Healthy Minds Breakfast!

Healthy Minds is hosting a breakfast as a part of Stress Less for Exam Success.

Nutrition is very important for academic success so come join us  for food and information about the important link between health and academic success.

Date: Wednesday April 3rd, 2013

Time: 9-11am (or until food runs out)

Location: Centre for Student Involvement in Brock Hall

Pet Visitation

Calling all Dog lovers! Engineer Your Health in collaboration with Healthy Minds UBC will be hosting a Pet Therapy  Session on March 06 2013 from 11:15am-2:30pm.   If you’re looking for new outlets to feel less stressed during midterm season- we will be having drop- in sessions if be available! * Help support Pet and Friends by donating to the penny drive during the the Pet Therapy Session.

Please check-in at the atrium in The Fred Kaiser Building ( 2332 Main Mall V6T 1Z4)

Research has shown that the most effective way to unwind is to spend time with a family dog. A dog’s enthusiasm is infectious and leaves someone feeling more relaxed, more optimistic, and less preoccupied with everyday worries.

Some benefits for students include:

  • Reduced stress– sometimes even more than human friends! We all know that sometimes talking to a friend can be a great stress relief but research shows that spending time with an animal may be even better. This may be due to the fact that animals love us unconditionally. (Animals are also great listeners!)
  • Increased physical and social activity– even if you are not a pet owner, taking an hour or two out of the day to play with an animal is a great study break and provides a bit of additional exercise.
  • Improved Mood- even just stopping on the street to pet a dog can drastically improve your mood! In fact, research has shown that pet owners tend to have a lower incidence of depression than people that do not own pets.

For these benefits and many others, animal visits are often offered in hospitals and long-term care facilities to enhance the overall wellness of patients. This has been shown to be a very powerful stress reducer that many students would probably benefit from, especially at this time of year.

To find out more about the benefits of spending time with animals, check out the following resources:



Healthy Decisions: Learning to Say No

“Should I go or should I not go?”  is a question I ask myself countless times each week. Recently, making decisions to say “no” to certain things have been a struggle for me.

I want to be involved with so many things: go to events and meetings, volunteer for events, spend time with my friends and study. But sometimes saying “yes” to too many things at the same time will result in negative consequences – for me, it means being stressed out and lacking the time for doing what is important.

It is important to know how to manage time by distinguishing between what is important and/or urgent. Learn how to manage your time well.

Often times, I feel guilty for saying “no” to people. I feel bad for letting them down and I worry that they would think negatively about me. And sometimes I have the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Despite all the negative feelings that I had due to saying “no”, I had to learn to say no – the author of this article mentions that we need to say no in order to say yes to certain things.

After reading a few articles, I realized that I am not alone in my struggle. It seems that most of us would have to learn to say no. Read this helpful article: Nine Practices to Help You Say No. For those of you who want a Christian perspective on saying no, read this article.

What things do you need to say “no” to in order to be able to say “yes” to other things?

Dealing with Insomnia

Insomnia is something everyone deals with at some point in their life. From trying to regain your school sleep schedule to dealing with the stresses of midterms and finals, insomnia is not something people want to be dealing with. For some people, it’s a day but for others, it can be a lifetime struggle.

Insomnia is the chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. 

You may be experiencing insomnia for a number of reasons:

  • Stress
  • Feelings of anxiety or worry
  • Depression
  • Sleep Environment
  • Recent Traumatic Event

I have developed a few techniques to aid in getting a good night’s sleep.

Shutting off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. This may seem inconvenient, especially for a busy student, but to help your brain and body to calm down, you should remove yourself from any screens and try reading for 30 minutes before bed instead of catching up on your TV.

Avoid naps! Although this might be something that is nearly impossible for some people, if you are able to avoid napping during the day, falling asleep at night will be less of a hassle. If you do need to nap, do so for only 20 minutes.

Melatonin. This is somewhat of a quick fix, but you can pick up melatonin at your drug store. Melatonin is produced naturally in your body, and helps induce sleep. Taking it as a supplement can help if you have suddenly altered your sleep schedule and need to balance it again. However, melatonin should not be taken every night and if your insomnia continues, see a doctor.

A few more quick tips

  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Sleep and wake up at the same time everyday.

However, some of your reasons for having insomnia might not be so easily cured (e.g. depression or anxiety), and if your insomnia persists it may be beneficial to speak to a doctor.

Feel free to comment with your tips on how to fight insomnia!

Coping with the Stress of December

December is undoubtedly the busiest month of the year for me and I feel as though I am constantly fighting for more time. Time to study, time to buy gifts, time to work, time to attend dinners with family/friends/coworkers, time to yoga, etc. I feel like burying my head in my hands every time I look at my full calendar and see an event or task marked in every single box.

Over the past few years, I have found that the best way to cope with the stress of December is to stay organized. Here are three ways to keep yourself in check:

1) Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
Decide ahead of time who or what matters the most in your life during this season. Another night out partying with the friends, or a night in watching a movie with the fam? Spending a couple of hours of your afternoon volunteering, or studying for your exam? By prioritizing the important things and eliminating those that are not, no time goes wasted.

2) Make a detailed schedule.
For exams, this might mean setting dates (or even the hour of the day) to finish reading certain chapters, finish writing the introductory paragraph of your final paper, or making flashcards. For presents, draft a list of people you need to buy for and set a due date to finish all your holiday shopping (or baking), instead of cramming in time here and there.

Solidifying the dates and times for your tasks and events will help you stay organized. Instead of having things floating in the air or procrastinating, a schedule will help you visualize your priorities.

3) Take things one day at a time.
Amidst all the chaos, remember to breathe and enjoy the company of the people you love, the Christmas music, and the eggnog. It’s the holidays, after all!


Organize your holiday gift list with this printout!

Create tasks and a to-do list on Google calendar

Healthy Minds Breakfast

Healthy Minds is hosting a breakfast as a part of Stress Less for Exam Success.

Nutrition is very important for academic success so come join us  for food and information about the important link between health and academic success.

Date: Friday November 30th, 2012

Time: 9-11am (or until food runs out)

Location: Centre for Student Involvement in Brock Hall


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!

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”

Mental Health Needs Assesment

Feeling stressed?

Did you know UBC undergraduate students reported higher levels of stress in the 2009 National College Health Assessment than the average institution across North America[1]?

Join the Mental Health Needs Assessment (MHNA) as a student co-researcher to help discover what is causing UBC undergraduate students stress- or come and share your tips and strategies for managing stress while at UBC!

This is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students who want to become involved in the UBC campus community. If you choose to sign up you will not be a regular old study subject, instead you will share power with the investigators to determine what is causing stress and to take action immediately. This action may take the form of policy change, modifications to current services or creation of new services. Along the way you will also learn new skills such as leadership, communication, research and other extremely valuable skills that aren’t always taught in lectures.

The commitment is six fun and engaging activities where a group of undergraduate students come together to tackle the issue of campus mental health and wellness.

If you are interested please fill out the application form or contact the Project Coordinator, Kimberley Carter, at or visit our website.

The deadline to apply is 12:00 pm on Tuesday October 9th, 2012. If you have any questions about the application process please do not hesitate to contact us!

Thank you for expressing your interest and we look forward to hearing from you!



The MHNA Staff
[1] American College Health Association (2009), National College Health Assessment, UBC Vancouver domestic undergraduates.

The “Stressed Out” College Student – How To Stop Worrying and Positively Manage Stress

Written By: Julia Zhu

Is your glass half empty or half full? Are you increasingly finding yourself at your wits? Does anyone routinely push your buttons? As university students, we often face a host of stressors – whether it be dealing with the challenging (and plentiful) homework, managing a relationship, or struggling to stay on top of the newfound freedoms of being a college student. In response to these challenges, some students fall behind on homework, stop attending classes, or worse. Don’t let this happen to you! Here are some ideas for managing your college life and stress positively.

1)     Organizing your time – Trust me, everything feels less overwhelming if you have a manageable plan for staying on track. You can get a calendar and use it to track deadlines as well as plan out study time and social time.

2)     Setting goals – It’s crucial that you set realistic goals. Over many years of practice, I find it vital that you set short term milestones and that you start with one goal at a time. This will keep you focused on your specific goal.

3)     Coping Mechanisms – It’s important to develop healthy stress-coping methods. For me, I bike around the beach whenever I feel stressed out. This not only significantly reduces stress and anxiety, but for me it’s also a great workout.

If you feel overwhelmed, then please seek help. UBC’s free counseling service is a great way to get through times of extreme stress, and many of my friends find that regular counseling helps them with day to day challenges.

Online Resources:

1)     Health Canada

2)     Canadian Institute of Stress 

3)     Mayo Clinic Stress Management 

PDF Files:

1)     Government of P.E.I.

2)     Canadian Psychology Foundation 

Interactive Tools:

1)     WebMD Stress Management Health Centre

Thriving With Art!


Did you enjoy creating art as a young child? Are you missing the fun times you had getting your hands dirty to make artwork that Picasso himself would be in awe about? Then our Thriving with Art workshops are just for you!

Being put on by 4Cats Art Studio, Thrive is bringing art workshops to students to show them that art:

  • is FUN.
  • builds CONNECTIONS.
  • fosters CREATIVITY.
  • reduces STRESS.

In September and October, there will be 4 workshops that students can sign up for.

Because spots are limited, registration will be on a first come first serve basis. If you wish to get a spot, I recommend signing up as soon as possible – I’m inclined to sign up for a spot right now!

There are 2 types of art workshops that are being offered, which are splatter and pop.

  • Splatter Art is a type of abstract art where one can simply “splatter” the paint onto their artwork, creating a piece that can be interpreted in many different ways.
  • Pop Art is a modern art movement, started in the 1950s, which uses the imagery, styles, and themes of advertising, mass media, and popular culture. Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol are among the best known Pop artists.

Sign up links with dates and times: Please only sign up for one workshop!



 Start off the year by thriving in these fantastic art workshops, can’t wait to see you all there!


How to beat stress this term

Stress and academic success

Did you know UBC students say stress has a big impact on their academic success? [1]

Stress is a normal part of life; however, stress can get the best of you when you don’t feel confident in your ability to cope with it.

Fortunately, we have a choice in how we respond to stress. Learning how to respond to stress in healthy ways can help you down the road when you’re busy with exams, papers, and student life.

Continue reading “How to beat stress this term”

Healthy Minds Tip: Stress Less for Exam Success

Image credit: Student Communications Services

Whether final exams or final papers are looming, the last few weeks of a term can be a stressful period for most of us.  It can be challenging to find a balance between the demands of daily life like grocery shopping or laundry, and the extra commitments around earning those final grades.

Taking time to manage your stress is important, especially during these busier times, so you can reach your academic goals.

When it comes to managing stress, the key is identifying what works for you.For some people, relaxation activities may be the key to relieving tension and stress.  Try a quick meditation exercise, a walk around campus or a drop-in class offered by the UBC Yoga Club.

For others, however, socializing with friends and families may be helpful.  Enjoy a lunch break with a close friend or call a loved one. Regardless of your preference, remember to take time for yourself during the exam period.

If stress is interfering with your academic work, there are plenty of resources to help you through the exam time and the rest of the academic year. The Learning Commons, for example, offers a number of academic support services like exam prep and time management toolkits.  Peer Academic Coaches are also available to help you develop a plan to tackle the exam period.

If  internet or gaming is preventing you from performing at your best, check out this quick self-assessment provided by SFU.

Finally, Live Well, Learn Well has articles to get you motivated to have your best exam season ever.

Stress Less for Exam Success fair – Join us on April 4!

On Wednesday, April 4, you are also invited to drop by the second annual Stress Less for Exam Success in the Chapman Learning Commons and Centre for Student Involvement.
This year’s event will feature activities to both relax and energize you. A number of fun activities are planned for the day including a free and healthy breakfast, nutritious snacks, games, and animal visits.

Managing Exam Stress

Stress can negatively impact your health and academic performance. With exam season looming, it is important to take some time to identify stress management techniques you can use this coming month.  There are many ways to cope with stress, whether it’s engaging in physical activity, interacting socially or taking time to relax and do something you enjoy.  Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to try something new!

  • Make music. Drumming in particular has been shown to be an effective way to release stress. Check out the Jericho Drum Circle.
  • Develop your green thumb. The combination of being outdoors, creating a connection with nature and doing something physical makes gardening a fantastic stress buster. No garden? Help out at a community garden.
  • Dance.  Dance away your stress at a folk dancing, belly dancing or ballroom dancing class offered through the West Point Grey community centre.
  • Enjoy art. Research suggests that spending time to reflect on art can be calming. Immerse yourself by visiting the Museum of Anthropology or the Vancouver Art Gallery.
  • Get outdoors.  Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine – when it’s not raining of course . Visit Nitobe Memorial Garden or Stanley Park or anywhere really.
  • Be creative.  You don’t have to be Michelangelo to benefit from taking time to indulge your creative side.  On campus, the GSS is running a “Craft Your Own Jewelery” workshop.
  • Sweat. This one is a no-brainer, but exercise really is a great way to relieve stress. Exercise outdoors if you can or with a buddy.  If you enjoy team sports, consider dropping in on a game offered through UBC REC, West Point Grey community centre or your local YMCA.

Remember, don’t feel guilty forgoing the library to take time for yourself – self-maintenance is just as important as studying when it comes to academic success.  And be sure to kick off this exam period in the right direction – come out to  “Stress Less for Exam Success”  on April 4th.  There will be a lot of great events, including an animal therapy session and a FREE Healthy Minds breakfast offered in the CSI from 9:30-11.

Nitobe Memorial Garden
Take time to breath in Nitobe Memorial Garden

The Benefits of Connecting with Pets

Puppy Therapy
Puppy Therapy

Any pet owner can attest to the fact that animals make great companions. They love you unconditionally and seem to have a keen sense for when you are in a bad mood. I mean, how could you possibly stay in a bad mood when you are looking at this face?

In fact, much res earch has demonstrated a strong connection between spending time with animals and both mental and physical health. With exam season rapidly approaching this may be a great way for some of us to reduce exam stress. Some benefits for students include:

  • Reduced stress– sometimes even more than human friends! We all know that sometimes talking to a friend can be a great stress relief but research shows that spending time with an animal may be even better. This may be due to the fact that animals love us unconditionally. (Animals are also great listeners!)
  • Increased physical and social activity– even if you are not a pet owner, taking an hour or two out of the day to play with an animal is a great study break and provides a bit of additional exercise.
  • Improved Mood- even just stopping on the street to pet a dog can drastically improve your mood! In fact, research has shown that pet owners tend to have a lower incidence of depression than people that do not own pets.

For these benefits and many others, animal visits are often offered in hospitals and long-term care facilities to enhance the overall wellness of patients. This has been shown to be a very powerful stress reducer that many students would probably benefit from, especially at this time of year.

In this spirit, as part of the Stress Less for Exam Success event on April 4, Healthy Minds is helping to organize a pet visitation opportunity for interested students! If spending time with a puppy sounds like fun, make sure you check out the following website and register here.

To find out more about the benefits of spending time with animals, check out the following resources:

Stress Under Control

Letting Go of “Agenda Rehearsal”

I just woke up, and already I have a churning sensation in my stomach… I’m thinking of all I have to accomplish over the next two days: submit an outline, write a paper, make cheese, prepare a meeting agenda, devise a presentation concept, write a post, meet for a project, and so on.  This thinking pattern generates tremendous stress because it causes me to focus on the MOUNTAIN of work ahead of me.  When I get in that mode, I know I’ve fallen in the “agenda mental rehearsal” trap, which I define as continually going over my to-do list in my head.   Recently, I have developed a strategy to overcome this trap and its associated anxiety.

The first strategy I use is to ask myself: “what is one thing that I can do now?  What’s at hand?”  When there are multiple tasks I could (or should) complete, I give myself a couple of seconds to pick one.  Pondering the order in which I’ll do my work is useless: most of the time the order doesn’t make any difference, and caring for it merely causes me to waste time I could use to do the deed.  Once I start working on a task, I push away any thought about other assignments that come to distract by saying: “I’ll take care of it later.  Right now, I am taking care of x”.  When thoughts about other tasks keep raging, I take a minute to write down a rapid to-do list.  It soothes my mind to know that it’s all on paper and will not get forgotten.  This tip helps me shift my attention from thinking about my huge workload to actually doing my work, one manageable piece at a time.

Overcoming Setbacks

Taking two courses together during summer was much more intense than I thought it would be. I found out I had failed a midterm, I had another midterm coming up, and a paper due soon. I was highly stressed; I had no inspiration for my paper and could not focus on reviewing. I was staring at the clock and repeating these thoughts in my head:

  • “I still have four chapters to read, and a whole paper to write!”
  • “There is another midterm for my other course in three days!!!”
  • “I need to review the notes. I need to read the assigned pages… but are the notes more important?!”

With the clock ticking, I suddenly realized that:

  • I was accomplishing nothing by being stressed and panicking.
  • I was letting the negative emotions (caused by my failing grade) create further trouble.
  • Before I assumed I was going to fail, had I really tried my best? Was there anything else I could do?
  • I still had the chance to do better on the next midterm.

I got up, walked away from the desk, and took a walk outside. When I came back I was a lot more focused and my mind was more active. I also divided up my work, and made time to relax in between. Things to do during the break could be: taking a bath, a short nap, or making a healthy snack.

Above are my experiences on how to successfully decrease stress, hopefully this will be helpful for you. However, if your level of stress turns into depression that is overwhelming or severe,  please consult someone who may be able to help find a path that works best for you. For more information of stress as a mental illness, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association .

When you need help, get help

Up until very recently, I had been harboring a grocery list of life-related upsets. Individually, none of them were very important or troubling. However, with many minor unresolved incidents, inevitably it just became too much.

I was advised by a close friend of mine in a similar situation to speak with a counselor. I was hesitant. First, telling some stranger about all of these things that I didn’t even want to know about myself would be embarrassing. As I sat in the waiting room at Counseling Services, several questions ran frantically through my mind. Would she judge me? Would she think I was overreacting? Would she think that I was wasting her time? Was this really that important? Did I really need to speak with a counselor? What if I cried?

My experience? Instantly, I felt better. Just being able to tell someone in confidence all of these things I’d been trying to deal with on my own instantly felt as though a weight had been lifted. It was exactly what I needed.

My advice? Don’t wait several years. If there are things that you are really having a hard time coping with, don’t hope it will just go away; it just gets worse the longer you leave it. We are fortunate enough to have an outlet like UBC’s Counseling Services that are able to offer assistance. Please don’t wait like I did – get the help that you need now, not later.

5-4-3-2-1: Countdown to Relaxation

In stressful times, I sometimes get wrapped up in my head and see my mind running 100 miles an hour… which takes up energy and can make it difficult to focus on what’s at hand.  This anxious, panicky type of response can make it hard to slow down, relax and take things calmly.  Lately, however, I found a really useful strategy to get out of my head and bring myself back to the present moment: bringing my attention to what my senses can perceive for a little while.  More specifically, I do what’s called a “5-4-3-2-1”…  Basically, I start off by observing and naming 5 things that I can see around me.  After, I move on to 5 things I can hear… and then I bring my attention to 5 things my body feels (be it the wind on my skin, the fabric of my t-shirt on my arms, etc.)  Once I’ve gone through that, I repeat the cycle with 4 things I can see, hear, and feel.  And then again with 3… all the way down to 1.

Sounds childish?  So I thought, at least initially.  The exercise, however,  can get pretty challenging. You’ll probably find your mind drift away onto something else while observing the things you can see, hear or feel.  When that happens, just congratulate yourself on noticing that your attention has shifted, and then bring it back to the exercise.  It’s in fact likely that you’ll have to do that multiple times since minds really do tend to bounce around… but bringing attention to bodily sensations helps slow everything down. By the end of the exercise… you’ll probably notice that you feel a lot more present, calm and clear-headed.  Repeat whenever needed, or just make it a habit when you walk to work or school… it helps set a nice and peaceful tone for the day 🙂

Exam Time: Your Guide to Dealing with Exam Stress

Exam time is always a stressful experience, so here are some UBC students who want to share their tips and tricks for staying on top of things:

Edward and Matthew are both computer science students who worry about getting enough time to study for their finals. To de-stress, they take breaks every once in a while to take a hot shower or have a nutritious meal. They also say that being prepared for the exam cuts down on a lot of stress. After exams, they are looking forward to the holidays, and especially the presents.

Marissa feels that there is a lot of pressure on her to do well this semester. She finds that lack of sleep is a big problem during this time of year. Marissa knows that to do well she needs to take naps to ensure adequate sleep, and not to forget to eat healthy. Her parents and her boyfriend are who she goes to for support right now. She is really looking forward to having time to herself after exams are finished, and not having to be concerned with what she is doing every second.

Continue reading “Exam Time: Your Guide to Dealing with Exam Stress”