Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 7

Technically today is Day 9, but I took a couple days off to spend time with family and attend to a bad day of my gastric condition. What I did, and aim to do every day, will stand as the last two thoughts I give to you for my Mental Health Week.

Day 7: It’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to be yourself.

We’re well into one of the busiest and most stressful times of year for students: grad school and scholarship applications, final exams and final papers, thesis submissions, and the holidays: travel, shopping, dinners, parties, and on it goes. It’s so easy to forget you and not put yourself first. It’s so easy to slide into performing for others and obsessing over meeting unfair standards and expectations at this time of year. Please know you are not alone.

Last week, I found an incredible cartoon on Bright Side by Yao Xiao illustrating situations in which we apologize for simply being who we are and what you can say instead that’s more positive, constructive, and kind to you and your mental health. It moved me to tears. I highly recommend checking it out (and Yao Xiao‘s work) and hope it resonates with you and gives you a new way of understanding and communicating how important and beautiful you are.

I hope you have enjoyed my Mental Health Week and found some helpful reminders, thoughts, and resources. Let’s keep the #mentalhealth conversation going and create a better, healthier student experience for all of us.

Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 5

Mental HealthWelcome to Day 5 of my Mental Health Week! So far, I’ve talked about why it’s okay to make mistakes, why I believe in hugs, and why the act of creating can be an incredible healer. With each post, I talk about an experience, lesson, or tip that has helped me acknowledge and deal with my depression and anxiety, and mental health, while connecting it to my life as a UBC student. Without further delay, it’s Day 5.

Day 5: Go to sleep

We all know how important sleep is for our whole health, including our mental health. Yet, we as a society are chronically sleep-deprived. Students are high on that list of deprivation. Diet, financial stress, hectic lifestyles, and technological distractions and stimulation all contribute to our zombie-like state. And at this time of year, when you’re downing coffee, eating junk, and getting little sleep because of the demands of exams and cramming for them, you need more sleep than ever, yet you’re probably getting less than ever.

It’s hard. It really is. I have poor sleeping habits and a spinal condition that makes falling asleep uncomfortable at times, not to mention a racing mind that rebels against turning off for even a second. What I do know is that when I do get a quality sleep, I feel so much better. More alert, more optimistic, and more capable of managing my mental health and academic career.

I don’t drink coffee or tea because of a gastric condition that I have. Blessing in disguise, huh? But it is though because I’d rather take an hour or two out of my day to nap, wake and feel at least somewhat rested, and work better, smarter, and more efficiently than jam up my nerves with caffeine and produce poor work and feel like my anxiety is going to blow out of my head.

I like to play the sounds of a crackling fire on my phone after I turn the lights out. I spray lavender mist over my bed and use an essential oil diffuser with lavender oil, of course. I count slowly backwards from 100 with deep inhales and exhales for each count. These mechanisms don’t always work, but they sometimes do and in the least I feel emotionally better because I’ve cared for myself.

It’s a challenge, I know. I get it. But I encourage you to find rest as much as possible. Be it a nap, going to bed early, or just closing your eyes and breathing in the fresh air of the Salish Sea our campus is perched on.

Whatever you can manage, your mental health, your whole health, will thank you.

My fellow UBC students: How do you find rest in your day? What tips do you have to fall asleep and sleep deeper? I’d love to know! Share them with me on Twitter, Instagram, or right here on the blog. Thanks for following along.


Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 4

Welcome to Day 4 of my Mental Health Week. With each post, I’m talking about a different lesson, tip, or experience linked to my mental health, struggles with depression and anxiety, and life as a UBC student.

Day 4: Hug something

Hug something

I would hug every single person I walk past on the street, sit next to in class, or stand next to on the bus if I could. Physical contact helps me cope with my depression, loneliness, and anxiety. I find that hugging a pillow close to my chest while I watch a movie or my stuffed gorilla while I fall asleep helps. Physical contact with another person can be a complicated thing for a lot of people, but the need for physical contact or “pressure” may still remain.

With the holidays around the corner and exams all around at UBC, stress and fear is high and it can be a scary time. I recommend hugging someone or something as a way of coping and being good to yourself, and celebrating all your hard academic work. It can be a tree, your best friend, the family dog, or a blanket. Whatever or whoever it is, hug something and repeat as often as needed. Especially yourself after you’ve finished every paper, exam, application, and project and kicked all their collective behinds!


Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of my week of mental health. If you’re new to my mental health week, I started it on Sunday after discovering BuzzFeed’s launch of their own mental health week across multiple languages, mediums, and topics. As a grad student at UBC, I’m trying to connect each of my posts on mental health with my UBC student experience in the hopes of helping to spread some love, joy, fresh insights, thoughts, and inspiration of my own with one of the most important communities in my life: UBC students.

Without further ado, here is a famous quote that I am constantly re-reminded of and repeat to myself in times of mental and physical distress.


Inspiring Quote


Take, leave, or replace the “God” part. The sentiment is the same any way and I think of it as a life-long journey. So as you study hard for your final exams, submit your applications for grad school, write your final papers, and design your art projects and business plans, repeat this gem of wisdom to yourself. My tip? Once the paper is submitted and the exam is done, you have done your work and you cannot change it. So, breathe deeply, pat yourself on your back, and allow yourself the courage to take care of yourself and put you first. You deserve it.

Find me on Twitter & Instagram and let’s follow each other!


Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 2

It’s the second day of my mental health week with reflections,  tips, and lessons of my own on mental health. Here’s today’s reflection that I subscribe to very strongly.

It's okay to make mistakes

Day 2: It’s okay to make mistakes. I choose to look at mistakes as lessons, opportunities to learn, and a necessary part of my life’s journey. We exist and therefore we aren’t perfect. We aren’t perfect and therefore we make mistakes. It’s exam and final paper time at UBC and so fear of making mistakes – forgetting what you’ve studied, missing steps in an equation, incorrectly citing a source in a research paper – is pretty high. If you find your stress soaring or your anxiety increasing as you fixate on these thoughts, write my mantra down and repeat it to yourself as often as you need (or another positive, self-affirming thought of your own). Stuff it in your pocket, write it on your arm, put it into your phone. Just think, in about two weeks, it’ll all be over and you can exhale deeply and fully.

Connect with me on Twitter or Instagram and let’s keep talking about student life and mental health.


Why I’m doing a Mental Health Week: Day 1

Today, BuzzFeed launched their own Mental Health Week starting on December 6, 2015. They acknowledged the huge role that media plays in how we see ourselves and mental health. So, they’re taking the lead and will be publishing more than 100 posts across five languages on mental health, as well as 30 videos from the Motion Pictures team, and coverage on SnapChat and the social channels on BuzzFeed Health. This is important and I expect many of us UBC students already follow BuzzFeed (I know I do) and if you don’t, you will. BF’s work especially their videos have helped me feel less alone, less scared, and less harsh on myself.

I am inspired by their big week to come, so I’ll be honouring it by having my own 7-day Mental Health Week here on my blog. Each day will contain a reflection of some kind about mental health connected to my life as a UBC grad student in the hopes that it will spark discussion, strength, love, joy, and whatever you need to understand and cope with your mental health.

Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach, where the sea is always there for you when you need it

Day 1: Take photos

This fall has been difficult for both my mental and physical health. All the high grades and positive academic feedback in the world hasn’t really helped. What has is my re-discovery of my love for photography and thanks to smartphones, you no longer need hundreds if not thousands of dollars to release your inner photographer and even pursue it has a career. Nature photography is my specialty and the UBC campus has been the perfect setting for it. My job at the UBC Botanical Garden hasn’t hurt either!

When I take photos, the search for the right light, the right colour, the unique angle, the emotion I want to capture takes me out of my own head, my own pain and sadness, even if just for the few minutes it takes to search, find, capture, and share. And that matters for my mental health. Sharing what I think is beautiful and keeping that moment and piece of work with me forever helps me express in ways that I can’t otherwise. The UBC Botanical Garden, the Nitobe Garden, the Rose Garden, and the sweeping architecture of the Nest are always there for me as subjects of profound beauty and photographic inspiration when I need them, unconditionally, in the rain, in the sun, on a good day and on my worst.

Maybe your creation will be cooking, writing, singing, painting, gardening, urban farming, or something else wonderful and personal. It’s a stressful time of year, so I encourage you to create and want you to know that our campus is an amazing place for inspiration. And it doesn’t matter what other people think of your creation because it’s yours and therefore it matters.

Connect with me on Instagram to see what I’m creating to help me with my mental health. I look forward to yours as well.



Top 5 Cheap Things to Do at UBC

Hey everybody!

I’ve been on a hiatus from the UBC Blog Squad for the last month and I felt inspired late the other night to write a post on cheap fun on campus. I’m a cash-strapped grad student who lives on my own and thus carries a high rent. I work part-time, go to school full-time, and manage chronic health challenges. All this means money is prized beyond measure and every penny is counted and fraught over. Most of the time, I stay in, opting for home cooking (great way to save money and be healthy), reading (free), and Netflix (cheap). But, every once in a while, I want to go out, and I turn to the UBC campus for that. UBC is popping with daily events that are completely free or super cheap ($2 basketball games anyone?). And I figure, actually I know, many of you are in the same boat, so I’ve put together a little cheat sheet for fun things to do on the cheap at UBC before (and after) Christmas.

Have some fun

1. Watch a basketball game. During my undergrad, I loved heading to War Memorial on a cold fall or winter’s night to watch the basketball teams play and I re-visited that old tradition two weeks ago. It was fantastic. Competitive, high-level sports played with passion and phenomenal skill for only $2? Sign me up! The fans are fun, the Thunderbird Marching Band is energizing, and our teams are some of the best in Canada. Not a baller? Check out our volleyball, hockey, or swim teams. They all rock.

2. Listen to some music. The UBC Faculty of Music hosts a Wednesday Noon Hour Series in the Music Building. Tickets are only $5 for students and is a perfect break in the day from the grind of academia. You’re here to expand your mind and open yourself to new experiences, and this is a great way to do just that. Next show is on Wednesday, November 25 and features award-winners Joshua Peters on violin and Katherine Dowling on piano.

3. Learn something new. One look at the weekly UBC Events Calendar and you’ll see that there are free lectures, seminars, and workshops in every discipline every day on campus. Whether your interests lie in biology, photography, or equity, you will find something that will pique your interest and push you to think differently.

4. Watch a movie and chill.For you first years or newbies, there’s this placed called the Student Union Building that was The Nest’s predecessor for several decades. I have six years of fond memories built up there, many in The Norm Theatre. The UBC Film Society (or FilmSoc) plays a delicious array of movies five days a week in The Norm that range from cult classics like The Big Lebowski (with beer garden) and anti-hero triumphs like Fight Club. $5 membership gets you free movies, events, and workshops all year!

5. Check out a play. Theatre at UBC puts on a full season every year of student productions that both push boundaries and nod to the greats. This weekend, the Theatre Alumni Group’s special fundraising performance Beckett 15, featuring work by Samuel Beckett, is playing with direction from BFA alumnus Gerald Vanderwoude. The show benefits The Peter Loeffler Memorial Award and is only $5 for students. There’s only one show left this Saturday, November 21. There’s also cake and champagne in the lobby afterwards, just saying.


What do you like to do for cheap fun on campus? Comment here or tell me on Twitter or Instagram! Happy weekend!

Why Mental Health Matters to Me

Feeling good today.

Feeling good today.

It’s World Mental Health Day today and I’d like to reflect on why mental health matters to me.

Through my 6+ plus years at UBC, my mental health has dipped, peaked, crashed, and soared, and dipped, peaked, crashed, and soared. Many times over. I’m one of the many who’s only just started deeply considering mental health. How complex it is. I mean, what else would it be, I guess? We ARE complex.

Even today, as the wind and rain whipped the leaves through my hair as I walked across campus, I thought about how strange it is that we separate physical and mental health. That we treat complications of physical health as if they have no mental or emotional or spiritual effects. And vice versa. That we treat the complications of mental health as if they have no physical effects.

I live with a few chronic “physical” conditions and believe me, they affect my mental health. I spend many a morning staring at the wall for an hour, cocooned in my duvet, wrapped tight around me, not wanting to get up. Because if I get up, I have to do stuff. Wash my face, do the dishes, go to work, write a short story for class, do all them life things. I spend the hour thinking, Maybe I won’t go to work today. No I have to go to work. No I don’t. Yes you do. No you don’t. Just say you’re sick. But you like your job. I have four. And you need the money. Well, maybe I won’t go to class then.

I feel safe in my bed. Because I feel physically good in my bed. The second I get up is the second the possibility of not feeling physically good becomes, well, a possibility. But I know that staying in bed too long actually makes me feel worse. So, I get up.

It’s a battle. But one I’m willing to wage. And one I am lucky that I can wage. I have loving friends and family. I have my social media family, a real, very special thing. I have a roof over my head. I have easy access to food, water, medical care.

Today, as I crossed UBC’s Main Mall and I looked at the wild mountains and soft metallic of the stormy sea, I saw a guy standing up on one of the ledges there, like I do, to get the best, unadulterated, huge view. I wondered what he was thinking. I wondered if he went there like I did to gain perspective, to breathe in the spiritual enormity and ancientness of this place, to remind myself I could be okay, that healing and triumph was possible.

So, today on World Mental Health Day, I invite you to start to think about what makes you feel healthy and to share it with me. What does health mean to you as a student? Where do you go on campus to feel well? What challenges have you faced and what do you need to face them? I’d love to know!

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram and let’s talk mental health.

Random conversations with strangers

Completely unrelated. But, it's Cookie Monster!

        Unrelated GIF. COOKIE MONSTER!

It’s too late to apologize…it’s too laaate, hey, hey, hey!

Ok well, I hope it’s not too late to say sorry for not posting for two weeks. Life gets busy when you’re working four jobs and doing that thing called being a student. And, as a cash-strapped student living in an expensive town – as many of us are – money and career comes first. It feels good to be done with a big contract job though and to reward myself with my birthday fun and blogging!

My previous post was a blog celebrating getting involved on campus and joining a club. This post has been throwing mighty writer’s block at me. So I decided to just start writing and see where it took my mind. And it took me to a conversation.

On Friday, I was covering an event at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre for the UBC Botanical Garden – I’m a Marketing & Communications Assistant there through the UBC Work Learn program. I had arrived a little early so I could have time to wander in The Nest, get some cash out. I came upon the new grocery store, Grocery Checkout in The Nest that was “softly” open. I wandered around impressed with the range of healthy foods, the deli meals made fresh in store, the whiteboards that invited suggestions for what products they should carry, and curious to see how they would keep it affordable. I was staring up at the second floor when a friendly employee asked me how I was doing. We talked about their opening, mission, values, and products. I talked about how busy and long my day and week had been, sighing with fatigued happiness but also just fatigue.

“Being busy is good though,” he said to me.

“That’s what people tell me.”

“Yeah, it’s good because it helps you prioritize your time and value it.”

Lightbulb! I never thought of being busy as a vehicle for prioritizing your time, something that gave you the opportunity to understand what matters to you. I am grateful for my busy life because everything I do, I love. That’s a privileged place to be that not many people experience, and it’s taken me a long, winding, arduous road to get to myself.

Random conversation is one of our greatest tools to learn and grow. I love how it can happen in so many unexpected places and ways on campus. UBC brings together tens of thousands of people with tens of thousands of experiences and lessons to share. Today, I’m grateful for this one and I look forward to many more.


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