smile. breathe. and go slowly.

Having just entered grad school in September, I have already found it challenging to balance course work, research, volunteer commitments, physical activities, and social life. Not to mention the tasks of daily life – doing laundry, shopping for groceries, making meals, and cleaning my living space. But there are just so many exciting opportunities to take advantage of and so many amazing people to network with! I cannot resist exploring my new life as a grad student.

That being said, I am also mindful in taking care of my overall well-being and strategic in deciding how to manage my time. I’d like to share this quote “smile, breathe, and go slowly” by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is what I remind myself every day and what I aim to practice in my life.

Wreck Beach, Vancouver. Photo Credit: Michelle Chen

When I don’t reach my own expectations or when I feel mentally drained, I’d tell myself to smile. It has yet to fail  at reminding me that the process is the goal and at making me feel loved (and more attractive at that!) Try it, and don’t fake it. Be genuine and remember to smile with your eyes! You will be surprise how such a simple and effortless facial expression can have a tremendous amount of positive influence on your attitude and mood.


Conscious and controlled breathing is an amazing tool of relaxation and concentration. Just ask any yogi! Sometimes I can get really flustered and easily irritated when trying to meet pressing deadline and committing to extracurricular activities while juggling the little things of life. This is when I take a minute to stop my thoughts, lower my shoulders, and just breathe. In and out. Even and controlled. I always feel more calm and able to focus and prioritize better. For me, it is a quick fix for an overwhelmed and anxious mind.

Go slowly

Time is not against you. You have to take charge of time and not be a slave of it. I have a habit of making a weekly to-do list, with time set aside for yoga, running, and volunteer hours. For large tasks or assignments, I break them down into more manageable pieces and assign my own deadlines for them. This gives me a sense of security and a piece of mind –  knowing that I will be able to take care of myself, be involved in the community, and complete the required work for school  and research. Taking my time in doing each item on the to-do list ensures maximal enjoyment of leisure activities and production of quality work. Of course, I must also be flexible to accommodate unexpected events and be able to compromise accordingly.

Smile, breathe, and go slowly. It won’t hurt to give it a shot. I highly recommend it!

Why Getting Involved is Good For You

With the stress from course selections, it’s a good time to think about our lives outside of our classrooms.

Earlier in the year I had the chance to chat with Christine, former Assistant at the Centre for Student Involvement (CSI).  This conversation gave me the opportunity to learn more about UBC Student Development and the programs they offer to help students find all kinds of involvement experiences.

Like all of the UBC resources, the CSI wants to help you succeed!  Many students including myself worry that getting involved in extra-curricular activities will trouble our academics.  However, Christine explained to me that student involvement broadens our learning experience and allows us to apply our learning outside of the classroom. A strong example with this is through my involvement with Healthy Minds at UBC.  I’ve been able to exercise my writing skills and the concepts I learned in PSYC 101 & 102 in the creation of  my blog posts.

According to Christine, many students don’t get involved simply because of not knowing what’s available.  Fortunately, the CSI offers Involvement Coaching to all students.  Here you can match involvement opportunities to your interests and abilities.  Even if you’re a commuter student living 1.5hrs away from campus, there is something for you!

Sometimes it can be difficult to walk out of our comfort zone.  Don’t worry if the idea of “getting out there” and “getting involved” scares you.  During our conversation, Christine  introduced to me the concept of the “Volunteer Continuum”.  This is a process where one can gradually build up on their level of involvement.  Here’s an example:

The Area of Involvement: UBC Orientations

1) In your first-year you would be the participant (the new first-year student).

2) In your second-year you can volunteer as a MUG leader or on the Eco or Welcome Team.

3) In your third-year you can take on more responsibilities as a Squad Leader.

4) In your fourth-year you can join the staff team by becoming an Orientation and Transition

Current Volunteer Opportunity at UBC: Thrive

Are you ready to take the firs step to get involved on campus? Make sure you check out out Thrive Volunteer Opportunities on Careers online as well!

Excited about getting involved now?  Stop by the CSI for some Involvement Coaching, hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm.  You can also go online to read about ways you can get involved.

What are you waiting for?  Go now!

Where Would I Be Without UBC’s Co-op Program?

Written By: Michelle Chuang

If you had asked me three years ago what I wanted to do after graduation, I would’ve likely given you a shrug and said that I still had eons before I had to decide. One co-op program application and numerous interviews later, I have several internships at software companies and in research labs at UBC under my belt. While I can’t say that I know without a doubt what I want to do, my internships have given me a lot of personal insight, great memories and invaluable experiences that have helped point me in the right direction for picking my career path.

How can I say that, you ask? The interviews taught me how to think on my feet and make good impressions. The different positions showed me how diverse my options were. I’ve met amazing people and gained real world experience, putting me ahead of the pack when I graduate. I know what I enjoy working on and, equally important, what I don’t. I even had the opportunity of working in Seattle for the (who proceeded to give all of the interns pre-screening passes to Dark Knight Rises)!

Internships are a great way to explore your options as an undergrad while having ridiculous amount of fun, and I recommend everyone to check out the UBC Co-op Program. If you’re not convinced yet, getting to watch my bank account replete itself – all of my internships were paid – was always a nice change of scenery

UBC Co-op Program website

More benefits of co-op programs

Mental Health Engagement Nights!

Are you interested in mental health? Do you want to learn about how you can make a difference in the UBC community? Do you want to become engaged and learn more about some of the opportunities available on campus?

Then join us for the Mental Health Engagement Night!

When: Thursday, September 20th from 6:00-7:30pm OR
Tuesday, September 25th from 6:00-7:30pm

Where: Centre for Student Involvement at Brock Hall


1.)  Mental Health Awareness Club (MHAC): Click here

2.)  MHAC’s Mental Health Needs Assessment: Click here

3.) Mental Health Network: Click here

4.)  Healthy Minds: Click here

5.)  Sexual Assault Support Centre: Click here

6.)  Bell Youth Mental Health IMPACT Project: Click here

7.)  Kaleidoscope: Click here

There will be free food – delicious dessert and prizes to be won! There will be a chance for networking and meeting new people!

If you have any questions please feel free to email us at

Please RSVP Here


Raw Foodism: Dreamcake Edition

Since attempting to be as vegan as possible this past year, I have become increasingly interested in taking it to the next level by going RAW!

Raw eating is a food movement that avoids both exposing food to temperatures over 48 degrees Celsius and/or eating food that requires cooking. This ensures that important nutrients and enzymes aren’t destroyed while also preventing the formation of free radicals and toxins that the heat of cooking may create. It is said that increasing your consumption of raw foods can increase energy, mental clarity and ensure a better sleep. Connecting with the Earth through eating more fresh foods also means less packaging, an eco-friendly plus!

Raw foodism doesn’t have to be only fruits and veggies. In fact, I found a recipe for a “dreamcake”, or a raw version of a cheesecake and gave it a go this week with my friend, Brandon (a baking genius). The crust is made of dates and walnuts and the cake part is made of cashews, agave (a natural sweetner), coconut oil and raspberries. The recipe was super easy, relatively quick to whip up and all of the ingredients are easy to find at any grocery store. The KEY to success in getting creative with raw eating is having a food processor or a very strong blender! Brandon’s non-vegan perspective on the final result was that the dreamcake was “interesting, more like a cashew lemon sorbet”. Although it was tasty, it was a far cry from cheesecake. However, seeing how simple it was to make this recipe, I am even more motivated to keep trying new ones!

Raw eating can seem intimidating, but it actually turns out to take even less time than baking and usually only involves pressing the “pulse” button on your food processor. There are a ton of fantastic recipes on the web for raw “baking”, a way to become more concious of your eating habits, have a higher nutrient intake and re-connect to the Earth and the fresh food it naturally provides.

Raw Brownie

Rawmazing Recipes

Why Eat Raw?


Vegan Baking!

Have you always wanted to try out vegan baking, but have been scared to or did not have the right resources? Or are you already a vegan and looking for some fun new baking recipes to try out this summer? Then look no further. Below are some excellent resources and tips to get you started on your vegan baking adventure!

Substitutions to make your favorite recipes vegan:

Do you have some favorite recipes, but want to try and make them vegan for a change? There is an excellent resource provided by PETA that provides easy substitutions for a few key ingredients so your favorite recipes can easily be made vegan.

Excellent recipe websites:

If you are like me, then you are always looking for new recipes to try out and experiment with. It can be hard to figure out which websites to look at when there are so options from just googling “Vegan Baking”. Here are some of my favorite websites: Vegan Baking, All Recipes, Food Gawker. Something to pay attention to before trying out a new recipe is the recipe rating and the comments below. The rating will tell you how many people have tried this recipe and liked it and the comments usually have helpful tips to change up the recipe and make it better.

Follow these tips and you will be baking vegan treats in no time!


Mmmm Vegan Apple Pie!!
Mmmm Vegan Apple Pie!!

Sauder Wellness Fair – Feb 7th, 2012

Are you interested in learning more about health and wellness at UBC?

Sauder will be hosting it’s first ever Wellness Fair on February 7th, from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm at Henry Angus. We are proud to partner with The UBC Wellness Centre and various other community members in order to present you with resources to educate you on a variety of  health topics. Get ready for some exciting activities, including making your own trail mix, stress balls, Valentine’s Day cards, and even cookies! Also, both Barre Fitness and Semperviva will be hosting free classes, and you will not want to miss out!

‘Like’ Health and Wellness at Sauder on facebook for updates other health and wellness events!

Nutrition and Exercise Hour: 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

  • Barre Fitness: 11:30 am – 12:00 pm, HA 435
  • Trail Mix Station: CA Hall
  • Displays on nutritional eating, getting enough exercise,
  • healthy lifestyles

Wellness Balance Hour: 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm 

  • Sauder Yoga: 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm, Birmingham Centre
  • Stress Ball Station: CA Hall
  • Displays on mental health, time management, and reducing stress

Sexual Health Hour: 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

  • Meditation: 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, HA 435
  • Healthy Relationships Workshop: 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Birmingham Centre
  • Valentine’s Day Card-making Station: CA Hall
  • Decorating Penis Cookies: CA Hall
  • Displays on healthy relationships, STD’s, Lace Campaign

The Benefits of Getting Involved

Not too long ago, I myself was a new student to UBC. I didn’t know many people and had no ties to my life at UBC. I soon became overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of my long days, and of working so hard only to feel two steps behind. I felt intimidated and too embarrassed to ask for help. One day my cousin, who volunteered at the UBC Wellness Centre, asked me to stop by for lunch. I found the Wellness Centre downstairs in the SUB, and instantly felt welcomed and at home.

Before long I was filling out my application to get involved with Peer Programs as a Peer Educator at the Wellness Centre. In my first year I thought “I don’t have time to get involved, I have too much on my plate as it is”! I had no idea that in giving back to the UBC community I would get so much out of it. Before long I felt connected to a network of friends and contacts I could turn to for support. They opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me, and their guidance helped reduce my stress level. Volunteering also opened other doors for me, including my work-study position as the Project Assistant for Healthy Minds at UBC.

If I could go back and tell my first year self one thing it would be: Getting involved on campus will have an unimaginable domino effect on the rest of your life. University life is about more than academics, it is about your spiritual, social, physical, personal, work-financial and emotional journey. Taking an active role on your campus will help enhance all of these spheres, and in doing so improve your academics and overall mental health. This is the message of Healthy Minds, that a healthy mind is the product of a healthy life. A healthy mind thrives with balance.

Healthy Minds is here to help you maintain balance in your life throughout your transition to UBC. The resources we provide and recommend include:

  • Healthy Minds on twitter: by following @HealthyUBC you can stay updated on health and wellness tips that contribute to maintaining positive mental health.
  • Student Health 101: is an online magazine filled with health related articles, links and resources. Be sure to check out the campus correspondent section to hear UBC students discuss their experiences and hear their practical advice.
  • Live Well, Learn Well: is the central hub for information, support, and resources to help you improve your wellbeing, in order to enhance your academic progress.
  • Thrive Week at UBC: (Oct 17-21) is a week dedicated to positive mental health at UBC. Stay tuned for Thrive events happening across your UBC campus. Thrive week is an excellent way to kick off your involvement and take an active role in maintaining a healthy mind!

The Career Dilemma

An Alternative to the Career-Related Questioning Torture

I’ve spent much of the last two years questioning what career I want to pursue in the future.  On a daily basis I would ask myself, ‘what field is there a future in?’, ‘how do I make sure I will REALLY love being a labour lawyer/yoga studio owner/urban planner/journalist?’, ‘will I actually be able to make this world better through career path x/y/z?’ and ‘will I fit in this type of work environment?’  I have over analyzed, questioned and hashed career-related matters to the point where the word ‘career’ has lost all meaning…  I have tortured myself so much over the fact that I do not know exactly what I want to do for a career at age 23 that just thinking about it is sickening.  If I had to sum up the past two years, I’d say “paralysis by analysis”.

Comes in Siobhan Stewart. I’m in Toronto, biking back home when I notice my friend Siobhan, whom I haven’t seen in two years, has just texted me.  She is in town for 48 hours.  U-turn.  Bike fast.  Meet with Siobhan downtown.

We’re having martinis and I feel so energized by her presence.  She’s got dozens of projects and is thoroughly enjoying it.  All of it is simply contagious.  She is full of talent, love and bustling with energy.  It’s amazing.  And then she tells me about the last adventure of hers: a ten-day long Holocaust Remembrance trip through Germany and Poland.  I am blown away.  I ask her how she decided to do that and her answer was: “well a friend of mine told me about it… I looked it up and thought it’d be really cool to do so I clicked ‘book’”.

I realized what it is that makes Siobhan so active, so driven and so passionate about what she does… she goes the Nike way: “Just do it”.  She lets excitement guide her.  She’s on it. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t question herself – she does.  However, she has one amazing guide to make that decision: how she feels about what she is doing right now.  It’s much easier to make career decisions when you do things you enjoy.

I’ve since decided to go the Siobhan way.  I’ve decided that I’m going to do what I love. Period.  I’ve decided that I am taking a yoga teacher training class next summer.  Do I want to do that as a career? Maybe, maybe not.  All I know is I love yoga and I can’t get enough of it and, for me, there is no more reason needed to take that teacher training than the fact that I just can’t wait to do that.  I’ve also decided to get involved in the field of slum redevelopment.  Why? Because I am fascinated by slums, the way they work, and how their conditions can be improved.  Did I decide I would be involved in that work for the next 60 years?  Of course not.  This is just one step taken to do something I’m interested in.

Since making these decisions, I’ve begun to notice all the opportunities available to me. But most importantly, I feel relieved.  I feel energized.  I feel my creative juices flowing.  I feel like I’m in for fun and success.

Can I promise you that deciding to do what you love will instantaneously lead to opportunities waiting to be taken?  No, I can’t.  What I’ve realized, however, is that beating oneself up to the point of feeling miserable is no way to find a ‘fun’ career.  Having a blast at what you, however, sounds like a good starting point.  I hope this will inspire you to let your excitement guide you to somewhere you’ll actually have a great time – both personally and professionally.

The Wish List

 I have always found myself wanting more. May that be a new pair of shoes, the new iPad, a relationship, an acceptance letter from professional school or a whole lot of other things, both materialistic and non-materialistic. But what I have started to recognize lately is that I am always wanting and wanting more and I have never taken the time to appreciate what I have or have achieved so far.

For example, when I saved up enough money to buy myself an iPod Touch, the excitement lasted for a few days before I moved on to a new obsession. Also, before I was in a relationship, I thought all I wanted was a stable relationship. Now that I am in one, I start to see the imperfections in it and I can’t help but wonder if there would be a better someone out there.

I have always been like that until recently when I came across a quote by Epicurus (an ancient greek philosopher), “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have, was once among the things you only hoped for.” Upon reading this, I started to realize that the truth is, I can either continue to want more, start a new obsession everyday, going after perfection, and waste my days being frustrated because I still have an unfulfilled wish list. But the thing about this wish list is that it is a never ending one. Or on the contrary, I can start cherishing what I already have and start living my live to its fullest.

Every day we spend upset is another day lost of being happy.

Create Great Mental Health

“There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”

Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD), Epistles

There has long been though to be a connection between creativity and mental illness. The “mad genius” has become a stereotype, but does being creative really put you at higher risk of developing serious mental illness? The simple answer is no. In fact, engaging in creative activities like writing, art, or music are excellent ways to improve your mental health. So what can you do to draw out your inner creative genius?

  1. Do you love photography? Why not display your work to the world on a photoblog or enter the Art Institute of Vancouver’s photography competition? The Art Institute also has competitions for cooking and fashion.
  2. Is music your thing? How about joining the UBC a cappella club or just going to see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra?
  3. The Vancouver Art Gallery is full of exhibitions, lecture, performances and more.
  4. Make friends with Google. The Internet is full of fun craft ideas.
  5. Write a journal.  Whether it’s serious or hilarious, journals are great ways to get your thoughts in order. If you have a specific problem, thought diaries may be able to help.

The possibilities are limitless, so go forth and create!

Capturing Confidence

“I had no idea how to answer that last question, I’m going to do horribly on that test.”

“If I fail this class, I’m a failure as a student.”

“I got the job, so there must not have been many applicants.”

Do any of these sound like you? The way we think influences absolutely everything about our worldview and our images of ourselves. Low self-esteem is very common in university students, and can lead to other mental health problems such as depression.

So how can we give our confidence a boost? Well, by changing the way we think. Cognitive behavioural therapy is based on this idea that changing thoughts changes lives.

Step 1: Think about the times when you feel least confident. What situations consistently erode your self-esteem? Continue reading “Capturing Confidence”

Lasting Resolutions

If you are anything like me, January 1st means resolving to get up at 6am every day to run for 5K, eat nothing that isn’t found in nature, meditate, do all my readings for every class, and not spend more than $50 a month on unnecessary things.

And while I’m at it, why not resolve to ride a unicorn across the Kalahari Desert? It’s about as realistic.

Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be tough, but there are ways of making it easier. Firstly, don’t set those wildly unrealistic goals in the first place. See the January edition of Student Health 101 for tips on making your goals.

Focus on the change you want to make in your behaviour, not on the end result. For example, focus on getting half an hour of exercise most days of the week instead of focusing on losing ten pounds.

Continue reading “Lasting Resolutions”