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Tips

Solutions for Better Sleep: Q&A with Dr. Elizabeth Hebert

January 19, 2021

How’s your sleep? If you’re finding it hard to get enough good sleep, you’re not alone.

Sleep is a key part of overall health and wellness so when it’s difficult or disrupted, your whole life can suffer. Join Dr. Elizabeth Hebert, licensed clinical psychologist and sleep expert, to find effective sleep solutions.

Date: Thursday, January 28

Time: 1-2pm

Platform: WebEx (register here)

Improving your sleep will help you do well in your studies, at work, and in life. Don’t miss this session and be sure to bring your questions for Dr. Hebert. All staff and students are welcome.

If you can’t attend at the scheduled time, watch staff and student news for a recording.

Questions or accessibility needs can be directed to Breanna Sawatzky.

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.

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: https://www.headspace.com/ 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.

 

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 Weekly: Curated Readings

October 1, 2019

 

In our Wellness Weekly, mental health roundup feature we curate some of the best writing on the web related to health and wellbeing. Here is some recommended reading for this week.

Food and Mood

Ever wonder if a certain eating pattern is best for your mental health? When we make everyday food choices, many of us think first of our physical health and appearance. But there’s another factor we may want to consider in picking foods: their impact on our mental health. Read What Is The Best Diet for Mental Health by Kira M. Newman.

Creative Hobbies

If you’ve been trying to get a little more mindfulness in your life, whipping up a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies might be exactly what you need. Read more about how Research Suggests Taking Up Baking Can Help You Feel Better by Gwen Moran.

Stress and Memory

You spend weeks studying for an important test. On the big day, you wait nervously as your teacher hands it out. You’re working your way through, when you’re asked to define “ataraxia.” You know you’ve seen the word before, but your mind goes blank. What just happened? Elizabeth Cox details the complex relationship between stress and memory in her Ted-Ed animation: The Surprising Link Between Stress and Memory.

 

Have a favorite health and wellness related read that you think we should feature? Send it over to Breanna.

Wellness Weekly: Curated Readings

August 27, 2019

In our Wellness Weekly, mental health roundup feature we curate some of the best writing on the web related to health and wellbeing. Here is some recommended reading for this week.

Making Friends

NPR notes that the act of making and being a friend is as simple as it is difficult. They spoke with experts to help find ways to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have. Read Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends by Julia Furlan.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Are you trying to save money on food? Get the school year off to a healthy start by planning your meals for the next few days or week ahead. It takes a bit of time, but it will help you save money later. The Dieticians of Canada has Ten Tips for Planning Meals on a Budget.

Dealing with Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can feel terrifying in the moment. Managing your thoughts and behaviours can go along way toward reducing the frequency and intensity of panic symptoms as well as how much they interfere with your life. Over on the Anxiety Canada blog, Dr. Melanie Badali shares 5 Tips for Dealing with Panic Attacks – The BRAVE Way.

 

7 Actions to Help You Perform Well on Exams

April 23, 2019

Image courtesy of the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health

Exam period is a particularly stressful time. Consider these tips so you can take a positive approach to doing well and demonstrating your learning.

  1. Exercise. Take some time from your exam preparation to move and be active. Some experts recommend concentrating on your material for approximately 50 minutes, then taking a ten minute break to walk and give your attention a rest.
  2. Relax. Maybe you relax my meditating, deep breathing, petting your dog, drawing or getting lost in a good song. Take time each day to this kind of true relaxation.
  3. Eat well. Feed your brain with high quality foods that give you energy to do your best. Notice foods that make you feel drowsy or sluggish and avoid those.
  4. Recognize your achievements. Remind yourself of your successes over the term, including things you’ve learned and skills you’ve developed. Keeping this positive mindset will help you remain focused.
  5. Sleep. It’s tempting to stay up all night, cramming, but sleep allows your memories to consolidate and better prepares you for your exam. Sometimes, you may even dream about the material, which is pretty neat.
  6. Reward yourself. If you stick to your study schedule and get some good work done, reward yourself with something that will boost your mood and motivation. Choose your rewards wisely to ensure they don’t derail your schedule and budget!
  7. Plan time away. Schedule your breaks to you can enjoy them guilt free, knowing that they are part of your plan. Work hard and rest. Work hard again and rest again. Repeat as needed, keeping that positive cycle going.

These strategies will help you stay on-track and perform your best on upcoming exams. Good luck!

Wellness Weekly: Curated Readings

October 1, 2018

 

In our Wellness Weekly, mental health roundup feature we curate some of the best writing on the web related to health and wellbeing. Here is some recommended reading for this week.

  • Whit Honea writes about the role of fathers in opening conversations about mental health. In this Washington Post article, Whit argues that “dads are shaping modern conversations about masculinity and men’s mental health”, and that doing so challenges the definition of masculinity as “detached stoicism.” Read Why Fathers Must Talk About their Mental Health.

 

  • Dr. Christine Carter, Sociologist and author writes about the effects of being surrounded by interpersonal drama. She argues that “the 24/7 drama isn’t pointing us towards meaningful lives. And it keeps us from the stillness and reflection and deep conversation that make our lives meaningful.” Dr. Carter also outlines the three typical roles in a conflict (victim, persecutor, rescuer) and presents three tips to avoid taking on these dysfunctional roles. Check out, How to Ditch the Drama in Your Relationships.

 

  • Have you ever interacted with a new person and left with the impression that they didn’t like you? Perhaps you felt you didn’t present yourself well. Or that the other person was being highly critical. Dr. Alice Walton writes in Forbes about some new research around the “liking gap”; a phenomenon were people almost always feel that their conversation mate’s opinion of them is lower that it actually is. Read, People Like You More Than You Think.

Wellness Weekly: Curated Readings for September 10 – 16

September 11, 2018

In our Wellness Weekly, mental health roundup feature we curate some of the best writing on the web related to health and wellbeing. Here is some recommended reading for this week.

 

  • Have you ever thought of wellbeing as a skill? Dr. Richard J. Davidson from the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison breaks down the research around four main contributors to wellbeing: resilience, outlook, attention, and generosity. He argues that if one practices the skills of wellbeing, one will get better at it. The Four Keys to Wellbeing.

 

  • Curious about the relationship between mental health and exercise? In The Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy  explores a recent study to be published in the Lancet that looks at this association. Are certain types of exercise more beneficial than others? How about certain durations of exercise? Check out The Exercise that Helps Mental Health the Most.

Do you have some favorite reading you’d like featured? Contact Breanna.

Multitasking, Memory, and Meeting Deadlines

September 19, 2017

Do you often have your phone on your desk while you work or study? Do you have multiple browser tabs open at once, checking social media while working on an assignment?  Do you quickly check your email during a lecture or presentation? If you answered yes, you’re not alone; these are common habits for most people, including students.

If you’re trying to make the most of your time and meet deadlines efficiently, however, this kind of multitasking may be sabotaging your efforts. “Switching cost” is the term Psychologists use to describe the price of changing from one task to another.  Researchers have found that switching attention like this leads us to take longer to complete a task, remember less, and make more errors. For busy students who are trying to balance demanding programs, home responsibilities, and self-care there’s certainly no time to waste!

In fact, the switching cost, or time and quality loss, is higher when the tasks were doing are more complicated. For example, searching for your keys and walking to your car are not very demanding tasks, so you may not experience much of a cost for multitasking. But, completing difficult math problems and engaging in a text conversation are complicated tasks where you’d likely take longer and make more errors if you were to multitask.

So, what can we do? Try devoting a set amount of time to one task and rewarding yourself with a break to take a walk, stretch, check email, or respond to a text. When you’re not on a break, turn off all notification sounds or vibrations and close other browser tabs. It will likely feel mentally difficult to resist the urge to switch tasks, but remember that feeling of difficulty is actually your brain getting better at focusing.

A helpful free App to check out is Focus Keeper: Work & Study Timer (available for iPhone). It uses a timer to help you manage your focused times and break times. Read a review here. If you know of an App that helps you avoid multitasking and increase your productivity, place your recommendation in the comments.

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator