7 Ways to Thrive When you Move Back Home for the Summer

This article was written on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) – People of the River Grass. I am incredibly grateful and privileged to be able to live and learn on this land.

It’s finally summer time! Classes are done and you can finally take some mental distance from school for a while. For many students, this transition means moving back home, perhaps nearby or far away depending on where home is for you. However, moving back home can be a difficult transition to make for some if you’re accustomed to living on your own for most of the year. Recently, I moved back home to spend the summer with my family in Surrey, BC. I’m finding it difficult to move away from being independent and feeling sufficient to being back in my home environment. Sometimes, I feel ‘cut off’ from most of my friends in Vancouver or other parts of the world. I think these feelings are normal as summer can actually be quite a lonely time for many students. The transition is difficult partially because as students, we’re used to feeling independent and self-sufficient (most of the time). Moving back home can sometimes feel like a loss of independence. Additionally, any significant change in environment, even if only temporary, can cause stress. For students who have just graduated, you may be moving back home for the foreseeable future, and that can be a hard transition to make when you don’t know what your next step is right away. For international students, you may even be returning to a different part of the world which can lead to feelings of culture shock. The move can be especially challenging if you are coping with family conflict or a tense living environment.

However, summer does provide an opportunity to focus on wellness more since people generally have more free time. Here are some words of advice for keeping well during the summer:

  1. Getting out during the day and spend time at your local café or public libraries

    Libraries are free, accessible and quiet spaces to catch up on some reading or peruse the internet. Or, you can head on over to your local café and treat yourself to your favourite drink.

  2. Head on over to your local community centre

    Your local community centre will likely offer activities such as various recreational activities, art classes, and culture events.

  3. Call a friend

    Sometimes talking with friends can be a nice break from home and you can gain support from your social circles.

  4. Have activities that are just your own

    Having activities that are just your own can help create distance from you and your home environment. Combine this with goal setting and you’re well on your way to enhancing your self-growth!  For example, I recently signed up to run a half marathon by the end of June.

  5. Exercise

    Exercise has been proven to boost endorphins in the brain which can lead to feelings of relaxation and happiness (Brassington, Dale & King, 2014). Even going for a brisk walk for a change of scenery can boost your mood.

  6. Download ‘Meetup’ an app that allows you to join a community of people with similar interests as you

    Meetup is a great app for getting to know people who live in your community and can help you to keep busy. There are different meetups for activities such as hiking, cooking, practicing languages, learning how to improve public speaking skills, etc.  

  7. Know that change is temporary

    Eventually, you will be moving on to different things and you recognize this temporary change of environment and pace as being a small blip on the radar of your incredible life. However, if feelings of loneliness or sadness persist or become regular, please consider contacting UBC counselling services or the UBC Wellness Centre for support.

Have a great summer!

Post written by Paige Lougheed

UBC Counselling Services:

1874 East Mall, Vancouver, BC

Phone: (604) 822 3811

UBC Wellness Centre:

Irving K Barber Learning Centre

1961 East Mall, Room 183

Phone: (604) 822 8450

 

References

Hannah Dale, Linsay Brassington, Kristel King, (2014) “The impact of healthy lifestyle interventions on mental health and wellbeing: a systematic review”, Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 19 Issue: 1, pp. 1-26.

Summer Plans

A well-planned summer can be the best-spent summer:

With exams coming to a halt, Summer 2017 has finally arrived! Have you spent some time to plan out how you want to spend your summer? Here are a couple of things to keep in mind so you can plan your summer break and make the most of it.

 1) Planning your summers:

As much as summer is meant for relaxing, some structure and planning is important too. One of the the little things that give me joy is to make lists. Google Calendar has recently become my best friend along with my journal. Having this visual guide really helps solidify my future plans so I can be on track with all the goals I’ve set. Summer days can really fly by, so planning ahead can help boost your productivity.

 2) Have fun in the sun; stay safe too!

Get your dose of vitamin D but remember to stay sun-safe and apply sunscreen. Read our blogpost Fun in the Sun for more details on ways to stay safe under those UV rays.

 3) Learn A Skill or Two:

As mentioned earlier, a productive summer to me means a fine balance of relaxing and learning. Summer is the perfect time to gain a new skill or two.

  • Sign up for classes! Learn something you’ve always wanted but never had the time to. Not only are new skillsets cool to boast, but they can help you stand out from the crowd for potential job searches.

Employers are always looking for candidates who can bring an extra skill or two to the table.

  • For example, take the time to learn softwares like Adobe Photoshop, Indesign, Microsoft Excel, or hone in on your public speaking and cooking skills.

Do something out of your comfort zone. As a matter of fact, start your own blog—heck, why not?! There are various organizations and websites around Vancouver that offer one-month courses that you can enrol in to enhance your skills.

  • EdX and Brainstation are several examples of organisations that offer short courses such as web development, robotics, and user interface design.

 4) Keep your eyes peeled for potential exchange opportunities:

Ever dream of studying in Paris, Tokyo, or maybe London? UBC offers many great learning and research opportunities abroad such as exchanges and global seminars.

Around this time, UBC Go Global is accepting Round 2 applications for their exchange programs in Term 2, or Split Year (going away away for a full academic year starting in Term 2).

  • Our fellow Wellness Peer and Healthy Minds Blogger, Kleo is headed to Warsaw, Poland to learn about the psychology of Genocide this summer.
  • I’m also excited to be heading to Hong Kong and Kaiping to learn about the history of Chinese migration.

These international learning opportunities can really help students gain well-rounded learning experiences.

 5) Travel and Explore BC:

Nothing spells summer more than travelling and expanding your horizons. For those who are staying in BC over the summer, you don’t even have to go far to witness new sights. British Columbia has so much to offer!

  • Go bicycling in Stanley Park–a must-do in Vancouver.
  • Or camping in BC’s beautiful Pacific Northwest forests.
  • Plan a road trip to Pemberton, Whistler, Okanagan or Squamish.
  • Lynn Canyon’s swimming holes in North Vancouver is another must-go during Vancouver’s warmest season. (Checkout this instagram @hellobc and get inspired!)

Something that I’ve always wanted to do is explore BC’s natural hot springs–especially Key Holes Hot Springs. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many amazing locations there are to visit.

Now get planning! The Wellness Peers wish you a great summer!

 

Post written by Jenny X.

Graduation, Uncertainty, and Self-Compassion

Recently, a friend asked me, “So, what are your post-graduation plans?” I found myself holding my breath, scrambling to find words to explain the uncertainty I felt about my future. The words “I don’t know” felt too shameful. I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree and I had a good understanding of my interests. Still, a series of ‘unsuccessful’ applications left me floundering in uncertainty.

As someone who thrives when I have purpose and direction, I found it incredibly unsettling to embrace the unknown. A few months from graduation, I didn’t know where I was soon going to be, what I would be doing, and where I would be living. I tied the setbacks I faced in my application process to my sense of self-worth. I was growing increasingly weary of my ability to succeed and became emotionally reserved. I felt guilty when I took time to play and relax, knowing that I didn’t even have my next few months figured out.

Slowly, I began to realize that my low self-worth was holding me back. I began to practice self-compassion instead–and it was liberating. Self-compassion is appreciating the value that you have, regardless of external circumstances and especially in moments of uncertainty and self-doubt. For me, it meant being as kind with myself as I am with others and disassociating my setbacks from my potential.

Curious about what it looks like in practice? Here are some useful tips to help you incorporate self-compassion into your daily life:

  • Take compliments at face value and embrace them. It can be easy to brush off praise by highlighting what isn’t right. In every genuine compliment, there is truth. In every achievement, there is value. So, embrace it because you’ve worked for it.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts when facing setbacks. Are these thoughts about yourself constructive or negative? How can you shift your perspective to cherish your value?
  • Take small moments out of your day for some self-appreciation. In times of uncertainty and self-doubt, try taking brief moments out of your day to appreciate something about yourself.

I’ve learned a lot during my struggles with graduation:

Compassion is freeing. When I practice compassion in moments of self-doubt, I learn to trust that I am capable of achieving my goals. Though excellence is commendable, it is equally important to value our humanness. When we have tried our absolute best, it is enough.

Compassion can boost our wellbeing. Research shows that practicing self-compassion in moments of setback can improve our motivation and engagement. When we give ourselves the same compassion that we often give to others, we can feel more capable and empowered.

It’s okay to be uncertain. Everyone’s journey through university and life is unique. It is okay to be uncertain, even when others appear to be so certain. Uncertainty can lead you to opportunities and experiences you may never have thought of before.

Compassion can go a long way in alleviating the stress of post-grad uncertainty. From the first year of university to the last, a high self-worth coupled with an abundance of self-compassion can improve our mental wellbeing. Especially when we face setbacks. So go on, fill your arms with self-love and embrace the unknown.

How do you face uncertainty?

Post written by: Alice Guo, Wellness Peer 

Exams and Play

Memorizing copious amounts of information, researching for a ten-page term paper, and still managing to balance a social life and play is much easier said than done. Every year when December and April roll around, I am tempted to retreat into my hermit hole and temporarily bid adieu to the rest of the world. However, not only did that particular approach leave me slightly resentful and bitter, it also prevented me from getting the academic results I was striving for.

One of the first steps I took to change how I experience exam season was to sit down and figure out what types of activities energize me, whether physically, mentally, or both. This certainly wasn’t easy. After a few semesters of trial-and-error tactics, I came to realize that I am far more productive when I am genuinely enjoying myself, or if I know there is something that I can look forward to in the next few hours. Ideally, reviewing notes for even the most monotonous exam would feel like play to me, but this is not always possible. Instead, I have learned to incorporate various activities into my study times to help change up my routine and give me a much-needed mental and physical break.

Here are a few of the activities I find myself returning to time and again during exams (or other periods of stress) when I need a charge of energy:

Movement Moments (like walking a dog)

As an avid follower of dog Instagram accounts like @tofu_corgi and @dobaninu, I am part of the unfortunate group of dog lovers who do not actually own a dog. What do I do instead? Tag along with my friends when they take their dogs out of course!

There’s a reason why so many people ask about campus puppy visits during April:

Dogs always need to be walked. If I know a close friend in my neighborhood who owns a fluffy little pooch, I know I can always count on them to be up for a trek outdoors, even during exam season. Dog walking allows you to stretch your legs, find a bit of rejuvenation, and play with a little animal that’s probably excited to see you. The positive energy can be such a refreshing change from the tense apprehension that affects campus during exam time.

Find a Friend (you could share music playlists)

It can feel almost impossible to meet up with friends during exam season. But the camaraderie and support of family and friends are still as important at this busy time. My closest group of friends have a designated ‘study house’ where we meet up and work on assignments together.

If face-to-face interactions are difficult to arrange, we resort to useful websites such as Plug.dj. This way, we can share our music playlists with each other when studying, which reminds us that we are all in this together, while at the same time introducing me to new tracks for my study playlist. Try to establish a general set of rules (no lyrics, no death metal, etc.) before sharing music to avoid any potential DJ battles!

Cafe Crawl (remember to find cafes with electrical outlets and wifi)

I am the type of person who enjoys having separate spaces (when possible), for sleep, study, and play. When I’m in my bedroom, I have a tendency to start yawning, no matter how many cups of coffee I’ve already consumed that day. Therefore, if I cannot secure an alternative location to study in the house, I often relocate to a local cafe (as long as there are outlets at every corner and WiFi to spare). While packing up my bag, hopping on the nearest bus, and purchasing a deliciously crafted latte all cut into potential study time, I’ve noticed that getting some fresh air and walking around between subjects does wonders to restore my concentration.

Sometimes I have to stay indoors all day. When that happens, I still try to move around every time I feel my limbs growing stiff or my shoulders sore. Alternatives I have found to sitting in front of a laptop include printing out my notes and walking around the room, reciting facts and information from the top of my head. The steady pace of my footsteps keeps my mind focused and contributes to my step counts for the day!

Despite all of my efforts, final season may never become my favorite time of the year. But when I stay aware of all my actions and study style during these few weeks, I can do a lot to relieve stress.

For more self-help resources or professional support, visit UBC’s Stress Less for Exam Success page. Also, feel free to drop by the Wellness Center or the UBC Learning Commons at IKBLC to chat with a student peer about how they study and incorporate play into exams. We are always happy to chat with you and help connect you with more resources.

Happy studying!

Photo taken by and post written by Kleo Fang

The Modern Day Taco: Butternut Squash & Black Beans

All copyrights reserved by Dietitians of Canada. Photo retrieved from Cookspiration.

March is Nutrition Month and this year there are 12 featured recipes for you to try! As a lover of butternut squash and avocados, this is my favourite recipe – it’s both delicious and nutritious. Sweet butternut squash combined with creamy avocados is a match made in heaven! This recipe also contains at least one ingredient from each food group, making it a balanced meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner.

Two great ingredients in this recipe are black beans and butternut squash. Read on to learn more about the nutritional benefits of butternut squash and black beans, and find helpful purchasing and preparation tips for your next meal.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a type of winter squash and is available almost year-round in many grocery stores. It has orange flesh and a beige peel and it is probably best known in the form of a creamy butternut squash soup (which you can make without cream).

Butternut squash is:

  • An excellent source of beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C, higher than other squashes like acorn and spaghetti squash1.
  • Often larger than a summer squash, which means you can make more portions. There are many ways to prepare butternut squash from roasting, steaming or microwaving.

Not sure how to peel and cut a butternut squash? Check out this video.

Want to learn more about the benefits of winter squash? Click here for more information.

Student Tips:

  • Choose a butternut squash without green spots (this shows that the squash is ripe and ready to eat)
  • If winter squash (e.g. butternut, acorn, spaghetti, or kabocha squash), is on sale, don’t be afraid stock up on an extra one of two. Squash can be stored in a cool and dry place for up to 2 to 4 months!
  • Dice your squash into smaller pieces if you want it to cook quicker
  • To make butternut squash ahead of time, cook your diced butternut squash until it’s just softened. Cool and freeze in a Ziploc bag. For a quick meal, take out the frozen squash and steam or roast on a baking sheet with olive oil. You can even use half your squash now, and freeze the rest for later.

Black Beans

You may have grown up learning to fear beans because it’s believed to cause bloating and gassiness. Oligosaccharides, a short-chain sugar and type of carbohydrate found in beans, are not easily digested and can lead to stomach discomfort2. However, you can reduce the levels of these hard-to-digest sugars by soaking and rinsing dried beans before cooking or rinsing canned beans. From burger patties to tacos and fudgy brownies, black beans have re-gained their popularity and made their way back to many people’s kitchens.

Black beans are:

  • Versatile, inexpensive and quick to prepare  
  • A very good source of fibre, which can keep you full longer. A ½ cup serving provides 8g of fibre (Canada recommends 25-38g of fibre for women and men respectively)3
  • Low in fat
  • A plant protein (perfect for vegetarian dishes)

Student Tips:

  • Canned black beans can make meal prep a lot easier because they are pre-cooked. Rinse before using to lower the sodium content
  • Packaged or bulk black beans are a great option for students on a budget
  • Speed up the cooking process by soaking your beans overnight
  • Add to soups or wraps for a quick and easy source of protein
  • If you don’t like the taste of black beans, try chickpeas, red kidney beans, navy beans or lentils, or try preparing the beans in different ways for different flavours

Poster by Dietitians of Canada

Check out other Nutrition Month recipes here and challenge yourself to prepare a new recipe! Bon Appetit!


References:

1 Leslie Beck. ‘I love to eat squash this time of year, is one healthier than the others?’ Globe and Mail. 28 Oct 2014. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/i-love-to-eat-squash-this-time-of-year-is-one-healthier-than-the-others/article21352343/

2 Pulse Canada. ‘Beans and flatulence: fact or fiction?’. April 2014. http://www.pulsecanada.com/pnn/nutrition/2012/april/beans-flatulence-full

3 Dietitians of Canada. ‘Food sources of fibre’. 26 Oct 2016. https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Fibre/Food-Sources-of-Fibre.aspx

Post Written by: Mei Ho

Embarking On Your Own Mindful Eating Journey

Spending time to enjoy every bite of our meal can often be a challenge for us. Sometimes we are guilty of scrolling down our Facebook Feed or speeding through meals to get to our next destination. 

Eating too quickly can be a problem because our brain takes about 20 minutes to signal feelings of satiety (fullness). By eating quickly, it can leave us unsatisfied and result in eating more food than we need. Mindful Eating is about becoming more aware of what you’re eating and how it nourishes your body. Additionally, you learn to understand your body’s signals of fullness or hunger. (Today’s Dietitian).

Below is a Mindful Eating Cycle with questions we can ask ourselves to help us understand our eating behaviours. 

Photo retrieved from Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 15 No. 3 P. 42. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml
Questions to Consider
Why? Why do I eat? Am I eating to build energy and strength in my body to help me through day-to-day activities?
When? When I want to eat? Am I eating just because it is noon? Am I eating because I am bored? Is it a craving, hunger or a sign of thirst?
What? What do I eat? Am I choosing a balance of foods that nourish our body and make us feel good? Am I making sustainable food choices?
How? How do I eat? Am I eating our meals on the go? With friends?
How much? How much do I eat? Am I eating more portions because I’m still hungry? Am I checking in with our satiety (fullness)  cues halfway through my meals?
Where? Where do I invest my energy? Am I eating in a space that is comfortable, has minimal distractions and allows me to enjoy my food?

 

Choosing one or two of the questions above can be the first step to eating mindfully. These questions can give us more information about our eating patterns and help us make healthier food choices.

As a nutrition/dietetic student, I must admit that mindful eating can be challenging. I am used to eating my meals quickly, which may be why I am always eager for seconds. It’s not until my last couple of bites where I start questioning myself if I was actually eating mindfully. There have been many times where I felt guilty because of this. However, I realize that mindful eating doesn’t happen overnight. We need to be patient with ourselves and trust our body’s signals.

Everyone’s journey to mindful eating is unique and set at a pace that we feel most comfortable with.

March is Nutrition Month and this year’s slogan about improving our relationship with food: ‘Take the Fight out of Food. Spot the Problem. Get the Facts. Seek Support”. How will you take the fight out of food and practice more mindful eating?

To take the pledge and read more about this year’s campaign, visit here

Post written by: Mei Ho. 

Week 4 of the Healthy Relationships Campaign- Fostering Relationships with Others

As University students, it seems almost inevitable that we find our plates full with academic course load, volunteer, work, or other extra curricular activities. During these moments, it is easy and tempting to pass over social activities and forgo meeting friends or calling home in order to catch up on that last minute essay or lab report. However, it is important to remember how important our social network can be when it comes to times of stress and hardship.
During the last week of February, the Wellness Peers will be focusing on the topic of Fostering Relationships with Others, especially during moments in life when we may be most likely to neglect them. Check out the video below for student tips, perspectives, and ideas!  

Have Your Say on Campus Fitness Space by Voting in the AMS Referendum

Did you know that UBC has .15 square feet of recreation (fitness) space per student, which is one of the lowest in the country?  Based on a petition from student leaders there is a referendum taking place from March 6-10 and is online (https://amsvoting.as.it.ubc.ca/). The AMS is supporting a yes vote to improve student well-being, community building, intramural programming and the student experience.

The question being asked is:

Do you support the AMS establishing a graduated fee (“The Fee”) to contribute to the construction of a student fitness and recreation building at UBC Vancouver?

The facility reflects significant student needs for fitness, gymnasium space and multipurpose space. The new facility would include the:

  • 3 recreational gym courts (doubling the current SRC space)
  • 35,000-45,000 sq. ft. of new fitness space
  • 10,000 ft. of support space (office, multi-purpose space)

All students, undergraduate and graduate, can vote in the referendum from March 6-10. Have your say!

Week 3 of the Healthy Relationships Campaign- Having Difficult Conversations

Welcome to Week 3 of the Healthy Relationships Campaign! This week, the Wellness Peers will be sharing their perspectives and offering suggestions on how to have difficult conversations with people you care about.

A healthy relationship does not mean a perfect one, and it is inevitable that conflict arises once in awhile between two individuals who deeply care for each other. It can be between two lovers, two close friends, and family members. Often, these conversations can feel awkward, nerve-wracking, and even terrifying because it requires individuals to be both vulnerable and empathetic while at the same time, trying to resolve an underlying layer of tension. However, these feelings are perfectly normal and if handled properly, these difficult conversations can work to strengthen existing relationships.

Check out the video below to see what fellow students have to say about the topic!

Sex in All Languages

January was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an initiative that aims to raise awareness and understanding about the issues around sexual assault. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a collaborative initiative that has been running since 2010 at UBC, involving many campus partners to provide inclusive and action-based programming. This year, some events for SAAM included Denim Day, a number of workshops on issues on  sexual violence, and consent booths around campus.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I decided to attend an event hosted by the Global Lounge, called Sex in all Languages. As someone growing up in a traditional Chinese household in Canada, I was curious about the different experiences and perspectives on sexual norms, expectations, and practices from others cultures.

Upon arriving at the Global Lounge, I was surprised at the sheer number of people who came to attend the event. My surprise mostly came from my knowledge that sex has historically been a rather taboo conversation topic and the fact that 40 or more people of various backgrounds attended meant that there was huge interest in discussing the topic!

After mingling with the attendees and facilitators before the start of the event, I realized just how diverse a group this was. There were people of all cultures, orientations, and religious backgrounds – to me, it was a truly unique experience.

After hearing about the experiences and perspectives from a diverse group of panelists, we were able to choose a topic that interested us for smaller, more in-depth discussions.

Topics included:

  1. Virginity and sexual debut, sex before or after marriage, first time experiences
  2. LGBTQ, gender non-binary
  3. Sexual norms in different cultures
  4. Consent and talking about sex in a healthy way
  5. Interracial and intercultural relationship/sexual experience
  6. Your sexual journey

The small group tables for each topic were arranged so that people could all sit around them cross-legged and were draped in a colourful embroidered fabrics. Each table was stocked with a different kind of tea and colouring pages. I chose to go to the LGBTQ+ and the My Sexual Journey tables. We talked about a variety of topics such as whether consent was different for people in the LGBTQ+ community, how identifying as a particular sexual orientation can have political reasons, and how our views on sex have changed over the years. Any discomfort I had at first was quickly diminished by everyone else’s open-minded, non-judgmental attitudes. At the end of the night, I was left wanting to go to more tables. Being able to talk in such an inclusive space with complete strangers about one of the most intimate, personal aspects of myself was a unique and powerful experience for me.

I think this was a great event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month as it opened up the dialogue for various topics surrounding sex that are not normally discussed. I hope organizations on campus continue to create safe spaces like this one for people to feel empowered to talk about their own experiences with sex.

The event was developed in partnership with a number of campus groups including:

UBC Equity AmbassadorsUBC Hua DialogueGlobal LoungeUBC Intercultural AllianceACAM DialoguesSAAM committeeResidence Life, and the Equity and Inclusion Office

If you’re interested, make sure to check these groups out!

Post written by: Maria Zhu

I walk in the darkness

Poem by Meredith Graham, fourth-year Child and Youth Care Counselling student at Douglas College

I walk in the darkness and the light staying awake all night because the sights in my dreams bring despair unforeseen.

Can’t slip into deep sleep but sometimes don’t want to stay awake. Not here. Not now. Because… how?

Because my anxiety makes me sweaty and steals time from me. Steals me from you. Steals away what I thought I knew.

Because my bipolar disorder makes me both younger and older. Both weaker and bolder. Both a river and a boulder.

Because my obsessive compulsive disorder brings chaos and order. Brings glass walls and borders. Brings brick and mortar.

Because my ptsd wants to envelope me. Wants to debilitate me. Wants me to hate me.

Because my borderline personality disorder reminds me of my immense strength and sensitivity. Reminds me of a different reality. Reminds me that you are different from me and truly can’t understand and see my impulsivity and self-destructability. Reminds me of a fine line between psychosis and neurosis and how gross my soul is.

And inside all of this is my creativity. A beauty. A duty. A vulnerability. A strength and fragility. A responsibility. An ability.

To share my darkness and my light.

To fight with open hands, the strength of a raging river through the lands. To stand. And stumble and fumble through the words of mental health today. In some way.

These places – the anxiety, bp, bpd, ptsd, and ocd do not deserve the best of me. Or you.

Help stamp out bullying: Wear a pink shirt on February 22

Image from Flickr via Creative Commons by Frédérique Voisin-Demery

In 2007, “David Shepherd, Travis Price, and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school. ‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’ So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag. As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled. The bullies were never heard from again.”

Source: The Globe & Mail article that inspired CKNW Orphans’ Fund Pink Shirt Day. Taken from http://pinkshirtday.ca/about-us/

On February 22, 2017, the CKNW Orphans’ Fund encourages everyone to wear a pink shirt to symbolize that they will not tolerate bullying of any sort in their community — at school, in the workforce, at home, or even on the Internet.

Outside of my studies at UBC, I have spent the last five years working with children at Kumon Learning Centres to help them develop strong reading and math skills. As a result, I regularly interact with children  between ages five to eighteen. Often, children  come in to Kumon sharing exciting stories of what their friends were doing on the playground, or eagerly sprouting facts from a new and exciting lesson on dinosaurs. However, to this day, my most memorable moment at the Learning Centre was  when a child asked if we would ever bully him.

In an uncharacteristically quiet moment of work, the child that I had known for several months suddenly put down his pencil, looked up from his work, and asked if we, the instructors, would ever be mean to him. Shocked and a little taken-aback, I reassured him that we would never do or say anything to hurt him. After some  gentle questioning, he revealed that he asked this question because  “the kids are school were mean to [him].” He was too young to even know what the word ‘bully’ meant, but he was already feeling the effects of the harassment. In that particular incident, we were able to connect with his parents and get to the bottom of what was happening at school. However, not every child is so lucky.

How can you help?

One way is to wear a pink shirt on Pink Shirt Day to show your support for this anti-bullying campaign.  The CKNW Orphans’ Fund and CKNW radio station also collect donations for anti-bullying programs. 100% of the net proceeds are distributed to organizations such as Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland, Canadian Red Cross BC, and the Boys and Girls Club of Western Canada. These non-profits support the development of healthy self-esteem, empathy, compassion, and kindness in Canadian youth. I have personally volunteered for programs such as Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver as an older mentor to elementary school youth and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to see and hear about the changes in my little buddy.

You can also show your support on social media by tagging all posts with the hashtag #PinkShirtPromise. Between February 6-22, Shaw and Coast Capital will donate $1 to the CKNW Orphans’ Fund in British Columbia to support bully prevention programs.

Together we can make a difference.

Week 2 of the Healthy Relationships Campaign- Self-Empowerment

Welcome back to the second week of our healthy relationships series! This week, we’re talking about self-empowerment.

What does it mean to you? How can you find and maintain self-empowerment? What about feeling empowered in relationships?

For some people, self-empowerment means making active decisions in their own lives, like setting goals and making positive choices. For others, it means doing whatever makes them feel the best from within. All in all, empowerment has a different meaning and story for every individual.

Empowerment is an important topic because it helps us strive to be the best versions of ourselves. When we feel empowered, we can foster a stronger, healthier relationship with ourselves. Check out the video to learn more about self-empowerment and to hear what helps Wellness Peers feel empowered.

Week 1 of the Healthy Relationships Campaign- How to Give and Get Consent

In February, relationships are on the forefront of many students’ minds. It’s the season when we celebrate our valuable connections and reflect on the challenging ones.

Healthy and respectful relationships with yourself and others can go a long way. When we feel supported, loved, and cared for, we can strive to be better versions of ourselves. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the Wellness Peers will be exploring different aspects of healthy relationships throughout the month of February. Each week, check our blog for videos to learn more about the joys and challenges of relationships — the ones we have with ourselves and others.

This week’s video is about consent. Whether it’s between friends, colleagues, teammates, or partners, getting and giving consent in all relationships allows everyone to feel respected and heard. It shows that you care about the other person, and sets a strong foundation for happy, healthy relationships. Check out the video below to learn more about the importance of giving and getting consent — even if you’ve known the person for a while.

 

De-Stress For Exam Success

Tis’ the season of midterms and assignments. As you buckle in for those late night study sessions and productive work-a-thons, we hope that you are able to take some well-deserved breaks for your body and mind. In need for some inspiration? Check out the video below for some fun ways you can de-stress for exam success:

Mental Health Symposium 2017

In the Philippines, where I grew up, mental health was often not the first thing that came up in conversations. Physical health, yes. But mental health, almost never. It was only after I moved to Vancouver in 2011 and found myself struggling with anxiety that I learned how real it was.

After my own experience with mental health, I was motivated to start learning more about it and to find ways of helping others who were grappling with it as well. In 2014, that came in the form of UBC’s Mental Health Symposium, which is an annual event that aims to give students practical tools and knowledge about mental health.

I stumbled upon the symposium at a resource fair, and was so excited to find an avenue to be able to learn from different people about mental health. I was expecting a day full of workshops, and discovered that the Mental Health Symposium was so much more than that. At the symposium, not only did I gain practical knowledge, but I also left feeling inspired by the individuals who shared their personal mental health challenges so openly and who were passionate about creating positive change.

Since then I have continued to find ways to get involved in community building, people-centered mental health initiatives. This work has continued to help me build community and inspiration at UBC.

This year, I am privileged to be able to co-chair the symposium that gave me so much three years ago. It gave me knowledge but also the reassurance that I was not alone in what I was experiencing. Now, It’s my turn to give back. With warmth and excitement, I invite you to:

What: The 2017 Mental Health Symposium

When: February 11th from 10am-5pm

Where: Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability.

The Mental Health Symposium is an annual event organized by students, for students. Through conversations, informative workshops, and inspiring speeches, the Mental Health Symposium 2017 aims to build a supportive community of people who are equipped to challenge stigma and inspired to promote mental health and wellness at UBC. Free breakfast and lunch will be provided. For more details on the workshops and to register visit: https://survey.ubc.ca/s/mentalhealthsymposium/

Post written by: Clarice Chan, Mental Health and Wellbeing Assistant and Naomi Schatz

Fitting in Fitness- a Graduate Student Perspective

As a new student, at a new university, in a new province, and a new degree, I find it challenging to fall into a new rhythm. Sometimes I forget that I am my best self when I make time to move. When I am active I am more prepared to cope with intellectual road bumps, and more tuned in to what my body needs. I also have more energy than after your average cup of coffee. Not to mention, I can’t keep my eyes open by the time I hit the pillow.

If movement can make us feel great, what’s stopping us? For me, barriers to moving often show up in areas of my life related to money and time. These barriers can be different for everyone.

Here are some of my go-to strategies for making space for movement in your budget and your schedule:

  1. Prioritize, and schedule accordingly

Take a moment at the beginning of your week to schedule in fitness – just as you would schedule meetings and classes. Setting my schedule up this way at the start of the week helps me normalize fitness in my schedule. I intentionally make enough hours in my week for physical activity and this helps form a habit that carries me through busier times.

  1. Make moving social

Take your coffee date on the road for a walk through Pacific Spirit Park. Kick a ball around with your kids. Set goals for movement with friends- and keep each other accountable.

  1. Explore your options

Find the best fit-you have options. Sign up for a class with UBC Recreation. Get outside. Check-out energizing online exercise videos (check out this link for a few options). Explore different studios in the city. Keep an eye out for free classes or discounted introductory offers. Attend community or by-donation classes. Look into an energy exchange (volunteer your time, in exchange for complimentary classes).

Building a habit takes time, effort, and often more than one try. I find my main motivator to be noticing the differences in my body and head space. Notice if you are more focused, notice which workout leaves you with the most energy, notice if you feel stronger, notice if you feel happier, and be kind to yourself along the way.

I’ll leave you with a challenge: put your phone (or desktop, or tablet, or laptop) away for the next 10 minutes and get moving!

Looking for inspiration? Try taking part in MoveUBC!

As February soon approaches, excitement on campus is building for the kick off to MoveUBC month! MoveUBC is a university-wide campaign to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior amongst students, staff, faculty and the UBC community. Nontraditional forms of movement are welcome and encouraged!  

Learn more and get involved at http://www.move.ubc.ca/

Post written by Jocelyn Micallef

A Call Out for Wellness Peers 2017-2018!

“I’ve learned so much about health and wellbeing by being a Wellness Peer. It’s great to have the opportunity to  inform and help other students regarding health-related topics.” -Courtney (Current Wellness Peer)

I love Wellness Peers because not only do I get to work with other students that are passionate about health and wellbeing, but I get support and resources from the university. My most applicable skills have come from training and experiences through Wellness Peers. The things I’ve learned here far surpass the things I’ve learned from past jobs.” – Katie (Current Wellness Peer)

The Wellness Peers are a group of dedicated individuals who work out of the Wellness Centre to provide peer-to-peer perspectives on topics of wellness, including but not limited to, mental health, physical health, and sexual health. We have a passion for health promotion and we are always happy to connect students with wellness related campaigns and help provide information about resources, both on and off campus.  

As leaders in the Wellness Peer Program, we contribute to the larger university commitment to enhancing student mental health and wellbeing and support the UBC community through health education and health promotion.

Additional perks to being a Wellness Peer? We get extensive weekly training on a variety of  health topics such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault, and ways to improve our own mental health and wellbeing.

(We also delicious get snacks!)

January is recruitment month and the Wellness Peer Program is looking for new members to join the team for the school year of 2017/2018! If this sounds like something that you would be interested in, please visit the Peer Programs page to read up on what this commitment entails.

If you would like to speak with a current Wellness Peer on their experience, please visit the Wellness Centre. We are located in room 183 on the first floor of Irving K Barber.

Applications close at 11:59pm on January 29, 2017.
Good luck!

A New Year, and a Not-So-New Me

This post features the perspectives of 2 people and is co-written by: Alice Guo and Jenny Xu

Jenny: As we welcome 2017 with open arms, we hear people constantly exchange the verse “New Year, New Me” to exclaim their anticipation for the upcoming year.

Alice: A new year is often filled with exciting possibilities and cherished opportunities. The turn of the calendar combined with a much-deserved winter break allows me to refuel my energy, regain my focus, and reflect on the joys and challenges the past year has brought me. It also gives me the perfect mental space to craft new perspectives and renew old goals that will propel me towards a fulfilling year to come. As exciting as it can be, it has also brought me to hastily push aside previous challenges I’ve faced.


Jenny: For some—myself included, New Years—in essence, has always been associated with starting anew and shoving past worries and problems under the rug, hoping that they would resolve themselves…only to resurface and draw upon negative instances of the past, disrupting this idealized image of the new year and the new person I want myself to become.

I soon noticed that this was not an effective, realistic, nor healthy mindset to have.  Rather than starting fresh or “new”, I now perceive New Years to symbolize that I’m one year older, and one year wiser. My prior experiences are there to be built upon and help shape me into the improved and more mindful individual that I am today. Taking small but mighty actions like re-framing my mind helps to change my perspectives towards personal success, and on persevering through bigger goals that often take much longer than just a year.

Alice: Some goals can be easily achieved with clear rewards that fuel my motivation, while other goals (like pursuing a career path, or tackling a grand challenge in the community) can be more incremental and take far more than a year to achieve. These goals have always discouraged me when I reflect on what seems to be little progress by the end of the year. At times, I’ve even questioned my capability and wondered whether or not I had what it took to achieve them. With the “New Year, New Me” motto being thrown around, it sure doesn’t help encourage me to persevere. As daunting as these goals may seem, I have realized that these are in fact some of the most valuable goals. Though I may feel like I’m using a butter knife to chisel away at a giant mountain, the incremental progress that I make day to day towards my aspirations is what builds a stronger, more resilient me.
What are your goals for this year? How will you find ways to cherish incremental progress?

6 things I wish I knew before going to graduate school

As a second year Master’s student, I’m starting to realize how far I’ve come in the past year. There are many things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I had known before I started. Some of these I’d like to share with you. Although I’m speaking from the perspective of someone in a thesis-based program doing research in a lab, I think students across most programs will be able to share my sentiments in a number of these areas.

  1. Do your research beforehand.

Where do your expertise and passions lie? If you’re thinking of lab work, what’s the lab dynamic like? Do you want a lab that pumps out many publications or a lab that has fewer publications but only publishes in Nature? If you’re going to have a supervisor, what is the mentorship style of the supervisor? It’s helpful to ask the supervisor and your potential colleagues these questions beforehand.

If you’re not at that stage yet and still wondering which program is right for you, this can be  a helpful website to get you started.

  1. Be aware of deadlines and plan ahead.

Deadlines can be sooner than you think. In the January before entering grad school, I started looking for potential labs and funding opportunities. To my dismay, the deadline for funding ended the month before. Lesson learned: do things early. Find out when funding deadlines are, when abstract submission deadlines for conferences are, and start your thesis early. This will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Click here to find out more about various graduate award opportunities and deadlines.

  1. Be an opportunist.

Opportunities aren’t going to be handed to you. In graduate school, it’s not necessarily the people with the best grades who end up succeeding, but the people who aren’t afraid to find opportunities to collaborate with others, ask for what they want, and be proactive about looking for career prospects.

Looking for graduate career opportunities? Here is a helpful place to start.

  1. If you have a supervisor, understand that you may not always see eye to eye.

Your supervisor may ask you to do something that you may not necessarily agree with, or you may feel that you have been treated unfairly. Try to understand their point of view, but also make sure your voice is heard. It’s helpful to communicate frequently with each other and establish supervisor-graduate student expectations at the very beginning.

The Graduate Supervision Handbook can be a helpful resource where you can find information about expectations for students and supervisors,  and GSS Advocates who provide assistance to fellow graduate students.

There may be more  serious cases in which occasional differences in opinion becomes workplace harassment. If you ever feel that this may be the case, UBC Ombuds office and mygradstory  can help with the process of reporting such behavior:

  1. If you feel stuck, seek help.

In graduate school, students are expected to become more independent and eventually experts in their fields. That being said, we are not expected to know everything from the get-go. Most of us enter our respective programs from different backgrounds, with various skill sets . Some skills have yet to be developed, and that’s ok. If you are having troubles in particular a course, consult the instructor. It is in everyone’s best interest for you to succeed in your program. Graduate Pathways to Success is a great program that provides e-resources and workshops on topics like time management, thesis-writing, and career-building. The UBC Library Research Commons and Centre for Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication offer additional workshops and one-on-one consultations for academic writing specific to grad students.

  1. Take care of your mind and body.

Graduate school can be  filled with ups and downs. There may be times when you face failure and begin wondering what your uncertain future is going to look like. Chronic stress and depression are common in graduate school and sometimes it’s good to talk to a peer or seek help from a professional.

A number of services are available on campus:

  • The Wellness Centre is open on a drop-in basis and is staffed by trained student volunteers known as Wellness Peers.
  • Counselling Services offers free, confidential counselling for UBC students.
  • Student Health Services is your family doctor while you are studying at UBC, and free for all UBC students with the AMS/GSS health and dental plan or MSP.

For more information on mental health, please visit “heretohelp” and “gradresources”.

When trying to balance courses, research, volunteering, a social life, and etc., eating healthy and exercising can often get put on the backburner. It is important to prioritize our physical health as it  has significant effects on our long term health and wellbeing.

For information on fitness classes (Zumba and yoga) and nutrition workshops specific to grad students, visit the Graduate Student Society website.

Post written by: Maria Zhu


Wondering who Maria is? Here is a little more about her!

Hello! My name is Maria, and I’m a 2nd year Master’s student studying Neuroscience. I am one of the graduate wellness peers and facilitate workshops, participate in outreach events, and write blogs specific to graduate students! Graduate students have a different set of needs and commitments from undergraduate students. My goal as a Wellness Peer is to share my experiences and knowledge as a graduate student and incorporate them into our program.

Outside of school and the Wellness Centre, I enjoy hiking and participating in watersports during the summer and snowboarding in BC’s beautiful mountains during the winter. I am excited to share my graduate student perspective on this blog! Hopefully you will find these helpful!