How to balance work and school while practicing time management

The end of November marks the last stretch until the end of first semester (woohoo! Freedom is near!). The end of exams means the start of Winter break, and it’s hard not to daydream about your trip back home or the weekend in Whistler you planned with your friend, but we all know how intense the last few weeks of class followed by dreaded exams feels. Maybe you’re feeling great about wrapping up your courses and tackling those upcoming exams, maybe you feel you need 30 hour days rather than 24 hour ones (we’ve all been there), or maybe you even want a button to pause time so you can just breathe. Either way balancing work and school is a tough task.

We don’t always consider the various aspects of our wellness when we think of balance. In fact, as students, most of the time we are so focused on one task that we don’t take the time we should to ensure the other parts of our wellness are sufficiently met. So here are some tips as to how you can maintain a healthy balance, whatever that may look like to you.

Set personal deadlines for when you ideally want to have tasks done. Physically writing down your due dates can help you to plan your time better as it gives you a visual for what you need to accomplish within a set time frame. Using a calendar or planner, whether you’re an online kind of folk or enjoy using good ol’ pencil and paper, are super helpful for keeping track of your to-do’s and what you want to get done. Pro tip: Setting deadlines for earlier than the actual due date saves stress in the long-run! It gives you time in case something comes up or if you want to spend more time editing and fine-tuning that assignment.

Put your phone away or at least turn it face-down and use that silent button when you are doing work. If you are like me, phones can be a huge distraction when trying to get a not-so-fun assignment done. Something a lot of students find effective is setting an alarm on your phone for a set amount of dedicated study time. For example, if your focus lasts about 20 minutes, set an alarm for that amount of time and don’t touch your phone until the alarm goes off. Then take a 5-10 minute break and try repeating this 3 times before taking a longer study break.

Get to know your energy cycle to see when you are the most productive during the day. This can give you insight as to what time of day you are the most efficient at completing tasks, so you can focus on those not-so-fun assignments during that time. If you want to know more about your energy cycle come down to the Wellness Centre and grab a worksheet so you can see what it looks like!

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, study places and tips!

Written by Claudia and Sarah

Images from Unsplash

Study Tips to help you achieve a top grade

At university, we are taught all sorts of subjects. From cell biology to creative writing, we are expected to master it all. Yet, we are not taught how to study. That, we have to figure out on our own. Some students cram the entire course into their heads the night before the midterm, some highlight and reread their notes weeks before the exam, and some students prefer to only do practice problems… the different styles are endless.

None of study styles are bad, but turns out, some are more productive than others.

Decades of research into learning and memorization has taught us that the following study methods promote much better long-term retention than simply rereading, rewriting and highlighting notes.

Retrieval practice: a fancy term for “quiz yourself!”

Once you’ve learned a piece of information, every time you recall that memory, you strengthen it. Instead of writing notes for the second time, use that time to write your own questions and test yourself. Not only would you strengthen what you already know, you would also easily identify what areas you’re unsure of.

Elaborative rehearsal: link new information to things you already know

Instead of compartmentalizing new information into separate neat little boxes in your brain, try to connect that information to the rich web of knowledge that you already possess. As you’re learning the concept, try to deliberately create logical and intuitive associations with existing knowledge. Simple ways to do this are to use your own words to rephrase definitions, and relating new information to things you’re already familiar with from previous courses.

Dual coding: create both a visual and a verbal memory for the same information.

Once the information is associated with two senses instead of one, retrieval becomes much easier. Try to translate a written passage from the textbook into a drawing or flow chart. Instead of studying in silence, try explaining the concepts out loud, even if it’s just to yourself.

Distributed effort: spread it out, don’t cram

It may be difficult to not cram a subject the night before the test when students have extracurricular, part-time jobs and a social life to attend to, but distributing your studying really works! Say you’re going to spend 10 hours studying a particular topic, from 10pm to 8am, rather than drinking an insane amount of caffeine and powering through one night of hell, it is far more effective to spend that time as five 2-hour sessions over the course of a few days.

Sleep effect: review information you’re trying to memorize right before you go to sleep.

When you are sleeping, your brain recuperates and reorganizes information gathered during the day. Deep sleep is very important in memory consolidation. This is why it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes reviewing a chart or going through some flashcards right before bed. For best effects, try to test yourself shortly after you wake up.

These are the study tips that will help you achieve your learning goals according to science. Good luck! (Oh wait, you won’t need any once you follow these tips!) *wink*

Source Materials:

https://www.retrievalpractice.org/

https://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/vol2/seifert.html

Written by: Mai H. and J.S.

Images from Unsplash

How to improve your sleep

As university students with endless assignments and exams, it may be difficult to make our sleep a priority. But getting a good night’s sleep is extremely important for our learning, memory consolidation, focus, and overall wellbeing. 7-9 hours of sleep is suggested for adults for optimal energy and performance throughout the day, but this number can be different for many people. Here are some scientifically proven tips to help you get a better night’s sleep!

During the Day

Try to get in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. You’ll find it easier to fall asleep and get deeper, better quality sleep.

Taking a nap during the day can be a great way to catch up on sleep. If you are going to take a nap, try to take it earlier in the day (around mid-afternoon) to avoid having difficulty sleeping at night. When we sleep, we cycle through 90 minute sleep periods. The best length for a nap is either 30 minutes, right before you enter deeper sleep, or 90 minutes, at the completion of your sleep period.

Setting up your Sleep Environment

Make your room as dark as possible. That includes the light from your laptop charger or any other electronic devices, or any other distractions that can light up throughout the night and disrupt your sleep. The best environment for good quality sleep is in pitch darkness, so it might be a good idea to invest in blackout curtains.

Keep your room at a cool temperature for optimal sleep.

Before You Sleep

Try to turn off your devices, including your phone and laptop, 30 minutes to an hour before you get into bed. Melatonin, a mildly sleep producing hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness, aids you to fall asleep faster but decreases when you are exposed to light. Your screens emit blue light, which causes us to be alert and decreases our melatonin production. If you must use your electronics before bed for any reason, you can download apps that can change the display of your screen to a less harsh colour at night (I use one called Flux).

Allow yourself adequate time to unwind before you go to bed. Having a regular bedtime routine every night will signal your brain that you are preparing to go to bed. You can read, meditate, do yoga, listen to music, or do anything that will calm your mind before you drift off to sleep.

Elevating your body temperature before bed and then letting it cool down can result in deeper, better quality sleep. You can do this by taking a hot shower or drinking tea and then going to sleep in a cooler environment.

If you find yourself worrying or having anxious thoughts while you are trying to  fall asleep, write in a journal before going to bed. Write down anything you are concerned about and give yourself the permission to let any tasks or thoughts wait until the next day.

During your Sleep

If you are lying in bed for 20 minutes and you are still unable to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel like you are ready to try to sleep again.

For Long Term

If possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every night, including on weekends. Having a consistent schedule regulates your circadian rhythm and your body will slowly become adjusted to it, making it easier to get up Monday morning.

Being a university student doesn’t mean that we need to compromise our sleep and our well-being to succeed. Rather, it challenges us to find a balance in our busy lives between doing well in school while also getting the optimal sleep that we need to function best.

Visit https://students.ubc.ca/health-wellness/self-help/sleep to learn more about sleep! If you are still having trouble sleeping, visit your doctor to find out more information specific to your needs.

Sleep well!

Lauren

Post Written By: Lauren L.

Images from CC

Preparing for Midterms and Weekly Assignments

Yes, it’s that time of year again where midterms and assignments are due every week, and life starts to become overwhelming. But at this time of year, it’s also important for you to manage your own health and wellness before it gets to that point. Here are some of my wellness tips to get through the rest of the school season:

Take care of the basics:

Focus on getting enough sleep – Sleep is critical to keep you rejuvenated day after day. It is also a critical component of remembering your school material.

Eat healthy! – Yes, it is difficult to eat healthy, especially when you’re stressed out about exams and need to eat something that’s the quickest to stuff your face in (trust me. Been there, done that). But if you have the time to cook, that’s also a great way to unwind as well. If you need to whip up something quick and budget friendly, check out these links:

  • BudgetBytes: A website full of recipes that are broken down to its cost/recipe and cost/serving, allowing you to keep your stomach and your wallet full.
  • Cookspiration: An interactive app created by the Dietitians of Canada that presents you with recipes to meet your mood and schedule.

Exercise – Yes, something most of us may neglect. But taking even 15 minutes out of your day to go for a walk or run gets those endorphins pumping and allows you to focus better on your school work.

Also, make time to unwind. A lot of us slip into intense study sessions when there’s an upcoming midterm, but reality of it is, is that if you’re going too intensely at a study session, it’s not helping you retain your memory! Here are a few tips to unwind while you’re having a study session:

  • Listen to music you enjoy
  • Go for a small walk – even if it’s around your residence area or home
  • Do things as it feels okay – feel empowered to say “no” if you feel like you’re taking on too much. It’s easy to get caught up in the go-go-go of life, but remember to say no when it’s necessary when it gets too much.
  • Check in with your family or friends – it’s important to check in with yourself, but also let your friends or family know if there is something they can do for youhttps

If you prefer to attend a workshop from UBC professional staff about how to manage your wellness, click here to register for upcoming sessions!

Keep a look out for part 2 of this post: Study Tips to help you achieve a top grade!

Post written by: Mai H. and J.S.

A Halloween Party Primer

PART 1

With midterms, hopefully, behind us we’re now rapidly approaching the end of October, which means one thing: Halloween is nearly here. Maybe you’ve spent the last few weeks preparing the perfect costume, or maybe you’re just in it for the candy, or binging horror films on Netflix, but there’s something for everyone on this spooky day. Halloween parties are also some of the best there are, and one of the best excuses to take a break from studying, to emerge from your study holes, and reconnect with the friends you’ve been too busy to see.

We don’t always think about our safety first when we’re out at parties.  So here is the first of a two part article with tips that we hope will help keep you and your friends safe(r) this year on Halloween.

It all starts before you leave for the evening, and taking some precautions to ensure the safety of you and your friends can go a long way to staying safe.

Make sure that your phone has enough power to last through the night! Having a way to call a taxi to go home, or texting your friends to see where they are, all depends on whether or not your phone has enough juice.

Plan how you’re getting to the venue and back. That can be any of a designated driver (DD), taxi, or bus. And maybe, one day, if we’re lucky, Uber. Just make sure you’ve either got money, your UPass or your DD.

Bring along some protection (condoms, oral dams, etc.) if you think you might engage in sex at some point throughout the night. Also, don’t forget to use it. Always remember to ask your partner for consent before engaging in sexual activity. To better understand what consent looks like click here https://students.ubc.ca/campus-life/sexual-assault-awareness/consent .

Eat well before you leave. Especially if you’re going to be consuming alcohol. Alcohol enters your bloodstream more rapidly on an empty stomach, increasing the rate of intoxication.

If you’re going to be drinking alcohol, or anything for that matter, it’s important to think about how to do so safely. Frankly, we’re also just less thoughtful when intoxicated and we don’t always make the same decisions we might have when sober.

Be mindful of what you drink: That highball you were just handed? Might not be a single. Vodka is also hard to detect when mixed, and you might find yourself more intoxicated than you intended. This goes for water, too!

Think about what you post online. Not only might you regret posting or texting while you’re intoxicated, but it might also put you in danger if strangers learn of your location.

Look out for your friends. Since alcohol impairs your judgement, those great ideas when you’re intoxicated might not be so great when you’re sober. Make an agreement with your friends to look out for each other- it might help keep you safe.  And, isn’t partying with friends always better? Keep an eye on your friends, and check in with them, especially if they are acting differently than they usually do.

Ask yourself whether you’re comfortable. Maybe you’re being challenged to jump off something. Or over something. If you don’t feel safe, maybe don’t do it. You’re not superman, despite what you’re inebriated brain is suggesting.

Get consent.

Okay! That’s it for today. Check back in tomorrow for some Halloween specific tips and what you can do to keep you and your friends safer if you or your friends will be consuming any drugs.

Post Written by Adam H. and Halina D.

Flu and Cold Season – Tips to help you feel your best!

October brings many of my favourite things: colourful leaves, warm pumpkin spice lattes and cute Halloween decorations. Unfortunately, it also marks the beginning of flu and cold season. My friends and family are complaining of sore throats and I can hear the symphony of coughing and sneezing on the 99 during my morning commute.

Influenza, or the flu, is an infection caused by the influenza virus. Common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain and exhaustion etc. A cold is characterized by stuffy nose, sore throat but fever and headaches are less common. Nobody likes getting sick, especially in the midst of midterms and assignments so here are some prevention tips from Health Canada that can help you ward off the flu and cold:

1. Get the flu vaccine: The flu vaccine, also known as the flu shot, is a safe and effective way to prevent you from contracting the virus that is administered via a shot or nasal spray. Something important to remember is you cannot get sick from the flu shot because it is a weakened or dead form of the virus. You can talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional if you have any questions and concerns. UBC offers free flu shot clinics from October 31st – November 9th. Locations and more information can be found here.

2. Wash hands often: Washing your hands with warm, soapy water can also prevent the spread of infection. It can be especially important after touching high traffic areas. For example, I always wash my hands after being on the bus and holding onto the bus poles.

3. Avoid touching your mouth/face with your hands: This can transfer germs, viruses and bacteria to your respiratory and oral cavities which makes it easier to gets sick.

4. Clean and disinfect surfaces: It can be especially important to clean areas that you (or others) touch often. Examples include: phone, laptop, doorknobs, light switches etc.

5. Living a healthy lifestyle: Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and sleeping well helps keep your immune system running optimally which means it’s strong enough to fight off any infections. The Canadian Food Guide has great tips and tricks for making healthy food choices.

Although the above are great ways to prevent the flu, you may still end up feeling under the weather. Here are some tips to help you feel better and ensure you can get back on your feet as soon as possible.

  • Talk to your pharmacist/doctor: Complete recovery from the flu can take from 3 to 6 weeks while symptoms and surprisingly this is the same duration for recovery from a cold. Contact your doctor/pharmacist if symptoms persist or are especially bothersome, or book an appointment with Student Health services here to get help.
  • Sleep well/stay well rested
  • Hydrate often
  • Try to stay home: This is important to prevent spreading the infection and to make sure you are getting the rest you need.
  • Take care of yourself: Things like drinking warm tea, taking hot showers or curling up with a blanket and a movie may not directly help you beat sickness but can help manage symptoms and are great for the soul.

Stay healthy and happy this flu season everyone!

1st photo by U.S Army Corps of Engineers Europe District via Creative Commons

2nd photo by Pixabay via Creative Commons

Post written by Gavin S.

Thriving as an Introvert in First Year Residence

You’re finally moving out and into first year residence! You’re likely receiving your area placement of Totem Park, Place Vanier or Orchard Commons in the coming weeks. It’s an exciting time.

I remember when I was an incoming UBC student and I signed on to live in residence for the first time. Neither of my parents had ever lived in residence and since I was the oldest sibling, I really had no idea what to expect. I expected there to be a lot of partying that took place in residence, and as an introverted person that knowledge intimidated me because I often crave time alone when surrounded by large groups of people. The idea that I might be pressured to socialize 24/7 terrified me as I was worried that I would never have any time alone, not even to brush my teeth at the end of the day since I had heard there were shared floor bathrooms!

The first few weeks of living in Totem Park were incredibly exciting and lively, but I did feel very overwhelmed by the amount of activity. I’ve found that the first few weeks are usually like that for most people. I was excited by the change in environment but I did feel homesick at times. It took time for me to slowly feel more independent and settle into a rhythm. Eventually, I even attended some residence events and found myself having more fun than I expected to or had ever had in high school.

via GIPHY

I got involved with my house council and we planned events that we wanted to see happen for our house. I found a quieter group of floor mates who liked to watch Netflix and eat candy on Friday nights instead of party. I started telling my friends that there were times where instead of seeing them I needed to ‘zen-flower’ and spend some time alone. Then, after seeing the power of the residence community to support people through their first year experience, I applied to become a Residence Advisor for the following year. Flash forward to my fifth year, and I’ve worked as a Residence Advisor for the past three years and I’m an incoming Residence Coordinator for the fall. When I think back to my pre-UBC self, I never expected to love living in residence as much as I do now. However, I also learned to recognize the importance of self-care and that it’s okay to say ‘no’ when you don’t want to do an activity with others, because just not wanting to do that activity is reason enough not to do it. This helped contribute to making my residence experience a great one.

via GIPHY

On the other hand, if you are looking to meet new people but don’t know where to start, try attending programs in your area! Or talk to your Residence Advisor, as they’re your go-to person whenever you need advice on something. Try checking out a different house community or different floor. You are living in an area with thousands of other people who are all in the same boat as you and there’s absolutely a community out there for you, you just have to find it.

via GIPHY

Post written by Paige Lougheed

5 Honest Thoughts on Healthy Cooking as a Beginner

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Cooking as a beginner can seem challenging. Navigating blogs and cookbooks to find recipes that are healthy, tasty, and with all the ingredients you have might feel like a daunting task. Recipes with unfamiliar ingredients that require kitchen tools that you don’t have can make cooking feel intimidating.

You don’t need to be a skilled cook to make healthy, tasty, feel-good meals, but rather, have an open mind and try new things! Here are some honest tips to make healthy cooking feel less overwhelming.

1. You don’t have to follow the recipe.

If you’re a perfectionist like me and always wants to follow the recipe exactly, don’t stress! If you’re missing a minor ingredient, you can skip it as long as it’s not a major component of the recipe (say pasta noodles for a pasta recipe). Don’t let the fact that you’re missing a specific ingredient from a recipe prevent you from making it. As you gain some experience, you can even figure out ways to substitute for ingredients that you don’t have. You can get inspiration from Bon Appetite’s ‘no recipe’ recipes. Depending on the recipe, you can make ingredient substitutions, here are a few examples:

  • Swap dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and swiss chard. You can even substitute parsley for spinach.
  • Don’t have celery? You can substitute it for another crunchy vegetable such as cucumber or carrots.
  • Different types of nuts, such as almonds and cashews can be swapped.
2. Not everything needs to be made from scratch.

Despite what you think, some pre-made foods can be healthy. While cooking your meals is a great way to eat healthier, it’s realistic to recognize that not everything we eat can be made from scratch. Identify and prioritize what you’d like to cook versus what you’d prefer to buy. You can buy some premade ingredients and make additions or substitutions to amp up your meal’s nutritional value. Here are a few examples:

  • If you purchase food or get takeout, such as pasta or chicken, make a side salad to add some vegetables to your meal.
  • You can make canned soup healthier by adding fresh or frozen vegetables such as peas, carrots, or spinach.
  • If you’re eating frozen waffles for breakfast (such as Eggo), make it healthier by adding some peanut butter and banana slices.
  • You can purchase ingredients like pasta sauce and dips such as hummus, to save time so that a portion of your meal is ready to eat.
3. Be mindful of your budget.

There are lots of strategies to ensure that you respect your budget. Seek out sales, coupons, and flyers from your local grocery store. Produce stores tend to have cheaper products than supermarkets and are a great place for fresh fruits and veggies. Flipp is a great smartphone app that lets you look at flyers and coupons from different grocery stores. You can even use it to make a grocery list and easily check out what’s on sale.

4. Plan ahead but also be flexible.

Planning what you’ll eat and when you’ll cook ahead of time can help you save time, money, and reduce food waste. Spend some time doing meal preparation over the weekend, such as cooking a big batch of lunches for the week, cutting up vegetables, or cooking your grains in advance. At the same time, you don’t have to know exactly what you’ll be eating everyday or stick to a rigid meal plan. The reality of life is that plans change and unexpected things come up. A last-minute social gathering might pop up or you might have leftovers from the night before. It’s all about being flexible and adapting to change.

5. Expect that things don’t always turn out.

Despite what the glamour of social media may show us, your meals don’t have to be ‘Insta-perfect’. Sometimes the simplest meals can bring us the greatest pleasures. Don’t be discouraged when a recipe doesn’t turn out or it’s not as tasty as you thought it would be. It’s all part of the process….learning to do anything new takes time, Pinterest fails and all. So get messy and get cooking!

For more cooking inspiration check out Cookspiration, Epicurious, and the UBC Nutrition Blog.

Post written by Naomi Oh

Things to Remember for September

My first day back at UBC is always picturesque and peaceful. The last of summer sunshine illuminates our gorgeous campus and the skies stretch out in front of me, blue and cloudless. I sit in the gigantic lecture halls, chatting with friends, talking about all the events we want to check out. Fast forward a few weeks and I am racing across campus, feeling ill-prepared for my first midterm and probably caught in a miserable downpour without an umbrella. School always catches up with me so fast.

September brings about new opportunities and change. In order to make the most out of this fresh start, there are a few things I want to emphasize going into this year:

Try something new: The first month provides a fresh start and an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to take up a new sport/hobby by dropping into Free Week hosted by UBC Recreation. There are also tons of cool events on campus hosted by AMS to welcome new and returning students alike. Whether you want to catch a movie under the stars, go to an improv show or attend a pool party – AMS has got you covered.

Focus on what’s important: I am always startled reading the syllabi for my classes only to discover some of my midterms are in late September! Often, students get so caught up with campus events and hanging out with friends, they push aside school responsibilities until midterms are right around the corner and panic ensues. Start off your school year strong by knowing exactly when your midterms are and setting up a schedule to study for them.

Get involved: Joining a club or initiative at UBC can be a great way to make meaningful connections to your school and community while making new friends. There are tons of clubs at UBC so you are bound to find one (or more) that matches your passion or vision. Check out Clubs day to find one that resonates with you.

Take care of your wellbeing: As exciting as your first month is, it can be busy and for some, overwhelming. Don’t forget to pay attention to your overall wellbeing throughout this busy time. Your wellbeing is a combination of academic, financial, social, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. It’s important to take care of yourself in all aspects of wellness – not just one. You can learn more about these topics by looking at the Healthy Minds Blog archive. For example, we have suggestions on how to stock a healthy pantry or how to help manage stress. If you want to chat more about your wellness journey– come check out Wellness Center in Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.  

September is a joyous time filled with new experiences. Embracing the opportunities that this month brings can be the first step to making the most of your school year. We hope everybody gets off to a great start!

Post Written by Gavin Shinger

Sexual Health 101 – Viral STIs

Part 2: Viral STIs

Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash

As mentioned in my previous blog post (see Sexual Health 101 – Part 1), sexual health is a topic that many students have questions about, since it can be somewhat of a taboo topic. Knowing some of the basics about STIs, including how they are transmitted and how they are treated, is important to maintaining a happy and healthy sex life.

To start off: what is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

A Sexually Transmitted Infection, otherwise known as an STI, is an infection that can be acquired from having sex. STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can affect your sexual and reproductive organs, while others like HIV and syphilis can cause general body infections.

A viral STI is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by a virus. Although they currently have no cure, their symptoms can be helped with treatment. Listed below are some of the most common viral STIs, including HPV, HIV, and Herpes. Although I don’t talk about it in this post, Hepatitis B is another viral STI that can also be transmitted through sexual means. See this link for more information regarding Hepatitis B, including info regarding the Hepatitis B vaccine (which is available at Student Health Service).

HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
  • What is it? HPV is a virus that can cause genital warts or lead to cancer. There are multiple types of HPV that can affect the body in different ways.
  • How do you get it? HPV can be acquired through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a person who has the infection. You can also get HPV from skin to skin contact, even if your partner doesn’t have any visible warts.
  • What are the symptoms? A lot of people have HPV and don’t know they have it, since it’s often asymptomatic. Warts on the genitals, if present, may look like bumps which can be cauliflower-like. Some warts are very hard to see.
  • How do you get tested? A doctor or nurse can tell if you have genital warts by looking at them. Some types of HPV can also cause changes to a female’s cervix, which may lead to cervical cancer. To check your cervix, a doctor or nurse can do a PAP test, which involves taking cells from the cervix.
  • How is it treated? Currently there is no cure for HPV, but there are treatments for the symptoms (warts and cervix changes). If you want the warts taken off, a number of treatments can be performed: freezing/burning the warts, surgical removal, putting liquid directly on the wart. However, even if they are removed, there is a chance that they will return.
    • A NOTE ABOUT THE HPV VACCINE: if you are a female between 9-46 years old, you can protect yourself against some types of HPV with a vaccine, given by a needle in three doses. This can be done at Student Health Service on campus. However, this does not protect against all strains, and for this reason, it is important to regularly get PAP tests and use condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
HERPES
  • What is it? Herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV that are STIs: types 1 and 2. They can both cause painful sores around the mouth (cold sores; typically HSV 1), as well as sores on the genitals (genital herpes, typically HSV 2).
  • How do you get it? Herpes is acquired through skin-skin contact. For example:
    • Kissing someone with a cold sore
    • Receiving oral sex from someone with cold sores
    • Touching the sores
    • Condomless intercourse with someone with a genital herpes outbreak
    • NOTE: you can pass on the virus when you have visible sores on the mouth or genitals, but you can also pass it on without having any visible sores!
  • What are the symptoms? A lot of people with herpes will not have any symptoms, meaning you may not know you have it! If you do have symptoms, you’ll likely feel itching/tingling on your skin, which will then develop into painful blisters that turn into sores. These sores do heal by themselves, but will likely keep coming back. However, the first outbreak of herpes is usually the worst.
    • If you have a herpes outbreak: keep the area clean and wear loose fitting clothes/cotton underwear. After urinating, wash your genital area with cool water.
  • How do you get tested? A doctor or nurse will check your sores, which can be done at Student Health. Sometimes they might order a blood test to help with a diagnosis. However, this test is often not covered by insurance of MSP, since HSV is so common in the population.
  • How it is treated? Herpes cannot be cured but can be managed: there is medication that can help prevent and reduce the length of outbreaks. Doctors can also prescribe pain medication for severe outbreaks.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • What is it? HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) by attacking your body’s immune system and preventing it from fighting off certain infections. Although those with healthy immune systems may be able to fight these infections off, people with HIV might not be able to. When someone has HIV and acquires a certain number of infections, it can progress to being called AIDS, although this may not occur for many years.
  • How do you get it? HIV is only acquired by the virus entering your bloodstream. The virus can be transmitted through blood, vaginal fluids, semen and breast milk. You can get HIV by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, oral) or by sharing needles or other drug use equipment (cookers, water, filters, etc), as well as other lower risk activities.
    • A note about HIV transmission: HIV cannot be acquired through casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands, tears, sharing food or toilet seats.
  • What are the symptoms? Since it’s possible to have no symptoms for many years, you can have HIV and not know it. For this reason it’s important to get tested, as you could pass on the virus to a partner without knowing you have it. However, If it does present itself in symptoms, you might develop a mild flu ~2-4 weeks after infection.
  • How do you get tested? You can get a blood test at Student Health Service.
  • How is it treated? Although there is no cure for HIV, most people who receive treatment and care lead long lives, without any progression to AIDS. HIV treatment involves drugs that need to be taken every day to keep the virus under control. For more information about treatment, click here.

If you have any more questions about sexual health, please come visit us at the Wellness Centre! We answer sexual health questions and also sell safer sex products (condoms, toys, etc.) at cost.

For more STI information, visit:

https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

https://smartsexresource.com/about-stis/stis-101

Post written by Sierra Peterson

STI information referenced from the Public Health Agency of Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/sexual-health.html)

HIV treatment information referenced from CATIE(http://www.catie.ca/en/basics/hiv-and-aids#cure)

Best Places to Relax at UBC

Cover photo: Vancouver Public Library (Nitobe Memorial Garden)

Having a break in my class schedule, in between all the lectures and labs, is always something I look forward to throughout the day. I love having some down time to eat my lunch, chat with my friends or just listen to some music. Finding a quiet place to do so can sometimes be a challenge but taking time out of our busy schedule is critical for our wellbeing. It can give us the energy to get us through the rest of our day. Here are some of my favourite relaxing spots on campus that give me the opportunity to re-charge my batteries:

Love being outside? A walk can be a great way to relax and get some exercise in. The Nitobe Memorial Garden and UBC Botanical Gardens are gorgeous to take a stroll in and UBC students get in free! 

If you’re short on time, taking a quick detour to see The Rose Garden always reminds me how lucky I am to attend school on such a beautiful campus.

Looking for peace and quiet? When I need time to myself, I always headto Koerner Library. The 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th floor are all silent study spaces.

You’ll see students getting some serious studying done, watching TV, reading or catching up on some Z’s, all in blissful silence! You can also head to the main floor of the Life Sciences Building which has lots of seating, and natural light to keep your mood up.

Room with a view? The lounging area above the UBC bookstore! There is comfortable seating and the glass walls give you a great view of a central part of campus that is always pulsing with activity. Alternatively, you can also grab a seat in The Forestry Science Center Student lounge. With it’s dark wood columns resembling towering tree trunks and lush greenery, the building is a beautiful example of how the outside can be brought in. Bonus: It’s next to Tim Hortons!

Although UBC campus and one’s school year can get very busy, it’s important to take time out of our days in order to re-energize. Next time you have a break, kick back and enjoy the beauty our campus has to offer.

 

Post written by Gavin Shinger

Yoga: What is it, Why, and Where?

Now that summer is officially here, you might be looking to start a new activity. If you are looking for another way to be active or increase your overall wellbeing, try out yoga! Yoga is a sequence of postures designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones, linking the movement of your body to the rhythm of your breath. There are lots of great health benefits, including building strength, boosting your immune system, improving your balance, and much more. Not only will you notice physical changes with regular practice, but you will notice that yoga will allow you to build mental strength. Through my own yoga journey, I have learned how to cultivate a healthy relationship with my body through self-care and positive affirmation. Doing yoga allows me to destress and take some time to focus on myself, especially during the busy school year. If you want to learn more about how to get started, give one (or all) of these options a try!

Free Yoga Youtube Videos

I started doing yoga by watching Yoga with Adriene’s (www.youtube.com/yogawithadriene) videos. Her videos are great for all levels, as they range from easy flows to more challenging classes. Here you will learn the basics of many poses and find classes specific to your own needs, all from the comfort of your own home!

Free Outdoor Yoga

Mat Collective, (http://www.matcollective.com) a local environmentally friendly yoga organization, offers free classes all year round in their Main Street studio.

During the summer, the classes move outside and are offered every day of the week. They offer 15+ weekly classes at both the Main Street (95 E 32nd Ave) and Kitsilano Beach location (1015 Maple Street). I love doing yoga right by the beach where you can hear the sounds of the waves and enjoy the fresh air. All levels are welcome to join in on these yoga classes in the beautiful outdoors. 

Free Yoga Studios

There are also several studios in Vancouver that offer free or by donation classes:

UBC Recreation

If you want to do yoga on a more regular basis, get an unlimited yoga pass at the UBC Rec Centre. (http://www.recreation.ubc.ca/mind-body/)  Take part in a number of different classes ranging from gentle, restorative yoga to strengthening core yoga. You can get the student summer pass or you can drop in for $10 a class.

Hot Yoga

If you want to go further in your yoga practice, try out hot yoga! Hot yoga studios are heated with far infrared radiant panels to provide a detoxifying and therapeutic practice. Hot yoga will allow you to tone your body, release muscle tension, and help flush toxins from your skin. I started attending hot yoga classes at the start of summer and found that I have progressed in strength and flexibility. I leave class feeling relaxed, energized, and motivated for the rest of my day. Many studios offer a discounted first month or monthly passes for students. Be prepared to sweat and feel refreshed!

Check out these hot yoga studios in Vancouver:

The Hot Box Yoga Studio at UBC http://www.thehotboxyoga.com

Oxygen Yoga and Fitness in Kitsilano, Olympic Village, Oakridge, Yaletown http://oxygentraining.ca

One Hour Hot Yoga in Downtown http://www.onehourhotyoga.ca

YYoga in Kitsilano, Yaletown, Downtown, South Granville https://www.yyoga.ca

Hot Yoga 101 in City Square Mall http://hotyoga101.ca

I welcome you to challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. I encourage you to tap into your inner strength and find peace within yourself through your own yoga journey.

Namaste,

Lauren

 

Photos taken by Caid Dow (www.madebycaid.com)

Post Written by Lauren Lee

Moving Out? Your Guide to Stocking a Healthy Pantry

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

So you’re moving out…welcome to ‘adult-ing’! It’s a big change and might even feel a bit overwhelming. A lot of things are probably on your mind -such as all the things you need to pack for your new place, including your coveted room décor. But don’t forget about what you’ll need in your kitchen! While eating out might feel like a more convenient option, cooking your own meals at home is a great way to eat a healthier, balanced diet.

Stocking your kitchen with nutritious ingredients can encourage you to cook and eat healthier. If you’re stuck and not sure where to start, this list is a great place for essentials to include in your pantry. Consider including these food staples, which are typically found in many healthy recipes, to your grocery list and you’ll be ready to nourish yourself for the school year!

1)    Whole Grains
  • Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber and phytonutrients. Use them for pasta, oatmeal, or toast. Add grains, such as quinoa or barley, to your salad.
  • When choosing a cereal, look for one with a higher fibre content (at least 4 g/serving) and is lower in sugar (no more than 8 g/serving)
  • Ideas: Brown rice, barley, quinoa, rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, crackers, cereal, whole wheat bread
2)    Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
  • Did you know that frozen fruits and vegetables are actually just as nutritious as fresh? Frozen fruits and vegetables are often picked at their peak quality, which means that their nutrient content is comparable to the fresh variety.
  • Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, muffins, or as a topping for pancakes. Use frozen vegetables to increase the vegetable content of your pastas, soups, and stir-fry.
  • Ideas: Frozen berries, mangos, pineapples, peas, carrots, spinach, broccoli, edamame, corn
3)    Canned Foods
  • While canned foods often get a bad rep, some can be included in a balanced diet and tend to be more convenient and cheap. When purchasing canned goods, choose ones that are lower in sodium and packed in water (versus oil).
  • Canned tomatoes or tomato paste are great to use in salsa, chili, soup, and pasta sauces.
  • Use canned fish, such as tuna or salmon, as a source of protein for patties, sandwiches, salads, or with crackers.
  • Ideas: Diced/whole/crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, artichoke, tuna, salmon, mackerel
4)    Beans and Lentils
  • Many people don’t realize that beans and lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and fibre. Add to chili, stews, salads, or use them to make a vegetarian patty. If you are using canned beans, be sure to rinse and drain them before use.
  • Ideas: Chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, french lentils, red lentils
5)    Spices and Herbs (fresh/dry)
  • We eat for taste as much as we eat for our health. Spices and herbs add flavor to any dish and make your food taste great!  
  • Ideas: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, chili powder, dill, thyme, parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil
6)    Cooking Oils
  • Choose healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil, as a source of healthy fat for sautéing, baking, roasting, and use for home-made salad dressings.
  • Ideas: Olive oil, sesame seed oil, canola oil
7)    Nuts/Nut Butter and Seeds/Seed Butter
  • Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat (unless you have a nut allergy). A handful of nuts can make a great healthy snack to pack for school, for adding some crunch to a salad, and in a trail mix with dried fruit.
  • Nut butters, such as peanut butter, make a great dip for fruit (such as apples –yum!), are great for toast, and a creamy addition to your oatmeal. You can also use nut butter as a base for sauces, like a peanut dressing, for your salads.
  • Sprinkle seeds onto your yogurt or oatmeal, on salads, and baked goods such as muffins!
  • Ideas: Peanuts, almonds, cashews, tahini (sesame seed paste)

Seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, and sesame

8)  Sauces, Vinegars, and Mustards
  • These flavorful ingredients can be used to make tasty dressings and sauces. Make your own salad dressing, such as a vinaigrette, for your salad.
  • Ideas: Dijon mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar
9)    Fresh Produce
  • And finally, the fresh stuff! Stock your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables for a plant-centered plate with lots of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. I always like having a variety of dark, leafy greens on hand as a base for a salad. Lemon, limes, garlic, and onions are typically used in many recipes to add flavour, so be sure to have those around as well.
  • Include dairy or non-dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese for calcium, vitamin D, and protein (check the label for these products as the amount may vary depending on whether the product is dairy or non-dairy).
  • Animal products such as eggs, chicken, and fish can also be great sources of protein (unless you are vegetarian, vegan, or have a dietary restriction).

Juggling all the different aspects of your life while making time to cook and eat healthy, might feel like a balancing act, so stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients is a great start! Find foods that fit with your lifestyle and budget that you truly enjoy eating. If you’re still feeling stuck, you can sign up for a free Grocery Store Tour led by UBC dietetics students, which start in September. Most importantly, get creative and have some fun in the kitchen!

Post written by Naomi Oh

Sexual Health 101 – Bacterial STIs

Part 1: Bacterial STIs

As a student, there are many aspects of maintaining your physical wellbeing: things like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and sexual health all contribute. Since it can be somewhat of a taboo topic, sexual health is a topic that many students have questions about. Knowing some of the basics about STIs, including how they are transmitted and how they are treated, is important to maintaining a happy and healthy sex life. This series will go through a few of the most common STIs, as well as some other important components of sexual health.

To start off: what is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

A Sexually Transmitted Infection, otherwise known as an STI, is an infection that can be acquired from having sex. STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can affect your sexual and reproductive organs, while others like HIV and syphilis can cause general body infections.

I’ve been using the term STI, although most of us likely grew up hearing the term STD instead. “STD” is old language that is not used in Canada anymore. 

A bacterial STI is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by bacteria and usually curable through antibiotic treatment. Listed below are some of the most common bacterial STIs, including causes, testing, and treatment.

CHLAMYDIA

What is it? Chlamydia is an STI caused by bacteria, common among teenagers and young adults. Since it can cause serious health problems, it must be treated.

How do you get it? Chlamydia can be acquired through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a person who has the infection.

What are the symptoms? The most common symptom for Chlamydia is no symptoms at all! This is the case for 80% of women and 60% of men. Having no signs or symptoms means that you can pass it on without knowing you have it! However, if it does present itself in symptoms:

o   Male: burning feeling during urination, a watery/milky discharge coming out of the penis, burning or itching around the hole of the penis, pain in the testicles

o   Female: a change or increase in discharge from the vagina, an itchy vagina, small amount of bleeding during or after vaginal sex, painful urination, pain in the lower abdomen

How do you get tested? A doctor or nurse will check for infection by either taking a swab from the cervix (the opening to the uterus), taking a urine sample, or taking a swap from the urethra (the opening of the penis). This can be done at.Student Health Service at UBC Hospital.

How is it treated? Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, which can be prescribed by the physicians at Student Health. It is also important to tell your sexual partner(s), both past and present, that you have chlamydia, since they also need to be treated.

 

GONORRHEA

What is it? Gonorrhea is an STI caused by bacteria that can infect the penis, rectum, throat, eyes, or cervix. Since it can cause serious health problems, it must be treated.

How do you get it? Gonorrhea can be acquired through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with a person who has the infection.

What are the symptoms? The most common symptom for Gonorrhea is no symptoms at all! Having no signs or symptoms means that you can pass it on without knowing you have it. However, if it does present itself in symptoms:

o   Male: a burning feeling during urination, a thick green-yellow discharge coming out of the penis, burning/itching around the hole of the penis, pain in the testicles

o   Female: a change or increase in discharge from the vagina, small amount of bleeding during or after vaginal sex, painful urination, pain in the lower abdomen

How do you get tested? A doctor or nurse will check for infection by either taking a swab from the cervix (the opening to the uterus), taking a urine sample, or taking a swap from the urethra (the opening of the penis). This can be done at Student Health Service at UBC Hospital.

How is it treated? Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics, which can be prescribed by the physicians at Student Health. It is also important to tell your sexual partner(s) that you have gonorrhea, since they also need to be treated.

 

SYPHILIS

What is it? Syphilis is an STI caused by bacteria which are most often sexually transmitted. Since it can cause serious health problems, it must be treated.

How do you get it? Syphilis can be acquired through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a person who has the infection. The infection is spread through contact with the sores or rashes.

What are the symptoms? Painless sores on the genitals, or they can be hidden in the mouth, vagina, or rectum. It can also cause a rash anywhere on the body. You may also feel like you have the flu.

How do you get tested? You can get a blood test at Student Health Service.

How is it treated? Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, usually penicillin, through injections. It is also important to tell your sexual partner(s) that you have syphilis, since they also need to be treated. Once you have been treated, you will need to go back for blood tests to make sure the medication worked, and that you are cured of the infection.

The bottom line: condom use is key to preventing the spread of bacterial STIs. At the Wellness Centre, we sell 8 different condom varieties at cost, meaning that it’s much cheaper compared to what you’d find at the Drug Store! Visit us this summer from 11am-3pm, Tuesday-Thursday, to find out more.

For more STI information, visit:

https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

https://smartsexresource.com/about-stis/stis-101

Stay tuned for Part 2: Viral STIs (HPV, Herpes, HIV)!

Post written by Sierra Peterson

 

STI information referenced from the Public Health Agency of Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/sexual-health.html)

STI/STD comparison information referenced from stdcheck.com

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.