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

I walk in the darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To share my darkness and my light.

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

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

De-Stress For Exam Success

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

Mental Health Symposium 2017

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

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

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

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

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

What: The 2017 Mental Health Symposium

When: February 11th from 10am-5pm

Where: Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability.

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

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

Recent UBC grad shares perspectives on mental health

Photo credit: Joshua Beharry

Everyone has mental health and some face challenges related to mental illness. UBC students are no exception, with depression reported as one of the most common mental health concerns.

Joshua Beharry, a recent UBC graduate, just launched a website to share his first-person perspective on mental health. Josh’s stories and essays touch on a variety of topics like depression, anxiety, stigma, and recovery.

I asked Josh a few questions to learn more about the new site and how it might help others think about and explore their own mental health.


C. What is Mental Health Point of View?

J. MHPOV (Mental Health Point of View) shares my experiences with anxiety, depression, and attempted suicide. MHPOV aims to provide a comprehensive look at mental illness and mental health from a first person point of view. Continue reading “Recent UBC grad shares perspectives on mental health”

Groups at Counselling Services: What are they, and why try them?

Post by Shahbano Bhatti, third-year Psychology student and Counselling Services Assistant

I’ve always been curious as to how group counselling works,  so I decided to interview Margaret Drewlo, (M.A., Pre-Doctoral Intern,) at Counselling Services to find out more about these programs.

Me: What group programs does Counselling Services offers?

Margaret: We have three groups running on Wednesday evenings:

Mindfulness Stress Management is a group for students who want to develop skills to cope effectively with negative emotions, tolerate distress and develop healthy relationships.

Anxiety Management is a group for students who experience anxiety symptoms physically or cognitively and want to find a long-term solution to manage these symptoms.

Mood Management is a group for students to reduce and manage symptoms of depression.

Students meet with a counsellor prior to determining which resources will be helpful in addressing their concerns and are then referred appropriately.

Me: What is the benefit of attending a group session? Continue reading “Groups at Counselling Services: What are they, and why try them?”

Counselling Services: You’re not in it alone

Guest post by UBC students Navi Dasanjh and Shahbano Bhatti

University – a place of excitement, adventure, learning, and growth. While the university experience can be filled with wonder and joy, it undoubtedly also has its perils (helllooo, midterm season).

Throughout this time, no matter how daunting your school/work/personal life my feel, always remember to take a step back and have some time to yourself. Also remember that you’re not in it alone – there are numerous campus resources to help you through whatever rough patch you may be facing.

Getting through personal difficulties

Counselling Services is one of these resources. Free to all registered UBC students, Counselling Services is a group of trained professionals available to chat, listen, and help you through any personal difficulties you may be facing.

Helpful tips from Vanita Sabharwal, Counsellor

We sat down with one of the counsellors, Vanita Sabharwal, to learn more about her work and get some helpful tips.

Continue reading “Counselling Services: You’re not in it alone”

Graduating Angst? Fear not!

Graduates in caps and gowns
Image credit: Student Communications Services

Graduating this term? Feeling a bit anxious about it?

If you’re graduating this term you may be experiencing an unusual mix of feelings right now: you’re excited about being done with your degree and just ready for it to be finished. On top of that, there’s an uncertainty about what’s coming next. You’ve done your degree requirements and signed up for graduation. Now what?

Even if you have something planned – you have a job lined up or you’ve been accepted to grad school – this time may still feel unsettling, partially because of just how unfamiliar it is.

Figuring out what’s next

We’ve been going to school for most of our lives. For most of us, we haven’t had more than a summer long break from school for around 18 years. And now, as graduation is nearing, it feels like the life for which we’ve been educating ourselves for almost two decades is finally here and asking us, “What’s next?” There’s a certain freedom in that question, since your answer can be “Whatever I want.” But it can also be a paralyzing question if you’re immediate thought is “I have no idea.”

Finding the middle ground between those two responses, a place where you have ideas about what you want to do and have a plan about how to pursue them, will help make this next stage in life seem exciting and perhaps not as daunting. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you love working hard at?

Is there something you’ve found that, even though the work is time-consuming and challenging, you feel incredibly happy doing? That’s a feeling that shouldn’t be ignored.

Take time to reflect honestly about what defines your passion: what is it about a particular task, project, or outcome that you really enjoy? Explore the different angles of the process, and find out ways in which you can gain more experience.

Who is doing something that you could see yourself doing?

Ask that person how they got there. If you find yourself saying, “I wish I could do what X does” find out how X got started. Use the research skills you’ve been honing these past few years to find out what they did during or after university. Make use of the abundance of social networking tools and reach out. Read and comment on the person’s blog, follow and interact with the person on Twitter, and email the person directly with honest, specific questions.

Taking time to reflect, and connecting with resources.

Dedicating some time to reflect on these questions may not remove all of your graduating angst, but it will give you a more solid ground from which to start your post-undergraduate life. For more resources on planning your next steps, stop by Career Services or your faculty’s academic advising offices.

And remember – experiencing some anxiety as you approach graduation is normal; however, if you’re having trouble managing your anxiety, consider talking with counselor at Counselling Services.

 

Article written by Sarah Eden

Anxiety: What’s Behind it

After experiencing anxiety in second year, I spent much time hoping it would go away for good. When it would dissipate, I’d feel so happy… only to be disappointed when it would rush back anew.  I refer here not to situational stress we all experience from time to time, but about a persisting, intrusive and bothersome condition.

After a while, I realized that anxiety was going to be there for the long haul.  Trying to get rid of anxiety merely gets in the way of coping with it effectively; the condition is better managed than avoided.  Following this epiphany, I came across MD Claire Weekes hugely helpful audiobook, Pass Through Panic.  The author’s explanation of the three processes that drive anxiety mirror was absolutely eye-opening:

  1. Sensitization.  It can occur in anyone and be caused by a traumatic event or prolonged exposure to stress.  Sensitization is a continued state that’s characterized by nerves having a tendency to overreact to stressors.  Activity in the amygdala leads to physical reactions such as stomach churning, sweating, lump in the throat, etc.  This state of sensitization is maintained over time by bewilderment and fear.
  2. Bewilderment.  The physical reactions listed above are unpleasant and lead the person who experiences them to worry about his state and to ask “Why do I feel like that? What’s happening to me? Why can’t I feel just like everyone else?”  This process adds stress to the original stress experienced.
  3. Fear.   Bewilderment then evolves in to fear about one’s condition.  The person is no longer concerned by the initial stressor, but by the unpleasant sensations experienced.  When anxiety is present, the person fears his or her state.  When anxiety is gone, the person fears its return.  This keeps stress levels high and maintains sensitization.

In my next post, I’ll discuss Weekes’ strategies to break this nasty cycle and how they’ve helped over here.  If you are looking for support, tons of other books exist on the topic and Counseling Services offers an anxiety management group program.

Facing Your Fear

What is the most important part of overcoming you fears? Well, according the Anxiety BC, its exposure to them. Now, this is not necessarily what I wanted to hear as it sounds incredibly uncomfortable. I’m terrified of spiders and the thought of voluntarily being around them seems ridiculous. However, exposure is an important part of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety.

According to Anxiety BC, we should face our fears gradually and repeatedly. Make a list of the things that cause you anxiety and start out by facing things that cause you the least anxiety and work up to things that cause you the most anxiety. Then, do them over and over again.

Of course, one part of this is figuring out which fears are rational and helpful, and which are not. For example, if you fear walking around alone downtown at night, that is not a fear to face. Like that, some of our fears are beneficial; they keep us from doing reckless things. Other fears, however, like fear of crowds, elevators, job interviews etc. are not intrinsically dangerous. These are the fears that we can overcome.

If you continue to expose yourself to anxiety-causing situations, not only will you fear these situations less, you will also gain self confidence, which will help you deal with the anxiety that remains.

Anxiety disorders are the most common of the mental disorders, so you can be sure that you are not alone if you worry more than is healthy. Here are some great resources to learn all about anxiety disorders and self-help strategies:

CBT Self-Help Toolkit

UBC Mental Health Awareness Club – Dr. Fleming’s Talk

Mind.org.uk – Anxiety

Canadian Mental Health Association – Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Canada