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Why a Visit to the Art Gallery Can Improve Our Mental Health

Why a Visit to the Art Gallery Can Improve Our Mental Health

As a student, you have a unique privilege you may not have considered. Many schools have art galleries on campus that you can visit for cheap or for free, and many off-campus galleries offer student rates, meaning you can see great art on a budget. Have you considered taking advantage? It could be just what you need. Visits to the art gallery allow for the chance to step away from daily life and engage with the world in a new way.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of viewing art in a gallery is the mental exercise of creating our own interpretation toward the art we are observing. This is a practice that encourages the type of creative thinking needed for problem-solving. By practicing this type of creative thinking, we learn better ways to come up with our own unique solutions to difficult problems, a key skill required for better mental health. When we leave difficult emotional problems unsolved, we may end up feeling even more frustrated and stressed. Understanding how to solve problems in a creative way may at times be what we need in order to improve difficult relationships, our own self-esteem, and circumstances within our lives that are causing us stress and anxiety.

You do not need to be a Renaissance painter or a beret-wearing artISTE spewing art-speak in order to reap the mental health benefits of visiting a gallery. The actual act of observing and appreciating art stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved in processing feelings of pleasure and reward. When we’re feeling especially anxious, stressed, or emotionally down, a visit to the gallery may help us re-focus our attention in a therapeutic way. This can allow us a moment to take a step away from our overwhelming emotions and provides us with the opportunity to revisit these feelings at a time when we are less emotionally drained or anxious.

A gallery visit may also be a source of inspiration and has the power to boost our own personal creativity. Engaging in creative expression has significant therapeutic effects in decreasing anxiety. For example, acting creatively can get us into the mental state known in Positive Psychology as “flow.” It’s where we are totally and completely immersed in the enjoyment and involvement of what we are doing, and it’s why being creative feels so good.

The next time you’re having a difficult mental health day, consider the therapeutic benefits of visiting a local art gallery. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate creativity into your self-care practice!

How to Make Make the Best of Going Back to School

How to Make Make the Best of Going Back to School

The seasons are changing. The days of layered long-sleeves, sweaters and coats are just around the corner and kids have thrown on their backpacks and headed off to school. I’m not even a student anymore but every year it’s still hard to accept that school’s back in session. 

For those who are headed back, adjusting from a summer of doing other things like travel, work or socializing can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help get you back into the swing of school:

 

1. Rebuild your routine slowly 

Start with sleep. If the summer has disrupted your sleep routine, start by spending the first few weeks with a set wake-up and/or bedtime. Consistent and quality sleep will have you recharged and ready for everything the school year throws at you.

2. Make lists 

Knowing what you need to do for your classes and extracurriculars is important. When you know what’s coming you can plan for it.

3. Set up a support network 

If you’re new, know who you can contact for support on and off-campus. There are often great resources available on-campus for those who look (most student centres or student unions can help you with that information). For those returning to campus, it’s time to get back into the swing of connecting with friends, classmates, and/or student groups. Making sure you have a strong support network will help you get through the midterm and exam seasons.

4. Experiment with your study habits 

It’s easy to put off studying in college and university because no one’s there to tell you to get down to it. The best antidote is to get to know your study style. Do you have certain productive hours in the day? What kind of space do you need to study in? Are you a snacker? What kind of learner are you? Contact your school’s learning/academic support center, they can help you learn to study effectively and efficiently.

5. Create a self-care plan 

What nourishes and recharges you? Get to know what you need: for some, it might mean regular trips to the gym, daily meditation, or 3 square meals a day, for others it may mean cutting back on work hours, or 2 days off each week for rest. Regardless, have a sense of your unique needs and try your best to meet them so you’re recharged for the more stressful periods.

 

Remember that adjustments take time. Give yourself some time to get used to the hustle and bustle of campus in September. 

I wish you all a wonderful school year. Happy studies!

How to Make New Friends

How to Make New Friends

Unlike our family, we can choose our friends. So in a way, friends are our “chosen family”. It’s important that we choose wisely and surround ourselves with supporting and loving people. Happy International Friendship Day!

Are you finding yourself lonely during your summer away from campus? Look no further!

Here are the top 3 places to check out to meet new peeps!

1. Meetup.com

This is a great website to meet people who share similar interests to you. Sign up on the website, choose the categories that interest you, i.e. sports, nature, movies, etc., and then get out there!

2. Bumble BFF

Yes, you read that correctly. Bumble⁠—best known for its dating app⁠—also has an app to meet your future bestie. Add a few photos of you in your element, write a brief bio and then start swiping!

4. Eventbrite

You’ve probably bought tickets on Eventbrite before (maybe even for a Shift event!) but did you know it’s also considered the “new” meetup.com. Perfectly Search by date, location, cost and category to find the perfect event to mingle with like-minded folks.

How to Grow Up

How to Grow Up

Here’s some wisdom from a 32-year-old on a second round as a university student:

It’s really hard.

Not exactly a revelation, I know, but hear me out. Completing assignments, keeping up with readings, and managing time – we all know how challenging this can be. What I want to highlight instead is that the hard work isn’t always the hardest part. For me, trying to figure out how to get to bed early enough, how to wake up and make it to class on time, how to keep my bedroom from looking like a junkyard, and how to resist daily temptations is really hard. While others seem to be worrying about making time for self-care between classes and work, I’m sprinting to class only to find I forgot my notebook. Sometimes it’s the stuff that is supposed to be simple that ends up being really— you guessed it— hard.

It can feel like there isn’t much sympathy out there for those of us who struggle with the day-to-day stuff. If someone hasn’t done laundry in two weeks, it’s easier for people to judge and label them lazy than it is to try to understand why they find it difficult. We’re all guilty of passing quick judgment – and this has its consequences. In my case, people often presume I’m either carefree or careless. A friend told me years back that it seemed like I have no passion. It felt awful to be seen that way. For a decade I almost believed that story about myself. I often felt like a let down, both to myself and to the world. I worried I’d never grow up to be someone I could respect. None of that was true.

The First Round

With that mindset, completing my first degree somehow seemed like both a miracle and barely an accomplishment. I didn’t find the schoolwork very difficult. I loved learning, I made it to class, I paid attention, and for the most part, I got good grades. But I spent the majority of my six years as an undergrad (that’s right, six) procrastinating. I wish I could say I spent all my time partying and enjoying myself. Mostly I agonized about how much work I had to do instead of just doing it, or I beat myself up because I didn’t feel I was trying hard enough. I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t seem to do it. I always felt like I could do better, or like I never gave it all I had. At graduation I knew I was smart enough to be handed that degree but somehow I felt like I hadn’t earned it. Now upon reflection, I see I gave it everything I had at the time. I earned that degree Sinatra-style— I did it my way.

We rarely hear this sort of student story. Ever notice in the movies how college students always look like they’re having the greatest time of their lives? They’re winning trophies, getting laid, and going on spring break holidays. How do they make time to have all this fun? They’re never studying, working their asses off to afford tuition, or staying in because they can’t afford to party. The message is that our college years are supposed to be all fun all the time. I’ve done it twice now, and I call bullshit! If you can relate, you’re not alone. I’d say we’re the silent majority.

The Second Round

This time it’s different. The same simple stuff I found difficult ten years ago is still hard and it probably won’t ever be easy for me. I have grown though. I’ve slowly adopted some better life skills (so much more to go), a lot of patience with myself, and the pièce de résistance, I’ve developed a who-gives-a-shit swagger – a gift of confidence that seemed to arrive right around the time I turned 30. Much to my partner’s chagrin, my room is still a pig stye, and I still struggle to hand papers in on time. But my world isn’t collapsing around me. I’m imperfect, and that’s fine. There are a lot of us!

These days I juggle a job, classes and a co-op position. I never thought I’d be able to do that much at once. For the first time in my adult life, people say, “Wow! That must be so hard to manage!” about my life. The irony is, in a lot of ways, it used to be harder. It’s harder to wake up in the morning when you have three or four chapters to read on your own time, two assignments due in a week, and instead of doing any homework the night before, you smoked a joint with your roommate and stayed up watching cartoons. That is stressful. That life is never free from the anxiety of having too much shit to do. Now, waking up groggy to get to my co-op placement after a late night at work is easy in comparison. It would be even easier if I could just decide to go to bed earlier, but at least I have a better excuse for being late.

What’s Next?

Each of us struggles with different aspects of the transition into adulthood. Moving toward my mid-30s now, I realize that the development period is actually never finished. You never wake up to find you’re all done building yourself. But you do get better at it.

I wanted to write all this because I wish people had recognized and acknowledged ten years ago that even when I didn’t look like it, I really cared. To everyone living in that eternal awkward phase, I’m right there with you. I know you care. Keep at it and take all the time you need.

How to De-Stress Student Life

How to De-Stress Student Life

You complete your exams, hand in all of your assignments and then just like that the break is over and a new semester has begun. As a student, it can be difficult to manage the demands of school with work, family, friends, etc. Here are 5 tips to feel less overwhelmed as a student..

1. Know the signs

Many of us know when we have too much on our plate and we are feeling stretched too thin or “not like ourselves.” Warning signs that you’re overwhelmed may include:

  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Problem sleeping
  • Loss of Motivation/Lack of Energy
  • Loss of focus/concentration
  • Drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or using drugs to self medicate
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, chest pain, stomach problems

2. Find a Balance

It may seem that between all the readings, assignments, tests, quizzes, discussions, classes and studying, you couldn’t possibly have time for anything else. The thing is, it’s important to have a life/school balance. Believe it or not, it is essential for optimal academic functioning. Focusing primarily on academics and neglecting other factors such as sleep, exercise, eating a balanced diet, socializing with friends, etc. can actually lead to a decline not only in academic performance but overall health and wellbeing. Don’t feel guilty about getting lost in a series on Netflix for a while—time for yourself is important. It’s all about balance!

3. Use School Resources

Use your school resources. For example, if you find yourself wondering where to start, learning strategists can help you learn to manage time and address procrastination issues and stress. For some students transitioning from high school or having difficulty keeping up, they can help you develop new strategies, including active studying, reading and note-taking, and exam preparation, improve your research, writing, and presentation skills.

Join a study group! You are not the only one looking for support. Forming an informal study group or joining your school’s Recognized Study Groups (RSGs) can help you connect socially with other students, increase understanding of course material, compare class notes and prepare for tests and exams in a supportive, collaborative environment.

4. Seek Support

Sometimes feeling overwhelmed means something more. Often times, admitting you need help and then seeking the support can be a difficult task. If you are dealing with a disability that is causing barriers to your academic success, find out if your school offers Accessibility Services.  Accessibility Services can support students with a permanent or temporary disability (such as ADHD, ASD, learning disabilities, and/or mental illness) navigate their disability and related barriers, provide appropriate accommodations, facilitate peer support and interactions, and provide various academic and social opportunities.

5. Enjoy yourself!

Have fun! This time will fly by so fast and be over before you know it. Take in the whole experience. Get involved with some clubs on campus, attend social events, and get involved with the school community. This is the time to learn new things both in and out of the classroom.

Getting the Support You Need to Make it Through School

Getting the Support You Need to Make it Through School

Jaylin is the Clinical Director at Shift Collab, and is a big part of the Real Campus team

The truth is simple. Post-secondary life can be wonderful but it can also be challenging. And you can’t do it alone.

Whether you’ve moved out on your own, you’re living in residence, or commuting from home, adjusting to university or college can be difficult. You’re also expected to balance school work, a personal life, possibly a job or volunteering. Throw in a club or sports team and it’s amazing you have time to brush your teeth. (You are still brushing your teeth, right?).

Often we’re told to take care of ourselves, but it’s equally important to remember that we can’t do it all on our own. Humans by nature are a social species and as such we require the support of others.

To help you navigate all of the ups and downs, here is a helpful guide on social supports. To begin, we’ll review the 5 types of support that are essential to make it through college or university.

From there, we’ll review who in your life offers each type of support, how to best determine what type of support you need, and finally how to ask for more support when needed.

And for added fun, we’ve thrown in a quiz you and your friends can take to figure out the type of support you most often offer others.

All of which can be covered in less than your one hour lecture on organic chemistry. Let’s get started!

The Big Five Kinds of Poeple

There are five major types of social support needed in university or college; emotional, motivational, practical, problem solving, and recreational. Depending on what’s going on in your life you may need more of one than another but all are going to be needed at some point or another.

Person 1: Your Emotional Support

Who they are: This is the person who’s able to listen to how you are feeling without immediately trying to change or stop you from feeling that way. They’re good listeners and you know you can talk openly without being silenced, rushed, made to feel guilty, or that your feelings don’t matter.

Traits: Understanding, accepting, non-judgemental, and patient.

Things you won’t hear: “Ugh, don’t be angry/sad/etc” “Just cheer up” “Get over it”

Things you want to hear: “That sucks” “I’m really sorry that happened to you” “You didn’t deserve that” “I’m not sure what to say right now, I’m just really glad you told me”

Why you need this person: Whenever you are experiencing intense emotions it is helpful to have them validated by someone else. This helps you to feel connected and understood.

Useful tip: most of the time we don’t want someone to solve our problems but rather just offer understanding.

Person 2: Your Motivational Support

Who they are: This is the person who’s able to motivate you whenever you’re feeling discouraged or uninspired. They can remind you of the reasons behind your goals when you’re feeling down. This person truly believes in you and your abilities to accomplish what you’re working towards.

Traits: Encouraging, inspiring, positive, optimistic

Things you won’t hear: “You can’t do that” “Oh come on, be realistic” “What did you expect?” “You always quit on things” “Just give up, it’s not worth it”

Things you want to hear: “That’s awesome, you’re going to do great!” “That’s exciting, please let me know how I can help” “I know you can do it” “Just keep trying, you’ll figure it out”

Why you need this person: Internal motivation isn’t constant, it comes and goes. As a result, we all have those times when we feel discouraged and want to give up. Having someone that believes in us and can remind us of our motivation can help us to accomplish great things.

Useful tip: Often the way in which the inspiring messages are communicated is just as important as what is said. Think about what truly motivates you as an individual. Do you prefer the boot camp drill sergeant or the positive cheerleader? Not all people respond to the same style of motivational support, it’s important to figure out what works for you.

Person 3: Your Practical Support

Who they are: This is the person who can help in those practical everyday ways. This person can help you unpack from your dorm room, has the spare charger in class when your laptop is dying, or brings over soup when you’re sick in the middle of a snow storm.

Traits: Reliable, Skillful, Dependable, Resourceful

Things you won’t hear: “Oh man I totally forgot” “Sorry I have to bail last minute” “You’re on your own”

Things you want to hear: “I can help with that” “I’ll be there”  “You can count on me” “I’m ready, what do you need?”

Why you need this person: Even the most independent of people need help from others at times. Having someone you can count on to be there makes certain experiences go a lot easier.

Useful tip: There can be many different types of practical support often linked to resources and skills. E.g. Someone who’s able to take notes for you in your econ class may not be able to drive you to the airport for reading week.

Person 4: Your Problem Solving Support

Who they are: This is the person who can help when you’re stuck and not sure what to do. They offer useful advice and feedback on how to make improvements in your life. They often help you to discover solutions you may otherwise not have been able to think of on your own. Often coming from their own experience, they take the time to understand what’s going on and offer ideas that are useful to your specific situation.

Traits: Creative, Knowledgeable, Experienced, Wise

Things you won’t hear: “Oh wow, I have no clue what you can do” “How would I know? Looks like you’re stuck”

Things you want to hear: “I went through something similar, here’s what worked for me” “I wonder if you could try doing this…”

Why you need this person: When experiencing a stressful situation, our own ability to be creative and resourceful can decrease. What’s more, when we’re in university of college we often face situations we’ve never experienced before, and therefore may not automatically know how to fix them.

Useful tip: The most useful advice is offered after the person has a full understanding of your situation, which includes hearing what you’ve already tried or considered and why previous attempts haven’t worked out. Only then, will they be able to offer suggestions that you haven’t tried yet, leading to a less frustrating experience for you both.

Person 5: Recreational Support

Who they are: This is someone you’re able to have fun with. You have shared interests and enjoy each other’s company.

Traits: Fun, Entertaining, Enjoyable, Relaxing

Things you won’t hear: “No that’s boring, let’s not do that”, “I just really don’t like any of the things you want to do”

Things you want to hear: “Hey let’s go out this weekend!” “Want me to come over? We can hang out and watch a movie”

Why you need this person: Post secondary can be a stressful time, it’s important to take time to relax and have fun with others. Finding the people who have shared interests will allow you to make the most of your time at school and enjoy yourself.

Useful tip: There are many opportunities to meet new people at college or university for recreational support. Think of an activity you enjoy doing and find out if there is a club, team, or group on campus where you can meet others who also enjoy that activity. If there isn’t a group yet, consider creating one yourself!

Helpful Tips to Remember

  • Often people have the desire to be helpful but not always the ability. In order to qualify as a support, one must be both willing and able to offer that support. Recognizing and accepting this fact can prevent a lot of frustration and disappointment.
  • Getting the wrong type of support can feel rejecting and upsetting. For example your brother may be terrible at offering emotional support but don’t discount the practical support he can provide. Making a point to go to him when you need help moving out of your dorm room will therefore be far more useful than expecting him to have something helpful to say after going through a major breakup.  
  • In addition to close friends and family, don’t forget about the support from paid professionals. A therapist, a professor, your residence advisor, or even an uber driver can all offer valuable support.
  • People can learn new skills all the time. Before you assume that someone can’t offer a particular type of support just because they haven’t in the past, take the time to talk to them about it. It’s possible that they’ve been trying to be supportive but don’t yet know the right way to support you as an individual. For example, some people find it helpful to be reminded of the silver lining in a bad situation while others find it discounts their experience. Learn specifically what you need in each type of support and try to teach others how they can help you best.