Developing a Healthy Body Image

The pandemic has had its challenges- it has really thrown our routines and schedules for a loop. Developing or maintaining healthy habits is even more difficult during times of stress so it may have been or might still be a struggle to keep up with workouts and meal planning. Your body might have changed over the past few months and you might be looking at it (and yourself) more critically. 

If you don’t like your body (or a part of your body), it’s hard to feel good about your whole self. Having a healthy body image is more than simply tolerating what you look like or “not disliking” yourself. It means that you truly accept and like the way you look right now and aren’t trying to change your body to fit the way you think you should look. It means you can find strengths that make you feel good about yourself that go beyond the number on a scale, and you can resist the pressure to compare yourself to the “perfect” body that you see online and in the media. 

Turning off your negative thoughts does not happen overnight, but you can start to be more mindful of how you think about and treat yourself and your body. Try some of the following to get you started. 

  • Get into a routine. Adding structure throughout your day helps to create a sense of security and stability. Moreover, creating a routine and structure around mealtimes and exercise can help you to stay (or get back) on track.
  • Shift your mindset. Keep in mind that food is fuel- don't use it as a reward or a punishment. The same goes for working out, try to remember that you are working out because you love your body, not because you hate it. Celebrate all the wonderful things that your body can do. 
  • Be aware of how you talk about your body with family and friends. Do you often seek reassurance or validation from others to feel good about yourself? Do you often focus only on physical appearances?
  • Make a list. Start a running list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  • Think about social media posts critically. Notice when a post or meme is reinforcing unhealthy beliefs. Check-in with yourself: How does this post make me feel? Do I feel better or worse after reading this? Actively limit your exposure to unhelpful social media accounts by unfollowing or blocking triggering or diet-related content. Follow some body-positive accounts like I WEIGHMik Zazon, orChristine LaRainee.
  • Take a personal inventory. The next time you notice yourself having negative thoughts about your body and appearance, take a minute to think about what’s going on in your life. Are you feeling stressed out, anxious, or low? Are you facing challenges in other parts of your life? When negative thoughts come up, think about what you’d tell a friend if they were in a similar situation and then take your own advice.
  • Let a trusted friend or family member know you’re struggling. Physical distancing measures have increased feelings of anxiety and uncertainty while decreasing the sense of connection with friends and social supports. Reach out to someone close to you for support.
  • Call in the pros. Body image issues can feel like an isolating experience that is often hard for others to understand. Student Health and Wellness Counsellors are available to talk but NEDIC also offers a free helpline.
    • Instant chat is still available from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Thursday and Friday from 9am to 5pm. Emails will be answered during those hours.
    • The NEDIC helpline (1-866-NEDIC-20 and 416-340-4156) will be open from 11am to 7pm Monday to Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 5pm. All times EST.

Resources 

Lindsey Wachter, R.Kin

HBK, MSc

Woman looking at herself in the mirror

International Self- Care Day

July 24th is International Self-Care Day! 

In the past few years, self-care has become synonymous with face masks, bubble baths and green tea but the term actually began as a medical concept. Doctors considered "self-care" as a way for patients to treat themselves and exercise healthy habits- however, the practice was mostly encouraged to elderly patients and those living with mental health issues and later for health care professionals themselves.

The concept didn't really take off until it was adopted by political activities. In the 1970s, the Black Panther Party promoted self-care as a revolutionary way for Black and other oppressed citizens to begin to heal from the constant hurts of racism and marginalization, and empower themselves to continue fighting for equality. Women’s rights activists were inspired and began adapting their own ideas of what self-care meant for women, namely those living in poverty without access to healthcare. Feminist activists opened their own health clinics to ensure that women were given access to the care that they needed. 

Modern self-care is an attempt to undo the stress that we experience from school, work, relationships, and lately, current events. It’s a movement that encourages individuals to put their health and wellness first, and let go of all guilt for doing so. 

The common thread is that self-care began as a tool, a strategy for people to take action to preserve or improve one's own health. So what actions can you take towards meaningful self-care? Here are some suggestions.

Take care of the basics first. The best self-care involves things often taken for granted. Start by trying to get a little more sleep, drink a little more water, make healthier food choices, move your body, engage in self-reflection and get some fresh air—all simple ways to feel exponentially better.

Nurture connections. Research shows that positive human interaction is healing. Make a point of scheduling in time to spend with friends and family- whether its a phone call, a meal together or even a quick coffee.  

Detox your social media. Social media is a hard habit to drop—but it can be used for good. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, follow accounts that uplift you, whether that is cooking, humour, creativity or just really cute animals (we highly recommend @doggosdoingthings)

Practice “boring self-care.” It takes real perseverance to pay your bills, tidy your home, pack your lunch, fold your laundry and unload the dishwasher. These tasks aren’t photogenic, but they’re important steps on the way to a healthy and balanced life.

Be present. Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present in the moment, can help you make the most of your self-care practices. This doesn't have to be a formal practice like meditation (but it totally can be), you just have to take time to focus on what you are doing, while you are doing it. 

Take some time to celebrate International Self-Care day and start to develop your own self-care routine. 

 

  

Woman using make up brush while looking in the mirror.

Workspace Ergonomics

Studying from home has its perks but sometimes finding a comfortable and productive workspace is difficult. Maybe you’re used to studying wherever and whenever you can — at the dinner table, when you’re sitting down in front of the TV, or on your bed. If this true for you, it’s likely you’re plagued with a whole host of aches and pains as a result.

Here are some simply ergonomic tips to help students while working at your desktop or laptop, take some time to consider your own learning habits and workspace and see where you can identify areas for improvement:

1. Keep everything within reach- repeatedly reaching out for items while seated at your workstation is a sure-fire way to strain your muscles and hurt yourself.

2. Check your posture- It’s tempting to slouch into what initially feels like a comfortable position when you’re working at your screen, but having good posture is key. Generally speaking, your back should be both straight and supported. Your legs and elbows should be at 90 degrees.

3. Use the 20-20-20 rule- Staring at a screen for an extended period can cause digital eye strain-symptoms can be tired, heavy eyelids; blurry or double vision; muscle spasms; or headaches. Try to give your eyes a break- for every 20 minutes you work, you should take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.

4. Switch it up- Don't stay in any one position too long- our bodies weren't designed to stay seated for long periods of time. Stand up and walk around every so often. Try some light stretching exercises to rid your body of any accumulated tension- check out this routine if you are not sure where to start.

5. Consider some ergonomic add ons- Laptops are great for portability but not so great for ergonomics- consider some additional equipment if you are going to be inputting for long periods- e.g. laptop stand, a separate keyboard and mouse. Check out this website for more advice on using a laptop ergonomically.

6. Set your chair properly- You’ll need to base the height of your chair on your own height and your workstation positioning. You want to be able to rest your elbows comfortably on your desk when you’re sitting at your chair. You want to also make sure when you’re sitting and facing forward, your gaze is going toward the center of your computer screen. 

7. Mix up your tasks- so you’re not sitting in the same position for hours and making the same types of movements over prolonged periods — potentially putting yourself at risk for overuse injuries like carpal tunnel. 

 

 

 

2SLGBTQIA+

Although Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGBTQQIA) people are as diverse as the general Canadian population in their experiences of mental health and well-being, they face higher risks for some mental health issues due to the effects of discrimination and the social determinants of health. This list of supports is by no means exhaustive but it is a place to start. If we are missing something you know about, please feel free to email activities.shcc@lakeheadu.ca

  • Rainbow Health Ontario has developed a fact sheet about LGBTQ Mental Health.
  • 2spirits.com- provides prevention education and support for 2-Spirit, including First Nations, metis and Inuit people living with or at risk for HIV and related co-infections in the Greater Toronto Area. Their work is based on indigenous philosophies of wholistic health and wellness.
  • It Gets Better Campaign – In response to publicized suicides by LGBT youth, author Dan Savage initiated the It Gets Better campaign (http://www.itgetsbetter.org) through which supportive LGBT people and allies share supportive messages through online videos.
  • Kids Help Phone – Children and youth ages 5 to 20 can speak with trained counsellors at Kids Health Phone (1-800-668-6868).
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans Youthline – The Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans Youthline offers free peer support for youth aged 26 and under (1-800-268-9688).
  • Goodhead.ca is for guys into guys (G2G) — gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, two-spirit, gender queer, gender non-binary, trans, and other guys who are sexually and/or romantically interested in other guys. It’s a place for G2G to learn and get curious about the mental health issues affecting them and their communities and to help them locate mental health services in Ontario.
  • Parents, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) – PFLAG (www.pflagcanada.ca) is a resource for LGBT people and their families.
  • AFFIRM- A CBT-based group for LBGTQ+ youth and adults to learn stress coping skills, and meet other LGBTQ+ youth and adults in your area.
  • Trans Lifeline- A national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives and fighting the epidemic of trans suicide. We are based in the US but do have a suicide hotline that is available to folks in Canada (1-877-330-6366)
  • Autostraddle-An online community and magazine for lesbian, bisexual and otherwise identifying people and their friends.
  • Lesbian R*pe Crisis Information-Database of resources and online forums for survivors of sexualized violence. Specifically targeted at lesbian folks, with a small focus on bisexual folks as well.
  • Queerantine 101: All of your COVID-19 LGBTQI2S Resources in one place!

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