From January 17-20, the University of Ottawa hosted it’s annual Wellness Week! It was a great opportunity to take your wellness into consideration, learn from experts in wellness and mental health and apply tips to both your school and personal life. Over the course of the week there were many webinars on a variety of topics, one of which was specific to managing stress and finding balance.
The main purpose of the webinar was to teach students in attendance 7 tips and tricks to manage their stress as well as understand the symptoms of stress, become aware of stress, and being able to recognize stress. Those tips varied in difficulty, but it was all very simple.
The webinar began with the meeting’s hosts Saverio Mirachi Jr and Theresa Willoughby, who are both counsellors at the University of Ottawa Counselling Services. They introduced participants to the symptoms and indicators of stress which are: emotional, behavioral, and thinking changes. This includes fatigue, anxiety, increased heart rate and breathing, anger, memory problems, and a decreased sex drive to name a few. Stress is caused by how we perceive a situation and if we have the capacity to face situations.
When dealing with stress, one must understand that there is a threshold for stress. Having too much stress can lead to negative outcomes, such as the symptoms mentioned above. Having a healthy amount of stress, however, helps us perform optimally, meaning staying in the window of tolerance. Everyone’s zone of tolerance is different, for example a sky diver would have a different zone of tolerance than someone who doesn’t. It’s healthy to be outside of your zone of tolerance occasionally, but not all the time. This can lead to a myriad of different mental and physical effects.
Here are the 7 tips from Saverio and Theresa to help you stay within a healthy amount of stress.
Tip 1: Balance
The key to this tip is to find balance in your life. The host of the webinar provided a wheel as a visual aid to explain this tip. They said, every part of your life has a piece of the wheel, and you decide how much of the wheel is taken up by the part of your life. The point is to learn how to keep all of the sections relatively equal. They advised that we each create a wheel of our own life and use it to visualize the amount of time we dedicate to each aspect of our life.
Tip 2: Gratitude
This tip is a simple thinking exercise. The goal is to realize what you have in life. All you have to do is think of what you are thankful for.
Tip 3: Self-compassion
The way we feel effects the way we see ourselves. Mood effects the perception we have on life; if we’re having a good day then we’re going to be more positive and open, and vice versa if we’re having a bad day. The main idea of this tip is to treat yourself the way you treat other people.
Tip 4: Take a deep breath
There are many long-term and short-term benefits to doing this often. A popular breathing exercise is the square breathing exercise. In this exercise you inhale for four counts, pause for four counts, exhale for four counts and repeat. The main point of this tip is to relax and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, a key component of relaxation.
Tip 5: Self-care
This one sounds a bit cliché but that’s probably because it’s important. It’s the idea of putting yourself first. This tip draws on the idea of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It says that your physical needs must be met before any other needs, followed by your psychological needs, emotional, spiritual, and finally work-related needs.
Tip 6: Connection
Connection is an important factor in stress relief, as we are social animals after all. Having positive social supports impacts our mental health. It might be difficult to create new social connections during a pandemic, neverless here are their tips: join a study group, volunteer, join a club, meet with a mentor, reach out, and introduce yourself.
Tip 7: “Mentalité de Croissance”
The idea that mindset matters. Mindset can be a motivator when you’re in a shitty mood, so having a growth mindset can improve your stresses. Having a fixed mindset, on the other hand, can keep you stressed and in a bad mood.
Saverio and Theresa capted the webinar with a final message about resiliency. They defined resilience as the process of adapting in the face of adversity or other significant sources of stress.
These tips and tricks are great skills to implement during trying times in your life, and for students could help around midterm and exam time.