Try these 30-minute sessions to reduce stress

A person in meditation pose

A few simple practices that take 30 minutes, once a week, and can help to reduce stress and boost energy will be taught during the Fall 2021 Stress Busting Series at York University.

Offering “30 minutes of magical practices,” the series runs once a week for 10 weeks beginning Sept. 27 and features qigong, mindfulness meditation and Capacitar wellness.

Faculty of Health Professor Harvey Skinner will teach how these practices can empower us to care for our health and well-being, with sessions open to everyone at York and running from 12 to 12:30 p.m. once a week. Each session will follow with a Q-and-A, which is optional for participants.

For Fall 2021, the program includes:

  • Qigong (Mondays and Thursdays) –  a typical 30-minute session involves breath work, energizing movements, purging exercises, flowing movements and meditation. These sessions run Sept. 27 to Dec. 2.
  • Mindfulness Meditation (Tuesdays) – a typical 30-minute session involves mindfulness of breath, awareness of body sensations, loving kindness and self-compassion practices, and RAIN meditation for strong emotions. These sessions run Sept. 28 to Nov. 30.
  • Capacitar Healing Practices (Wednesdays) – a typical 30-minute session involves meditation and mindfulness, finger holds and other body holds for managing emotions, t’ai chi/qigong movements, emotional freedom technique and acupressure points. These sessions run Sept. 29 to Dec. 1.

These programs are offered for free to the York University community. Details about the series and registration are available from the Stress Busting website or by contacting Skinner directly by email at harvey.skinner@yorku.ca.

Skinner is a professor of psychology and global health and was founding dean (2006-16) of the Faculty of Health. His daily wellness routine includes: qigong energy and movement practices, mindfulness meditation and body work exercises.

York University marks its eighth annual Let’s Talk Day, Jan. 29

Mental Health strategy promotional banner
Mental Health strategy promotional banner

On Jan. 29, York University will mark its eighth annual Let’s Talk Day, an initiative that is part of York’s Mental Health Strategy to promote a more holistic and integrated approach to campus health.

Mental health challenges directly or indirectly affect all Canadians at some point whether through a family member, friend, colleague or oneself. In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness. Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels and cultures. Just as we care for our physical health, so too we need to care for our mental health.

Numerous factors can affect mental health such as the stress of balancing school, work, health and relationships. One of the biggest hurdles for anyone experiencing mental health challenges is overcoming the stigma attached to it.

YU Let’s Talk helps to move forward the conversation towards reducing this stigma, while promoting awareness and understanding. Just like managing our physical health, many of us have strategies that we use to promote, protect and manage our mental health and well-being. Organizers of YU Let’s Talk want to hear your strategies for managing and protecting your mental health. What do you do to be mentally healthy? How do you care for your mental health? Take a minute to fill out one of the word bubbles in your work area, Tait MacKenzie, Wellness Hub or in the Red Zone.

By taking the first important step of starting conversations, we can foster a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment, one which promotes positive mental health and well-being among members of the York community.

Join others in the York University community on Wednesday, Jan. 29 and help keep the conversation going.

To learn more about York’s Mental Health Strategy and about activities in support of YU Let’s Talk day, visit the Mental Health website.

‘YU Got This’ event focuses on student mental health and wellness

The second-floor atrium of the Scott Library will be overrun with puppies, study tips and well-being resources during the YU Got This event on Nov. 20.

A student peer health mentor outlines some strategies for students about stress management and wellness

YU Got This runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is presented by the Learning Commons, Student Community & Leadership Development’s Learning Skills Services and Health Education & Promotion units. The event focuses on helping students develop skills to manage their stress and well-being as they enter the exam period.

Sophie Bury, director of the Learning Commons and Reference Services at the York University Libraries explains the importance of having the Learning Commons participate in the event. “This fall term sees the integration for the first time of Learning Commons partners for YU Got This,” said Bury. “The addition of more Learning Commons partners this year, including representatives from the libraries, the ESL Open Learning Center and the Writing Department, will enrich the programming further, for an event that is designed to help equip students with tools, resources and strategies during exams and assignment crunch time.”

Student peer leaders and professional staff will be present at the event to provide students with a variety of study and wellness tips geared to help them start the exam season off on the right foot. Results from the 2016 National College Health Assessment confirm that exams can be a very demanding time of year for students. The assessment shows that students across Ontario find academics to be particularly stressful.

Learning Skills Specialist, Mona Frial-Brown with a therapy dog

“YU Got This has continued to be an important event for our students because it gives them the opportunity to learn more about the academic and well-being supports on campus, make connections with York’s community members, and to gain practical tips and confidence heading into the end of term,” said Learning Skills Specialist Nicole Joron.

Health Education and Training Specialist Shaila Khan explained the importance of taking a multi-pronged approach to support students effectively. “It was important that we couple learning skills with wellness strategies,” said Khan. “We know that during exams it can be difficult to balance self-care and working under stressful conditions for an extended period can lead to burnout and a number of serious health issues. We want to make sure that students know that wellness impacts so many different facets of life. By helping students understand different ways to practice self-care, we’re helping them to boost their confidence and success.”

YU Got This has continued to be a popular event with students at York University. The same event held in March 2019 had more than 570 interactions at the different stations set up throughout the space highlighting services available to students. Participants especially enjoyed interacting with therapy dogs, a popular service provided to help students reduce their stress leading up to exams.

The Student Council of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (SCOLAPS) is also hosting a Mental Health Week, Nov. 18 to 23, to raise awareness about healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety. Some of the planned activities include therapy dogs, stress balls, art materials, free healthy food and much more. All will be available in Vari Hall.

Spots are still available in the Health, Safety & Employee Well-Being seminars

The Health, Safety & Employee Well-Being (HSEWB) unit is offering 10 webinars in support of a healthy and safe workplace. The webinars, organized through the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP), will be live-hosted by qualified facilitators.

The webinar format has been selected to help maximize access to these topics by allowing employees to participate from their computers. A list of the webinars, along with a description of each webinar topic, can be found on the HSEWB yu link site. Sessions are limited to 25 participants and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

York’s EFAP provides numerous services that are completely confidential, including lifestyle coaching, financial and legal services, parenting and family supports, and many more. To learn more about the services available, visit workhealthlife.com. Register today.

Two new online resources for mental health will replace WellTrack

Woman typing on a keyboard
Woman typing on a keyboard

In the fall of 2017, York University introduced a partnership with WellTrack® to provide an interactive self-guided wellness app to the  community.

Effective Sept. 1, the University’s partnership with WellTrack® will come to an end, and two new digital self-guided resources will be added in support of a mentally healthy campus.

Big White Wall is a free online mental health and well-being service offering self-guided programs and creative outlets that includes a space to express, connect, learn and remain anonymous.

BounceBack Ontario offers a free skills-building program in two forms of support: online videos; and telephone coaching sessions with guided workbooks.

A complete list of mental health and wellness resources available at York can be found on the University’s Mental Health and Wellness website, yorku.ca/mentalhealth.

York International spearheads mental health campaign for international students

York International (YI) launched #YIFeel, the mental health campaign for international students, in January 2018. The international student mental health awareness campaign aims to create broader awareness about mental health challenges faced by international students, and introduces the international student body to the many services available at York University.

Working closely with international students and campus partners, YI has been exploring approaches to initiate a conversation surrounding mental health among international students and extend the current resources in a way that truly supports the needs of the international student community at York.

In February 2019, YI launched the second phase of the campaign with a goal to mobilize the student body to extend the already existing support provided by York. International students often develop a sense of belonging through a transactional process by forming friendships with other international students, but can remain disengaged and disconnected from the larger community. Through this campaign, YI aims to connect international students to various mental health supports and set the stage for new possibilities for student engagement in this context.

“This campaign is important because it is creating progressive spaces for students to talk about their understanding of the concept of mental health and their experiences with it, and what can be done to further bridge the gaps in the mental health services provided,” says Vishwaveda, a YI global liaison.

The campaign provides a platform for students to share their stories and experiences about mental health using various components such as videos, blogs, visuals and a photo campaign. It aims to devise well-rounded strategies to demystify mental health at an individual and institutional level specific to the unique mental health needs of international students, with an understanding of the cultural differences they face. It also aligns with York’s Mental Health and Wellness Operational Plan (2016-19) that suggests an increase in accessibility of mental health services through engaging targeted units such as York International, Student Counselling & Development, and other areas that provide support to students.

For more information on #YIFeel, visit yorkinternational.yorku.ca/yifeel.

Student Financial Support Peer team makes sense of dollars and cents

Making sense of the dollars and cents of postsecondary education is the focus for a group of students at York University.

The group, known as the Student Financial Support Peer team, was created in response to the findings of the National College Health Assessment of 2016, which identified finances as one of the significant stressors for students across Ontario.

Above: The SFS Team. First row: from left, Isabela Bibulovic, Joanne Ong and Sarah Labib. Second row: from left, Lorenzo Panate, Ilia Azari, Hammad Saif.

Through funding made possible by a Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities Mental Health Services Grant, the University’s new Student Financial Support Peer team consists of six student leaders who are committed to fostering mental well-being on campus by helping their fellow students understand and manage the complexities around their finances, and as a result, reduce or relieve anxiety. The first Student Financial Support Peer team was launched in September 2018.

The team received extensive training during the last two weeks of August 2018. The training was developed and delivered by Sylvia Spizzirri, student financial liaison officer, and Mary Santoli, financial aid trainer and ministry liaison. The training equipped the team with the knowledge needed to work closely with the University’s student financial advisors to address a variety of questions relating to student accounts and Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) queries and to provide support around scholarships and bursaries inquests. Just in three short months, from September to November 2018, the team served more than 5,700 students. The team also refers students to the appropriate resources and provides guidance with wayfinding across different spaces and services within the University.

“The launch of the Financial Support Peer-to-Peer Advising program has been remarkable,” said Sobhi Fanos, manager of financial aid processing. “It provides students with a unique forum of gaining knowledge and experience from peer advisors who work closely with Student Financial Services.”

Research consistently demonstrates there are reciprocal benefits in peer-to-peer programming. These benefits include increased engagement in self-care and wellness. A mentally healthy campus community is one where all its elements – people, environments and collective culture – work together to promote the well-being of all its members and the inclusiveness of its culture. York University is committed to a mentally healthy campus, providing access to a variety of resources, services and programs to help manage mental health challenges and enhance holistic well-being.

Joanne Ong, lead peer for the team and a second-year sociology student, expressed her enthusiasm. “It’s been so rewarding to work with students to help them navigate their financial questions. Over the semester we’ve really grown as a team, and not only been able to help students but also learn more about finances for ourselves,” she said.

The Student Financial Support Peer team can be found at the welcome desk located on the first floor of the Bennett Centre for Student Services. The team is available each week on Monday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The hiring process for the 2019-20 academic year began on Feb. 8. Students can apply to be part of the team through the Student Community & Leadership Development’s Join The Team page.

Visit York University’s Wellness Hub for support, resources and referrals

Wellness Hub

York University’s Health Education and Promotion officially opens a Wellness Hub on Sept. 17, offering drop-in support, resources and referrals to students, staff and faculty on all aspects of wellness, including nutritional, sexual and mental health.

Located in the Ross-Vari Link, the Wellness Hub is staffed by a team of peer health educators and student nurses who are using this experiential education opportunity to bridge their classroom knowledge with practice to complete their community placement requirement.

Wellness HubSteph Francis, health education coordinator, has spent two weeks training peers and student nurses for this role.

“They are excited and ready to go,” she said. “Not only have they been trained in various aspects of health, but they are also equipped with the knowledge and skill to connect students with the most current and appropriate resources.”

York University’s Mental Health Strategy, now in its third year, outlined the need for increased accessibility to health promotion services and making resources more readily available. The opening of the Wellness Hub addresses this need, as it is located in a high-traffic area that sees thousands of students, staff and faculty walk through daily.

Helen Lee, manager of well-being and health promotion, is looking forward to the impact that the Hub will have on individuals and overall student health.

“Not only will the Wellness Hub make significant contributions to York’s holistic and integrated approach to campus health, it will help York advance its vision of becoming a mentally healthy campus,” she said.

The Wellness Hub was made possible through the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities’ Mental Health Services Grant and through partnerships between Health Education and Promotion, the School of Nursing, Community Safety and Toronto Public Health.

To learn more about the Wellness Hub, visit thewellnesshub.scld.yorku.ca.

York University’s Let’s Talk Mental Health Day set for Jan. 31

mental health york u

York University’s sixth annual Let’s Talk Mental Health Day will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 31. This is part of York’s Mental Health Strategy to promote a more holistic and integrated approach to campus health.

Mental HealthOne of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma attached to it. YU Let’s Talk helps to move the conversation forward towards reducing this stigma, while promoting awareness and understanding.

Talking is an important first step towards lasting change, and together we can foster a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment, one which promotes positive mental health and wellbeing among members of the York community.

Join others in the York University community on Wednesday, Jan. 31. and help keep the conversation going.

To learn more about York’s Mental Health Strategy and about activities in support of YU Let’s Talk day, visit the Mental Health website.

Join the conversation on York’s Let’s Talk Mental Health Day

mental health york u

York University’s sixth annual Let’s Talk Mental Health Day will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 31. This is part of York’s Mental Health Strategy to promote a more holistic and integrated approach to campus health.

Mental HealthOne of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma attached to it. YU Let’s Talk helps to move the conversation forward towards reducing this stigma, while promoting awareness and understanding.

Talking is an important first step towards lasting change, and together we can foster a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment, one which promotes positive mental health and wellbeing among members of the York community.

Join others in the York University community on Wednesday, Jan. 31. and help keep the conversation going.

To learn more about York’s Mental Health Strategy and about activities in support of YU Let’s Talk day, visit the Mental Health website.