Pause and introspect: your health and wellness

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Guest post by Alex McLaren, Peer Wellness Education
OCAD U Student Wellness Centre

These are anxious times — for everyone. With all of us facing so many unanswerable questions, there is no question that everyone is experiencing some level of anxiety right now. A natural response to anxiety is avoidance: we might opt out of activities, ignore emails, leave texts unanswered. In the short term, this can reduce anxious feelings. But in the long term, avoiding others and disconnecting can make anxiety much worse. Below are some ideas for managing anxiety by getting deeply in touch with yourself, and others.

Learn a life skill
Food is an essential part of day-to-day living. No matter your culinary expertise, cooking requires effort, focus, and critical thinking. It’s a life skill that gets better with practice. OCAD U’s student team of Peer Wellness Educators (PWEs) offer a Cooking Club that meets the first Monday of each month. Join the our next one, a stay-at-home edition, on Monday, April 6 at 1 p.m. It offers students a safe space to learn new recipes. Their objective is to teach each other to create a nutritious meal on a budget within a supportive environment that encourages health and safety. Additionally, check out a Coffee or Tea Workshop that we published online and perfect the art of coffee or nuances of tea.

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Develop or build on your mindfulness practice
Take a deep breath and bring your attention to the present moment. How do you feel? Where in your body do you notice discomfort or pleasure? When your mind begins to wander, gather your thoughts with compassion and bring your focus back to now. Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword right now in mental health. There’s a lot of writing on the subject to reinforce that it works, but the reality is that it’s a deeply personal experience that you can develop. The peers often share tips and tricks on Instagram that they use at home to ground themselves as a foundation for their practice.

Stay connected
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation. Make time for the people in your life and find new ways to socialize. Consider scheduling a regular check in by phone with family or friends at a specific day or time to give structure to your day-to-day. Your new access to Microsoft Teams means you could set up video chats with peers and guests. Consider a daily or weekly coffee/tea break with your friends. Feeling completely alone and out of touch? The PWEs continue to host the Late Night Social on Instagram live Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Develop a new habit
Change is good… but difficult. It requires dedication, a dash of failure, and discomfort. An ideal habit doesn’t take time — it gives you time. Is there something you always wanted to do? Create a SMART Goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. You could spend some time during the day doing an at-home fitness routine using online content, or try out some guided meditation. You could develop your writing habit through the PWE Journaling Club, which posts regular prompts on Instagram every Tuesday.

The Student Wellness Centre remains open and continues to offer counselling, medical services, and peer support remotely. Our student team of Peer Wellness Educators (PWEs) are dedicated to health promotion, offer wellness workshops, and continue to create programming during the campus closure.