Flourish at OC: Ways to take care of our mental health this semester and beyond
As a new semester begins amid ongoing change, OC Counselling Services is sharing with students, instructors and employees ways we can look after ourselves and each other mentally and emotionally.
Sarah Lefebure, an OC counsellor at the Penticton campus, says there’s no denying that the last two years have been difficult on students, on top of the challenges that they often face when starting their post-secondary studies.
So in 2020, the Flourish Wellness Project adapted its focus to emphasize compassion, time management and pandemic resiliency. The wellness initiative became accessible to the wider OC community in other regions while online.
From those teachings and learnings, Lefebure is sharing the following ways we can take care of our mental health as the new semester begins.
Set non-negotiable wellness activities in your days
Lefebure says it’s important to have a few non-negotiable activities that you incorporate in your every day.
“I encourage people to identify five things that they need to do that foster their wellness,” she said. “It can be going for a walk, time to practice gratitude or meditate, time to connect with someone you feel safe with and supports you.”
She adds that other non-negotiable activities could be taking time for a short walk, hydrating, taking time to eat well, journaling, or anything that supports your wellness.
Acknowledge your situation, process your feelings
Lefebure says she encourages people to acknowledge what they’re going through and to take the time to feel the emotions associated with it.
She adds that being kind and gentle with oneself is important: remind yourself it’s normal to have feelings of frustration, anger and even fatigue, especially during these pandemic times.
“People thought in the beginning (the pandemic) was a sprint. We didn’t anticipate we’d be running a marathon,” she says. “So being kind and gentle with yourself about the fact that it’s normal if you’re having feelings of disappointment or frustration, that will help.”
“Check in with yourself and ask yourself what you need,” she says. “When we put our feelings into words, we gain more clarity and they become more manageable.”
Take care of basic needs
With school, work and life to balance, students often forget to take care of their basic needs.
“It’s a bit like going on a road trip without taking care of your vehicle,” Lefebure says. “If you don’t take care of your basic needs as a student, you’re not going to get far in your studies. Reflect on how much sleep you need at night, think about healthy nutrition, and think about the kind of rest you need.”
“We cannot be productive for all of our waking hours and resting will help to replenish us and help us move forward.”
Don’t forget to move your body.
“During this time when gyms are closed, people might have to get creative about what movement looks like to them,” Lefebure says. “Maybe take five minutes to do some aerobic exercises. That’s been proven to make improvements in our mood.”
She says accessible kinds of movement could include walking around the block in your neighbourhood, walking up and down the stairs in your house, putting on your favourite song and dancing to it, or maybe a gentle yoga flow.
Seek out little moments of joy
Lefebure explains that the way to foster joy is to celebrate the positive things we encounter, both big and small, and focusing on them to help off-set negative aspects of the day.
“Despite all the challenges in the world, positive psychology tells us that when we reflect on even just a little victory or something that’s been pleasant or enjoyable, that can have a really big boost on our mood,” she says.
She adds that more than one thing can be true at a time, which means you can acknowledge how heavy and tiring this time can be, but that it can also still contain moments of joy.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as noticing how pretty the snow looks on bushes in your neighbourhood. Maybe it’s taking some time to make some art or listening to a song you love,” she says.
OC encourages our community to reach out if you need support:
Tags: Mental Health, Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Revelstoke Centre
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