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!

Day 12 of 12 Days of Holiday Wellness: Spreading the Holiday Cheer!

December can be a very difficult time of the year for students, with exams, assignments, and the pressures of getting ready for the holidays right around the corner. Often, it can be easy to forget about those around us when we are so focused on what we need to do to take care of ourselves. I admit, I am often guilty of neglecting friends and family, especially when the upcoming final seems so much more pertinent. However, it is exactly in these times when we need to remind the important people in our lives that they are not forgotten.

Early this December, I walked into our last Communications team meeting, my mind fully occupied with thoughts of that essay that I still needed to finish (start). Little did I know our team leader had prepared little cacti plants for us to show how much she appreciated our work over the past term. I was extremely touched by the gesture, especially because I knew how much she had on her plate as well. Now I have an adorable little plant sitting on my desk at home, dancing along to the Jackson 5, and reminding me how important it is to reach out and show people that they are cared for. It can make all the difference in the world.

Post written by and photo taken by: Kleo Fang

Day 11 of 12 Days of Holiday Wellness: De-cluttering Those Study Desks

Having my work table near a light source accompanied with greens really helps me feel energized and revitalized. Plus, plants are friends.

Following the calm air that the greenery provides, my mind works better when the space is clean and organized. One of the great inhibitors to productivity is junk laying around the desk. There’s an interesting mental shift that occurs once you sort it out. De-cluttering your desk helps de-clutter the mind.

Post written by and photo taken by: Jenny Xu

Day 10 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Indulging in the Warmth of Scented Candles

Before I study I like to pay attention to the atmosphere. It’s like finding the right balance between background noise and total silence– the right degree of white noise. I like to set my desks with motivators: Tea and snacks and play my study Spotify soundtracks. Lighting up a candle really changes the space; it calls for a cozy study environment.

Post written by and photo taken by: Jenny Xu

Day 9 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Festive Baking and Healthy Eating

When someone remotely mentions holiday festivities, my mind immediately drifts into pleasant day dreams of a wide assortment of holiday baked goods. Though there are a slew of exams between me and those cheerful holiday gatherings, I love taking small study breaks to do some holiday baking. This helps me get into the holiday spirit and fuels my brain for a productive study session.

Eating well can help boost productivity. Here are some quick, easy, and healthy recipes that are helpful for both studying and spreading the holiday cheer.

Post written by and photo taken by: Alice Guo

Day 8 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Exercising and Staying Active

During a busy exam period, exercise is often the first to go on my strikingly long to-do lists. There just didn’t seem to be enough time in a day to fit in an energizing run or a rejuvenating swim. Exercise can give you that dearly needed rush of adrenaline and has been linked to academic success!

Though it can be difficult to fit in a full work out session at the gym during the exam season, quick bursts of movement can go a long way in keeping you motivated, focused, and ready to tackle those challenging days. Try doing 10 minute ab workouts, tabata workouts, or simply going for a brisk walk outside for some fresh air. Movement can be healthy for both your body and your mind.

Post written by and photo taken by: Alice Guo

Day 7 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Bright Lights and Bright Spirits

This month my neighbourhood went all out with holiday lights. A pretty sight to combat the winter chills!

In the exam season craze, taking a worthwhile break by getting fresh air around your neighbourhood can do you justice. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you may find. For me, I stumbled upon this beautifully lit-up tree. It was a great way for me to elevate my mood and get into the holiday spirit.

Post written by and photo taken by: Jenny Xu

Day 6 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Taking a moment to breathe and connect with others

It’s the first day of exams. As we bury our noses a little deeper in our books and work a little harder to achieve our goals, it can be easy to neglect that phone call from a friend or reach out for help. Spending a few minutes out of your day to take that well-deserved break can go a long way. Try going for a refreshing walk, or connecting with someone on the newly-installed yellow bench on campus.

These calming moments can nourish your mind and your body, so that you are more energized to tackle those upcoming deadlines. By taking the time to connect with those around us, we can create a more supportive community where those who are struggling can reach out for help.

If you find yourself in need of wellbeing support, please don’t hesitate to visit UBC’s Wellness Centre, Counselling Services, or Student Health Services.  

Post written by and photo taken by: Alice Guo

Day 5 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Finding New Study Spaces

Recommended study space- Olive and Ruby Cafe on West Broadway and MacDonald St.

Having lived in residence for the past 4 years, it is safe to say that I’ve explored and practically lived in many of the study spaces on campus. Exploring new coffee shops off campus not only instills a sense of adventure, but also gives my mind clarity and focus.

Our brains can associate the information we are studying to the environment we are in (Carey, 2010). Finding new study spaces that suit your needs could help break out of that study slump, so that you can better focus on tackling those exams.

Post written by and photo taken by: Alice Guo

Day 4 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Holiday Study Tunes

Despite the consistent downpour of rain , the abundance of brightly lit houses, Mariah Carey holiday tunes, and glitter has put me in the holiday spirit. While I always enjoy playing instrumental tunes in the background while I’m studying, December gives me an excuse to tap into a more festive playlist. 8tracks is one of my favourite sources of music, especially when I am in the mood for a digital DJ. Humming along to “Hallelujah” or Cady Heron’s iconic rendition of “Jingle Bells Rock” in Mean Girls can help me get into the holiday spirit, even when stuck in front of a computer screen grinding away at weeks of notes and recordings.

Post written by and photo taken by: Kleo Fang

Day 3 of 12 days of Holiday Wellness: Warm Drinks and Fuzzy Feelings

While I like to think of exam season as one long month of consecutive junk food cheat days, this tactic is effective only if I keep in mind things like my personal limits (and need) for caffeine. How much sugar will make me feel more groggy than awake, and when should I eat to feel the most energized for studying. For example, I keep a healthy supply of hummus and carrots in the household, knowing my need to snack when reading a textbook. I also stock up my stash of Earl Grey tea in my pantry, so I can have the comforting sips of a warm drink without having to leave the house for Starbucks. Anything to make these weeks go by smoother!

Post written by and photo taken by: Kleo Fang

Introducing: 12 days of Holiday Wellness

‘Tis the season to be jolly, merry, and bright. ‘Tis also the well-anticipated exam season. As we bury our noses in stacks of books, the holiday cheer floating in the December air seem to be a distant dream. In lieu of the upcoming assignments and exams, we wanted to spread some of that holiday cheer, and share helpful tips to conquer those exams. Over the next 12 days you can expect a photo a day that shares fun ways you can de-stress while getting into the holiday spirit; we hope you will enjoy!

Day 1 of 12 days of Holidays Wellness: Colouring to De-Stress

Over the last few Christmases and birthdays I have received many adult colouring books from various people in my life. Currently I have editions of cats, enchanted forests, and the magical creatures of Harry Potter sitting on my shelf. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed digging out some old pencil crayons from high school and starting on some mini art projects of my own. Especially now, at the end of a semester and with the holidays around the corner, there is something magical and relaxing  about colouring at a local cafe, ambient music playing in the background. The colours and funky pages don’t have to be limited to just the adult colouring book, I have also taken to decorating my planner and study notes with doodles, funky gel pens (remember those?) and colourful stickers. Anything to keep my spirits up during the upcoming exam weeks!

Photo taken by and post written by: Kleo Fang

My Story as an International Graduate Student at UBC

I had a rough time when I came to UBC two years ago as an international graduate student from China. Language was my biggest barrier. I couldn’t understand the professors during class or share my opinions. On top of that, I was lonely. I didn’t have the courage to speak with my classmates because I couldn’t keep up with how quickly they spoke.

I felt so isolated that I decided to make some changes. I volunteered for Let’s Talk Science, hoping to improve my English. In this year-long volunteer program, I was paired with a UBC Ph.D. student who, by the end of the year, became my best friend in Vancouver. She invited me to hike with her at Lighthouse Park and that became my first hike ever. This experience made me fall in love with hiking and two months later I found myself committed to a two-day hike through the Grand Canyon.

I also learned how to swim at the UBC aquatic center and often swam with my new friend. Our friendship helped me grow from an indoor person to an active outdoor person.

Through my volunteer experience I gained a great friendship and new hobbies. This first volunteer experience led me to more volunteer opportunities and finally a job. My English also improved a lot. I learned more about Canadian culture and developed a sense of belonging in my new community. Most importantly, I enjoyed volunteering because I could help other people.

When I look back at my past two years as an international graduate student I can see how much I have grown.

For many international students it can be challenging to be in a new environment and culture, but there are always ways to become more familiar with your surroundings. Once you start getting involved, adjusting to life at UBC often becomes easier and easier.

If you do find yourself struggling with the transition to UBC, you are not alone. Here are useful resources that can help with your transition:

UBC Academic English Support (AES) program

This program offers free resources to improve your performance in class by advancing your academic English skills.

Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication

This is a free service here to support all writers at UBC. You can book one-on-one appointments through their website.

Volunteer Avenue

A free AMS service that offers resources and tools to guide you in pursuing a volunteer position that will be right for you.

Graduate Pathways to Success (Pathways) program

A palette of non-credit workshops, seminars and other activities designed to complement your graduate program’s academic curriculum and mentorship experience.

Post Written by Yaying Zhong

The Friendliest Bench on Campus

It started with a “hello.”

This post involves a story that includes thoughts of suicide. You may be concerned that someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts. You may be thinking about suicide yourself. You are not alone. The most important thing you can do is reach out to give or get help.

“His smile did not convey what was going on inside.” – Sam Fiorella (Co-Founder of the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench and Suicide Survivor)

It is Wednesday, November 23, 2016. The rain that has started overnight continue to drench the campus in a layer of misty gray. The last remnants of autumn falls quickly, blending together under the feet of students in a mosaic of reds, browns, and fading oranges. Seats are sparse in Irving K Barber, and the lineup for coffee slowly diminishes as people began to make their way to the bus loop or back to residence. It is a typical day on campus, but somehow, something looks different.

A little yellow bench now stands in front of a familiar building. This new addition to campus, the Friendship Bench, serves as a permanent, physical, and year-round reminder to students to take a moment out of their day to reflect upon their mental health. The bench is meant to inspire peer-to-peer conversations about mental health, to reduce stigma and encourage students facing challenges to reach out for help.

This year, UBC will be unveiling the Friendship Bench on November 23 to pledge our support for mental health awareness and encourage individuals to reach out for help. UBC welcomes everyone to attend the unveiling on November 23, 2016 from noon to 1:30pm in the Brock Hall Concourse. The event includes free food, a chance to chat, and messages of hope.


The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench

Lucas Fiorella was a Canadian student who always made the effort to reach out to other students whom he sensed were struggling with  depression or anxiety. Each conversation started out with a “hello,” and with this “hello” Lucas gave his peers the courage to open up about their challenges to family members or professionals.

Tragically, Lucas Fiorella took his own life in October 2014, after quietly suffering from depression for a number of years.  

Inspired by his efforts, the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench Organization seeks to decrease and eventually reduce suicides and suicide attempts by encouraging peer-to-peer conversation to reduce the stigma around mental health. The organization also aims to connect students with on-campus and community mental health resources, and educate students and parents about the various forms of mental illness to increase awareness for mental health.

For more information about the organization and their work, please visit: TheFriendshipBench.org.


If you need help for yourself or you are concerned about someone else, please reach out.

UBC Vancouver Campus Resources

UBC Counselling Services
604-822-3811  |   Brock Hall 1874 East Mall Room 1040


Lower Mall Research Station  |   2259 Lower Mall Room 358

Emergency and after-hours contacts:

Vancouver Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433
Vancouver General Hospital: 604-875-4995
Campus Security: 604-822-2222 
Emergency Services: 911

It can be easy to feel small on a campus so big, but we can all do our part to make connections and build a community. By saying hello and encouraging empathetic conversations about mental health, we can all play an important role in making it okay to reach out.

Post Written by Kleo Fang

Week 5 of Live Well Challenges: Eating a Nutritious Breakfast Every Morning Reflections

It’s the last week of the Live Well Challenges, and this week we, the Wellness Peers, started our mornings by enjoying a delicious breakfast. We challenged ourselves to eat a healthy and hearty breakfast as part of our daily routines. Overnight oats, eggs benedicts with smoked salmon, and creative sandwiches were some of the many recipes we tried this week. Read below to see how each of us fit a healthy breakfast into our morning routines:


Normally, at about 10am, I find myself getting quite tired and have trouble focusing. My stomach then makes the loudest grumbling sound imaginable and I’m reminded that I haven’t eaten in a while. Quick breakfast options are somewhat limited on my side of campus so I usually just stop by the closest café, buy a muffin and continue on with my day.

This week, however, eating breakfast at home gave me more focus in the morning. I was also spared the embarrassment of my loud stomach growls. Feeling more alert and focused in the mornings was helpful as I was able to cross a few things off my to-do list. As a bonus, I saved money because I wasn’t buying breakfast every morning.

Moving forward, I’m going to look for some more quick and easy breakfast options (overnight oats definitely sustained me this week) that I can prep the night before and eat on the go. I’m sure they’ll still be days when I skip breakfast, but I’m determined to keep up with this challenge. Having more productive mornings is just too good to give up!


I rarely give myself the extra time required to sit down and eat a proper breakfast. Often, I try to survive until 11am with just coffee and then purchase an early lunch on campus (or simply eat candy). This week, however, I made an effort to eat something before I stepped into my 9:30am class, in hopes that my stomach would not embarrass me with loud growls and irritated grumbles.

Realistically, I knew that it would be too much of a change for me to get up 30 minutes earlier in the mornings and make a large sit down breakfast, so I decided to devote myself to the wonderful world of toast, at least for the week. I was surprised by how many creative forms of sandwiches I could come up with, even when pressured by the bus schedule. The past few days of the breakfast challenge have been a welcome throwback to peanut butter and jelly, buttered toast, and scrambled eggs. I found that my energy levels were a bit higher in class, and I was able to focus without fighting the constant thought of “I’m hungry, where is my next meal?”

In combination with my (essential) cup of coffee and a lollipop here and there, my early mornings definitely took a turn for the better!


My daily morning routine often tests my coordination and balance as I juggle a delicate avocado toast in one hand, while dashing towards the bus stop. Often, a piece of avocado (or two) tumbles from my grasp, leaving me a little disheartened. I also find myself eating the same breakfast every morning, as I don’t have time to linger at the fridge deciding what I want to eat.

This week, I made a personal goal to find creative, new breakfast recipes to try, and to enjoy a calm, sit down meal one day of the week. I found creative breakfast recipes I could make the night before, and took advantage of my glorious magic bullet. From overnight oats, to kale, avocado and apple smoothies, I looked forward to breakfast every morning (whether it was on the bus or at home). On days where my classes started later, I enjoyed a sit down meal. By starting my mornings with a content stomach and a calm mood, I felt more collected and able to tackle my daily tasks.


My typical morning meal consists of almond milk and a scoop of instant coffee. It’s fast and easy, perfect for my usual “ain’t nobody got time attitude toward breakfast. However, many times, I buy breakfast on campus because I know I can’t last the morning without food, which ends up costing quite a bit of money. In light of this week’s challenge, I finally decided to go grocery shopping over the long weekend.

I started off the week making eggs benedict with smoked salmon. After googling how to poach an egg online, I slapped together an eggs benedict that actually turned out to be pretty delicious. My roommates were very proud. As opposed to my usual get-up-and-go mornings, it felt nice to relax a little and make a hearty meal to start the day. Throughout the morning, I felt like I had more energy, which lasted me until lunch time. I continued to do this for the next couple of days (I kept making eggs benedict because I was so proud of my poached eggs). Although I got to the lab a little later in the mornings, it was great to start each day with sustenance in my body. I also saved some money, which is always helpful to poor graduate students like me.


This week, I tried my best to squeeze in time to eat a quick and nourishing meal. Each night, I prepared some overnight oats with chia seeds and soy milk. I found that preparing meals in advance is so much easier than scrambling around to make breakfast in the morning. It also made my mornings a little less hectic. Overall, the breakfast sustained my energy levels well until noon, avoiding those embarrassing whale noises in the middle of my morning lectures. I know I’ll be trying to maintain this healthy habit into exam week.

How did you fit in breakfast on your busiest mornings? Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections by commenting below, or through social media, using #ubcpeerperspective.

Over the past five weeks, we’ve tried to raise awareness about various aspects of our lives that impact our wellness. Though the Live Well Challenges have ended, we hope you will continue to choose healthy options and find balance. As Wellness Peers, we will continue to post about living well, so please continue to check the blog for helpful, student-tested info about health and wellbeing. And, if you have specific questions about your wellness, drop into the Wellness Centre to chat with us one-on-one.

Week 5 of Live Well Challenges: Eating a Nutritious Breakfast Every Morning

I challenge you (and myself) to include eating a hearty and healthy breakfast as part of your daily routine.” 

No matter how hard I try, I am not a morning person. While I do enjoy getting an early start to the day and savouring a few quiet moments, my mornings do not reflect this and are instead quite chaotic.

In an ideal world I would wake up on time, calmly get ready and prepare myself a nice, healthy breakfast. If I was feeling really ambitious, I would even enjoy a cup of tea and indulge in a good book. I would calmly leave my house, without any fear of missing the bus. This is what I aim for every morning but unfortunately, it’s not my reality; it’s not even close.

On a typical weekday morning I would sleep through 5 alarms, ending up with only 25 minutes to leave my house. There’s a lot to do in this time so I’m a little frantic. I quickly get ready, make myself coffee or tea for the commute and then leave the house with only a few minutes to make the bus. I would run to the bus stop, arriving mere seconds before the bus and face the silent judgment of the other more organized commuters who didn’t have to run for the bus and are not slightly out of breath. Okay, the last part may be a little dramatic but that’s what it feels like and this is often how I start the day. Nowhere in my mad morning scramble is there any mention of breakfast or me consuming anything more than tea or coffee. With only 25 minutes something needs to be dropped from my ideal morning list and that is often breakfast.

I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, and in fact there are several benefits to eating a nutritious meal to start the day. Eating breakfast has been linked to increases in your alertness, concentration, and mood. It also helps maintain a healthy diet and metabolism. Being a busy graduate student, I could definitely benefit from being more focused and alert. With this in mind, I challenge you (and myself) to include eating a hearty and healthy breakfast as part of your daily routine. My breakfasts may not be as perfect as the ones I have pictured in my ideal morning routine scenario but they will be nutritious and that’s a start!  

During the week feel free to share your experience with this challenge on social media using the #ubcpeerperspective hashtag. On Friday, the Wellness Peers and myself will reflect back on this challenge and share some of the highs and the lows, so I encourage you to revisit the Healthy Minds blog then to see how it went.

Let’s do this!

Post Written by Ashley Arnold

Wondering who Ashley is? Here is a little introduction!

img_0179Hi there! My name is Ashley and I’m one of the Graduate Wellness Peers. I’m currently in the Masters program in the department of Microbiology & Immunology studying the microbial ecology of subsurface terrestrial environments. When I’m not working away in the lab you can probably find me passionately talking about musicals, making science jokes or planning my next brunch adventure.

When I found out about the graduate wellness peer position I was really excited to be part of a team who cares deeply about promoting wellness to all individuals on campus and creating an open environment to talk about it. In this role I hope to include more grad students in these conversations and find ways to address some of our specific wellness needs. I’m excited to contribute to the Healthy Minds blog this year and share some of my grad student experiences and personal wellness journey!

Happy reading!


Week 4 of Live Well Challenges: Beating the Seasonal Blues Reflections

It’s week 4 of the Live Well Challenge Series, and this week, the Wellness Peers (Kleo, Alice, and Jenny) have decided to tackle the seasonal blues as the days get shorter and the forecast for days of rain get lengthier. We challenged ourselves to tackle the seasonal blues by doing something that elevates our mood and lifts our spirits. It’s safe to say that our moods have been lifted- here’s what we had to say:


I am a huge fan of Starbucks’ holiday drinks and every year screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-1-49-32-pm
I eagerly anticipate their symbolic red cup designs released during the winter months. Having tried all of the drinks (with varying modifications), I have now settled on a favorite: the peppermint mocha. I know, I know, I can easily ask Starbucks to customize a regular mocha during the year with peppermint syrup, but there is something just a little bit more magical about holding that red cup and walking through campus, scarf wrapped around my face, breathing in the crisp cold air.

While Vancouver hardly gets cold enough to make my white Christmas dreams come true, I find that treating myself to a cup of peppermint mocha still does wonders to lift my mood during the rainy months of November. The familiar scent and taste of peppermint and chocolate on my tongue brings to mind happier, more relaxing times. Gradually, one sip at a time, I remind myself that no matter how dark the skies look outside, the rain will always pass.

‘But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’                                                                                                               -Samwise Gamgee


This week, I’ve noticed that the days have become noticeably shorter, which was a perfect time to try the seasonal blues challenge! On a typical day, I would be scrambling from class to the laboratory and back into a classroom. I would get off the bus at 8:00am and only step outside again once the sun had set. I’ve always known that I was not fitting in enough daylight into my daily routines, but have always brushed it off as the inevitable consequence of the otherwise beautiful winter months.

So, I decided to be more attentive to the amount of time I spend outdoors and the amount of vitamin D I would be getting in a day. I invested in some healthy multivitamins (which has a good amount of vitamin D) and tried to spend my lunch hours outdoors. Though I still found myself feeling drowsy throughout the week, my spirits were lifted every time I stepped outside and filled my lungs with the fresh, crisp, autumn air. This week, I’ve learned to appreciate those brief moments of calmness spent outdoors, regardless of the weather forecast. And I’m really looking forward to continuing this habit.


By the end of October, I was shocked to find that it rained for 28 out of 31 days in October. (I recall the news article mentioning that it beat the previous record of 26 days). By trudging through the rain for so long, it’s astounding to realize how habituated I was to this crummy weather. Despite trying to keep my head held high, I still had a lousy and monotonous outlook toward the upcoming months.

Surprisingly, the first week of November blessed us with a few sunny days and I knew I wasn’t going to let any of them go to waste. I went out for walks more often, and during the times I was outside, I learned to appreciate the crisp air, fallen leaves, and greenery. On my efforts to soak in as much light as I could, I still wasn’t able to adjust to my usual sleep schedule. Instead, I decided to just go with the flow and listen to my sporadic nap cravings. By the end of the week in spite of my weird circadian rhythm, I still maintained a positive perspective.


How did you beat the seasonal blues? We would love to hear your perspectives. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections by commenting below, or through social media by using the #ubcpeerperspective hashtag.