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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

The Rebel in You – A 12 Week Wellness Program

September 5, 2017

Sometimes starting an exercise program can be more challenging than the working out itself. Having to figure out how to get started, learning new terminology to what’s the difference between a rep and a set as well as knowing what to exactly do while in the gym. That is why we designed a custom program specific for The Rebel in You.

This program is a complete guide to getting moving and started on a journey of healthy living. Inside you’ll learn different terms and a glossary of definitions. The program booklet has advice as to why being active is the right thing for you to do and it gives tips to help keep you on track, even when we find ourselves with a setback, we can still learn from it and use the tips to get back on. You will be shown how to find your target heart rate to make sure that when you are training aerobically you are being efficient and reaching the level needed to reach your goals. It also helps you with how to make and set goals!

Included in the program booklet is a couple of full workout programs, which you can do at your own pace and you can keep track of it with the weekly calendar data chart to measure progress. Each program can be done for the entirety of the 12 weeks, or you can switch to another one if you feel you’d like to be challenged a bit more from the previous program. One of the programs is designed without any equipment which means it can help you become more familiar with movement and your body but also it means you can also do it at home. At the end of a workout or on a day you feel you need a stretch you can use the stretching guidelines to help balance out the work you’ve been putting in from the exercising.

Regardless of your level of fitness or experience, this program is designed to help you get a little bit more from your wellness plans and to help guide you in a total wellness program. The Rebel in You wellness booklet can be found on our website and it is free to download. Feel free to ask coworkers to join in, or family members to help provide support and a bit of social gathering time while you do something good for you. To be well is less about how you “should” go to the gym, or about the time you denied yourself dessert but more of an understanding that you matter and are important. That the higher value you place on yourself to take one more step or do one more rep pays out not only in your future self but also in your present self. We all are living a life where life happens, so we do not need to wait for life to happen in the “right way” for us to be well but we can practice being well in ourselves with each moment so that we create a life of wellness and well-being.

 

 

STRATA Select

March 22, 2017

STRATA Select

Have you taken advantage of the STRATA Select Program? Through our affiliation with HUB International STRATA Benefits Consulting, employees have access to voluntary products and services at discounted or preferred rates.

Travel Discounts – Take advantage of exclusive travel tour benefits, hotel discounts and preferred rates on vehicle rentals while you travel.

Direct Sellers Insurance Coverage – A unique program that provides coverage for a variety of risks and liabilities that direct sellers (e.g. Pampered Chef, Avon, Norwex, etc.) are exposed to when they are away from home, picking up or delivering products, at someone else’s home or at trade shows or other business events.

GOeVisit – Get convenient online access to medical professionals for non-emergency conditions, anywhere, anytime.

Group Home and Auto Insurance – Save up to 40% on your home and auto insurance by signing up for a group membership.

Home Phone Program – Reduce your monthly phone bill by accessing this home phone discount program which includes caller ID, voicemail and other calling features.

Home Security Systems – Through AAA, receive discounts on monitoring when you sign up for a home security system.

Hospital Cash – Receive money to assist you with unexpected costs during your hospital stay. Single or family coverage is available.

Individual Health, Dental and Travel Insurance – HUB STRATA’s Individual Insurance Specialist assists with the transition to personal insurance and provides coverage options for family members & relatives who do not have benefits in place.

Individual Life and Living Benefits – Access HUB STRATA’s Individual Life and Living Benefits Consultant to assess your coverage needs and recommend the best fit for you.

Long Distance Savings – Save on your landline or cellular long distance plans.

MyCare – In the event of a serious illness or major orthopaedic condition, MyCare provides affordable and timely access to world-renowned Mayo Clinic expertise.

Pet Health Insurance – Receive 10% off the regular monthly pet health insurance premiums through Petplan®.

Travel Health Insurance – Access to a full range of cost-effective travel insurance options through Medi-Quote Insurance Brokers.

For more information and to start using the discounts and services offered through the STRATA Select program, visit this website: http://select.hubinternational.com/selectredriver/.

 

Supporting Your Wellness

The LifeWorks website offers a wealth of information and resources to help you make the most of all aspects of your life. For the month of March, LifeWorks is featuring a suite of resources called Work and Career Boosters.

Work and Career Boosters features resources to help you improve your productivity and advance professionally.

Be sure to visit www.lifeworks.com to take advantage of the new 2017 content, including videos, podcasts, audio tips and much more.

Remember your EFAP User ID and Password:

User ID: rrcefap                     Password: efap