Life can throw a lot of different things at you: From breaking up, to homesickness, to experiencing unexpected failures. Read these articles for tips and tricks for how to deal with life's challenges.
Break-ups are an inevitable part of life. Each person reacts and feels different emotions so there is no step-by-step algorithm for moving on. It is normal to feel emotionally overwhelmed and a lack of energy or focus directly after a break-up. Eventually, you will feel back to normal again but if your feelings continue to affect your academics, social life and other aspects of your life, visit Counselling Services for help.
A break up is typically followed by an abundance of powerful emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion and resentment. Suppressing these feelings is not a healthy coping mechanism and will only make the healing process longer. Although it may be difficult, going through this experience means that the negative feelings will decrease over time. Reflect on what you can learn from the relationship as each experience allows us to become stronger in the future. Learning from your past relationships promotes growth and can help with the grieving process.
Although you may want to be alone at times during this process, try to accept support from friends and family. Being in the presence of others can help alleviate stress and re-establish your sense of identity. Fill your free time with activities and people that make you happy!
There are mixed opinions about whether people can be friends with their ex or if they should remove them from their life completely. Generally, some time away without seeing or talking to each other is important for healing. This time allows you to become emotionally stronger as you learn that you can be independent.
Tips That Can Help You Heal
- Spend time with your friends and family
- Maintain a healthy routine
- Avoid checking your ex's social media
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet
- Allow yourself to feel emotions
- Seek professional help if needed
When it comes to your health and overall well-being, the same rules still apply: eat and sleep well and stay active. Be gentle with yourself and remember all the positive influences you have in your life. Although no relationship is perfect, a healthy relationship should bring you more happiness than stress in your life. Sources: UF Student Health Care Centre
We all experience times in our lives where we face challenges and difficulties, especially as a student. We are often told to ‘Be strong,’ or ‘Be more resilient’ when going through these times.
What Does Resilience Mean?
Resilience is, in essence, the ability to recover, bounce back and adjust easily to misfortune, change or compressive stress. Resilience can also be one of many psychological tools we use to get us back to feeling normal again.
Why is Resilience Important?
Resiliency skills are important for many reasons; it can help us maintain balance during stressful or difficult times in our lives, it can enable us to develop protective and recovery mechanisms, it can improve learning, increase physical health, etc. Building your resiliency skills can help you face life’s ups and downs more evenly, enabling you to be able to handle change and adversity when they come along.
Skills and Attitudes That Can Increase Resilience
- Flexibility. It is one of the main factors in emotional adjustment requiring you to be flexible in thinking and actions such as trying something new.
- Being self-confident. Having a positive self-image is important to face and manage fear and uncomfortable situations.
- Self-care skills and strategies. Knowing what self-care skills and strategies work for you is a crucial benefit for developing resiliency.
- Able to manage strong feelings. This involves being able to take action without reacting from our emotion and impulsivity. For example, when you’re angry or hurt, making sure you think before acting.
- Having a strong connection with others. Relationships can be a vital role in providing support to help develop resiliency.
Michael Wesch’s What Baby George Taught Me About Learning
Five Tips to Get You Started
So what can you do to make yourself more resilient? These five tips can get you started:
- Build your self-esteem and use coping thoughts.
Remember your strengths and accomplishments when you are feeling down. You can pick big things, like getting into UW or a sports victory, or small, like holding the door open for someone. Think about a time that you went out of your way to help someone. Use coping thoughts to remind yourself that an upsetting situation is temporary. If you are struggling to get along with a roommate, remind yourself that you’ll be moving out in four months. If you don’t enjoy the subject matter of a course, remind yourself that the class is only 12 weeks long and then you’ll have a new set of courses you might enjoy more. For more information about coping thoughts, watch our Managing Emotions seminar.
- Give yourself a break.
Take time to engage in activities that promote self-care. Set up a weekly call with a friend, family member, or mentor back home and keep them up to date on your accomplishments big and small. They can help remind you of good times you’ve had and strategies that have worked for you in the past. Find an activity you enjoy that engages your brain creatively that isn’t studying like doing a puzzle, drawing, planting a garden, learning to knit, playing a musical instrument, or singing. For more ideas about positive self-care activities, see our Big list of self-care and distraction activities (PDF).
- Practice positive self-talk.
Take a good look at your thoughts and what you tell yourself day-to-day without even realizing it. Sometimes we suffer from patterns of thinking called cognitive distortions. For example, you might often turn to overgeneralization, where you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Imagine you ask someone on a date and they decline. If you were overgeneralizing you might think “I’m never going to get a date. No one will ever want me.” When in reality, this current rejection only applies to one possible date in a whole lifetime of dating possibilities. To practice positive self-talk in this instance, you might instead tell yourself, “This time it didn't work out, but that doesn't mean I won’t go out with someone else. I have lots of great qualities and I just need to find the right person.” For more information about cognitive distortions, watch our Challenging Thinking seminar.
- Set goals and engage in problem-solving.
Help yourself during difficult times by completing a six-step plan: First, identify the problem you are facing and state the problem as clearly and objectively as you can. Then, take a moment to understand the problem – have you faced it before and what did you do then? What would be different if the problem were solved? Next, brainstorm possible solutions, trying to generate at least five solutions without any judgement about what would work best. Then, compare your options, listing pros and cons of each and eliminating the least desirable or actionable options.
Then you’ll be ready to choose a solution. Rank your possible plans in order of preference and make a plan to carry out what you’ve chosen. The last step is to take action on the plans you’ve made. Set effective and achievable goals for how to do what you intend to do and do them! For more information about values, problem-solving and goal setting, watch our Strengthening Motivation seminar.
- Develop a growth mindset.
The idea of fixed versus growth mindsets was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck. People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that traits and qualities are fixed (ie. I am either smart or I am not smart), hide their struggles, try to avoid discomfort and mistakes, and are overly focused on results. People with a growth mindset tend to believe that knowledge and abilities grow with effort, that mistakes and failures are opportunities for learning. They look at mistakes and figure out how to correct them for the future, and seek out feedback as an opportunity to improve.
To move to a growth mindset, try listening to your inner voice: is it negative? Does it believe that things will never get better? Next, recognize that you have a choice to change those patterns of thinking, allow yourself to understand that you can change and grow through experiences. Then, talk back to your fixed mindset voice with a growth mindset voice (for example, “With effort, I can do something I find difficult and it will get easier”). And lastly, use your growth mindset to take action towards your goals. For more information about fixed and growth mindsets, take a look at our Cultivating Resiliency seminar.
Feeling homesick is a common experience among university students. After the anticipation and excitement of moving out and beginning a new chapter in life, students are often faced with an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and are surprised they feel this way.
There are many factors that contribute to loneliness. These include:
- Leaving your hometown or homeland
- Missing family, friends and even pets
- Ending a relationship
- Dealing with an illness
- Feeling lonely for no apparent reason
Loneliness Does Not Necessarily Mean Being Alone
It often means you have a desire to feel needed and wanted - to be connected. It is a feeling that something may be missing from your life. There may be a realization of the importance of family and friends who are not there to share your feelings and thoughts with everyday.
The good news is that loneliness is not a permanent feeling. It may be a signal that you need to connect with others. Think about what it is that makes you feel lonely and find solutions to overcome it. Talk it out with others. For example, if you are missing your family, call home and talk to them. If you miss your dog Fluffy, then put a picture out and tell your friends how great it is to experience the unconditional love from your pet.
What To Do If You Feel Lonely?
- Remember: Others around you are feeling the same way.
- Talk to your residence don - They are ready to listen.
- Get to know yourself. Think of it as an opportunity to develop independence.
- Seek out situations that enable you to get involved with other students and participate in activities that interest you. Try something new! Check out what's available at the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) or WUSA clubs on campus or even look for volunteer opportunities.
- Try to initiate conversation with other students. Make eye contact, smile and say hello to welcome communication.
- Keep in touch with family and friends.
f you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by loneliness, it may be helpful to talk to a health professional at Health Services or Counselling Services. Call to book an appointment at 519-888-4096.
Starting a new chapter at university is an exciting time. There are lots of new things to learn academically, new things to try, and new people to meet. You also might be new to managing your health. There are many things to consider to keep yourself healthy. Keep reading for our top 10 ways to stay healthy while at university:
- Get some sleep – Make sure that among all the excitement you still take time to get your daily zzz’s. Studies show that 7 to 9 hours a day is important to keep your immune system functioning optimally, and also improves your ability to focus on your studies.
- Stay physically active – Physical activity has been shown to increase energy, improve concentration, reduce stress, and help you maintain a healthy body weight.
- Keep well hydrated – Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily to keep your brain and body working well.
- Wash your hands often – Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness.
- Connect with friends and family – Studying is important, but making and maintaining your social connections is also important. Make sure you set aside time to connect with friends and family for non-academic activities, or just to let them know how you are doing.
- Eat healthy – Balance, variety, and moderation are key things to remember when it comes to eating healthy. Choose foods from all the food groups, including lots of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meats and meat alternatives, and low-fat dairy or milk alternatives.
- Keep your vaccinations up-to-date – Protect yourself against communicable diseases like Meningitis, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Influenza, and HPV by making sure your immunizations are current.
- Practice safer sex – Use condoms to protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unplanned pregnancy.
- Drink responsibly – If you choose to drink have a plan. Pace yourself and always have a safe way to get home.
- Schedule time for self-care activities – Find whatever makes you happy and relaxed and make sure you set some time aside in your week for that activity. Whether it is drawing, practicing a musical instrument, running, knitting, or taking a walk in nature, make time for whatever brings you a little bit of joy and happiness in the week.
Tips for Building a Sense of Belonging Wherever You Are
- Say yes to new opportunities. If you take a risk and try something new, you might meet new people or find a new place you belong.
- Be open and approachable. Try to be empathetic, trustworthy, and compassionate and people will be more drawn to you.
- Set achievable expectations. Go easy on yourself and practice self-kindness. Despite what you see on social media, most people have a small group of close friends. Don’t feel like you need to achieve hundreds of close friendships.
- Monitor your thoughts. Keep track of your thoughts and reframe negative thoughts.
- Find the common ground. Look for similarities between yourself and people you meet not differences. Finding commonalities can help you empathize with other people and help people bond with you.
Resolving Roommate Conflict
Sometimes, you may have a bad day. Maybe you woke up late, or you didn’t do as well as you would have liked on an assignment. When we don’t feel our best, we may not act our best. Next thing you know, you’re lashing out at a roommate over a small thing. Things can happen, and you may say things you don’t mean. But now things are awkward between you two. What can you do?
- Let your roommate know that you’re open to having a conversation with them. They may be feeling similarly to you, and knowing that the door is always open makes difficult conversations easier.
- Plan ahead. You can also reach out them and let them know that you want to talk. No one wants to be surprised by a serious talk. Plan a time and a place where you are both comfortable with talking.
- Use “I” statements. It’s important to focus on your feelings and your behaviours, rather than assuming others’ feelings.
- Work towards a compromise. Taking the first steps is hard, however, when we are able to brainstorm the needs and wants for both roommates, it contributes to an enjoyable living experience.
These steps may help you get a conversation going, and we know that these conversations can be difficult. Being receptive to others’ experiences and perspectives can help you become a more empathetic person. However, these can be great opportunities to learn more about each other and strengthen your relationship. If you live on campus, connect with a don, talk it over with them to see what else you can do to foster a good roommate living environment.
Going Home for the First Time
Once exams are over you might be thinking about your trip home for the winter holidays. This might be your first extended amount of time back with your family and in your old family home. For many, this is both an exciting, but also confusing, time. We're here to help you navigate it. Here are some things to consider before going home:
Understand that things have changed
You’ve spent the last 4 months developing yourself as an independent adult. You might have found new interests, worldviews or habits while you’ve been away from home that your parents aren’t expecting. You might have new food tastes that your parents might not stock the fridge for, or you might stay up much later than your parents are accustomed to.
You might find your parents have changed their habits and interests too since you’ve left. Without you at home, your mom might have suddenly taken up quilting and devoted an entire room of the house to her new hobby in order to fill her newfound time. They might have redecorated a room or changed something in the house that throws you off because you expect it to be the way that it was.
The thing to remember is that both you and your parents might not realize that the other has changed and you haven't been able to watch each other change, so what seems like a small change to you, might seem like a monumental change to them and vice versa. You might have conflict around ideas like curfews for being home, drinking, or expectations about participating in holiday activities.
Communication is key
It is important to set expectations with your parents about how you want to spend your time while you are at home. Try to strike a balance between honouring family traditions, wanting to reconnect with friends at home, and trying to relax after a long exam season. It’s okay to not want to do everything your parents want you to, but try to compromise by participating in some activities your parents want and taking some time to yourself.
Reconnecting with old friends
The holidays are a time when you might want to connect with old friends from high school who have gone to different schools or taken different paths in life. While these connections can be great ways to foster long-distance friendships, it is important to realize that these friendships might be different now too. With some friends, you’ll get together and it will feel like you haven’t spent any time apart at all.
With other friends, you might find your interests have diverged and that your commonalities may have been limited to your shared high school experiences. While sometimes this can be upsetting, it is a normal part of life. As we move through life the people we are close to naturally change and adapt to the new realities of their lives. Sometimes that means we lose our connection with them, but that doesn’t mean your friendship is a failure. If you and a friend don’t click anymore, celebrate the friendship for what it was and recognize that you’ve grown as a person and are now seeking out new and different connections.
Take some time for you
Make sure that you set some time aside to relax and practice some healthy self-care strategies that work for you. Meditation, exercise, sleep, and self-soothing activities like reading for pleasure, listening to your favourite music, taking a bath, or creative pursuits like drawing, knitting, or playing a musical instrument are just a few ideas. For more self-care activities, see our Big List of Self-Care activities (PDF).
If you find you are having trouble managing your health or are struggling with your mental health, consider contacting a Campus Wellness office. Counselling Services and Health Services (519-888-4096) are here to help you with your concerns.