COVID-19 and Substance Use

Over 20% of Canadians aged 18-54 report they are drinking more alcohol while at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reasons for increased alcohol consumption include feelings of stress and anxiety, loss of routine, social isolation, and having more alcohol in the home due to stockpiling.

Consuming alcohol or cannabis or both on occasion can provide temporary relief of stress and anxiety but studies show that using these substances on a regular basis can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) or cannabis use disorder (CUD), especially when alcohol and cannabis are used to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression, or with life challenges. Both substances also have the ability to weaken your immune system in the short and long term. 

If you find yourself turning to alcohol or cannabis as a means to deal with stress, try some of the following coping strategies and see if that helps: 

  • Stay active and keep yourself busy with activities you enjoy.
  • Stay connected with friends and family, while still practicing physical distancing.
  • Find balance by staying informed but knowing when to take a break from COVID-19 news.
  • Be kind to yourself. This is a difficult time and you’re doing your best to manage a challenging
  • situation.
  • Take care of your body by eating and sleeping well, exercising and meditating.

If you choose to drink, pay attention to why and how frequently you are doing so. You can also try the following to keep your drinking in check: 

Get more tips on SHW's safe substance use page

If you have concerns about the changes in your drinking habits during the pandemic, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse offers a self-help guide called Knowing Your Limits with Alcohol: A Practical Guide to Assessing Your Drinking. This resource can be used independently to track alcohol consumption and set goals to reduce intake to lower-risk levels. 

If you choose to use cannabis, take these steps to reduce risks to your health and prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • Avoid sharing smoking supplies with others, to prevent the spread of illness

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before bringing a cannabis product to your mouth

  • Choose safer, not-smoking ways to use cannabis, that do not directly impact your lungs

  • Obtain your cannabis from legal sources

  • Following Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines can also help to reduce your risk of harms.

Getting Help
If you are struggling with substance use, do not hesitate to reach out to book a counselling appointment with Student Health and Wellness, we are here to support you and connect you to appropriate services. You can also visit the links below:

  • Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed
  • ConnexOntario provides free and confidential health service information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness and/or gambling via 24/7 telephone (1-866-531-2600), chat and email
Substance use during covid-19

Trying to Find Work-Life Balance as a Grad Student


Graduate students might have thought getting into their program was the hard part, only to find that trying to juggle academic requirements, research, teaching responsibilities, work and family feels impossible. 

Here are some tips and resources to thrive in graduate school:

Grow and maintain support networks. A strong support system can act as a buffer against stress and as a post-grad you are going to need to both prioritize your existing network of friends and family while also finding/creating a network with fellow grad students.  You will want both because having those outside the academic bubble can help put things in perspective, and those in the academic community will understand what you are going through and be able to share their own experiences. So set aside time to connect with your social network and try to fight the urge to cancel plans when deadlines come around.

If you aren’t sure where to connect with other grad students- check out the Lakehead University Graduate Students' Association (LUGSA) for upcoming events. 

Have a goal/project outside of academia. There are going to be times when you are frustrated with your work, or where it seems like you aren’t making any progress. Having something to work on or towards that doesn’t rely on anyone else can give you the chance to feel productive, boost your confidence and give you a sense of competency. This can be anything you enjoy but especially good are things that give you mental downtime and/or a change of scenery. Try to run your first 10k, take a pottery class or master the art of sourdough bread.

Set boundaries. This is especially important this year with most of the school and work being done from home. Try to set up a physical workspace in your home so that you can create a separation of work and leisure. It is also important to try to schedule business hours to help focus your time. Depending on your other responsibilities, these hours might not fall between 8:30 am -4:30 pm and that’s okay, just communicate your plan with your supervisor(s).

Don’t struggle in silence. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck on something, it usually means you need to consult with a colleague or supervisor. Remind yourself that it is OK to ask for help; no one expects you to have all the answers or to know everything! If you have tried this and are still feeling the same- you can also reach out to a counsellor. Student Health and Wellness services are available to all grad students.

Expect to have some challenges in grad school. Some days it will seem like graduate school is impossible and you will question why you ever thought it was a good idea. It’s normal to feel that you don’t belong here sometimes but remember that you’re not alone; fellow graduate students and professors have had these feelings, too. There are also going to be times of the year that are hectic and stressful no matter what you have done to prepare- when this happens just do your best, try to take care of the basics of self-care (sleep, movement, healthy eating) and try to put it into perspective. 


-Lindsey Wachter, R.Kin, MSc Health and Wellness Promoter 


student in a lab

Developing a Tolerance for Uncertainty Workbook

None of us know what to expect in the coming weeks or months and experiencing anxiety related to all the unknowns is very normal. Humans like stability, routine, and a sense of control over our environments and experience tremendous stress when life becomes unpredictable. The current pandemic is an opportunity to learn new skills to accept your feelings, tolerate distress, and move forward with grace despite not knowing what lies ahead.

Download a "Tolerance for Uncertainty: A COVID-19 Workbook- a guide to accept your feelings, tolerate distress and thrive" developed by Dr. Nagasawa from Bay Psychology.


Developing Tolerance for Uncertainty

Move for Movember

Globally, one man takes his own life every minute, of every day. 

This Movember, we’re asking Lakehead students, faculty, staff and alumni to make your Move – for them. Commit to walking or running 60 km over the month. That’s 60 km for the 60 men we lose each hour, every hour – the men who should still be here today. You don’t have to be an ultra-athlete, or own the latest kicks. Just put one foot in front of the other, and you’ve already made a start. 

Each week, we will share information to help reduce the stigma around men's mental health, to learn how to broach the topic of mental health with your male friends, family and colleagues and increase knowledge of the resources available to support you.

How to sign up:  

  1. Visit and join our team, Lakehead Thunderwolves, choose to Move for men’s health.
  2. Chip away at your target. Hit it fast. Take it slow. Go outside. Or jump on the treadmill. Sync your fitness tracker or log your activity manually.
  3. Make it count. Call on friends and family to join in, raise awareness about men’s mental health concerns and resources throughout the month. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with emotional distress

  • Crisis Response Services is a 24/7 crisis line staffed by the Canadian Mental Health Association
    • Thunder Bay- 807-346-8282
    • Orillia- 705-728-5044
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Suicide Hotlines Across the World 
  • GOOD2TALK post-secondary crisis line- 1-866-925-5454
  • Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone- a free, confidential texting service, available 24/7/365. By texting GOOD2TALKON to 686868, post-secondary students in Ontario can be connected to a trained volunteer Crisis Responder who is there to listen and support students with any issue they’re facing.
  • Crisis Service Canada:
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
    • Service is available in Cree, Ojibway, Inuktitut, English and French.
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-(877) 330-6366
  • The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ Youth)- 1-866-844-7386
ready, set, mo

Student Wellness Advisory Team 2020

Are you passionate about health and wellness? Do you want to help inform wellness initiatives on campus and provide insight from the student perspective? Join the Student Health and Wellness Advisory Team. 

The Student Wellness Advisory Team (SWAT) aims to facilitate student input into the overall operations of Student Health and Wellness, Lakehead University’s Wellness Strategy and Student Health and Wellness’ Health Promotion Strategy.  Members shall serve as student ambassadors with respect to the services offered by Student Health and Wellness and as ambassadors with respect to the overall health and wellness of the student population.  

Learn more about SWAT here or fill out the application to join 

Join the Student Wellness Advisory Team

Halloween Mocktail Recipes from DrinkSmart

There are plenty of ways to celebrate this Halloween but drinking alcohol doesn't have to be one of them. 

Zombie Mule

  • 3 oz. Ginger Beer
  • 3 oz. Lemonade
  • 1 oz. Fresh Lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. Butter Fly Pea Tea
  • Garnish with a lime wedge

Directions: In a tall glass fill halfway with ice and pour ginger beer, top with more ice and pour lemonade. Top with lime juice and garnish. Pour the Butterfly pea tea slowly over the top and watch the cocktail turn from blue – purple-black.

Mojito of Madness

  • 4 oz. Soda Water
  • 2 oz. Lemonade
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 orange wedge
  • 1 oz. Agave syrup
  • Splash of 7-up
  • Garnish with a bruised mint leaf

Directions: In a shaker half full of ice add all non-carbonated ingredients and shake until well pulverized and chilled. Pour entire contents into a tall glass. Top with soda water and 7-up, stir. Take a mint leaf and slap it between your hands and place on top of the glass

Poltergeist Palmer

  • 4 oz. Lemonade
  • 3 oz. Iced Tea
  • 4 Raspberries
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 orange wedge
  • Garnish with a flamed lemon slice

Directions: Using a kitchen torch (or maybe not!) flame both sides of the lime slice and reserve. Add all ingredients into a shaker half full of ice and shake until well combined. Pour into a Collins glass and garnish with the flamed lemon in the glass like a sun.

Bloody Sunset

  • 4 oz. Orange juice
  • 2 oz. Cranberry juice
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Garnish with an orange wheel

Directions: in a rocks glass pour 1 oz of grenadine into the bottom. In a shaker half full of ice add orange juice and lime wedge. Shake until chilled, strain and pour over fresh ice covering half the glass. Fill with ice and top with cranberry juice slowly to layer and garnish with an orange wheel.

Here are some more non-alcoholic Halloween themed drinks from DrinkSmart

Halloween Mocktails

Coping with Loneliness while Self-Isolating

With cold and flu season upon us, there is a chance you might have to self-isolate if you have symptoms that overlap with COVID-19. Having to self-isolate can feel lonely and challenge our mental health. Here are some steps you can take to help you cope during a period of isolation:

  • Find alternate ways to connect with friends and loved ones: phone, text, FaceTime, emails can allow you to stay in touch and receive support. Online gaming is also a great way to connect and keep busy.
  • Let others know you want to stay connected: inform friends and loved ones that keeping in touch in other ways is important to you. Ask them if they can also reach out to you during this period
  • Practice wellness at home: stretch and move your body (check out Campus Rec's on-demand fitness classes), get proper nutrition, and ensure good rest.
  • Remind yourself that isolation is not forever: You will be able to get out and about and resume your normal activities again.

If you are self-isolating and struggling with mental health- don't forget that Student Health and Wellness counselling appointments are being conducted via phone so you can still book an appointment. If you find yourself lonely after hours, call a hotline like Good2talk or check out online peer support like TalkCampus or 7 cups.

A reminder that one way to avoid having to self-isolate is to get your flu shot, available at Student Health and Wellness in Thunder Bay, pharmacies across Ontario and from primary health care providers.

coping with loneliness while self-isolating

International Pronouns Day

The third Wednesday of October marks International Pronouns Day.

International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects trans and gender-nonconforming people. Everyone has the right to be addressed by the name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, including the use of non-binary/neutral pronouns (e.g., they/them). Recent research finds that referring to people in the ways they wish to be referred to can have positive health outcomes for trans people.

Using your own pronouns when introducing yourself or in your email signature tells everyone that you are not going to assume their gender. It also helps take the burden off of trans and non-binary students to continuously explain their identity. Using pronouns is a key element of being a 2SLGBTQIA+ ally and is something that is effortless to do, but means the world to others. These actions are part of the larger work of creating and sustaining inclusive and supportive communities for everyone.

To learn more about gender orientation and being an ally, visit this page or check out



International Pronouns Day

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Tis the season for everything pumpkin spice, but not everything has to be unhealthy. Granola sometimes gets a bad wrap, but making it yourself can be the solution to limit the sugar. Homemade granola makes a great breakfast or snack and provides protein, fibre and healthy fats. 


Dry Ingredients

  • pumpkin spice granola ingredients2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cups raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup raw pepitas
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (No pumpkin pie spice? No problem, make your own with this recipe)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree


  • Preheat oven to 340 degrees F (171 C).
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the coconut oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree and whisk. Pour over the dry ingredients and quickly mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Spread the mixture evenly onto two baking sheets and bake for 23-30 minutes, stirring a bit near the halfway point. If you prefer chunkier granola, don’t stir as it breaks up the clusters. Instead, just rotate the pans at the halfway point to ensure even cooking.
  • Once the granola is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools.
  • Transfer to an airtight container. Should keep for a couple of weeks. Enjoy with milk, yogurt, or on top of oats!


Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker's Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola- check out her website for other granola flavours and combos

Pumpkin spice granola

Experiencing COVID FOMO?

Social media has always reinforced the fear of missing out on fun and exciting experiences but before, what you did with FOMO was your own choice. Now, you might not even have the option to partake in the activities others are involved in because precautionary measures are still in place (and for good reason, to keep people safe). Worse even, is that you might be doing your best to follow guidelines while seeing others break them on TikTok, why should you be excluded when you are doing the right thing? The disparity between what you want to do, what you are allowed to do, what you should do and what others are doing can cause anxiety and frustration. 

A difficult part of all this is that you're probably relying, to some degree, on social media to feel connected to your "people" and to your larger community. So you're simultaneously getting the benefits of connection (that may be really hard to get elsewhere at the moment) while also feeling the burn of FOMO. If you are having a hard time finding the balance in your own social media use, here are some tips:

  • Take a brief vacation from social media and connect with people in a more meaningful way than liking their posts- schedule a facetime with a friend, host a virtual game night or happy hour.

  • Text a friend and plan an outdoor get together, or go by yourself. Having adventures of your own will help ease those restless and lonely feelings, making you feel proactive about your life.

  • You might not have control over the outside world or what other people do in it- but you have control over your own actions and mindset. Start a list of things that you enjoy and use it as a to-do list for when you start to feel like you are missing out or are just feeling down. These activities don’t have to be limited to solo or indoor activities- look for events in your community that adhere to health guidelines (If you are in Thunder Bay, the Walleye is a great way to find out things going on in the area!) 

Remember that social media is often a highlight reel: You post the day you go for a hike with the fall foliage, not the day you spent on the couch rewatching The Office for the third time since March. But if we all started posting more of our reality- the loneliness you might feel right now, how you feel overwhelmed by online school, or the take out boxes because you can’t get motivated to cook for one-  we could foster understanding and actual connectedness because whether you post it or not, we are all experiencing it. 

Experiencing COVID FOMO?