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
NDC: Library Hallway
EDC: North Atrium
Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past few weeks the staff on NDC’s 5th floor have been sporting an Amaryllis growing competition.
This all started back in October when I sent a little email around to see who might be up for some friendly competition and raising a beautiful plant (a great distraction over the cold winter months). Not long after that 14 staff chipped in $10 dollars and 14 Amaryllis’s were bought and planted.
The objective of this competition was to see who’s plant would be the tallest and who would be voted best dressed by Dec 16th. There was intermittent measuring and smack talk was encouraged.
Within a week all of our departments (Staff Learning & Development, Sustainability, Nursing, Environmental Safety and Health, Developmental Learning, Research and Planning, the Recycling Team and Recognition of Prior Learning) were mingling, popping in to see the plants and of course sizing up the competition.
By Dec 16 plants that started at 4 cm were now 50-60 cm with beautiful red blooms. When it came time to pick our winners, our celebrity judges, Nancy Alexander and Lori Grandmont, had a very difficult time selecting only two. They chose the “McHansen” from Nursing as the tallest plant and “Jorge” from Staff Learning and Development for best dressed.
At the end of the day we all walked away with a beautiful plant, a few more friends that we got know on our floor, and the experience of sharing in some great RRC team spirit.
We are into September and the Crafting Club at Roblin Centre is back at it. Throughout the spring, members crocheted scarves and sweaters and even some unique items like the flower pens in this picture for our reception desk. Here is a link to the pattern for it. The Crafting Club will be getting together on Monday at 1:00 p.m. and Thursday at 12:00 p.m. Anyone is welcome to join!
I love the theatre and was thrilled to see Mary Poppins at Rainbow Stage this summer. It was delightful! Another option for the theatre enthusiasts is Celebrations Dinner Theatre. Elvis and the Las Vegas Hangover is playing right now!
My sisters and I have had season tickets to MTC for several years. It has been a great way for us to spend time together and we always have a good time. This year they will be playing Harvey, A Christmas Story, Jane Eyre, The Glass Menagerie, Kim’s Convenience and Good People. We can’t forget the Warehouse Theatre playing Venus in Fur, Hirsch, The Seagull and The Secret Annex.
If comedy is more your thing, don’t forget about Rumor’s Comedy Club! Matt Falk is headlining for the first couple of weeks in September.
Christine Crowe joined RRC from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where she served as Dean, Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement. Christine now leads RRC’s Schools of Indigenous Education, International Education and Continuing Education, while also overseeing the College’s regional campuses, Language Training Centre and community outreach (full bio here).
Mike Krywy (Chair of the Wellness Committee) went for a leisurely walk with Christine to get her thoughts about wellness.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about Wellness. To start with, who are some of the people in your life that you look up to as Wellness role models?
My mom was a dancer, choreographer and a teacher who danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. One of my most powerful memories was watching her sit on the floor listening to music, and picking something for her next routine. She could sit on the floor for hours, but you could tell that she wasn’t in the room — she was creating that piece of choreography. Afterwards, I’d watch the choreography come to life during the practices with her dancers. I was her pianist for a while, and it was fantastic observing her in the creative process and seeing the beauty that came from it.
My mom suffered from depression through much of her life, and she used her creativity to bring herself out of her depression and back to the light. A year after she retired, she passed away. During that time I think she grieved because so much of her life was tied to that creation, and she didn’t know what to do when she was no longer creating. From her life I learned there is power of doing what you love, and how those actions can sustain and feed you.
I know you have a couple of young children. Are they also wellness role models for you?
They are amazing role models for me.
First of all, I’ve learned from them that “not knowing” is okay. “Not knowing” is a place of curiosity and a source of great adventure. It is not something to hide or be afraid of. It speaks to humility. As an administrator, I’m someone who people often come to looking for answers. And that’s a scary place to be sometimes. However, if you’re able to admit that you don’t know something but are willing to explore finding an answer together, you’re able to move forward.
The other thing is “Being present”. I have learned a great deal from putting down my iPad and playing with my kids. The other day my kids were jumping on the trampoline and said, “Mom, come join us.” I hesitated. For one thing, I am terrified about jumping on the trampoline, as I haven’t done it for years. So I told them, “I just need a minute — can’t you do something on your own?” Then I stopped and said to myself, “Wait a minute, they want to do something with me. They want to play with me.” So I went and jumped on the trampoline…and it was terrifying! But it was also very fun.
I’ve had many of the same experiences with my own children, such as when they ask me to go for a swim and I make excuses about the water being too cold. Once I drop the excuses and jump in with them, I never regret it. Is there anything else that your children taught you? Read More →
Red River College’s VP Academic and Research Stan Sae-Hoon Chung joined RRC in 2012 because of its reputation as a global leader in advanced learning. Stan is an award-winning writer, visionary advocate for life-changing learning, and passionate believer in the college as an engine for social and economic transformation (full bio here). Mike Krywy (Chair of the Wellness Committee) sat down with Stan to get his thoughts about wellness.
Q: Wellness is sometimes broken up into physical, mental and spiritual aspects. What are your thoughts on this way of thinking?
I agree with that breakdown, as all those aspects are important. But I also think of wellness in terms of individual wellness, organizational wellness and global wellness. And those same three principles – physical, mental and spiritual – would apply to all three.
Take individual wellness. If we are not well as individuals, how can we be well as a community or as a people? So if individual wellness is not connected to the workplace or we fail to see the connection, you CAN end up with challenges. Then you have to ask, “What is the missing ingredient? Why are people not well or unhappy at work? What can we do to sustain and support individual wellness?” For me, the answer resides in a uniting sense of purpose.
Q: What are the key components of organizational wellness?
Organizational wellness can be defined in many ways. One way to understand it is through the strength of social bonds. We are all individuals linked in a network or community, and it is important to be socially connected, whether that’s at home or at work.
A simple question to ask is “Do you have a best friend at work?” Someone who – if you had a question as simple as “where’s the mail room?” – would provide you with directions. Research has shown that strong friendships can help make people more resilient and adaptable. When you have those social supports at work, you’re more likely to want to come to work, make a contribution, and enjoy it.
Q: As an organization, is there anything the College can do to help develop these social bonds and strengthen personal networks?
Read More →
Feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or need to clear your brain? Here are a few of my favorite sites to make me smile and laugh (sometimes to the point of crying)!
- Need a card for an occasion so strange that Hallmark doesn’t even recognize it? SOMEECARDS.COM has it covered. Still can’t find what you are looking for….they even let you create your own.
- Ever feel gypped that you never find yourself in the middle of a flash mob? IMPROVEEVERYWHERE.COM brings silliness and joy to the serious folk of New York. The troupe is famous for their “No Pants Subway Ride“, “MP3 Experiments” and other fun events – check it out! CAUTION: it is my mission this summer to bring the “Black Tie Beach” event to Winnipeg….keep tuned in for details….
- Like lists? Sometimes you just need to know the “26 Invaluable Life Lessons According to Sloths“. Be warned: you could spend a full weekend surfing through funny compilations on BUZZFEED.COM!
Now are you feeling a little better? That’s good! 🙂
A Graduation Speech
Anyone who has signed up for DailyGood.org will have come across the Graduation Speech by Nipun Mehta, given at the May 2013 graduation at Harker School in California. If you haven’t read it, it is worth the time it takes to read. It’s inspiring in what seems at first to be a contradictory way. He introduces himself with good news and bad news. The good news is oh so brief while the bad news sounds rather hopeless at first. But Nipun keeps talking and offers some interesting solutions that he calls Keys. If you don’t want to read the whole speech, inspiring though it is, one thing worth looking at is the ServiceSpace web site, something he started about 10 years ago. It is about generosity – as Nipun says while paraphrasing the Dalai Lama, “It is in giving that we receive.”
When I think of personal wellness, just one of the aspects (there are plenty more) that comes to mind is related to feeling helpful and useful to others. For me being helpful doesn’t come only from empathy, it actually is selfish in a way – it feels good, it gives me a purpose, it allows me to believe that my activities and beliefs are meaningful.
If you are interested in the many aspects of living a Meaningful Life, go and explore the Greater Good site. It is chock-full of podcasts, videos, links, and printed information that will inspire, inform, and possibly lead you to even better wellness in your life.
There is a new type of game that sounds very intriguing and may well help players feel more connected to the world as a whole. I’ve never been a gamer of any kind but I may become one when I try some of the Games Aiming to Change the World. A couple of the game links just provide information about the game but most of the links take you right to the game where you can take on the challenge if you so choose.
If you look on the right side of the Games Aiming to Change the World page, there are links to related blog posts. Even if you’ve never been an instructor, you’ve been a student of one form or other. The blog post about Priming Your Brain for Academic Success covers some useful ideas whether you’re on the teaching side, the learning side or both sides of the academic world.
Irrational Decision Making
Speaking of how our brains work, apparently this rather important part of our bodies can trick us so well that when we think we are making a rational choice, it is anything but. A Behavioural economist, Dan Ariely, (a very humourous speaker, by the way) gave a TED talk (well, actually he did a study and wrote a book first) about just how irrational our decisions can be and why. Watch the TED talk video, listen to Dan Ariely, and laugh along with the audience. Decide what you think and then wonder if your brain is telling you the truth.
And more about our brains
What is the internet doing to our brains? A short video illustrating an interview with Nicholas Carr, the author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains will let you know (and it might worry you a bit.) The first 15 seconds of the video reminded me of when I first started venturing onto the internet back in the middle ages (Windows 3.1, I think). I remember having a great time looking for information on the internet but was constantly getting lost – as in losing track of what the heck I was looking for in the first place. It was a bit overwhelming. I can vividly remember my fleeting wish that I could just find what I needed in a book. My brain has since adjusted, thank goodness, or maybe not.
This week on the Monday Mash:
Gardening with Native Plants. It’s that time of year (finally) when gardens are being planted. If you’re looking for a good selection of native plants, shrubs and trees you can check out Prairie Originals which has a huge selection of potted plants and seeds. Also look at their resources, which includes landscaping tips, links to other local eco-networks, farmer’s markets, and nature photography. There is also a link to the Living Prairie Museum (located on Ness) which sells some plants as well, in addition to providing other resources, workshops and information.
Summer Reading. Are you looking forward to enjoying a warm summer day sitting back and reading a good book while lazing in a hammock or comfy chair? If you’re that type of person, consider dropping in to the Library closest to you and see what they have to offer. One of the more interesting books that I’ve recently read is A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor of the British Museum, which exists as a book and a BBC radio series. This series tracks human history as told through little vignettes on selected objects, making it an easy book to pick up and put down at your leisure.
Discovering Art. The Winnipeg Art Gallery is one of many places that you can drop in to find interesting art. They currently have a 100 Masters show on that goes until Aug 18. They also have some summer art camps beginning in early July. A couple of other interesting local galleries to consider are Ace Art and if you’re looking for something edgier the Plug In Gallery usually has something to grab your attention.