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?
As if the holiday season is not stressful enough in and of itself, many students will also be writing exams and completing major assignments in the coming weeks. What makes these events so stressful? Well, I’ve heard stress described as your body’s reaction to any demand on it requiring change. This definition resonates with me because it can be applied to both positive life events (eg. new job, loved ones visiting from out of town) and negative life events (eg. losing a pet, unexpected bills).
The holiday season brings a lot of changes to our routine. We usually have more events to attend. We spend time with people who we don’t often see. Some people cook elaborate meals, decorate their homes, or purchase numerous gifts for friends and family. Even if you’re someone who loves these types of traditions, finding the time, money, and energy to participate can cause a great deal of stress.
Add to this that many students have multiple exams and final projects due this month, and you have a recipe for difficulties. Even when stress is caused by positive changes, too much at once, or ineffective coping can lead to decreased ability to function and even burnout.
So how can you help yourself thrive throughout this time of year?
The AAAbc Model
A few years back I was introduced to the AAAbc model of managing stress. The timing could not have been better as I was 1. selling and buying a home, 2. starting a new position at work, and 3. seven months pregnant! I really found this model helpful in coping through that stressful time and I’d like to share it with you.
First, you define your stressor. Choose just one and write it at the top of a page. It might be:
- Too many presents to buy and not enough money!
- So many exams!
- Seeing (insert name of critical family member here) at holiday dinners.
Next set up your page like the photo example below:.
Alter: How could direct communication help? Is there any problem solving work you could do? Would organizing help? How about planning or time management?
Think about each of these questions and jot down some of your options in this situation. Write all your options down, even if you don’t think it’s a great option or something you’d be comfortable doing. This is just a brainstorm. You’ll decide what options are best when you’re done all of your brainstorming.
Avoid: Could you just walk away? What could you let go of? What could you delegate and to whom? What can you say “no” to? Choosing your battles and knowing your limits, could you withdraw?
Once again, jot down all your options, even if you don’t think they’re great options.
Build resistance: Could you take in better nutrition? Better sleep? Seek social support? Take a break to recharge? Pray or engage in other spiritual traditions/rituals? Would some time in nature help? Some exercise? Some time doing something you love to do? Could you use positive self-talk? Are there unhealthy habits you I could stop?
Change perspective: Could you look at the situation in a different way? Are you exaggerating anything? Could you change your thinking to something more realistic? Could you think about the big picture? Could you focus on now and not the future?
Jot down the options that come to mind.
Now look over all the options you’ve come up with and decide on a strategy to try out. If you have trouble deciding, bring your sheet to a trusted friend or a counsellor. They’ll likely be able to listen and help you choose a path forward. In my example below, I’ve placed a check mark beside and underlined in read the options I have decided choose.
Each stressful situation is different and each of us has a different personality and life circumstance, so there is no one right way to handle stress. Working through a system like this, however, can help us feel less overwhelmed by our stressors and more capable of coping in a healthy way.
I hope you try it out this season!
P.S. The AAAbc’s of Stress model was designed by Whole Person Associates.
Red River College is home to many international students as well as students who have immigrated from countries around the world.
Being new to Canada and adapting to a new culture and school system, can bring on unique challenges. For example, if English isn’t your first language, you may be finding it difficult to communicate with others and make friends. If you’re living on your own for the first time, you may be feeling lonely or isolated at times.
Getting involved at RRC
Diversity and Intercultural Services is one area of the college that can help you adjust to life in Canada and at RRC. The Diversity Centre at the Notre Dame Campus is a great place to meet other immigrant and international students.
“The centre is often referred to as “a home away from home,” said Lauren Konrad, student integration coordinator. “Students experiencing similar parts of student life often meet there and hang out. Students also come there to chat with staff and get connected to resources.”
At the Exchange District Campus, the Diversity and Intercultural Services office located in the Massey Building is a place you can go to visit with staff, sign up for programs and get connected to different resources.
Your mental health is important
It’s important to know that there are also resources available if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or not quite yourself. The mental health conversation may not be happening in the same way in all parts of the world, but in Canada and at RRC, good mental health is a top priority. You should never feel scared or ashamed to tell someone if you think you might be struggling with a mental health issue.
Let your student integration coordinator know if you think you might want to talk to someone about how you’ve been feeling. You can also contact Counselling and Accessibility Services directly by completing the online intake form.
Here are some supports and resources for immigrant and international students:
- RRC’s Language Training Centre
While attending RRC’s Language Training Centre (LTC), you will learn English language skills, interact with other students and explore RRC’s many different career programs. To discuss career programs and adjusting to life in Winnipeg, contact Jillian Hoogland, student integration coordinator, at 204-945-8776 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also arrange to meet with a counsellor at the LTC to discuss any difficulties you may be going through. To make a counselling appointment, please contact Vidhu Bhanot, counsellor, at 204-945-8774 or email at email@example.com.
- Manitoba Start
Provides settlement, language, and employment supports to newcomers, free of charge.
- Immigrant Centre
Assists new immigrants with connecting and integrating in Canadian Society through a variety of programs and services.
- Needs Centre
Provides services and supports such as mentorship, after-school programming and employment skills training to refugee children and youth, and their families.
- Mount Carmel Clinic
A community health care centre serving the North End and Point Douglas areas.
- West Central Women’s Resource Centre
Provides programs and services such as child-minding, mentorship and immigrant settlement services to primarily women living in and around West Central Winnipeg.
Aboriginal students face unique mental health challenges. Historical issues such as colonization, and Aboriginal residential schools have negatively impacted Aboriginal culture and tradition. These impacts are continuing to be felt by younger generations, including many Aboriginal students at RRC.
Moving to a new community can also be scary and stressful and many Aboriginal students choose to move from their home communities to pursue their education at RRC. Relocating and adjusting to a new home and school environment can be difficult.
If you are an Aboriginal student, know that there are specific supports available to you. The Aboriginal Centre is a welcoming, friendly place at the Notre Dame Campus with a lounge area, computer lab and a team of staff who are happy to assist you. Room P210J at the Exchange District Campus also offers similar services and you can drop by there anytime.
Other areas of interest and support include RRC’s Traditional Teachers, Aboriginal Liaison/Advisors and Aboriginal Student Support & Community Relations including their Facebook Page.
You may also want to talk to someone about what you’re going through. RRC has free, confidential counsellors in Counselling and Accessibility Services. From help adjusting to a new community to support with mental health concerns or financial counselling, a counsellor can help you work through any problems that you have.
To book an appointment with a counsellor, complete and submit the online intake form. Someone contact you shortly to set up an appointment.
Lauren MacLean is president of the Red River College Students’ Association. She is completing her second year of Business Administration with an accounting major. After receiving her RRC diploma she plans to continue her studies towards a Commerce degree.
Over the past year I’ve met many Student Executives from across Canada through my involvement with the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA). One thing I’ve discovered throughout my travels is that the same thing is on all our minds – mental health!
From discussions about our personal experiences with mental health to how students on campus are affected by it to what we could do to increase awareness, it’s is one of the biggest priorities on many campuses and this year the RRCSA is fully committed to keeping the conversation going.
Building on student efforts from last year, the RRCSA is partnering with the college’s Healthy College, Healthy Minds initiative to bring students a Mental Health Awareness Week from Oct. 14 to 17. During this week, students will learn skills to help them understand how to take care of their mental health and know what to do if they are struggling with a mental health issue.
We’re bringing dogs of all sizes and ages to campus to help ease some of the tension that tends to come with studying for midterms. We are also going to help students unleash their creative side with painting and drawing activities and hold a sweats and sweater day to encourage everyone to get comfy and relax.
Mental health is vitally important and it’s important that we all learn how to stay mentally healthy while during school so we can continue these good habits when we enter the workforce.
The fact is that everyone has their own way of de-stressing that works for them, because each of us encounters stress in different ways. One person’s experience is not more or less valid than the next person’s. We simply all need to pay attention to ourselves (and each other) and learn to use resources that are there for us.
Whether it’s talking to a classmate or counsellor, taking time for a quick stretch or limiting the amount of time we spend in front of the computer, there are lots of ways to be mindful of our mental health and plenty of room for discussion about all the different techniques! I for one am very excited to hear about this from students and to keep talking about mental health.
Faye Armstrong is a life coach based in Winnipeg who is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others do the same. For a little motivation or to learn more about personal coaching, visit www.fayeaarmstrong.com
Before I started the Creative Communications program at Red River College, I asked for advice from some friends who had taken the course before me. I got three gems of wisdom: don’t hand in your assignments late, quit your part time job and dump your boyfriend. I managed to handle the first one (for the most part) but I took the other two with a grain of salt and figured, I’ve got this.
I mean, was I really going to be that busy with school that those other areas of my life would suffer? The short answer is yes, I was. Balancing classes, assignments, friends, the boyfriend, work and life in general was a bit of a challenge.
As a life coach, a lot of my clients struggle with achieving balance in the busyness of life. Whether it’s school-life balance or work-life balance, it can be tough to find that happy place between getting stuff done and still enjoying life while you’re at it. And to be honest, there’s no magic formula, but there are a few things you can do to keep things in check.
1. Determine what balance means for you
Lately we hear so much about “finding balance”, it can start to lose meaning. Balance means different things to different people, so instead of making “balance” your goal, figure out exactly what you want to feel and experience in your life. Do you want to have more fun? Do you want more passion? To feel more accomplished? Like a good friend? More spiritually connected? Identify the feelings that translate to what your vision of happiness is, and then find ways to experience those feelings each day- even if it’s in a small way.
2. Schedule time for yourself
Make yourself a priority. Just like you would schedule time to finish an assignment, catch up with a friend or pick up a shift at work, set a specific time for you to recharge. To use a bit of a strange analogy but one that works nonetheless, think about why flight attendants always tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you go helping the people around you.
Self-care is an important part of reaching your goals. If you want to be a better student, employee, friend — whatever it is that you want to be — if you don’t take care of yourself and spread yourself too thin, you end up doing a disservice to yourself and those around you by not being able to give your best.
3. Assess and re-assess
Chances are, there isn’t going to be one set schedule that you can come up with that will forever help you achieve perfect balance in your life. It’s good to have a routine, but there are going to be days when your friend really needs you to be there, when you need to lock yourself in a room and get into major homework mode, or when you need to take a time-out for yourself. Know what your priorities are and realize that those priorities might shift and flux as life tends to.
Also keep in mind that as you move through different phases of your life, your priorities will probably change too. Balance isn’t so much a destination to work towards, as it is a state of being, and it takes work to stay in that state. Check in with yourself every once in awhile to re-evaluate your priorities and how you’re doing in keeping your life aligned with those.
College is all about learning — some of it inside the classroom, and some of it through the life experiences you will have throughout your time here. Consider the hectic schedules, friend drama, heartbreak, excitement and everything else you have on the go as a crash-course in learning the fine art of life balance. And when all else fails, take a deep breath and remember: you’ve got this.
Many students struggle with budgeting and managing their finances while going to school. It’s a normal part of student life as not many students can pay for their education without taking out a loan or line of credit, or working at least part-time during the school year.
This can be a significant source of stress for students and certainly does nothing for our focus and concentration!
If you’re worried about your finances, here are some ideas for helping you take control of the situation so you can feel less stressed (preferably sooner than later!):
- Create a plan.
When it comes to finances, information is power. So take avoidance off the table as a coping strategy. Make a date with yourself to sit down and go over what you spent in the last month and plan a budget going forward. Force yourself to look at the hard numbers and keep in mind that money comes and goes. You will (presumably) be working and making money eventually so you can worry about the details of paying back any money you owe then. For now, you need to think about how much money you have to work with for the remainder of school.
- Enlist the help of an expert.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed going through your finances (or even just thinking about starting to), see if you can make an appointment with a financial advisor where you do your banking. Don’t be nervous — they meet with clients all day, every day so this is hardly something new for them! Just be honest about your concerns. You will likely feel much better after talking with them and coming up with a plan.
- Look into student-specific resources
. Red River College’s Student Awards and Financial Aid office offers a number of scholarships and bursaries that you may qualify for. If you don’t have a student loan already, it could be worth looking into Manitoba Student Aid (you can apply for a student loan throughout the year). Manitoba Student Aid also offers grants and loans that don’t require immediate repayment while you are a full-time student.
After trying one or all of the above, it’s a good idea to do something fun or relaxing to help reduce your stress levels. There are lots of things that you can do that don’t cost money. It can be as simple as getting some fresh air with a friend or using the fitness facilities at RRC. You can also check out the free entertainment and events happening downtown or in your area.
- Talk about it
. Don’t ignore the stress you’re feeling. The problem and your uncomfortable feelings won’t go away until you work through them. If you need some help figuring out what steps you should take first, the Counselling and Accessibilities Services can help. To book an appointment, fill out the online intake form and someone will contact you to set up an appointment.