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


frost on tree with SHW logo

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!

woman sleeping with SHW logo

Loneliness over the Holidays

The holiday season has always brought its own challenges and stressors but with COVID-19 limiting travel, recommending separation from friends and family and altering/cancelling annual traditions, it might not only be stressful- it also might feel quite lonely. 

Student Health and Wellness Counsellors Trudy and Holly share their own experiences with dealing with loneliness and offer advice on how to cope over the holidays. 

Here are some more suggestions to help manage the holiday blues this season.

  • Have realistic expectations. Extravagant holiday parties and family dinners are out of the picture this year. Being realistic with yourself and understanding that this is the case for almost everyone will help you handle the emotions that might come with missing these events.
  • Be nice to yourself. To compensate for the lack of parties and gatherings, you might feel the need to compensate by buying bigger gifts for loved ones or going all out on Christmas decorations. Cut yourself some slack instead, trying to make the holidays special by making everything perfect is not a fair standard to set for yourself.
  • Get cooking. Finding ways to incorporate recipes that remind you of your loved ones into your holiday celebration can help when you're feeling lonely and craving grandma's cooking. Maybe someone will finally be willing to pass you that top secret family recipe you enjoy every year. You can create a tradition in which you share the recipe and cook it together on the phone.
  • Volunteer. Some of us might not have family and friends to depend on this holiday season. That's OK. When you're feeling alone, volunteering can help you feel a sense of community you might be lacking.
  • Make a list of things you can do when you are feeling lonely. Before the holidays roll around, make a list of fun activities you can turn to when you're feeling your loneliest. It can be helpful to have a list to turn to in the moments you are feeling low.
  • Practice self-care. This year, it's critical to find "me time" and practise self-care to avoid the physical and mental exhaustion this year's celebrations (or lack thereof) might cause. Sign up for the Winter WellU Wishlist to receive daily self-care and mindfulness activities over the break.
  • Remember that this is temporary. It might seem like we have been physically distancing forever but focus on the fact that what we're experiencing now is not permanent. Hopefully next year, we can get back to the celebrations we’re used to having,


How can I cope with loneliness over the holidays?

Shifting from Negative Self-Talk to Positive

We all have an inner monologue but if your self-talk skews negative, it can take its toll on your self-esteem and performance heading into finals. By extending yourself the same encouragement you would a friend or classmate, you can redirect your inner voice towards positivity. It might seem silly, but using positive self-talk before and during exams can help reduce anxiety, build confidence and improve performance.

Here are some strategies on how to replace negative self-talk with positive:

Focus on the Solution. Dwelling on a problem instead of a solution is the essence of negative self-talk. “I don’t know how to do this problem. I’ll never pass the exam.” Instead: Most problems have solutions. Ask yourself, “How can I make this situation better?” or think “I will work through this problem until I can understand it.”

Expect the Best. “What if I don’t pass the exam?” “What if I don't get the job?” Expecting the worst creates anxiety and causes us to behave ineffectively. Instead: Ask questions that give positive outcomes. “How can I prepare for the exam?” or “How can I make a good impression?”

A Case of the Shoulds. Words like “should” or “must” suggest rules and standards for our behaviour that do not exist in reality. These words imply there is a consequence for non-compliance, which can evoke feelings of guilt. “I should go to the gym but I don't have enough time.” Instead: Replace with the word “could” and realize that you do have choices. “I could go to the gym after class or on my lunch break.”

Realistic Thinking. We distort reality by thinking only in extremes and this makes our efforts either total failures or complete successes, with nothing in between. “I’ll never pass this exam because I always draw a blank.” Instead: Be realistic. Replace those exaggerated words with ones that more accurately reflect reality and give yourself options. “I haven’t actually ever failed an exam. I’m going to relax and I’ll do fine.”

Catastrophizing. Every bad thing that happens is a horrible disaster. “I missed the beginning of today's class and it Is the most important.” Instead: Be realistic and stop scaring yourself. Bad things do happen, yet most are not necessarily tragedies or disasters, but rather inconveniences and mistakes. “I can always talk to my professor afterwards and get any information I missed.” 

Take Responsibility. We sometimes resort to assigning guilt instead of solving a problem. “My roommate took my study spot and now I can’t concentrate.” Blaming others can make us feel vindicated in a wrong-doing and allow us to avoid responsibility. Instead: Focus on what you can do to find a solution to the problem and take responsibility. “There are plenty of other study spots in the house available.”

Study Tips from Peer Wellness Educators

Finding ways to cope with exam stress has always been imperative to taking care of one’s self as they navigate through their academic journey. As we all head into exam season during this pandemic, the need to support your wellbeing has never been more important. Your Peer Wellness Educator team has compiled a list of their best academic and wellness tips to help you cope with stress and avoid the chance of burnout.


1) Plan ahead! A key part of reducing stress during exam season is to make a plan and to make the plan early. We recommend printing off a blank calendar and writing down all of the readings and assignments you need to complete on the schedule. Space out the assignments based on how much time you will need to complete each task and give yourself plenty of time to complete each task before the due date.
2) Connect with your peers! There’s nobody better than your peers to help you through a tricky assignment or a complex reading. By putting your knowledge together, you can help each other succeed and hold each other accountable. Zoom is a great platform to hold study sessions. Remember: Meeting with your peers doesn’t always have to be strictly about academics! Take the time to destress and talk to your peers about how you have been feeling and develop friendships.
3) Reach out to your professors early! Is there something you have not been understanding as well as you would like to? Reach out to your professor through email or ask to set up a zoom meeting. Your best bet is to start the conversation early because exam season is when questions will start flooding into the professor’s inboxes and you want to get your opportunity for one-on-one help before it’s too late.


1) Fuel your body and your mind! We know that when studying the days can fly by and you can go hours without realizing you have not stopped to eat. Make sure to keep a schedule that allows you to eat healthily and gives you the opportunity to try your hand at cooking. Baking and cooking are a great way to take a break from your studies and destress by engaging in a fun and satisfying activity. Remember: Make healthy choices that will help fuel you and keep your mind sharp.
2) Take time for yourself! While it may feel that every moment you possibly have should be spent studying, this is not true. While studying is important, it is just as important to continue doing things that bring you peace and joy. No matter what, schedule some time into your day to do something you enjoy. This could be as simple as watching a tv show, having a relaxing bath or practicing a new hobby! We are not robots and cannot study 24 hours a day, nor should we! Take some time to be at peace and enjoy life around you. While exams can be overwhelming, remember it is okay to take time and relax and feel grounded. This will help you study and focus better!
3) Do not over caffeinate! While many of us love coffee, consuming too much caffeine can worsen the stress we already encounter from exams. Caffeine is a stimulant and increases your body’s stress levels. If you feel you need those cups of coffee to stay up and finish studying, listen to your body instead and get some sleep. You will feel more refreshed and will retain more information once you properly take care of your body. Try swapping out your coffee for herbal tea or water while you are studying!

We’d love to hear from you! If you have any exam stress tips that you think we should share, message us on Instagram @lupeerwellness

-Ashley Warburton and Samantha Sawyer, Peer Wellness Educators

Note book, coffee cup and pen

Sleep During Exam Season

End of term and exam season might have you burning the candle at both ends but if you are thinking about pulling some all-nighters along the way, think again.

Sleep plays a critical role in brain function and is well-known to help consolidate memories- research has shown that you remember information better if you sleep after studying than if you studied and stayed awake the same amount of time. A lack of good quality sleep can make it harder to focus and think clearly and can cause increased fatigue, irritability, and anxiety during the day.  All of which can cause your academic performance to suffer. 

It is not only the number of hours of sleep that matters but other factors such as quality of sleep are important. A common belief is that lost sleep from a late night of studying can be recovered by “sleeping in” another day or taking naps. However, both of these methods disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms and may deprive the body of deeper sleep stages. It is important to respond, whenever possible, to the body’s natural signals of sleepiness.

To make sure that sleep is benefitting your performance rather than hindering it, take the following steps.

  • Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule during exam season. Go to bed at night and wake up at the same time as you normally would. Make a study plan that includes your sleep schedule to make it possible.

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages for 4-6 hours before bedtime.

  • Stop using electronic devices an hour before you want to go to sleep. If you want to continue to study, use physical notes or flashcards.

  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed. Get up and do quiet relaxing activities, like reading or listening to a podcast until you feel tired enough to fall asleep.

  • If intrusive thoughts are keeping you awake, keep a pad and paper beside your bed and write them down.

For more information and resources to get a good night's rest, check out Student Health and Wellness' section about sleep.

Practicing Self-Compassion During A Pandemic

If you are struggling right now-physically, mentally, socially, academically-  you are not failing. A pandemic is not the ideal situation for anyone and this is not how you thought the year was going to go. Being kind to yourself and practicing self-compassion can help. 

Self-compassion is a key part of being resilient (a word you have surely heard many times over the past 8 months). If you aren’t sure what self-compassion means or where to start, just treat and talk to yourself like you would a good friend. We tend to be kinder to others than we are to ourselves. 

For more information about self-compassion, look to Dr. Kristen Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research. She describes three elements of self-compassion:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment.
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or being self-critical. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation.
Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes. All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification.
Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

Visit her website for self-compassion guided meditations and exercises you can try to build up this skill. 

The stress of these “unprecedented times” is not going to magically disappear as a result of practicing self-compassion but your response to unpredictability and uncertainty in your environment can and will change.