peripheral so you can read, walk around, make lunch — whatever you need to do. They start at about $70 each and are widely available at health stores.

Looking for more information on SAD? Read this article from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.