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Health Minds Healthy College

Healthy Minds Healthy College

Mind it!

Social Isolation and Loneliness: A Pandemic Outcome?

April 28, 2020

Reflections from RRC Counsellor, Mark Unruh

The experience of loneliness and isolation has inspired much research over the years. On the surface, the terms isolation and loneliness can appear to be synonymous. Looking closer, isolation may very well lead to loneliness, but is it the main cause of feeling lonely?

A national survey in June 2019 by Angus Reid Institute (in partnership with Cardus) attempted to qualify these two dimensions. The resulting report describes social isolation as the number or frequency of interpersonal connections a person has and loneliness as the relative satisfaction with the quality of those connections.

So, isolation can be thought of as an “objective” measure. In the context of the 2020 pandemic, restrictions can limit our interactions. Loneliness, however, is the subjective experience one has despite the context of where and how these connection are experienced. In this context, social isolation may very well affect the quality of those connections, but is it the main cause of loneliness?

The report goes on to describe the relationship between those who connect in more limited ways with people in their own homes and those who extend their connection experiences more broadly. In summary, they conclude that many people who are not isolated still experience loneliness.

The media and social discourse often portray isolation in the wake of this pandemic as the precursor to loneliness, using descriptors like desolation, solitude or trapped. The implication being that social distancing practices are the culprit.

The Angus Reid report supports this view in part, but there must be more to the story since a significant portion of the population are lonely while not isolated. And remember, this study was completed prior to the pandemic. So, how do social distancing and isolation practices influence the degree of loneliness many people are already experiencing?

Learning from research in this area, we can see this time of isolation as our opportunity to focus on the “how” of connecting. By doing this, we can aim to improve the quality of our connections, despite being separated. During this pandemic, we can improve our subjective experience of connection in many ways. We see this occurring already through news reports and in our own experience. The musician who plays for children outside their window, moving from neighbor to neighbor to play another song. The friend who cooks a meal and leaves it on the doorstep for another and then connects by video to share the same food. These are just two examples.

What have you noticed about your way of adapting how you connect in these unprecedented times? What will you be willing to venture as we settle in for ever changing restrictions into the future?

Of course, nothing will ever replace human connection in physical social settings. As we see stories of connection emerging in other ways, it reveals our ability to adapt and connect while we isolate. This is the inoculation that protects us during these pandemic times.

For some opprtunities to stay connected with your RRC community, check out the Recreation Services news.

 

Students, Request a Telephone Wellness Check Today

April 21, 2020

RRC Counsellor, Lindsay Storey-Iliffe, ready to support students.

Sometimes, when faced with new challenges it helps to talk things out with an understanding, supportive person. That’s why RRC now offers telephone Wellness Checks.

Simply complete this secure online form, and a Counselling Services team member will call you for a brief, supportive conversation. During the call, you will be invited to express how you’re doing and you’ll receive empathic, non-judgmental support. If needed, you may also be directed to other helpful resources.

You don’t have to go through this alone; we’re here for you.

If you need more support than a telephone Wellness Check can offer, there are a range of other services available to you. Learn more. 

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca.
  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.

 

Sharing More #COVIDkindness Stories

April 14, 2020

 

RRC students and staff are practicing #COVIDkindness and paying attention to the kind acts of others. This is a great way to build your own resilience and minimize the impact of the pandemic on our community. Here are some more stories you’ve shared.

From Kelly Sookram In The Community Services Learning Centre

“I am attaching a picture I took while on our daily walk-about in the neighborhood. Someone had chalked this message on the sidewalk and it sure felt good to read. Such a small act, yet capable of uplifting many spirits!”

 

 

 

From George, Student in the Sonography Program

“A neighbor offered to plow my driveway with his quad.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Laureen Janzen, Manager of Counselling and Accessibility

“On Saturday, April 4, the day after all that snow, a city plow drove down my back lane leaving a massive windrow behind my parked car! When I left my house to head to the grocery store, I noticed that not only had the plow come and gone, but my windrow had been cleared. In fact, a neighbor and his two young children were having a great time shoveling several windrows down the lane – spreading a little kindness during this tough time.”

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca.
  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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca.
  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.

Support

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca.
  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.

Examples

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.

 

 

 

Mental Health and Counselling Supports Available

March 19, 2020

You don’t have to go through this stressful time alone. Many of our supports are ready to assist you, using telephone or video conferencing technology.

For Students and Staff

Mental Health Coordinator

Breanna Sawatzky, the Mental Health Coordinator provides supportive listening, connection with resources, and consultation. Services are available for all students and staff, over the phone or via video conferencing.

Appointments can be made by sending an email to Breanna.

For Staff Only

Homewood Health (EFAP)

Homewood Health is an Employee and Family Assistance Program for RRC employees. It’s part of your employee benefit package and comes at no cost to you or your dependents.

Homewood offers short-term counselling and support related to a wide variety of issues.

The EFAP is completely confidential; they will not release any personal information to Red River College.

Connect via the 24-hour toll-free access number at 1-800-663-1142. You can also access support and information online.

For Students Only

Counselling Services for Students

Counselling is available for students during study week and for upcoming weeks as may be necessary. At this time, counselling is available by phone and soon video conferencing.

If you are already have a counsellor, contact your counsellor by email.

If you wish to connect with a counsellor and book a first time appointment, please complete our online form.

For students attending Regional Campuses, counselling is available through a local provider.

Please contact your Regional Campus counsellor directly for appointments. They will advise regarding their current mode of service delivery.

Indigenous Student Supports

A variety of supports are being offered virtually at this time. To arrange an online meeting or phone call, please contact Marshall Richard at marichard@rrc.ca.

Beacon Digital Therapy

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. BEACON is provided by registered mental health professionals, digitally, through your computer, smart phone or tablet. Read more here.

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 www.rrc.ca 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

Relaxation

  • 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

Creativity

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