SMART Goals for Better Sleep in the New Year

Sleep is an important part of our daily routine, it helps us relax, refresh, and recharge for the next day ahead of us. We can disrupt our sleep schedule in many ways, by staying up late multiple times a week, not enough daily exercise, increased stress, and high use of electronics/screens before bed. With the new year upon us, this is a great time to create SMART goals in relation to our sleep. SMART goals are measures you can put in place that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Here are some example of SMART goals for your sleep in the new year:

Goal: Cut back on Caffeine 

“To enhance my sleep quality, I will limit my caffeine intake to no more than 2 cups of coffee per a day for the next month. I want to reduce my caffeine consumption to help me get a better sleep at night”

1. Specific: This goal outlines how much caffeine you will consume a day.

2. Measurable: You can count the number of cups of coffee you have per a day. 

3. Attainable: limiting caffeine is doable if you are determined to follow through with your plan.

4. Relevant: caffeine can have major effects on your sleep and lowering consumption can help produce better quality of sleep. 

5. Time-bound: Complete over the next month to see if there is a difference. 

Goal: Restrict Screen Time before Bed

“To have better quality and longer sleep, I want to reduce the amount of screen time I have before I go to sleep every night. I want to change that habit into reading a book” 

1. Specific: This goal outlines how I want to change my before bed screen time routine

2. Measurable: I can get a timer on my phone of how much screen time I get before I need to read (Ex. 15 min, then read a book for 30 min).

3. Attainable: Limiting screen time is doable as you can set a timer or put electronics in another room before bed.

4. Relevant: enhancing sleep quality will always be beneficial to your overall health. 

5. Time-bound: Complete over the next 2 months, if keeping on track - take away all screen time before bed in month 3.

Goal: Stick to a Sleep Schedule 

“To ensure the right amount of sleep I need to be healthy, I will stick to a more consistent amount of 8 hours of sleep a night” 

1. Specific: This goal outlines how much sleep a night I am aiming to get. 

2. Measurable: I can make a sleep schedule and ensure that I go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This will help me know I got the 8 hours of sleep I need.

3. Attainable: This can be accomplished by setting and alarm and sticking to a specific bedtime 

4. Relevant: This sleep schedule can ensure that your body gets the right amount of sleep needed each night for your age and to maintain positive mental and physical health. 

5. Time-bound: Complete over the next month to see the outcome of better sleep habits.

Tessa Wilkins, Peer Wellness Educator Lead

A Crucial Conversation Surrounding Consent

Consent is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, laying the foundation of a healthy relationship and fostering mutual respect. The conversation around consent has gained momentum in recent years, challenging societal norms and emphasizing the importance of clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing communication. Consent can also be present in different contexts, but communicating and respecting it is of utmost importance.

Defining Consent:

Consent is the voluntary, informed, and enthusiastic agreement between all parties involved in a particular activity. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a medical procedure, or even a simple interaction, obtaining consent is about acknowledging and respecting individual autonomy. It’s not just a one-time agreement but an ongoing process that can be revoked at any point if someone feels uncomfortable.

The Evolution of Consent Culture:

In recent years, the #MeToo movement and increased awareness around issues of sexual assault and harassment have propelled consent into the spotlight. Conversations around consent are evolving, challenging outdated notions and emphasizing the need for affirmative consent. This shift encourages individuals to actively communicate their desires and boundaries, fostering an environment where everyone feels heard and respected, especially during sexual activity. It is important to remember that consent is not necessarily present if the victim is intoxicated, even if they agree to the sexual activity. Also, consent can be withdrawn at any time.

Understanding Enthusiastic Consent:

Enthusiastic consent goes beyond the absence of a “no” and emphasizes the presence of an enthusiastic “yes.” It encourages open communication, active participation, and a genuine desire from all parties involved. Enthusiastic consent may manifest verbally or through nonverbal signals, including positive body language like smiling, sustained eye contact, and nodding. While these cues alone may not conclusively indicate consent, they provide additional insights that could suggest it. Nevertheless, it remains crucial to seek verbal confirmation. The key aspects of consent, whether enthusiastic or otherwise, involve constantly checking in with your partner or partners to ensure that you are both aligned and comfortable with the situation. Recognizing the importance of enthusiastic consent helps create a culture where mutual desire and comfort take precedence over assumptions or societal expectations.

Consent in Different Contexts:

Consent isn’t limited to intimate relationships; it extends to various aspects of life. In healthcare, patients have the right to be informed about their treatment options and give consent before medical procedures while knowing the potential positive and negative outcomes; this is known as informed consent. Within research, obtaining informed consent is a vital aspect of the experiment, particularly in the ethical context, by engaging participants who possess full awareness and comprehension of the potential risks and benefits associated with the research is essential. Additionally, with the rise of data privacy concerns, obtaining user consent has become a critical aspect of ethical business practices in the digital age.

Educating and Empowering:

Promoting a culture of consent requires education and open dialogue. From an early age, individuals should be taught about boundaries, communication skills, and the importance of respecting others’ autonomy. It is also important to educate individuals on the age of consent to sexual activity, which is 16 years old in Canada. However, the age of consent can be higher under certain circumstances. By fostering a culture of understanding and empathy, we can empower people to navigate relationships and interactions confidently and respectfully while obtaining consent from individuals who can give it.

The Role of Communication:

Clear and open communication is at the heart of consent. Encouraging individuals to express their desires, set boundaries, and actively listen to their partner(s) contributes to a culture where consent is not just a legal checkbox but a shared understanding that enhances the quality of relationships. Individuals should also make sure that their partner(s) always feel comfortable to give consent by asking them if what they are doing is okay, if they like it, if they feel comfortable, and if they want to keep going. 

What consent sounds like: 

  • yes, 

  • I like that, 

  • keep going, 

  • absolutely, 

  • I’d like to, 

  • I want to keep going, 

  • let’s do that more, 

  • can you please, 

  • I’m enjoying this

What consent does not sound like: 

  • no, 

  • I don’t like that, 

  • stop, 

  • maybe, 

  • I’m not sure, 

  • I’m not ready, 

  • I’m not comfortable

Consent emerges as the foundation of healthy relationships and ethical agreements across various aspects of life. The constant conversations surrounding consent highlight the importance of clear communication, enthusiastic agreement, and ongoing dialogue. From intimate relationships to medical procedures and participation in studies, the understanding and practice of consent underscore respect for individual autonomy. The emphasis on enthusiastic consent, defined by affirmative and genuine agreement, signifies a standard shift that encourages open communication and active participation. Education and empowerment, particularly regarding age-specific consent and boundary-setting, are central to creating a culture that prioritizes empathy and mutual understanding. Ultimately, verbal and nonverbal communication plays a central role in the consent narrative, fostering a culture where individuals feel heard, respected, and empowered to navigate relationships with confidence and respect.

For more information or support, visit the Office of Human Rights and Equity website

  • Virginie Frank, Peer Wellness Educator Lead 

Harm Reduction for Disordered Eating Over the Holidays

The holiday season can be tough if you have or are recovering from an eating disorder. One way to cope with an eating disorder during the holidays is to plan activities that help keep the season bright, such as game nights with loved ones. 

Practicing Harm Reduction

  • Eating foods that feel safe; not challenging oneself to face all fear foods at once.
  • Bring safe meals/snacks with you to events.
  • Call ahead to find out who will be in attendance and what food will be served so you can mentally prepare.
  • Identify a support person who you can text or call if you’re feeling triggered/distressed.
  • Make a plan for after an event/situation that you anticipate will be difficult (e.g. holiday gathering).
  • Reduce isolation by scheduling activities that bring you into community spaces.
  • Consider joining an online peer support group and contacting crisis resources if needed.
  • Having a plan in place for holiday meals or festivities, including how to deal with any tough emotions that may arise. This may include reducing the number of scheduled events (selecting those that matter to you personally), identifying a support person to help with meals (providing support and helping you stick to your plan to the best of your ability), and making time for daily self-care and coping skills practice.
  • If you’ve established a regular meal plan with your care team, keep it as close as possible to it during any holiday events.

Communicate Your Boundaries and Set an Exit Time

Setting healthy boundaries with others is key to avoiding triggers and minimizing distress if they do arise during conversations and meals. For example, you might ask your family or friends to avoid having any diet-related conversations with or around you. You can also set a specific time to leave the dinner or party before it becomes too tiring.

Stay Centred on the Meaning of the Holidays

When planning festivities, one of the best ways to achieve “happy feelings’ is by taking the focus off the holiday meal. Think about what activities make you feel safe and the season special. This could mean planning to play games, watch family-favourite movies, build a snowman, or go for a stroll to admire holiday decorations and lights.

 Avoid Negative Self-Talk and Be Compassionate Instead

Remember that you are dealing with a tough situation. Struggling doesn’t mean you are failing. Be proud of yourself. Getting stuck in negative thoughts will only make you feel worse. The negative thoughts about yourself, food, and body will make dealing with the holidays that much more challenging, leading to increased negative emotions and behaviours.

These steps can help quiet the voice inside you that is focused on the negative:

  • Tune into the things you tell yourself. Sometimes, negative self-talk is subconscious, meaning you’re not always aware you’re doing it.
  • Avoid perfectionism. Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Forgive yourself if you make a mistake. If you experience a setback, whether in recovery or another aspect of your life, acknowledge that you’re doing your best, forgive yourself, and move on.
  • A mental health professional can also help you learn strategies to reduce negative self-talk.
  • Remember to Practice Gratitude for Yourself!
  • To keep the holidays calm and bright — and to help you celebrate your accomplishments — decompressing with healthy activities that also reduce stress.
  • Self-care looks different for everyone; here are some activities you might enjoy:
  • Reading
  • Meditating
  • Snuggling with pets
  • Listing the things, you are grateful for
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Listening to calming music or a podcast you enjoy
  • Playing fun online games
  • Doing a puzzle with a family member or friend
  • Taking a bath or shower

If you need support over the holidays, connect with the following:

  • National Eating Disorder Information Center 

    • Helpline:  1-866-NEDIC-20 (toll-free) or 416-340-4156 (Toronto)

    • Live chat:  nedic.ca

    • E-mail:  nedic@uhn.ca

  • The confidential and free post-secondary student helpline, Good2Talk, that students can call for professional support 24/7/365. Their toll-free number is 1-866-925-5454

  • Crisis Response Services is a 24/7 crisis line staffed by Canadian Mental Health Association

    • Thunder Bay- 807-346-8282

    • Orillia- 705-728-5044

  • Suicide Hotlines Across the World 

  • In case of an emergency, call 911. 

-Logan Ryder, Peer Wellness Education Lead 

Table of food in front of a out of focus christmas tree

Far From Home for the Holidays

Whatever the reason, If you aren’t headed home for the winter break, it can feel lonely. While you can’t fix that feeling there are coping strategies to help you make it through. 

Make the Most of Technology

Thankfully, technology has friends, loved ones and family only a few clicks away. It’s a hectic time for many so make plans in advance for when and how you will connect over the break. If time differences cause obstacles for real time communication, make a group chat and post photos and videos throughout the day to keep up with what your loved ones are up to. You can also get creative with how you connect- play games together virtually, stream a classic movie together, or bake alongside one another. 

Give Back

It can be easier to wallow in your solitude but volunteering with community organizations can benefit both those in need and yourself! Giving back to others can help you to find friends, connect with the community and learn new skills. It also has mental health benefits as it has been found to reduce stress, combat depression and boost self-esteem. 

Find Volunteer opportunities:

Thunder Bay

Orillia

Treat Yourself

You’ve just wrapped up one semester and are about to dive into another- the break is the perfect opportunity to practice self-care! Self-care looks different for everyone- so whether it’s a netflix binge of cheesy holiday films, sleeping in until noon or playing video games all day- do it without guilt! There is no shame in spending the day doing whatever you want. 

If you ever grow tired of relaxing and are looking for a more productive project- cross off some items that have been lingering on your to-do list: re-organize that closet and clean out that fridge. As long as it make you feel better, it’s the thing you are supposed to be doing.

Finally, make plans for fun! Find time for things your enjoy that you might not have time for the rest of the year.

Host Yourself

Just because you aren’t back home, doesn’t mean you are relegated to delivery apps and microwave meals. Prepare meals for one and re-create traditional recipes if you are missing them- there are recipe converters that can help scale down large recipes so you aren’t left with a week's worth of leftovers (if you are down for that, that is okay too).

Acknowledge your feelings

No matter how much you plan or prepare to fly solo over the break- there are still going to be some feelings of sadness or jealousy. Those feelings, or any other feelings you may have about being far from home over the break, are valid. Allow yourself to feel those feelings and express them healthily.

Reach out for Support

You might feel lonely but you are not alone in this- let loved ones know how you are feeling or reach out to more formal support:

  • If you are in crisis- call or text 9-8-8

  • TalkCampus is a global, student peer support app available 24/7. Use your Lakehead email to sign up.

  • Good2Talk is a 24/7 helpline available to post-secondary students in Ontario and can provide service in 100+ languages.

  • Use the WellUKey to check in on your mental health and see a wide range of supports and resources available to you as a Lakehead student.

-Lindsey Wachter, Health Promoter



Out of focus string of lights

Tips for Body Positivity during the Holidays

Going home for the holidays can be a good time to relax and take your mind off your studies. However, it may also mean that you are going to be spending time with family and friends that you may not have seen in a few months. Maintaining a good sense of your own body image can be a difficult task, especially with judgmental comments from family members. Here are 4 tips for promoting body positivity during the holidays.

1. Realize Your Self-Worth

During the holiday season, it is important to remember that we are worth so much more than our bodies. We have many talents, strengths, and goals that we want to pursue. Make sure to take time this holiday break to do things that you want to do, regardless of what your family or other members of society may think. 

2. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries with loved ones can be a very scary and intimidating thing to do. However, it can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health and overall wellbeing. In order to set healthy boundaries so that everyone can feel comfortable taking part in holiday festivities, it is important to have conversations with family members about avoiding certain topics of discussion. Some of these may include the discussion of physical appearance, weight gain or weight loss, or comments on eating habits. By having these conversations, it becomes easier to feel comfortable in your own environment and allows you to enjoy your holiday break. 

3. Indulge in Your Favourite Foods

Being at home for the holidays means you may have access to the cooking of family members or have more access to your favourite restaurants. Although you may experience negative comments from family, which may lead to negative self-talk, it is important to treat yourself. A practice that can be helpful during this time is intuitive/mindful eating. Ensure that you are eating when you feel hungry, rather than ignoring your body’s hunger cues. Remember that there are no “good” or “bad” foods—food is fuel. 

4. Seek out help if you need it.

Despite attempting to have a good outlook on our own bodies, and having difficult discussions with family members, sometimes we still need a bit of extra help. Reaching out to Wellness resources can be very beneficial and having someone to talk to can make a huge difference. In addition to the resources that Student Health and Wellness can provide, you can also reach out to Good2Talk offers free and confidential support to postsecondary students and is available 24/7 365 days a year. 

 

Although body positivity can be a difficult thing to maintain, Student Health and Wellness is always here to support you and provide you with resources. We are wishing you a safe and happy holidays.

- Makayla Foster, Peer Wellness Educator Lead

 

Safer Substance Use & Illicit Substances

When it comes to illicit substances, what does safer substance use mean?

The National Harm Reduction Coalition defines safer substance use as “having the ability to use safe and sterile instruments to reduce the risk of infections through recreational drug use”. Quitting use of a substance altogether may not be possible for everyone, but using substances in a safe, secure, and sterile environment can increase safety. In Simcoe County, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) offers a variety of resources to help ensure safer substance use including safe injecting and smoking kits, naloxone kits, and needle exchange programs.

Why is safer substance use helpful?

SMDHU explains that safer substance use helps individuals to:

  • Reduce the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis B & C from sharing equipment, keeping people healthier and decreasing healthcare costs,

  • Provide education on the benefits of using new needles, smoking and other drug equipment,

  • Reduce the number of overdoses and deaths from substance use,

  • Provide a supportive safe environment where individuals can access health, counselling

Safe substance use also connects with harm reduction, which is reducing the harm and negativity attached to substance abuse in our society. The main goal of harm reduction is to save lives and decrease the stigma around addiction, high education rates on safe substance use, and connect individuals with social, emotional, and health support options when needed. 

What does harm reduction look like?

  • Free syringe service programs

  • Overdose prevention sites

  • Fentanyl tests

  • Naloxone kits and training 

  • Sterile injection or smoking equipment 

Travis Rider, an associate research professor at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics states “Opponents sometimes argue that giving people sterile syringes, clean pipes, naloxone, a space to use drugs under supervision, etc., incentivises drug use or leads to drug use. But people are going to use drugs whether they have these resources or not, and so withholding them doesn’t prevent that use; it just makes it more dangerous. Making an activity more dangerous doesn’t stop people who are committed to engaging in that activity; it just hurts and kills more of them.” Therefore, safe substance education and harm reduction are key in helping individuals with addiction and other health problems. 

For more information about illicit substances and safer substance use, visit the Student Health and Wellness Website.

Needle Exchange Programs in Orillia:

  1. Canadian Mental Health Association – Simcoe County Branch: 50 Nottawasaga Street, Orillia
  2. John Howard Society of Simcoe and Muskoka - Orillia: 17 Colborne Street East, Unit 109, Orilla
  3. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit - Orillia: 169 Front Street South, Unit 120, Orillia.
  4. Orillia Downtown Dispensary: 188 Mississauga Street East, Orillia

 

- Tessa Wilkins, Peer Wellness Educator Lead

Home for the Holidays for 2SLGBTQIIA+ students

The holidays can be mentally and emotionally overwhelming, especially when navigating unsure or unsafe spaces. It is important to remember that no matter how your family feels about your identity, you deserve to be loved unconditionally and others' discomfort with who you are says more about them than it does about you. Over the holidays, you might find yourself in a challenging space, it can be helpful to prepare yourself for feeling hurt or overwhelmed.

Prepping for conversations about gender/sexual identity

Consider what you want to share and discuss with your family members ahead of time. Remember that you decide when, how and if you want to come out and you don’t have to tell your entire extended family. 

Keep in mind not everyone might be familiar with the terms you are using and some explanation may be required. You have the opportunity to define yourself and be clear on what terms mean to you rather than allowing people to rely on their own understanding. But also remember that you also get to decide how much you want to engage in “heated” conversations, you don’t have to defend or validate your identity to anyone. If something like this comes up, calmly but firmly let your family members know that they don’t have to agree with you, but that you do expect them to treat you with respect. These conversations can be hard, but they are important if you want to be able to include your family in your life going forward.

If you do decide to come out to your family, it can be beneficial for both parties to allow time and space for them to process the new information you've given them. Remember, these conversations don't have to happen all in one sitting. Only answer questions you are comfortable with, and take a break when needed.

Setting Boundaries

First and foremost- your family members may have their own thoughts and opinions on your gender identity and sexuality, but ultimately the only opinion that matters is your own.

Consider what limits you want to set with yourself and others before heading home. A lot of family events come from a sense of tradition and obligation, feel free to politely decline invitations if you think it would be better for your emotional health, you don’t owe anyone your time.  If you do attend gatherings, set clear boundaries around what you are willing to discuss and to what extent. Assert yourself in a calm tone. If tension rises and you are beginning to feel overwhelmed or out of control, separate yourself. Take a walk; get a breath of fresh air. 

If you know that it will be difficult to be at your family’s home for long periods- consider how long you should stay- if your break is 3 weeks but you can only handle 4-5 days, plan your flights accordingly. If your family presses you to be there longer, think of an excuse ahead of time.

Bringing a partner home

If you are planning on bringing your partner to family events, discuss with them in advance what will make you comfortable with respect to sleeping arrangements, displays of affection and navigating conversations about your relationship. Also, give your partner information about your family dynamics and share any issues that are weighing on you ahead of time. 

To avoid confusion and conflict, plan sleeping arrangements with your family in advance. If there are members of your family who will be included in your celebration that you haven’t come out to yet, it’s probably a good idea to talk to them ahead of time, as well- addressing concerns in advance can avoid potentially unsafe and uncomfortable situations. 

No matter the situation, you and your partner should approach it as a team - talk about your concerns and plan ahead for ways to be there for each other during the tough moments.

Have an Exit Strategy

Sometimes family dynamics make it difficult to stand up for ourselves and you may feel like you have to sit through unwanted or disrespectful questions and opinions. If you feel comfortable doing so, go for it, but know that it’s okay to remove yourself from stressful, triggering, or upsetting situations. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for a few minutes or take a quick walk around the block. Offer to refresh people’s drinks or run to the store for something. A good trick is to set the expectation ahead of time that you might need to step away suddenly. You can blame a looming deadline or an important call that might come up. You can be vague with your excuse, but if you make it ahead of time, it will be less awkward if you need to take some time away later on. 

If things are feeling unsafe or are just getting to be too much, leave altogether if you need to. If you have a feeling that your stay isn’t going to be supportive, plan to leave early. You need to look after yourself first and foremost and no situation is worth compromising your physical or mental health over. If you don’t have access to your transportation- look at bus/train schedules to see what your options are or see if there is a supportive friend that you can stay with on short notice. 

Not Going Home at All

If going home for the winter break fills you with dread or makes you feel unsafe, it's okay to give yourself permission to not go at all. Surround yourself with those who respect and affirm your identity and give you strength and plan activities that bring you joy. Be prepared for feelings of loss around not being able to adhere to your family traditions and make space for your emotions. Plan new traditions with your chosen family, look for events in your community or try to find local organizations you can support.

Practice self-compassion/ self-care

Different people need different kinds of self-care.  Think about how you can make time for what you need over the break. 

  • Keep in touch with supportive people in your life. Make a point to hang out with them or Facetime them if they are not nearby. If possible let these people know ahead of time that you may need their support over the break and ask what is the best way to connect. If they aren’t available (the break is busy!) make use of online communities.

  • Take time to decompress. Find quiet spaces in your house or neighbourhood where you can be alone, listen to music, read, or do whatever else you need. 

  • Plan activities that bring you joy. 

  • Take care of the basics- during stressful times we can ignore the basics of self-care like resting, eating well, and exercising. 

Be kind to yourself- you are doing the best you can for the situation you are in. Give yourself permission to rest and recharge. 

Mental Health Supports

Whatever you are dealing with over the break- remember that you don’t have to do it alone- supports are available to you. 

  • LGBT YouthLine offers confidential and non-judgemental peer support through rext and chat services. Get in touch with a peer support volunteer from Sunday to Friday, 4:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

  • GOOD2TALK post-secondary crisis line, call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868 

  • TrevorSpace- is an affirming international community for LGBTQ young people ages 13-24.

  • Empty Closets- Empty Closets is an LGBTQ website that offers a forum where you can join in on discussions or start your own, a chat room and useful articles and links. 

  • TalkCampus- A global online peer-to-peer support community for students, available 24/7 anywhere in the world

  • National Suicide Crisis Helpline- 9-8-8

  • Suicide Hotlines Across the World 

  • Pride Central’s “Unofficial Pride at Lakehead” Discord Server:  https://discord.gg/eQ8KxrDh 

Sleep Hygiene During Exams

If you have an important upcoming exam, the stress and anxiety leading to the big day may not just impact you mentally. It also can impact you physically. Excessive sweating, feelings of nausea, a racing heart, and trouble breathing are common signs of test anxiety, but that’s not all. Poor sleep is another side effect of stress that can hurt your test score.

Unfortunately for many test takers, quality sleep before exam day is one of those often-overlooked test prep tips that can factor into a solid score. Too often, students sacrifice sleep for more study time, which doesn’t help. If you’re struggling to get some sleep before the test, find out why this is a big deal and what you can do about it.

Why Is Sleep Before an Exam Important?

Think missing a little sleep only hurts your mood and leaves you a little cranky? Think again. Poor sleep directly impacts your ability to perform mental tasks, which is disastrous on test day. Particularly on standardized tests, your mental sharpness is exactly what is being evaluated, so the last thing you want to do is compromise those skills by doing anything that gets in the way of a good night’s rest.

Pulling an all-nighter is not an effective form of test prep. Cramming the day before an exam at the expense of quality sleep more often than not hurts rather than helps you by creating a series of negative impacts:

  • Your memory suffers.

  • Your body is deprived of its chance to recover.

  • You fight your body’s natural desire to rest.

  • Your stress hormone levels are increased.

  • Your concentration and accuracy go down.

  • Your judgement wanes.

How Much Sleep Should You Get Before an Exam?

To feel fully rested, most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep. For adolescents, it’s about an hour more. However, if you’re thinking one good night’s rest before exam day is enough, you’re wrong.

You can run a “sleep debt,” which is the total sleep loss that accumulates in a given period. Even if you get a good eight hours of sleep the night before the big test day, you may not be as rested as you think. If you did not maintain a healthy sleep pattern the week leading up to the exam, you’ll carry all of those missed hours of sleep into the test with you.

Unsure if you’re running a sleep debt that could impact your exam performance? Consider keeping a sleep diary. Note when you went to bed, how much you slept, how rested you feel, and how alert you find yourself in the morning. You will want to note any times that you feel tired throughout the day. All of this information can help discover any problems with your sleep schedule.

How Can You Tackle the Exam Fully Rested?

If sleep loss can accumulate over several days or weeks, the key is to get into a healthy sleep habit well before your exam and stick to it. It may take some adjustment to your routine, but getting on a healthy sleep schedule is possible if you follow a few simple steps:

  • Set aside enough time to sleep.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

  • Avoid anything loud or stimulating for an hour before bed.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything in large quantities at least two hours before bed.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

  • Participate in physical activity each day, particularly outdoors.

  • Make your bedroom a quiet, dark place without any electronic devices and distractions.

  • Limit daytime nap length to no more than 20 minutes.

The key here is consistency. The longer and more strictly you follow the steps above, the greater your success falling and staying asleep. Ideally, you’ll go into test day after maintaining a strict sleep schedule for several weeks.

Trading Sleep for Studying Does Not Work

For far too many people, sacrificing sleep is their first strategy to fight test anxiety and pack in more study time. This will not help. Studies have shown that students who sleep more perform better than those who stay up to cram.

There’s no shortcut to a great exam score. If you have an important test coming up, you need to remember that it’s about investing as much time and effort into your health and well-being as it is studying the material.

-Logan Ryder, Peer Wellness Educator

Recognizing the Signs of Burnout and How to Cope

As University students, we have come to hear about the term “burnout” in our everyday lives, however, what does it truly mean, and what can we do about it?

What is Burnout?

According to HelpGuide, Burnout has been described as “a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” This feeling tends to creep up on a lot of people within the colder months, when it gets darker out earlier, and assignments tend to pile up and seem out of control.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Some symptoms of burnout include:

  • An overwhelming sense of exhaustion

  • Inconsistencies with sleep and eating routines

  • Feeling unmotivated to complete daily tasks

  • Isolating yourself from peers and others.

Burnout looks different for everyone, and can vary from minor symptoms to severe symptoms. It is always important to check in with yourself, and the WellU key can be a great way to do so. 

How to Cope with Burnout?

There are many ways to cope with burnout, such as:

  • Creating a daily routine that is simple enough for you to follow. 

  • Changing your environment—this can drastically improve your mood and motivation levels. 

  • Making plans with friends and family —this can allow you to take a break from your studies and give your mind a rest. 

  • Speak to a counsellor or medical professional—if you are feeling overwhelmed, seeking support from a professional like a counsellor, nurse practitioner, or doctor can be really helpful. 

Lakehead offers many resources in regards to mental health support. You can find these resources here

How Do Your Peer Wellness Educators Cope with Burnout?

As students themselves, Lakehead’s Peer Wellness Educators have encountered their own issues with burnout. Here are some ways that they cope with it: 

“When encountering burnout, I tend to try and set up my day to include some sort of both physical activity and mental relaxation, no matter how small or large these activities may be.” — Makayla

“I cope with burn out by scheduling in some time for breathing exercises and to relax.” —Logan

“I cope with burn out by setting a goal of myself to sleep 8 hours a night especially on weekends and setting some time aside for some extra self care such as eye masks and face masks.”—Virginie

 

- Makayla Foster, Peer Wellness Educator Lead

 

Observing A Substance Free Halloween

 Whether you never drink or if a Halloween bar crawl is just not your vibe this weekend- there are other ways to observe the holiday.  

1. Attend a Haunted House

This is a classic. There is nothing that quite screams Halloween like visiting a haunted house, making your way through the passages in anticipation of every scare. 

2. Carve Pumpkins

What says Halloween more than pumpkin carving? Set up a jack-o’-lantern carving competition is a great way to fuel your competitive spirit while enjoying a fun, laughter-filled evening. You could even roast the seeds for a delicious snack later on.

3. Scary Movie Marathon

Get your friends and roommates together for a scary movie marathon. Make a seasonal charcuterie board, or set up a popcorn and candy board. 

4. Volunteer

Lots of children’s homes, shelters, and other charities hold events on and around Halloween. By volunteering, you won’t only join a group of like-minded people who are enjoying Halloween together, but you get to give back to your community and the people who most need your help.

5. Hand Out Candy

Another Halloween tradition should have you heading to the grocery store. You may have aged out of trick or treating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend your night helping trick-or-treaters load up on their candy.

6. Find Halloween-themed Sports Events

Join a Halloween-themed 5k or mini-marathon. Most of these are costumed, so you’ll get to go out in costume and pretend you’re trick or treating, only minus the candy. Keep an eye out for other sporting events like soccer or basketball being played with a Halloween theme.

7. Bake Spooky Treats

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and a love for baking, getting your supplies out and whipping up some spooky treats like cupcakes and cookies could be a great way to enjoy the holiday without feeling the urge to relapse.

-Lindsey Wachter, RKin, Health Promoter

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