Stress Less for Exam Success

Hey everyone! With final assignments and papers due, and with exams just around the corner, it is easy to begin experiencing “stress.” I know I am! Ongoing, chronic stress can lead us to feeling overwhelmed or moody, and it can even affect our physical state.

That being said, stress does not always have to mean a bad thing! Stress is defined as a mental state of “high alert” that is turned on to deal with the pressures of unexpected or high demanding events, such as heavy workloads and pressure from deadlines. Stress reaction is meant to turn on to deal with a stressful event and then turn it off when that stressor ends. The problem is that for a lot of us, we forget to turn our stress off, which results in always operating on “high alert”. When we operate with a consistent and chronic stress response, we can begin to see wear and tear of stress on our bodies, and those negative effects we hear about. Thus, how we perceive and manage our stress plays an important role!

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog entitled “stress as a positive.” Generally, moderate levels of stress facilitate performance, which can be summarized by this graph…


Expanding on that idea, the way we perceive stress can not only change our definition of stress, but can actually have beneficial responses to our well-being. Kelly McGonigan presents a very interesting research in her Ted Talks video entitled “How to make stress your friend” (I won’t go into depth on this video, because you should definitely consider watching it yourself). In short, she describes that stress is only harmful to your health when it is perceived to be so. The way we perceive stress affects our unconscious interpretation of the stressor. For instance, we can perceive stress as telling us: “I’m so stressed right now…I’m gonna fail my exam” or  “this is my body’s responding to this exam,  so I will be sure to do what I can to feel prepared!”

The way we perceive stress is directly related to our self-efficacy, or our belief in our abilities. Improving self-efficacy can be achieved through performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences (observing others), verbal persuasion, and by altering  physiological states such as moods or emotions. Two effective means to boost your confidence include (1) positive self-talk and (2) goal setting. Setting attainable and realistic goals can lead to feeling accomplished when the goal is reached!

If you are having trouble with stress or are worried about final exams, UBC does provide several opportunities for students to manage their stress effectively! On the UBC live well learn well website several events are affiliated with the “Stress Less for Exam Success” campaign running from April 7-10. Activities range from Stress Doctors roaming in IKB, to Free Hugs and High Fives Events. The Live Well Learn Well website also cites several strategies that are helpful in managing stress, which includes taking breaks, talking to others, meditation, and breathing procedures.

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Finally drop by the Wellness Centre (IKB room 183) during Stress Less to get a Stress Management Kit full of goodies like tea and post-it notes. Our Wellness Peers can also provide you with helpful stress management strategies. We will also have a Stress Ball Making Station where you can make and personalize your very own stress ball while kneading out some stress in the process!

During this exam season, study hard, take quality breaks and consider how you can use stress to your benefit!

Good luck!


Eat to Thrive! – Make Your Own Trail Mix

Need something to munch on to get you through that midday slump? Come visit our Eat to Thrive booth to make a healthy snack! We will have all the fix ins ready for you to make your own free trail mix!

When: Tuesday March 24 from 1-3pm

Where: Outside Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, SE corner

Flickr via Creative Commons
Flickr via Creative Commons

March is Nutrition Month! And, this year’s theme is all about Eating 9 to 5! which includes eating well on campus. Visit the Wellness Centre to learn more information on Nutrition Month and how to eat healthy!

Need to Talk? – AMS Speakeasy Peer Support

AMS Speakeasy is a free confidential peer support service available to all students and faculty of the University of British Columbia.

University is an extremely challenging and stressful time for everyone, and Speakeasy was established to provide a non-judgmental, supportive ear for students and faculty members who are feeling distressed.

Take a look at the video below to learn more about what Speakeasy does:

Speakeasy is located by the North main entrance of the SUB, and are open from 9:00am-5:00pm Monday  to Friday. There service is available on a drop-in basis, so no appointment is necessary.

Good Sex is Safer Sex: Drop-in STI testing on March 25

Have Good Sex - Web Graphics_500px

For those that are sexually active, it is important to remember that there are certain responsibilities attached to that decision. Good sex is safer sex, which includes getting consent (an enthusiastic and freely given “yes!”), using protection, and knowing your status by getting tested for sexually transmitted infections.

Get Tested: Pop in for a Test on March 25

Drop in for a STI test on March 25th from 2-4pm at Student Health Service, no appointment necessary, or make an appointment for a later date by calling: 604-822-7011.

Know your status

It is very unlikely for symptoms to be apparent for the majority of people infected. There is great risk here as individuals can pass on an infection unknowingly. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. If an STI is detected, treating it early can prevent further health complications.

Testing is quick and easy

There are no painful swabs or invasive procedures. Student Health Services tests for chlamydiagonorrheasyphilis, and HIV by using both blood and urine samples. The urine samples require that you hold off on urinating for 2 hours before your appointment, which may require some planning, but it ensures an accurate test.

The test will begin with a short consultation with a doctor about your sexual history.The test is free for almost all UBC students. Remember to bring your UBC student card as well as your coverage card. Coverage and possible fees will also be discussed during the consultation period with the doctor. Results are delivered over the phone; the clinic will only call you if there is a positive result which usually occurs within a week. The test is fully confidential and your results will only be shared with you.

If you would like more information regarding STI testing or any other sexual health information, visit the UBC Wellness Center located in the basement of IKB and speak with a Wellness Peer or visit the Live Well website.

UBC’s Largest Yoga Class

2015_JM_Largest Yoga Web GraphicGive yourself a study break and join UBC’s Largest Yoga Class at the SRC gyms! The class will be taking place on Friday February 27th from 12:00pm-1:00pm. 

Did we mention that it’s free?! 

Physical activity, including yoga, can be a great way to build positive mental health, feel good, and help you achieve your goals. Mats will be available at the recreation centre front desk, but numbers are limited – so bring your own if you have one!



Trying Something New That’s Good for You

Guest post by Jason Quach, 4th-year Kinesiology student

Humans are habitual creatures. We enjoy familiarity, fall to conventions, and resist change. As students engaged in battles against academics, exhaustion, and ever-lasting hungry, we are likely to be subject to routine.

Eat, study, sleep, repeat. Eat, study, sleep, repeat. Does it all sound familiar?

By November, most students are locked into a familiar weekly pattern of classes, study schedules, meal choices, and maybe the odd gym session. This habitual practice may result in less engagement in class, inability to focus on work, and overall, dissatisfaction with the university experience. The resulting diagnosis is a common case of student routine. Now, that doesn’t mean routines don’t accompany a variety of benefits. They provide daily efficiency, a sense of control, and feelings of relaxation. On the contrary, a little spice to life never hurt anyone either.

If you have a case of the student routine, the recommended remedy to relieve symptoms is trying something new that’s good for you. Sounds simple enough, but can be deceivingly hard to implement into your life. Why should you do something that’s hard? Why should you try something new?

           1. Push your comfort zones –everyone has a personal bubble. However, your                  comfort zone could be the barrier from unraveling some new and awesome things.              Try something that makes you a bit uncomfortable each day. Inch towards that                    “where the magic happens” bubble and strive to create an overlapping Venn                        diagram of the two circles.

comfortzone           2. Discover new passions -you might have an undiscovered knack for solving                    Sudoku puzzles or a burning love for Zumba. Diversify your skill set and ignite a                  passionate flame in a new activity/idea/cuisine/genre.

           3. Make new friends – networking doesn’t have to include business cards and                    fancy clothing. Joining a new club or recreational team can lead to meeting new                  friends with similar interests and expanding your social network.

I decided to try yoga. Friends were recommending it to relieve muscle tension, improve flexibility and posture, and to help focus my mind. I knew it would be good for me, but it was hard to just go and try something new. The possibilities of embarrassment brought feelings of nervousness, but eventually, I went with some friends. The verdict: it was seriously refreshing for the mind and body. The experience was as if I blended mediation, massage, and cardio into a one-hour session. Yoga felt good. I felt good. Something new felt good.

Something new can be anything. It can be as small as trying a new drink at Starbucks to as eye-opening as going skiing for the first time. Whatever your choice is, the something new will likely be a bit uncomfortable at first, but will open some unexpected doors for you. Discovery is embedded is trying new things. So, what will you try tomorrow?

Eat to Thrive

UBC Wellness Peers will be putting on “Eat to Thrive” Information Booth this Thursday as part of Thrive Week! Come by to learn about what you can do to help balance your mental health through making alternative choices with your diet. There will be an interactive game aimed at helping you learn more about feel good foods, healthy easy-to-make recipes to pick up, as well as mason jar burritos to take away (made by you with available ingredients at the booth)!

We will be in front of the Wellness Centre (1st floor, IKBLC) from 11am-2pm on Thursday November 5th! 

See you there!

Flickr via Creative Commons
Flickr via Creative Commons

Treat Yourself!

The Wellness Centre’s Sexual Health Team is throwing an event surrounding good decision making. Come play jeopardy and learn about ways to have fun this Halloween by planning ahead and staying safe. P.S. there will be free cookies!


Monday October 27th

10am – 2pm


Irving K. Barber, 2nd floor


How to End Your Exercise Hiatus

Guest post by Wellness Peer Campbell Drohan: 

We all know that we should be exercising regularly. We know that it’s good for us, and that it will keep us healthy and strong. However, that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make exercising easy, especially when you’ve fallen off the exercise bandwagon (or if you never even got on it to begin with!).

I found myself on an exercise hiatus near the end of the summer. I was busy studying for a huge exam while working full-time and volunteering off-campus a few evenings a week. I barely had time to feed myself, let alone squeeze in a workout (or at least this is what I told myself…somehow I always had time to watch the latest episode of Dance Moms).

This persisted into the fall, where the madness of school starting up kept me distracted. The longer I went without exercising, the harder it became to get back into it, and I found myself in a vicious circle of inactivity. However, once October hit I decided that enough was enough, and started exercising again. Now, after a few weeks, I feel like I’m finally taking the time to take care of my body, and I’m so happy that I’m making my health a priority. Here are some suggestions I have for you if you’re looking to get back in shape after a break.

Start off slow. During one of my many attempts to get back into exercising regularly, I decided to take on a 40-day yoga challenge. By day three I was so sore I could barely lift my arms, and I ended up needing an entire week for my muscles to recover.  While it can be tempting to start off strong, slow and steady really does win the race. A 20-minute jog around the block is a whole lot better than nothing at all!

Get some new clothes. Sometimes heading to the mall can actually motivate you to head to the gym! Buying a new workout top or water bottle can get you excited to put them to use. When I was working up the motivation to head back to spin class, I went to Lululemon and splurged on a new pair of shorts. I was so excited to wear them that I went to the Birdcoop the very next day!

Find a buddy. Get a friend to join you for your workout! It’s going to be a whole lot easier to make fitness a priority when you know that someone’s holding you accountable. Dropping in at a UBC Recreation fitness class with a friend, heading for a swim at the Aquatic Centre, or playing a pickup game at the UBC Tennis Centre together are a few options.

Do something fun! I was a competitive dancer throughout high school, so the first thing I did to get back into workout out was attending a dance class. Getting off the couch to do something you love is a lot easier than forcing yourself to run on the “dreadmill”.

Remember that just because you’ve neglected your physical health for a while doesn’t mean that you will never be healthy and active again. It’s okay to not be perfect sometimes. Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and sweat!

Stress as a Positive?

My name is Conor and this is my first opportunity to blog to all of you this school year. I can’t believe that it is already October. Hopefully everyone has had some time to adjust to the school year and have had some fun. Particularly those of you in first year, many of who are dealing with living away from home for the first time.

Now…the school year is in full flight, meaning that midterms are upon us!

Many of you will be experiencing stress as you begin to study for your midterms. Stress is determined by the balance between the perceived demands of the environments and an individual’s resources to meet those demands. Stress is a natural feeling during exam time. Common cause of stress (or stressors) during exams include expectations to perform well, and lack of time to study.

Many of us don’t realize that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. There is eustress and distress. Eustress is positive, whereas distress is negative. The relationship between eustress and distress can be seen in the graph below.

From the American Institute of Stress via creativecommons
From the American Institute of Stress via creativecommons

The graph shows that moderate stress leads to an increased level of performance. However, too much stress will lead to a decrease in performance.

Now here are a few ways to manage stress:

Exercise. Even during exams, 20-30 minutes of exercise, whether that is a run or resistance training, is very doable. Exercise helps reduce stress by releasing endorphins and improving sleep. Additionally exercise is proven to improve academic performance by increasing oxygen flow to the brain and by increasing brain neurotransmitters!

Nutrition. Make sure you maintain a balanced diet.

Sleep. Get at least 7-8 hours a night. Not only does sleep reduce stress, it also improves your brain ability to function.

That’s it from me. Good luck with your midterms! Study hard and stay healthy.