Need a break or just looking for a few tips to help improve your wellbeing? Then you have come to the right place. We'll add wellness tips to this page on a regular basis! Be sure to check back for updates.
Does your energy start to dip in the afternoon? Maybe you start to lose focus after staying attentive for too long?
Don’t actually go to sleep. Just lie down in a comfortable area, close your eyes, and think about nothing in particular for 15 to 20 minutes. While some light exercise can help you recharge your mental energy, the opposite works too. Power naps prevent burnout, thus increasing productivity in the long run. Think about that crisp awareness you get sometimes in the mornings. That’s the goal of napping, to recharge your mental energy to a state where you can think effectively and efficiently. Naps have also been proven to have health benefits, so it’s a win-win situation!
Here’s an excellent resource on how to power nap!
Tired, cranky, or unable to concentrate? These are just few things that happen when people are hungry. Snacking while studying is a great tool to increase your productivity. However, if the foods you eat are overly processed, it could make you even more tired. Choosing the right food can increase your brain’s ability to focus. So what are the “right foods”? Foods that are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats provide an awesome combination to help you along during those long hours studying or just functioning in general. Some simple examples are nuts (almond, pistachios, cashews), dried fruit, and frozen grapes. If you have access to a kitchen, the following super quick and easy recipes are fantastic to try out. These help to fuel your body and clear your mind from that intense work you just did.
Do you have a favourite song?
A favourite vocalist?
A favourite band?
Do you like music?
Then sing along!
One of my favourite things to do after a long, burnt-out session of work, is to open up my playlist and sing along to my favourite artists. It’s not about singing well. It’s about having fun!
Working on assignments all day is stressful, and we need something to relieve that stress. Like many forms of art, singing is a great way to express emotion and to vent that built-up stress. After a quick karaoke session, I find myself feeling much more energized and inclined to return to studying or whatever I was doing before. Taking fun breaks like this is also an excellent way to make your brain associate work with fun, which significantly boosts your productivity!
It also gives you a chance to rest your eyes, since many of us are constantly staring at a screen nowadays. Plus, I like to get those vocal cords moving, especially since I don’t get to talk to people that often. What if I forget how to speak? Just kidding lol.
(P.S. I like Japanese rock music!)
Wash the dishes.
Vacuum the floor.
Do the laundry.
None of these tasks sound exciting, or particularly inviting. But if I think about it, imagine life without it, I start to see how it can be enticing.
In my experience, physically active breaks are the best for recharging your mental energy. The main reason I feel tired isn’t due to any physical, muscle-related fatigue. It’s because I’ve been thinking too much. Schoolwork, job search, hobbies, they all require thinking, and sometimes, just like my arms and my legs, my brain gets tired.
Take vacuuming the floor as an example. It’s a monotonous chore, but that’s exactly what I need. Turn off your brain, and let your body do the work. After vacuuming for around 10 minutes, I am constantly surprised at how refreshed I feel upon returning to my work. It's two birds with one stone. I recharge my mental capacity, finish my work faster, and the floor is spotless as a result!
Household chores are probably the most efficient things I do.
Jumping a Rope
Sitting down for long periods of time can make you tired and stiff. It certainly has this effect on me. Personally, to get up and moving, I need something fun and easy to do even on days where I feel more tired than usual. These breaks are the perfect time to do some Jump Rope! You only need one thing to do this; a jump rope of course! You can usually buy one at a local department store for about $10. Do not use a piece of rope or twine you have lying around as you can trip and injure yourself.
The great part is that you can do this activity almost anywhere, you just need a bit of space! A couple feet above your head and two arm lengths around you is plenty. Finding a spot outside is a great way to get some bonus sunlight and fresh air. This can be a sidewalk, a parking lot, or a random patch of grass; anywhere you can find will work!
This activity will help you move those stiff joints and refresh your mind. You can do it as intensely or calmly as you feel like doing, there is no right or wrong. The idea is to have fun while doing some exercise. As you get better, you can create challenges for yourself such as how many times you can swing the rope under you in one jump or jumping on one leg. There are a lot of fun tricks you can learn, just check out this website for a handful of tutorials (blog).
Listed below is a good video to get started with jumping rope as an exercise, it even has a 5-minute follow-along at the end. Your session DEFINITELY does not have to be this intense.
Learning an Instrument
Personally, when I take a break between study periods, I need to be doing something stimulating. If I sit back and watch videos or browse memes, I can feel myself getting sucked in. Before you know it, a whole day’s gone by and you are left wondering where it went. Playing music is a great way to take your mind of your coursework without shutting the factory down completely! It requires a great deal of focus, muscle memory, and creative expression while also having absolutely nothing to do with engineering. Note that for this segment I’ll be explaining things in the context of learning guitar, but these tips can be applied to any instrument, from drums to the oboe!
Whether you’re a beginner or looking to maintain your skills, learning an instrument can seem pretty intimidating. Especially if you’ve never played an instrument before, an instrument may seem like something you need to get professional lessons to learn. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, Prince, and John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) are just a few musicians who taught themselves to play all on their own! All you need to do is believe in yourself and never give up!
Now, down to business. If you’re learning an instrument for the first time, using resources such as YouTube tutorials and Ultimate-Guitar tabs (for sheet music) are recommended. There are an uncountable number of training videos and music resources, so its best to look around and find the ones you like best. While training and practicing, all you need to do is follow these simple rules:
Don’t be discouraged! You’re not going to be great at first, and that’s okay!
Walk before you run. If you’re fumbling and missing notes trying to play a song at full-speed, don’t be afraid to slow it down! Just make sure that you’re playing the song on-beat, and you’ll be up to speed in no time.
Focus on the things you’re struggling with. If a section of a song or a specific transition is giving you trouble, focus in on that part and practice it slowly until your hand is doing it automatically!
Really, focus on what you’re struggling with. Don’t just muscle through difficult sections and hope it works itself out. The more you train the wrong notes, the harder it will be to fix!
If you would really prefer to have some instruction to help you learn your instrument, feel free to check out the resources listed below:
Learning a Talent
Sometimes, when I get asked what my unique talent is, I struggle to answer. I think that growing up, we were expected to have an amazing marketable talent that would indicate that we've spent thousands of hours working away at something. Well, I liked to play games, listen to music, and hang out with friends. I had fun playing basketball, playing the clarinet, but honestly, there was no immediate unique talent I could show.
I don’t know why, but I thought it would be cool to learn the alphabets backwards. It seemed daunting, to be honest, and I didn’t know how long it would take or how effective it would be. To my surprise, I learned it in an evening, and through practicing, I haven’t forgotten it yet!
Here is how you can learn the alphabets backwards! I haven’t been able to find the website where I learned it originally, so these steps are the best that I can remember, so I made this image:
Sometimes when I get asked what my unique talent is, I say I know the alphabets backwards. People look at me with that same sense of awe I used to look at people with when they told me they were a lifeguard or could sing. I realized later that it didn’t really matter what my talent was, and that presenting myself in a confident way was way more important!
Honestly, through learning the alphabets backwards, I learned more to accept myself for who I was and to present things with confidence rather than the talent itself. I think that learning a useless but interesting talent like this was once of the things that helped me grow as a person, and I hope that this either works for you, inspires you to learn your own small talent, or both!
Brain Breaks! The Cross-Lateral Movement Challenge
Does the sentence ‘You need to stand up and stretch’ sound familiar? Now, have you ever heard of stretching your brain? Whether yes or no, this brain break challenge is for you! Cross-lateral movement ‘unsticks’ both hemispheres of the brain. It energizes the brain and helps improve your motor skills. When both sides of hemispheres are being used, it’s easier for you to retain the information. Here is an example of a Cross-Lateral exercise:
Play your favorite upbeat music.
On one hand, hold up your index finger.
On your other hand, hold up your thumb.
Then, switch as fast as you can, so the hand that had the finger up now has the thumb up, and the hand that had the thumb up, now has the index finger up.
Repeat several times,
Try it standing up.
Not enough? Check out Brain Gym (PDF)
Want more challenges? Check out these awesome videos:
Meditative Doodling (5 Part Series)
Today we are talking about mindfulness-based activities that are known to promote relaxation and reduce stress. If you recall from previous wellness tips, the body cannot be in stress response (fight-flight-freeze) and relaxation response (rest, digest and repair) at the same time. In times of stress, it is really important to find hobbies and activities that help induce the relaxation response. Today we are exploring the power of colouring and meditative doodling. Because there are many aspects of doodling, we created a series of short videos that each address a different aspect of doodling. If you watch them all, you will have a beginner doodle class!
Check out our video series on Meditative Doodling:
Additional resources on Meditative Doodling:
- Are Adult Coloring Books Actually Helpful? – Psychology Today
- 7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great for Your Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health – Huffington Post
- Can Coloring Improve Your Mental Health? – Right as Rain (University of Washington Medicine)
- Just Color – Free colouring pages
- Art is Fun! – Free colouring pages
- The Thinking Benefits of Doodling – Harvard Medical
- Calm Down and get your Zen Tangle on! – Psychology Today
- Zen Tangle: Art Therapy – YouTube
- ABC of Zen Tangle – YouTube
- 15 Zen Tangle Patterns –YouTube
- Art of Where – business that will print your art on clothing, bedding, hats, and more
Emotional Intelligence Part II
Given the popularity of Emotional Intelligence in today's world, we're diving deeper with our next video on EQ Part 2! We'll explore more about our emotions and the RULER method – based on an approach created by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
Check out our video on Emotional Intelligence Part II:
Additional resources on Emotional Intelligence and the RULER method:
As humans, we are literally hard-wired to find the negative in any situation. This is because (back in 'the day') things that were negative were more likely to harm us than things that are perceived as positive. The brain’s natural negativity bias can lead to many mental health related challenges. Being able to find the positive, or an opportunity in a negative situation, is actually a LEARNED behavior. Learned optimism, as well as the emotion of gratitude, have been shown to be insolating in times of challenge.
Check out our video on Negativity Bias:
Additional resources on negativity bias and learned optimism:
- Inner Mammal Institute – Loretta Breuning (lots of information on the neuroscience and evolutionary design of emotions and neurotransmitters. Some great resources on the site).
- Learned Optimism: Is Martin Sleigman’s Glass Half Full? – Martin Sleigman is a professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Director of Penn’s Positive Psychology Center.
- Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman – Video
- Overcoming the Negativity Bias – Rick Hanson, PhD. (psychologist)
- Being Resilient During the Coronavirus – Rick Hanson, PhD (psychologist)
- How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Greater Good Magizine – UC Berkley
- In Praise of Gratitude – Harvard Health
Emotional Intelligence - Mar 30, 2020 (Corona-edition)
How are you feeling today? How have you been feeling lately? What exactly is a 'feel' anyways? This wellness tip is all about self-regulation and working with our emotions. These skills actually extend to every aspect of our lives (even without COVID-19). They are especially important skills to foster during these uncertain times.
Check out our video on Emotional Intelligence:
Additional resources on emotions and emotional intelligence:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Mar 25, 2020 (Corona-edition)
Today we discuss another heavily supported stress reduction technique known as progressive muscle relaxation. We'll summarize some basics regarding the stress response and show you some helpful practices to help reach a state of relaxation (or, at the very least, a less stressed state!).
Check out our video on Progressive Muscle Relaxation:Additional resources on progressive muscle relaxation and stress reduction:
Taking the Time to Breathe - Mar 23, 2020 (Corona-edition)
Join Renate as she teaches us a commonly used method to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety! Throughout the emotional roller coaster that is this pandemic, it's very important to ensure that we're maintaining a balance and keeping a handle on our stress response (as much as reasonably possible.
Check out our video on Taking the Time to Breathe:Additional resources regarding breathing techniques and stress reduction:
Emotional Transference - Mar 19, 2020 (Corona-edition)
Today’s wellness tip is on emotional transference, what it is and how it can both affect and effect us. We also cover a few strategies to help prevent or reduce the amount of emotional transference—which is very important as we navigate the COVID-19 era.
Check out our video on Emotional Transference:
Additional resources to support your mental health and wellness during COVID-19:
- Empower-Me Student Care has 24/7 support via e-counselling
- How to Reduce Stress Like a Navy Seal – Box Breathing
- Mindshift App – for reducing anxiety and stress
- Coronavirus Sanity Guide (FREE) – from Ten Percent Happier
- 7 science-based strategies to cope with coronavirus anxiety (The Conversation)
- A Pause for your Wellness Kristin Kiely – curated list of resources such a virtual tours of national parks
- Psycom.net has collected their top 25 meditation resources.
- Self-compassion meditations and exercises
Dealing with the Unknown - Mar 18, 2020 (Corona-edition)
Our brain often perceives the unknown as a threat. When that happens, our survival mechanism (fight or flight) becomes triggered and begins to question whether we have the skills, knowledge, resources and capacity to address the unknown situation.
Check-out our short video on one approach to dealing with the unknown:Below are some additional resources:
- Empower-Me Student care has 24/7 support via e-counselling
- Mindshift - great app for coping with anxiety -
- Good2Talk (confidential help line for post-secondary students) 1-866-925-5454
- Here24/7 (Waterloo Regions Mental Health and Crisis Services Team) 1-844-437-3247
- Counselling has several online resources. The "Calming the Panic" workshop might be of particular interest
- Bounceback Ontario has free workshops for depression and anxiety
- Tips on how to help a friend
- More Feet on the Ground
- The Big List of Self-Care and Distraction Activities
There are several articles on how to navigate COVID-19 that might be helpful:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted Manage Anxiety & Stress related to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Five Mental Health Tips Amid COVID-19 Concerns from the Canadian Mental Health Association
- How to prevent loneliness in a time of social distancing by Scientific American
Show me the light! (Seasonal impacts on wellbeing)
There's no doubt that the continuously dull days of winter can reak havoc with our emotions and sense of well-being. Lack of sunlight can put the most optomistic person in a crummy mood. The change in day light compounded by the stress of a heavy work load (and don't forget personal obligations!) is enough for anyone to feel overwhelmed.
Changes in our circadian rhythm brought on by the reduction in daylight can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in some individuals. Symptoms of SAD are similar to that of depression (fatique, low mood, lack of motivation), except that their onset is dependent on the reduction in daylight experienced during the fall and winter months. The good news is that SAD can be treat
The science of self-compassion
Research in the area of self-compassion has shown that compassion plays an important role in healing, recovery process, dealing with change and managing difficult circumstances. Self-compassion is when “treat ourselves with the same loving kindness we would give to a good friend”.
Kristin Neff pioneered the work in self-compassion and has information and self-compassion guided visualization on her website. You might also enjoy this recent article, "Research Reveals a Surprising Solution for Anxiety How compassion can help you relieve stress", on self-compassion.