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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Making New Habits Stick

Did you start the new year off with the best of intentions to wake up early, eat right, and exercise daily, but are already struggling to maintain your new routine? It’s normal to struggle with new habits, but there is also a lot of research we can learn from on how to make your resolution stick this year.

1. Focus on the process, not on the outcome

A lot of goals focus on the outcome- weight loss, books read, miles ran- but these kinds of goals don’t deliver results, behaviour changes do. And behaviour change is a process- so focus on the habits and routines needed to achieve your overall goal instead of the desired outcome.

2. Too Small to Fail

It’s not uncommon to make sweeping resolutions or set lofty goals for yourself, only to abandon them a few weeks later. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, suggests that we need to start small when adopting a new habit by picking a task that is meaningful enough to make a difference, but simple enough that you can get it done. So take a look at your overall goal, break it down to a small task, and build up from there.

3. Engage People Around You

Having other people involved in the process can keep you accountable even if your motivation wanes from time to time. Engagement can be either–  Active, where you inform your friends, partner or roommates who might be interested in and cultivate the habit together with them or Passive, where you let others know about your plans and having them morally support you. 

There are also a ton of online communities you can join if you don't have anyone in your life who shares your new goal, do a quick google search to find people with similar resolutions. If your goal is fitness related, join our Wolves on the Move Strava community to stay committed. 

4. Keep Track 

Tracking keeps you accountable for your habits. Every day where you successfully do your habit, give yourself a check. It’s very satisfying to do the checks every time you finish a habit! You can track your habits physically on a whiteboard or journal, or on your computer/device.

Here are some great habit trackers apps:

5. Abandon Perfection

Life happens and you are bound to skip/miss a day at some point. Be kind and patient with yourself and get back on track tomorrow. 

 

-Lindsey Wachter, R.Kin

Health and Wellness Promoter

Man eating from a plate, Student Health and Wellness logo in corner

Thunderwolves Best of 2020

The results are in! These are your Best of 2020 results!

Best Binge Watch

  • Queen's Gambit
  • Outer Banks
  • Grey's Anatomy
  • Tiger King

Best New Movie

  • The Prom
  • After We Collide
  • Birds of prey
  • Tenet

Quarantine Hobby

  • Writing/journaling
  • Baking
  • Netflix

Most Played Song

  • Betty - Taylor Swift
  • Positions - Ariana Grande
  • Blinding LIghts - The Weeknd
  • Watermelon Sugar - Harry Styles

Best Virtual Fitness Offering

  • Chloe Ting - youtube
  • Campus Rec IG

Most Played Video Game

  • Mario
  • Among Us

Best Virtual Study Tip

  • Take analog notes (pen and paper)
  • Use off the grid app
  • Planning for assignments
  • Having your own space free of outside noise

Best Podcast

  • Crime Junkie
  • Dear Hank and John

Most Useful App

  • Gmail
  • Grammarly
  • Zoom
  • Spotify

Best Way to De-Stress

  • Sleep
  • listen to music
  • Clean

Best Way to Physically Distance Hang out

  • Zoom Parties
  • Netflix Party
  • Group Facetime
  • Sending memes

Best TikTok Trend - Food

  • Whipped Coffee
  • Baking Bread
  • Birra tacos

Best Book You Read

  • The Alchemist- Paulo Coehlo
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Silmarillion-  J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Creative Quest- Quest Love
Thunderwolves best of 2020 with Thunderwolves Wolf Head Logo

Resetting Your Sleep Schedule

Sleep is critical for learning and memory. The process of learning is actively taken up by your brain during sleep, especially during the REM stage. Sleep is essential for long-term memory formation and it is during sleep that memory consolidation and enhancement occur. If you have fallen into a sleep schedule that’s not working for you because you’re having trouble getting up in the morning or staying up later than you want, there is no time like the present to get into a new sleep routine. Try some of the following to get into a sleep pattern that works for you:

  • Adjust your bedtime, but gradually. If you’re aiming to go to sleep earlier, try slowly scaling back your bedtime until you are at the desired hour. Go slowly and in small increments, adjusting no more than 15 minutes earlier every two to three days.
  • Get up at the same time each day. Being consistent is important in maintaining a functioning sleep schedule. Get a good alarm clock and don’t hit snooze. Try giving yourself something to get out of bed for- like pre-setting your coffee maker so you can wake up to a fresh cup. 
  • No napping, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
  • Avoid exercise too close to bedtime. Exercise can wake you up and keep you alert longer than you would like. 
  • Ditch the screens an hour before bed. Blue light can activate your brain and make it harder to fall asleep. Some phones already have settings that remind you to wind down but you can also set an alarm. 
  • Set the mood and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and play some relaxing music, try meditating or a full body stretch routine. Make sure your bed is comfortable, the room is dark, and the temperature is not too warm. 

Changing your sleep schedule isn’t easy, but with the proper discipline, it can be done. Don't get frustrated yourself if you oversleep at first, or struggle to fall asleep at your desired bedtime, it will come eventually. 

If your sleep schedule is interfering with your academic work, job and other responsibilities, if the above strategies don’t work, or if you’re struggling with sleep in any way, tell your doctor. Sleep affects functioning and health now and in the long-term. Chronically not getting good sleep can do a lot of damage, and there are healthcare providers out there who can help. If your primary care provider does not have expertise in sleep, they can refer you to a sleep specialist who can help.

For more information and resources related to sleep check out the Sleep Section of our site!

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