Every Child Matters- Supports and Resources are Available

The discovery of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children found on the site of a former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia. Our thoughts are with the TK'emlups Te Secwepemc First Nation, as well as with all Indigenous communities across Canada.

With the legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada a part of everyday lived experience for First Nations people, this horrific discovery means individuals across Canada will be reliving grief and pain. Taking care of mental health and coping is essential and supports are available. 

  • Support through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation- Residential School Crisis Line. To Access emotional and Crisis referral services, call the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419
  • Reconciliation Canada is hosting a gathering on Zoom today and tomorrow at 12pm-1:30pm EST http://zoom.us/j/99892409581
  • Please check out the Reconciliation Canada site to honour the 215 children who died at the Kamloops (Tk’emlups) Residential School. All are welcome. https://reconciliationcanada.ca/. Reconciliation Canada will have ongoing Zoom events and live Facebook events.
  • Should anyone need support dealing with this devastating news, please contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or NAN HOPE at 1-844-626-4673.
  • Hope for Wellness- offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or visit hopeforwellness.ca to chat with a counsellor. 

Students in Ontario can also get support from Good2talk at anytime by calling 1-866-925-5454 or texting GOOD2TALKON to 686868 or get peer support no matter where they are studying from by downloading the TalkCampus app. 

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Starting Your Own Garden

Gardening can be an affordable way to access fresh and nutritious food throughout the warmer months, and you don't need to have a huge amount of space to get started. 

I don't have a green thumb so you definitely don't want any gardening advice from me but below are some articles from much more reliable sources:

Did you know that both campuses have community gardens with plots available for students, staff and faculty?

 

-Lindsey Wachter, R.Kin

Health and Wellness Promoter 

Title: Starting a vegetable garden image: tomato plants

Digital Detox

If your daily routine for the past 8 months has consisted of dividing your time between zoom classes, binge-watching Netflix, scrolling your social media feed and playing video games, it might be time for a digital detox. One study conducted by researchers in Sweden found that heavy technology use among young adults was linked to sleeping problems, depressive symptoms, and increased stress levels.

A digital detox doesn’t mean quitting the internet cold turkey, no one would expect that from us right now. It's about being more mindful with how and why you are using screens, setting boundaries and making sure that your feed is a happy, healthy place to scroll. 

Manage Your Notifications. Getting constant updates on what’s happening in the world is informative—but it can also be distracting. Change as many notification settings as you can live without. Rather than checking certain apps or websites every time a new story or post hits, set aside a specific time each day when you’ll check your messages or mentions. Then set aside a certain amount of time, around 20 or 30 minutes, to devote to catching up and sending responses.

Schedule Digital Downtime. Schedule screen-free times during the day and put them in your calendar or set an alarm if needed. You can use an app like flora to lock your screen or you can try leaving your devices in another room. You might feel naked at first so make sure you have a tech-free activity to keep you busy. 

Spring Clean Your Social Media Following. Over the past year, social media has been essential for maintaining connections with friends and family but research shows that the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel. So how can we stay on social while also maintaining our mental health? Take a Marie Kondo approach to who you follow- do they bring you joy? If not, feel free to block, mute, unfollow, or delete, until your feed is full of accounts that make you happy.

Use One Screen at a Time.  Have you ever found yourself watching a movie, grabbing your phone to send a quick text and then suddenly a half-hour has past and you have totally lost the plot? Our brain is not great at multitasking, and if you get distracted from one takes, it can take several minutes to get your brain focussed back on the original task.  Make a habit of only looking at one screen at a time to improve concentration—and, in some cases, enjoyment.

Set Limits. While it isn’t possible to completely disconnect right now, setting limits on when these digital connections are allowed to intrude on your time can be good for your mental well-being. For example, you might want to use your phone to play your Spotify or Apple Music playlist while you are working out, but setting it to airplane mode will make sure that you aren’t distracted by phone calls, texts, other messages, or app notifications during your workout. Setting boundaries on the type and timing of connections you’ll attend to helps ensure that you can enjoy real-world activities completely free of digital diversions.

Rethink using screens before bed. Restricting your mobile device usage immediately before you go to sleep may also be helpful. Studies have found that using media devices was linked to poor sleep quality, inadequate sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Skip laying in bed playing on your phone and instead try reading a book or listening to a podcast before you go to sleep.

-Lindsey Wachter, R.Kin

Health and Wellness Promoter

LivingWorks Starts Training Available for Lakehead Community

LivingWorks START is a 90-minute e-learning program that teaches learners to recognize when someone is thinking about suicide and steps to connect them to help. You’ll learn a powerful four-step model to keep someone safe from suicide, and you’ll have a chance to practice it with impactful simulations.

Safety resources and support are available throughout the program.

A number of registrations are available for Lakehead students at no cost, made available with financial support from The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board through the province of Ontario.

 

How it works

This evidence-based program includes narrated coaching, practice scenarios and access to resources. It focuses on awareness of suicide prevention, teaches fundamental skills and will enable participants to recognize someone’s thoughts of suicide and take action to ensure they receive the help they require, including skills to offer support remotely.

LivingWorks START can be taken remotely and completely online. It takes about 90 minutes to complete. Participants can increase their skills and knowledge at a comfortable pace while balancing their personal safety with challenging content.

Participants will receive a pre-training email outlining expectations, privacy and contact information and login details. Participants can re-access LivingWorks START training for 60 days, after which they will have lifetime access to LivingWorks Connect, a platform that allows participants to build a community of safety and access resources.

After training, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion and a post-session resource handout. We highly recommend that you participate in a debrief workshop. This is an opportunity to confirm your understanding of the TASC model and practice applying the model to your role, ask questions, and learn about on- and off-campus resources and services.

Registration Link:

https://forms.gle/ShMJVHybfEr97VJ97

Learn life saving skills online- livingworks start, sign up at lakeheadu.ca/shw

Using Apps to Support Your Mental Wellbeing with Dr. Aislin Mushquash

Student Health and Wellness Health Promoter, Lindsey Wachter, is joined by Dr. Ailsin Mushquash to talk all about what to look for in a mental wellness app and how to evaluate their claims. Dr. Mushquash also shares information about her recent research study evaluating the Joy Pop App.
 
Read the entire result of her study here

Rethinking All Nighters

Sometimes at the end of the semester, it feels like the only way to submit your assignments, study and have any semblance of a life outside of school is to pull an all-nighter. It might seem like a little sleep is a small sacrifice in the pursuit of academic excellence, but the effects of acute sleep deprivation generally kick in after 16 to 18 hours of being awake and get progressively worse with each proceeding hour. 

The first signal that your body is overtired will be a sluggish mind. Your reaction time will begin lagging around hour 18 and after a full night without sleep, it will nearly triple—which, for context, is about the same as being legally drunk.  Your ability to form memories will start deteriorating, and from hour 18 onward, your decision-making and math-processing abilities and your spatial awareness slowly deteriorate. Seems a little counterproductive if you are staying up to do school work, doesn’t it? 

Stay up longer than 24 hours and your brain will soon start to force sleep upon you. Though you will appear to be awake—walking, talking, eyes open—your brain will quite literally put itself to sleep for ten to 20 seconds at a time. During these microsleeps, you can’t process what you’re seeing around you. Your brain goes on on autopilot. So, if you’re driving, you might realize that you missed your exit and don’t remember the last ten minutes. And that’s really scary stuff because it means you’ve been asleep for moments when you really should be awake.

Stay up for longer than 35 hours and you will start behaving irrationally. When you’re up for that long, the amygdala becomes more reactive to negative stimuli or experiences, while also limiting communication with the part of the brain that regulates emotion and contextualizes experiences. In other words, you’re more reactive and judgmental to the people and events around you, and your brain loses its natural ability to run things through a filter or any internal voice of reason.

If this has you rethinking your exam time study habits, it is not too late to adopt new habits, visit the Student Success Zone for resources on how to study effectively (and still get a good night's sleep).

Text: Rethinking allnighters image: man studying in front of a computer with a mug in his hand

Coping with COVID Anniversaries

In the coming weeks and months, it’s going to be hard to escape COVID-related anniversaries, from the serious (this would have been Grandma’s 80th birthday) to the quaint (remember when Gal Gadot sang “Imagine”?).

As the vaccine rollout continues and the weather allows for more outdoor activities, it is starting to seem like there is a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel (albeit a tunnel that still requires masks and physical distancing). But even if you have started to feel like you’re done with COVID-19’s effects on your life, you may find yourself reacting in unexpected ways to these anniversaries.

Here are some strategies on how to cope during this time.

  • Feel your feelings. If you do react to a memory or thought, stop and observe the emotion. Try to name it (anger, stress, frustration). Doing this brings mindful awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. This also helps remind you that you are experiencing a normal response to a stressful event. If you are having trouble figuring out exactly what you feel, journaling might bring some clarity.

  • Prioritize self-care. Self-care practices—like exercising, a good night's sleep, meditation, or connecting with friends and family—are often the first to be forgotten when you feel overwhelmed. But they are also what help you up to weather incoming stress. If you’ve stopped doing these, pick one or two and try to do them consistently.

  • Limit stressful media consumption and social media use. Turn off (or limit) the “On this day” and “memories” features on social media and photo-sharing platforms you’re on. These automatic features are often great sources of fun memories, but for the next few months they may bring back more pain than solace. If you find the news stressful or triggering, stick to trusted sources, get the facts, then click away.

  • Practice gratitude. We mention this strategy a lot but that is because it works! Start a gratitude list by writing down something that makes you genuinely feel thankful, while acknowledging the hardship you’re in (e.g. Online classes have been a struggle, but I am thankful for my study group).  It’s a way to accept the reality of difficult situations while still maintaining a positive frame of mind that will help you move forward.

  • If you suffered a major loss in the past year, be ready for the anniversary of that loss and seek support from others as it approaches. It could be the first anniversary of the death of a loved one you couldn’t visit before they passed, or couldn’t hold a funeral for. Try to find a safe way to celebrate that person's life and what they meant to you. It could also be the loss of an opportunity, a job, or another important event that got cancelled. Trying to ignore these dates isn't the answer, but shifting the focus onto purpose, new growth and support can help you deal with these difficult milestones.  

  • Reach out for support if you need it. The last year has not been what any of us expected it to be last March, and you might need extra support to help you process. Don’t be afraid to seek a professional mental health provider if you need to talk about your concerns with another person. They can give you space to freely express your emotions and receive the validation you need. If you need more immediate support, connect to a mental health hotline like Good2talk (Call 1-866-925-5454 or text good2talkon to 686868), Kid's Help Phone (despite the name, they have expanded services and are able to support all Canadians right now). You can call Crisis Response Services, a 24/7 crisis line staffed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

 

Coping with COVID Anniversaries

Talk Campus has arrived at Lakehead!

We have launched a new mental health service called TalkCampus. It’s a free to download app where you can talk with other students from around the world if you’re struggling and worried about your mental health. Your student email address will give you free access, just download TalkCampus from the app stores.

TalkCampus is anonymous, it isn’t run by us and we won’t be able to see if you are using it, you also won’t be able to see where other students are from. TalkCampus is based around peer support; you can use it if you need some help yourself or you can go on there and listen and support others.

The platform is safe and moderated and is designed as a place where you can just be yourself and talk about how you’re really feeling. Student life can be tough and we know sometimes you might not want to talk to us about how you’re feeling. TalkCampus isn’t a replacement for counselling or professional support however it is a great place to start talking and to make sure that however you’re feeling right now you’re not alone.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, is triggered by the change in seasons that occurs primarily in the colder months. As you prepare for winter weather by bringing out your coats and mitts, you should also think about how you can plan to take care of your mental and emotional health as the cold settles in.⁣

Add brightness to your space. Explore small ways to add more light to your space, like opening the blinds or sitting closer to a window. If natural light isn’t an option, lamps and lightboxes can help.

Go outside. The Swedish have a saying “there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” so bundle up and commune with nature-just a few minutes a day has been proven to improve both our moods and our physical health, leading to reduced stress and increased self-esteem. It also gives you some much needed Vitamin D. 

Keep moving. Physical activity helps relieve stress and anxiety. Incorporate movement in a way that works for you, whether that is dancing it out at the end of the day or doing some stretches to start your day.  

Make new rituals. SAD can make you withdraw from others so try scheduling in regular group get-togethers- like Sunday night dinners with your roommates, a weekly phone call with a family member or a regular virtual game night with friends. Having a standing appointment can actually be easier than scheduling a one-off because you will start to schedule around it. It also gives you something to look forward to the rest of the week.

Reach out for support. SAD does not have to be something you deal with on your own, you can book an appointment with a Student Health and Wellness Counsellor or you can connect with others on TalkCampus or 7 cups

While these tips may not work for everyone, Student Health and Wellness encourages you to gently check-in with yourself on what you may need as colder months settle in.⁣

 

Bridge over the river in winter

Embracing the Winter

Wintertime can be tough mentally and physically without a pandemic placing restrictions on outings, gatherings and activities. But whether we like it or not, the cold weather is here to stay and this year is definitely the time to embrace the season rather than get through it. Try some of the following to make the change:

Dress for the Weather. A popular saying in Norway is “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. It’s important to prioritize your extremities-if they are cold, you will be miserable. Get warm socks, waterproof insulated boots, mitts or gloves and a toque. To keep your core warm and dry, plan to layer. You need a base layer, an insulating layer and an outer shell. 

Find an outdoor activity you enjoy. Now is the time to try something new (or rediscover an old pastime) that makes you want to spend time outside. Snowshoeing, ice climbing, cross country skiing, ice skating, sledding, and fat tire biking are all options even under the current Ontario COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Socialize. While indoor gatherings are restricted, going outside is an opportunity to get together with friends or family. Bundle up and have a bonfire (keep the guest list within gathering limits) or meet a friend for one of the outdoor activities from the last tip. 

Shift your mindset. Focus on the small things you enjoy about the winter: the beauty of a fresh snowfall, warming up with hot chocolate, the opportunity to get cozy and lost in a book, whatever is it, try to consciously focus on it instead of focussing on the things you dislike. 

If you are struggling with the winter blues, don't forget to reach out and book a counselling appointment with Student Health and Wellness. Our counsellors can give some guidance and help connect you to resources if needed. 

-Lindsey Wachter, R. Kin

Health and Wellness Promoter

 

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