By contributor Zoe Lauckner
The holidays have ended and it’s back to school for the spring semester. For some, this season is relaxing and uplifting, but for others, Christmas is a time of financial hardship and straining family dynamic—or is it just me? Regardless of the quality of your holiday season, the beginning of term is a good time for self-care reminders. This issue’s column outlines a few ways to help kickstart your term and maintain your sanity.
You’re probably not feeling overwhelmed with homework yet, but it’s only the second week of the term. I know from experience that things can get out of hand very quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of your school work and, if possible, get things done early. Everyone has different learning styles, so learning yours and formulating a plan with goals in mind can help you strive for success. By getting things crossed off your academic to-do list early, you’re ensuring that the end of term will be easier to tackle. Being organized and thinking ahead is great self-care as you’re doing yourself a favour and creating some space for you-time. Picture this—going out for a brew in March and not thinking about an assignment you’ve been putting off for weeks. It’s possible.
Not only are we privileged to attend university and better our education, but VIU also offers a number of resources to help ensure student success. I was in my fifth year at VIU before I took advantage of these resources and I wish I had sooner. Check out learningmatters.viu.ca, a digital learning commons for VIU students with information to help with any assignments and projects, or skills you need support with, such as writing and editing, math, and research. Of course, the Writing Centre on the fourth floor of the library is another great place to get support—their friendly and qualified faculty is able to help with any subject.
Think healthy thoughts, but, more importantly, stay active. Stress affects the mind and body. Both are intimately interconnected—a cyclical relationship where your physical health influences your mental health and vice versa.
My after-Christmas narrative reads like a chain reaction: I ate too many sweets which affected my physical health, this triggers my negative self-talk and body image tendencies that also stress me out, and then I have trouble eating, staying organized, sleeping enough, etc. You get the point—it’s a downhill spiral. Making a plan to stay active can be very helpful, as setting goals that are achievable, timely, and action-oriented can provide a foundation for changing habits. If you have someone in your life that is willing to take it on with you too, the more support the better—plus, someone is there to hold you accountable to your goals. For me, it’s someone who is willing to slap the ketchup chips out of my hands and get me out for a walk with the dogs.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is a myth that suicide rates increase over the holiday season, as statistics show the rates actually decrease during this time. While this is true, the rates of depression rise dramatically over Christmas, reminding us that the holidays can evoke a number of emotions and create stress impacts mental health. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, know that you are not alone and that there is help available. There are many services within the Nanaimo area that do stellar work, and I would encourage anyone who needs some extra support to seek it.
While self-care strategies are a good way to ease back into this column and the term, next issue will get back to tackling some heavier subject matter in the world of mental health.
Stay sane, VIU. Until next time…
If you need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call the 24-hour Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.