Anxiety

Send Your Stress Away: Expressive writing supported by neuroscience

October 23, 2017 • Written by

Neuroscientists have found that people who are chronic worriers tend to use more brain energy when they make a mistake (see this study, for example). Knowing this, researchers have been trying to find a way to reduce this enlarged response to errors among anxious people. One strategy that appears to work is expressive writing.

Expressive writing is the process of writing about something personal and important to you without regard for grammar, spelling, punctuation or other formal strictures. You are writing only for yourself, focusing on how you feel about the topic or event about which you choose to write.

 

A recent study in the journal Psychophysiology found that anxious college students who practiced expressive writing for 8 minutes prior to a computer task, showed less of a brain response to errors than another group of anxious college students who engaged in regular writing before the computer task. The researchers propose that the mental drain anxiety creates was in deed reduced, freeing up mental resources to focus on the computer task. They conclude “expressive writing shows promise for alleviating the interfering impact of worries on cognition.”

This adds to the body of evidence that writing down our feelings, stresses, or worries can help us be more efficient in getting the things done that we need. Check out the work of James W. Pennebaker and colleagues for evidence that expressive writing is linked to better immune functioning, less distress for migraine sufferers, fewer physician appointments, and reduced anxiety.

During THRIVE Week, come down to our Send Your Stress Away event, where we’ll provide postcards on which you can practice expressive writing and give your brain a break from your worries.

Date: Wednesday, November 8th

Time: 8:30am-3:00pm

NDC: Library Hallway

EDC: North Atrium

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator

An Impactful Mental Illness Awareness Week at RRC

October 8, 2017 • Written by

Last week, RRC observed Mental Illness Awareness Week by learning about the realities individuals face when they experience mental illness. Since we know that many staff, students, and faculty members will experience mental health problems and illness, understanding the illness and recovery process is an important part of working toward a more supportive and inclusive campus community.

Learning About Recovery Through Art and Community

Local non-profit, Artbeat Studio, visited both NDC and EDC to spread the word about their community based, peer directed program that supports artists with lived mental illness experiences to heal through art and community. You can catch the City News coverage here: City News and Artbeat at RRC

The artists who visited our campuses are: Bradley Guiboche; Nicholas Ahrens-Townshend; and Kathleen Crosby.

Learning About Anxiety Disorders

Further, we were pleased to host talks by Sarah Petty and Kendall McLean from the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM); a non-profit, peer-led self help organization  where all staff have personally experienced and overcome the disabling effects of anxiety, and are now sharing that knowledge and hope with others.

If you missed the talks, we’re thankful that eTV Studio recorded Sarah’s presentation and has posted the link to view it here.

Learning about Schizophrenia

Courtesy of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society

On Thursday, October 5th we hosted the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society; a non-profit, charitable, community-based mental health organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected with schizophrenia and psychosis. Speaker Jane Burpee helped us better understand this disorder, which effects one per cent of the population. You can find the video recording of her talk here.

Learn More

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health is the driving force behind Mental Illness Awareness Week annually. One of MIAW’s major initiatives is the Faces of Mental Illness campaign, a national outreach campaign featuring the stories of Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Five Canadians have shared their stories so that you and I can better understand illnesses like Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You can read bios and watch video clips put together by this national campaign.

If, as you learn more about these disorders, you feel you might be experiencing one yourself, please reach out for help. Your family doctor is often a good place to start. RRC staff can also access our Employee and Family Assistance Plan. RRC students can complete an intake form in order to access confidential Counselling services. People who experience mental illness can get help, get better, and live a good life.

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator

Mental Illness Awareness Week

September 20, 2017 • Written by

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. Many people who work and learn at RRC have experienced or will experience mental illness in their lifetime.Show your support for an inclusive campus community by attending one or more of or MIAW events.

Art Show by Artbeat Studio

Artbeat Studio is a mental health consumer initiated, peer-directed, recovery oriented program providing studio space, mentorship and more to artists living with mental illness. Come view artwork and chat with an artist about the power of art and community to promote healing.

NDC: Tuesday, Oct 3rd noon-2:00 pm, Library Hallway

EDC: Thursday, Oct 5th noon- 2:00 pm, Atrium

Coping with Anxiety as a Student: A Lived Experience

The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba is a peer-led organization whose staff have personally experienced and overcome the disabling effects of anxiety. Attend this talk where the presenter will share knowledge about Anxiety Disorders as well as strategies to cope in an academic and workplace setting.

NDC: Wednesday, Oct 4th, noon-1:00 pm, Orange lecture theatre, livestreaming available

EDC: Wednesday, Oct 4th, noon-1:00 pm, P107

All About Schizophrenia

One percent of the population live with Schizophrenia so chances are you’ll work with, learn with, or teach someone who has this diagnosis. Attend this talk, by the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, to increase your knowledge about Schizophrenia and Psychosis, while having your questions answered by the experts.

NDC: Thursday, October 5th, 11:00-noon, White lecture theatre, livestreaming available

Faces of Mental Illness Campaign

The Faces of Mental Illness is a national outreach campaign featuring the stories of Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Posters featuring the Faces will be all over campus in an effort to raise awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness.

If you’d like a poster to put up in your area, please contact blsawatzky@rrc.ca.

Staff Mental Health Support, Through Lifeworks

May 4, 2017 • Written by

 


 

Every year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem, whether it’s a struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, severe stress, or another issue. And millions more will be affected by a mental health issue in someone they love.

Contact LifeWorks, toll-free, any time: Are you concerned about a child who may be suffering from anxiety, a family member who may be abusing opioids, or about an issue in your own life? Our caring, professional consultants are available 24/7 with expert advice and confidential support.

Log in any time to the program website: This month, see the Mental Health Support feature on our home page. You’ll find links to articles, infographics, and a new podcast, “Managing Your Moods,” featuring Christine Padesky, clinical psychologist, bestselling author, and cognitive behavioural therapy expert. She describes simple research-tested skills you can learn to improve your mood and boost happiness.

LifeWorks is here to support you and your loved ones through whatever challenges you may be facing.

Call LifeWorks toll-free, any time: 1-877-207-8833
TTY: 1-877-371-9978
Visit us online at www.lifeworks.com or login.lifeworks.com.
(username: rrcefap; password: efap).

Guest Blog: Student Mental Health Story

May 3, 2017 • Written by

The following is a guest blog from Laura McNaughton, Child and Youth Care student at the Notre Dame Campus.

 

Laura McNaughton, RRC Student

For a long time, I have felt like I’ve been living two lives. The life everyone else sees, and the life I see. These two lives are drastically different.

When I was in high school, I was known as the happiest kid in school. “She is always smiling”, “She’s so upbeat and happy”. I was sarcastic and witty and joyful, but as soon as I got home, I would sleep until the next day of school. Then I would put on my happy face again and be the other side of me. No one knew the side of me when I was alone. Even now, after I have told my story to others, they are shocked- they still always say to me “But you were so happy in high school”.

Laura’s original artwork.

Depression is like a paradox. You want the illness acknowledged, but at the same time, you also want to deny it. I guess I was in my denying stage at that time. Then I started to realize I was sinking way too far down into a hole. I was in a full blown depression, I was self harming, and to me that was my normal. I had people in my life who were there for me and helped me get through it, but it was still always there- like a friend that just won’t leave you alone. But they’re not really a friend, they’re this toxic being that helps to deteriorate you. I felt all alone, even though there were people all around me. And it took years for me to be able to look at myself and see someone who was worth being around, worth living, just worth it.

Mental health is a process….

Laura (left) helping bring therapy dogs to RRC as part of her student-led practicum in Child and Youth Care.

I am now 22 years old, and actually about to graduate the Child and Youth Care Program here at Red River College. For my last practicum in my course, I actually did this new, unique student led practicum. I was a mental health advocate, connecting with people and organizations all over the city, and helping to facilitate events. Some things I accomplished were; I helped bring therapy dogs to the college for students in exams, I joined an online peer support network, I joined the advisory committee here at the college, I went to mental health talks, created my own business cards and am currently working on my own mental health event. Basically, I did so much in this last 7 weeks that I am shocked. This is not where I thought my life would be.

Laura displaying her prescribed psychiatric medication.

I used to be anxious as all hell, and too depressed to get out of bed to come to school. I used to think I had no future, and I was not going to amount to anything. This last practicum has really helped me to flourish and become who I was meant to be. Mental health is something I am so passionate about, and because of that passion, I have seen my dream become a reality.

Don’t get me wrong- I still have my bad days, I’m still depressed and have those days where I can’t function, I am still anxious, I am on medication to help, but I have something in my life to look forward to. I have found something that gets me out of bed everyday- my passion for helping others.

Mental health is so important to understand, and I want all of us to be on the positive spectrum, but it is an everyday process. It is not something that is going to come easy for some, and that is ok. It is ok not to be ok! I want to be that support for people who feel so in the dark, they cannot see the light. I want to be that light for them.

I have and am currently struggling with a mental illness, but I am here to say, that it will not stop you from accomplishing what you want out of life. It might give you some hiccups here and there, but it is not your whole life. It is not you, it is a part of you- and you are strong and beautiful and amazing and you can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t listen to the lies your illness tells you, You can do it. I believe in you.

I used to be scared to talk about my issues openly, but if it can help someone else not feel alone then I am going to do it everyday for the rest of my life.

“I know its hard to understand, if its never happened to you, but just realize its important to talk about for someone to be able to get through

 

so lets start talking about mental illness – realize it is not a choice. these people are sick, and need more of a voice

 

We need to end the stigma around mental health, Stand up, make a change, and realize happiness is our greatest wealth”

 

-excerpt from poem by Laura McNaughton

If you would like to write a guest blog about your mental health journey, please contact Breanna, Mental Health Coordinator, at blsawatzky@rrc.ca.

Therapy Dogs on Campus! April 24th and 25th

April 20, 2017 • Written by

The end of term can be a very stressful period, with students experiencing added pressure to complete projects and perform well on exams. In order to help students cope with this stress, we’re welcoming the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program to campus. Students will be encouraged to sit with, feel, touch and pet a trained dog, enjoying the relaxing effect this can have on their mind, body, and emotions.

According to St. John Ambulance, the nation-wide program boasts 3,354 volunteer teams who assisted more than 120,000 clients throughout 2015. Therapy dog teams visit hospitals, retirement residences, care facilities, schools and universities.

Therapy dogs have been on campus in the past, and many students have genuinely enjoyed the visits.

Please join us at the following times/locations:

Monday, April 24 in the Cave Lounge at NDC, 11:30am-1:00pm

Tuesday, April 25 in the Atrium of Roblin Centre, 11:30am-1:00pm

For more information, please contact Breanna Sawatzky at 204-632-2061 or blsawatzky@rrc.ca

Tips for Managing Interview Anxiety

April 12, 2017 • Written by

Recently, RRC’s Student Employment Services crew put on two excellent Career Café events where College staff from various departments gave students tips and advice to assist in their job search. I was there to advise on, among other things, managing interview anxiety. In this post, I’ve put together some of the common questions I heard from students and some of my replies.

Q. I can’t sleep before an interview because my mind is racing with possible questions and answers. How can I fix this?

It can be particularly helpful to do your interview preparation a day in advance, jotting down your skills, accomplishments and some answers to common questions. Writing these thoughts down on paper will not only help you feel confident (look at all those strengths and skills you wrote down!), but can also decrease rumination – those thoughts repeatedly swirling around in your head as you try to sleep. If you know a particular question is common, come up with an answer you’re comfortable with. Then put the paper away and get a good sleep. Sleep will help your thoughts consolidate in your memory and you’ll wake up feeling even more confident.

If you still find yourself lying in bed, with anxious thoughts keeping you awake. Get up briefly and write them down. Don’t turn on any lights or screens if possible. Tell yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’ll do well. Then go straight back to sleep.

Q. My brain goes haywire in the interview and I can’t put my thoughts together. What can I do to help?

First of all, as mentioned above, prepare a day in advance and get a good sleep. Then, once you’ve arrived at the interview location, but before you enter the interview room, take a moment to practice some calm breathing. You might also want to observe your surroundings, noticing some things around you can help your mind feel connected to the present moment and to keep it from going “haywire”. Notice how your feet feel on the floor, a painting on the wall, any sounds that you might hear.

In this moment before the interview, refrain from using screens or mobile devices. Even if you have to wait a while before being greeted. Simply practice patience and wait. Each calm breath you take will help decrease your feelings of anxiety.

Remind yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’re confident. Don’t feel compelled to answer questions immediately or to talk quickly. Speak clearly, at a conversational pace and allow pauses for you to gather your thoughts. You can actually come across more confident this way!

Q. When I’m in the waiting area, I feel my heart race and I start to sweat. How can I stop this?

This is very common. For many people feel a rush of anxiety right before being called into an interview. The symptoms you’re feeling are your sympathetic nervous system kicking into high gear in order to give you the energy to perform an important task. In that moment, practice some healthy self-talk. Remind yourself that feeling nervous before an interview is normal and common. Remind yourself that you’ve prepared well and are ready to shine. Tell yourself that the rush you’re feeling is you’re body’s way of getting ready for an important event. The interviewers are used to seeing people who are nervous/anxious, since almost everyone shares this experience.

Q. What if I’ve been feeling anxiety for a long time, but haven’t told anyone?

Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience and isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes it passes and we go right back to feeling calm. Some folks, however, feel anxiety for really long periods of time, really often, or really intensely. Sometimes, it starts to limit achievement or decrease feelings of well-being. In these cases you may want to reach out for help from a Doctor, Counsellor, Psychologist, or self-help agency.

If you’re comfortable approaching your family doctor, this is a good place to start. If you are a student, you can access counselling for free on campus. If you’re enrolled in the student benefits plan, you can access coverage for up to $1000 of Psychological services. If you’d like to work with a community based self-help agency, you can contact Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba. These options might seem overwhelming, but start by reaching out where you’re most comfortable.

 

Do you have any other suggestions on how to manage interview anxiety?

-Breanna

 

Guest Blog: Student Mental Health Recovery Story

March 20, 2017 • Written by

Below is a Gust Blog Written by Thania Bazan, RRC Student.

How Breathing Techniques Have Helped Me Deal with Physical and Mental Health

Hi! I am a second year student at Red River College Notre Dame Campus and enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program. I am in my last term and will soon graduate.

In 2009, my life was very different from what it is right now. I had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a physical condition in the body that brings pain and stiffness to the muscles. I had also been suffering from depression and anxiety for several years that took me to the Emergency room with suicidal thoughts. I received medication with antidepressants but even with the medication it was hard to feel completely happy and willing to go on with life.

In 2013, I was introduced to The Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is present in over 150 countries around the world. This foundation offers a course based on powerful breathing techniques to help with anxiety, depression and different physical and emotional illnesses.

I attended a workshop for a weekend and learned how to practice the Sudarshan Kriya Breathing Techniques. After the first session of practicing Sudarshan Kriya, my body, mind and spirit felt more relaxed. I started practicing these techniques every day for a period of a year. After a year of practicing the breathing techniques, I got enrolled in Red River College, for the first time I felt confident I had a tool that would help me deal with stress, anxiety and depression.

I have been practicing Sudarshan Kriya for the last four years and have been able to see and feel the benefits of practicing these techniques in my daily life. When feeling stressed out, exhausted or simply needing to concentrate for a school assignment, I practice Sudarshan Kriya.

 

 

I would like to invite you to explore the option of practicing these breathing techniques for relaxation and awakening of your mind. The Art of Living foundation will be holding an information session at Red River College Notre Dame Campus for people interested in taking this workshop. More information about the information session will be posted on this blog soon!                

Sincerely,

Thania Bazan

If you’d like to write a guest blog please contact Breanna at blsawatzky@rrc.ca

9 Tips From The Anxiety Forums

February 21, 2017 • Written by

Last week RRC hosted two Anxiety Forums. For each event, we invited a prominent local Psychologist to speak about anxiety and then answer audience questions on the topic. The sessions were jammed full of thought provoking and useful information. Below are the 9 learnings that most resonated with me.

  1. Anxiety is adaptive. The physiological reactions related to the feeling of being anxious helped our ancestors survive. When threatened, increased heart rate, greater blood flow to large muscles, and sweating all helped early people escape danger and survive disasters.
  2. The best response to a panic attack is to “sit and breathe.” Often people feel like when they’re having a panic attack, they have to leave the situation they’re in (eg. classroom, bus), but leaving the situation is not necessary. Sit through it, breathe, and it will pass. In addition, picking something visual in your surrounding on which to focus can be helpful.
  3. Facing fears gradually AND regularly is best. Just as you wouldn’t pick up a huge, heavy weight on your first visit to the gym, you shouldn’t face your worst anxiety provoking situation all at once. Start gradually, by exposing yourself to a situation that challenges you in a manageable way. For example, if you have major anxiety around public speaking, you might start raising your hand in class every day until that action no longer feels unbearable. Then you’d move on to regularly practicing another activity that gets you a little closer to your end goal of public speaking. The keys are gradual AND regular. If this process isn’t working, chances are you’re either not doing it gradually enough or not often enough.
  4. Feelings are King. We tend to focus a lot on our feelings, because they’re very obvious to us. This can lead us to ignore the thoughts and behaviours that surround an anxiety provoking situation. Feelings, thoughts, physical reactions, and behaviours are all connected though, with each influencing and being influenced by the other. Starting to recognize the thoughts and behaviours that feed into anxiety can be a good beginning.
  5. Realistic thoughts are better than positive thoughts. Empty positive thoughts, such as, “everything will be okay,” are not grounded in strength, and therefore are not as helpful as realistic thoughts. “I’ll do well on this test if I give myself enough time to study and get a good sleep tonight,” is more likely to be a helpful thought, decreasing anxiety, since the thought is more realistic.
  6. Think through your anxious questions. If you keep saying to yourself, “what if I fail?, what if I fail?,” answer that question with what is likely to happen. Will you have to do better on the next test? Will you have to retake a course? Answer the ruminating question and then find ways to work toward success.
  7. Periods of reflection are important. Take time on a regular basis to reflect on how your mental health is doing. What’s important to you? What would you like to improve? What are some habits you’d like to work on? What are some things that are going well? Make realistic plans to reach your mental health goals.
  8. You will never have 100% control. As much as we’d like 100% control (so that we’d never have to feel anxious again), this is not going to happen. Instead, we have to grasp on to the little piece of control we do have and build on that.
  9. Sometimes we can manage on our own and sometimes we need help. Some of the strategies both Dr. Ediger and Dr. Abdulrehman discussed required being able to create plans, assess our thought patterns, come up with healthier thoughts, and try new ways of coping. Sometimes we can manage this process on our own. Sometimes a friend or family member can help us. Other times a professional like a counsellor or psychologist can be very helpful. If you’ve tried to make a change on your own and have faced road blocks, perhaps meeting with someone would help.

RRC students can set up a counselling appointment here.

RRC staff can set up a counselling appointment here. User ID: rrcefap        Password: efap

Check out the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba for a lot of great information and resources.

These are 9 learnings from the Anxiety Forums that stood out to me. Are there any points you’d add?

Breanna

 

Anxiety Forums on Campus: Psychologists to educate on coping skills

February 9, 2017 • Written by

February is Psychology Month; a time when Psychologists engage the public, educating us on how psychology works to help people live healthy and happy lives. (Canadian Psychology Association)

To celebrate Psychology Month, the Manitoba Psychological Society has organized a variety of educational seminars for the public on a wide variety of psychology-related topics. RRC is fortunate to be hosting two such events. We’ve called them “Anxiety Forums.”

The forums are a part of the Healthy Minds, Healthy College initiative and are supported by the Staff and Student Wellness Committee and the Students’ Association. Each forum will  include a talk by a prominent Psychologist as well as Q & A with the audience. Pizza lunch is provided during both forums.

What is Anxiety?

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM), everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It’s completely normal and can even be helpful. For example, if you’re anxious about an upcoming test, your anxiety can motivate you to study well. However, anxiety can sometimes become severe and negatively affect your life. If your anxiety has reached this point, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Here at RRC, Counselling and Accessibility is constantly working with students who are experiencing problems with anxiety. These problems affect academic success and overall well-being.

Anxiety Forum Details

During the two forums, the speakers will share helpful coping strategies related to managing anxiety in a College setting. Although the primary target audience is students, staff and faculty will no doubt benefit from the material presented and discussion to follow.

Registration is not required. All are welcome.

EDC: February 17th at 11 am in P107 with Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman

NDC: February 15th at noon in the Orange Lecture Theatre with Dr. Jason Ediger

This forum will also be recorded and streamed by eTV for the benefit of regional campuses.

Follow the link below to view the Anxiety Forum live streaming presentation: http://blogs.rrc.ca/etv/streaming/

Click on the ‘Live Stream’ image to play. No username or password is required. The stream will go live shortly before the presentation begins.

During the live presentation, you are encouraged to ask questions or add comments. To do so, please click on the “word bubble” icon found on the bottom right of the player. Please include your name, email address (if you require a follow-up response), and a subject heading.

Note: You can also use the “word bubble” to report any technical issues.

More About the Presenters

Dr. Jason Ediger, C. Psych.

Dr. Ediger has a special interest in blending cognitive behaviour therapy with mindfulness based approaches to change and coping. His practice focuses on anxiety, mood difficulties, chronic pain and health concerns in adults and adolescents. He has extensive experience with disability claims and return to work issues. Read his full bio here.

 

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, C. Psych.

Dr. R. Abdulrehman is clinical psychologist with specialist training and experience in cognitive behavior therapy. He specializes in working with a broad range of anxiety, anxiety related disorders, and stress, with almost a decade of experience having worked at the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at St. Boniface Hospital. Read his full bio here.

 

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator, is happy to come speak briefly to classes in order to promote awareness of these events. Contact her at  204-632-2061 or blsawatzky@rrc.ca to set up a time.

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