Tag Archives | wellness

Image by Penn State, Flickr

Image by Penn State, Flickr

The college lifestyle entails a lot going on and not a lot of time to do it in, which is why so many students are staying up late to finish their work, then falling asleep in class. A study by Hershner and Chervin published in 2014 stated that:

50% [of students] report daytime sleepiness and 70% attain insufficient sleep.

Adults are supposed to sleep at least eight hours a night, and most students are getting less than 6 measly hours! I know it seems like it’s worth it to stay up and do your homework or go out with friends, but what are the real implications of staying up late?

Sleep is a crucial process that repairs the body’s systems from the damage and stress it faced during the day. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body can’t fully repair and rejuvenate, so you can actually end up weakening your immune system and lowering your state of consciousness. You are much more likely to forget things and be irritable when tired, which negatively impacts mood and performance. The study states that those who get the right amount of sleep and don’t study versus those who stay up all night to study actually do better.

Subjects tested at 10 am and then retested at 10 pm without sleep showed no significant change in performance. After a night of sleep, subjects’ performance improved by 18%. Subjects tested at 10 pm initially, then retested after sleep, also had a significant improvement in performance. This supports the concept that sleep, and not just time, is required for learning and memory consolidation.

– Hershner and Chervin, 2014

Now that you know the importance of sleep and your academic career, here are a few tips that will help you get more sleep.

  1. Plan! – If you plan out your entire day and stick to your schedule, you will be more likely to get to bed at a reasonable time while also getting all your activities for the day finished.
  2. Keep your partying to a few days a week. – We all like to go out and party, but drinking and going out every night is not only harmful to your health but also to your grades. Maybe keep your partying to once or twice a week to make sure you are balancing your time correctly.
  3. Turn off electronics – electronics’ blue light can interfere with sleep patterns, so make sure to turn of your gadgets and keep them out of your room to resist temptations to check them while you sleep.
  4. Exercise – Exercising for 30 minutes before bed will tire you out and help you reach a deeper sleep faster, as well as keeping your body healthy and active.
  5. Limit your stimulants – Keeping your alcohol, coffee and cigarette intake to a minimum will minimize the frequent awakenings during the night and stops disruptive sleep.

Hope these tips will keep you guys well rested!

Here are some other articles you might be interested in…

Citations

Image by Gebbe, Flickr

Image by Gebbe, Flickr

 
 
Being isolated in high school translated to me not having a lot of typical social experiences that most teenagers have. I had never been to a real party and I’d never been exposed to alcohol or drugs. That was fine with me, but when I got to university, my ‘uncoolness’ followed me. Everyone wanted to party, and I legitimately did not know how, and I was so anxious and uncomfortable that I couldn’t just give it a shot. In my first year I went to Brock University, which is known for its parties, and I felt miserable and left out.

I am not joking when I say that I did not speak to anyone all year. No one. I hid in my room, I avoided the girl who shared a bathroom with me, and I sat alone in classes. At Brock, every class has a seminar attached to it, and I had a bad habit of not going to them. Luckily, I was still able to transfer to the University of Toronto, where I should have been all along, but I had the same problem there. Needless to say, I could have done better, and my GPA is suffering now as a result of my isolation in those early years.

I’ve been making great progress, but I had a setback this year – I had a major depressive episode in the winter where I was suicidal for a time, and I wasn’t feeling up to doing all of my school work, or much of anything at all, really. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to complete an assignment that I found very challenging, as I felt that I had been pushed to my breaking point already, so I went to the school’s health clinic. The doctor gladly gave me a form so that I could get an extension, and he recommended that I see a psychiatrist as well. I had been on the waitlist for one, but he ensured that I was given a higher priority and I was able to see someone within a week. It’s a good thing that he did – the psychiatrist prescribed me medication, something that I had been avoiding for years even though it had been recommended before. I didn’t think that it would help at all, but it turned out to be my saving grace, and I am doing much better now. I dropped the course that I was struggling in, but I did well in all my others.

I’ve been getting better and better at finding ways to be engaged in classes, even if it isn’t always by talking, and my grades have been reflecting that. I found that I made a significant improvement in my third year, when class sizes shrank to at least half of what they were before. Now, I try to find classes that I think will be small and unintimidating.

I still haven’t really made any friends, only acquaintances, but I’ve gotten more involved with my school’s community through a student group that I lead. I discovered my passion for mental health awareness, and I became president of a group called Active Minds at UofT that is dedicated to just that. Even when I can’t find many other things about school to motivate me, planning events never fails to inspire me and push me to do better in all areas of my life.

Not everyone is going to go through something like this, and I hope that you don’t. But if you find yourself struggling with anything at all, please reach out to the adults and professionals around you. There were times when I felt like doing this was weak – I should be able to get As on everything, no matter what, without anybody’s help. If someone gave me an extension or any kind of help, then I obviously wasn’t smart enough, and it meant nothing. This is not true. Asking for help is brave.

When you ask for help, you’re making yourself vulnerable. I was afraid of being judged, or even simply being told ‘no’. And it’s true that there were some people, even those who were very close to me, who refused to help and distanced themselves from me during my time of need, for whatever reason. But there were still people who did help, like the teachers and counselors and doctors that I’ve mentioned. Some of my friends were great too – when I was at my worst they kept me company and guided me towards whatever I was supposed to be doing next, knowing that to be alone with no routine would probably be the worst thing for me. It is so much better to try than to just drown, thinking that no one will jump in to save you. Even if you’re convinced that you will, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you reach out? Maybe something good will happen. Just maybe. And some day, your future self will thank you.

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

University can be host to a wealth of triggers for mental health issues. Away from home and separated from their families, students are faced with the task of juggling their transition to university with personal expectations for academic performance, relationship complications, social problems, financial constraints, and concern about the future. Suffering from depression can make you feel helpless and weak, but is extremely common – one in four people between the ages of 15 and 24 will suffer a mental health problem of some sort – and is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder typically characterized by feelings of severe despondency, dejection, hopelessness and/or inadequacy. Depression can be accompanied by a lack of energy, heightened levels of anxiety, and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Depression affects everyone differently, but symptoms may include:

  • social withdrawal; isolating yourself from friends, avoiding calls from home
  • feeling alone or distant from others; feeling like a burden to your loved ones
  • feeling overwhelmed, drained, irritable, guilty, worthless, numb, empty, sad, and/or hopeless
  • appetite loss or increase; weight loss or gain
  • changes in sleeping patterns, trouble sleeping, or insomnia
  • recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • worrying constantly; experiencing high levels of anxiety, restlessness, stress, or panic attacks
  • physical aches and pains
  • feeling as if you are functioning in slow motion
  • simple tasks take an inordinate amount of time to complete
  • reduced ability to concentrate, short term memory loss
  • experiencing frequent mood swings
  • fatigue, lacking energy or motivation

Seeking treatment
If you suspect you are suffering from depression, but feel that your circumstances are so bleak that nothing could possibly do anything to improve them, it is imperative to tell yourself otherwise. Learning about a) why you are feeling a certain way and b) how to alter certain aspects of your lifestyle or behaviour in order to feel better is a crucial step in becoming able to cope with depression. I know that the prospect of going out and looking for help seems laughable when the act of actually getting out of bed at all is a Herculean task in itself, but seeking some sort of treatment is the first step in ensuring that your depression doesn’t become debilitating.
If you are convinced that nobody else will understand you, the truth is that you might be right. Everyone may not be able to understand. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who will very much want to try.

Types of treatment
The good news is that there is a plethora of different ways to get help. The hard part is finding the right kind of help for you. People are unique. We have incredibly varied past experiences, family histories, personal beliefs, fears, insecurities, temperaments, and dispositions. We are different, and depression affects each of us differently as a result. Accordingly, the effectiveness of any given coping technique fluctuates from person to person.

If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend looking at the mental health page on your university’s website. This is a private and informative way to research which methods of help you are interested in getting. There will be contact numbers for your university’s mental health centre, which can direct you to find a psychologist or psychiatrist. The difference between the two, you ask? Both psychologists and psychiatrists are mental health specialists who are trained to assess and treat mental illness; however, psychologists provide ‘talk therapy’ to help you alter your behavioural habits and thinking patterns as a primary method of coping with depression, while psychiatrists generally view depression as the result of a bodily abnormality or chemical imbalance in the brain, and prescribe anti-depressant medication as a primary means of treatment.

Talking to a therapist
Showing up to an appointment with the express purpose of divulging intensely personal information to a complete stranger so they can help you overcome your depressive symptoms can be intimidating, to say the least. Try to keep in mind that you are in a confidential space, and that your therapist has the tools to help you – the better they know you, the challenges you face, and how you deal with those challenges, the better they will be able to advise you. Your comfort level will grow over time. Also, your therapist gets to know you by listening to the way you perceive yourself, your relationships, and the events in your life. Talking to a therapist allows you to have an objective opinion from someone whose relationship with you is not that of an acquaintance nor friend nor family, which can be extremely enlightening experience.

Taking time off 
Your therapist may recommend deferring your exams, reducing your course load, or taking some time off school. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. Taking a break to relax, reflect, and heal may do a world of good. To prevent slipping into even more of a rut, plan out your leave of absence. Continue with whichever form of therapy you feel comfortable with, keep a regular routine of sleep and exercise, and take up some activities that you didn’t have time to do before. Read. Write. Rest. Paint. Build. Explore. Do anything that reminds you of the beauty in the life we live. Also, as important it is to practice mindfulness and be reflective and thoughtful, it’s important to focus on the outward as well as the inward. Volunteering in the community might give you a sense of routine and purpose.

Mind and body
Your state of physical health can influence your state of mental health all too easily – a good thing if you take care of yourself physically, and a bad thing if you don’t. Follow these tips to ensure you are staying healthy at university!

 Recovery
Coping with any mental health issue is an immense struggle. Overcoming depression is neither quick nor easy, but it is far from impossible. When you are thoughtful about the way you perceive and feel about the events in your life, you become more sensitive and insightful to the world around you, and this will enable you to grow. You are given the chance to examine yourself critically without being critical of yourself. You learn to change the things you can and adapt to the things you cannot. I wish you all the best.

Internet resources
Student Health 101
The Jack Project
Kids Help Phone
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mind Your Mind
Canadian Mental Health Association
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Teen Mental Health

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Do you know what really causes the “freshman fifteen?” Hint: it’s not just about what you eat! What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain, and being sedentary and sleep-deprived just pack on the extra pounds. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern, and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at university:

1. Sleep well

Good sleep is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it will help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory, and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, and results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, going to bed and getting up at the same time.

2. Exercise frequently … and sneakily
It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it is important to be active in order to stay healthy. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule, or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that will fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can muster the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga, tennis, or Pilates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximize your level of activity – walk to class, take the stairs, and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library.

3. Watch your beverages
There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks, and water.

Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects – if it isn’t enough that a single shot of vodka contains a whopping 100 calories, studies show that regular consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients and burn fat over time.

Soft drinks, sodas, and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. They contain high levels of sugar, and their diet equivalents simply substitute the sugar content with chemicals that are just as toxic for your system. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugary fix with a refreshing cup of tea (chamomile and mint tea promote relaxation and digestion, and sweeter flavours such as strawberry, peach, ginseng, or lemon keep it interesting). You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Most importantly, watch out for the unhealthy additives in calorie-laden lattes or specialty drinks at your favourite coffee shop – one chai tea latte from Starbucks sounds innocent enough, but even its smallest size packs an incredible 240 calories (not to mention 41 grams of sugar).

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels, and helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system, and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal.

4. Everything in moderation
Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta, and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that freshman fifteen. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli, beans, and zucchini, among others. Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items, and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread, and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look to food blogs and Pinterest recipes to get you excited about eating healthy.

5. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties, and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast (it starts your metabolism and gives you a boost of energy, which will help control your appetite and prevent overeating throughout the day) and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus (baby carrots, pretzels, apples, and almonds are all great ideas) to tide you over until lunch (a sandwich with a soup or salad is always a healthy option). Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at two in the morning, or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with your friends – studies show that eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you are bored or worried about something, and do not skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.