By Miranda Massie on July 4, 2018
Emotional intelligence is something that’s been garnering attention in recent years. Magazine articles, research papers and leadership courses continue to emerge, touting the benefits of high EQ (your emotional intelligence score) on work performance, happiness, leadership capabilities and even love .
So what are the key components to emotional intelligence and how might we harness this information to positively impact our relationships with others?
Emotional Intelligence is the “ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” It is made up of the following components:
- Self-awareness: an in-depth knowledge of oneself (tendencies, emotions, behaviours)
- Self-regulation: our ability to manage ourselves (feelings, triggers, reactions)
- Motivation: how and why we reach our goals (values, setting intention, building resilience)
- Empathy: recognizing and understanding emotions in others (as separate from our own)
- Social skills: how we communicate and interact with others 
With this information, how can we build up these skills in ways that enable us to have healthy and satisfying relationships with others? Personally, I feel that it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. What comes first: successful relationships that lead to higher emotional intelligence or increased emotional intelligence that creates healthier relationships? Perhaps it is both.
Knowing ourselves, regulating our emotions, understanding what drives us, acknowledging and validating others’ feelings, and engaging in optimal communication are all ways that emotional intelligence can support us in building relationships with others. Sustaining these positive behaviours through healthy habits over time can help raise our EQ.
This month, I encourage you to try and be present in your interactions with others. Experiment with the different components of emotional intelligence to discover what resonates best with you. Hopefully your relationship IQ will get a boost in the process.
All my best,
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
 Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
 Emotional intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman)
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged communication, editorial, emotional intelligence, emotions, EQ, expectation, healthy relationships, IQ, judgement, Miranda Massie, relationships, UBC | 1 Response
By Miranda Massie on June 5, 2018
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, health literacy is “…the ability to access, comprehend, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across the life-course.” 
In short, health literacy is our ability to take in and understand information in ways that enhance our health-related decisions and behaviours. This process sounds straightforward, but in the age of open and on-demand access to information, becoming health literate can be a challenge. The overwhelming amount of information that we’re exposed to can make it difficult to find both the time, and mental capacity, to sort through it all.
Remember when the media reported that chocolate could help you lose weight? Turns out it was all an elaborate prank by a group of researchers to demonstrate how easy it was to manipulate study results into ‘evidence’. (Read all about it here.) This is perhaps an extreme example, but it shows how easily health information can be misrepresented and how this in turn influences our behaviour.
This month, I’m sharing ways to help you build and flex your muscles in an effort to become savvier at discerning facts from fads (or falsehoods).
Your Health Literacy Workout Plan
Step 1: Get to the source.
Start with the domain name and URL. Look for sites that end in .ca, .com, or .org. Next, try to find the original source of the claim/information. In this era of content convergence and integration, many articles tend to reference another source. Check that the information is from a peer-reviewed article in an academic journal.
Step 2: Examine the evidence.
Even if a study is reporting significant findings, things like sample size, population demographics and researcher bias can lead to inaccurate information translation.
Step 3: Check for affiliations.
We are in the midst of a ‘wellness revolution’ with companies trying to sell wellbeing in a variety of ways (e.g. supplements, services, products, workouts). Before buying into a product or claim, find out if the author is affiliated with the company in any way or even receiving payment/sponsorship for their endorsement. Many magazine and online advertisements are commonly disguised as research-based articles.
Step 4: Think before you share.
You may not realize it, but people in your professional, social and family circles might look to you as an expert on health and wellbeing. In an effort to ensure we are passing along accurate health information, be mindful of where, and with whom, you are sharing.
Step 5: Repeat steps as needed.
This month, I encourage you to delve a little deeper when the next great health claim comes along. Put your newfound skills to the test and be sure to act or react based on solid evidence.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the summer season!
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on May 3, 2018
Sexual and reproductive health are key components of our overall wellbeing, and yet we often consider them as unimportant or embarrassing. Social stigma and lack of education can get in the way of early, appropriate, and non-judgmental access to critical health care and accurate information.
To welcome in the start of spring, and to accompany the inevitable innuendos about ‘the birds and the bees’, I‘m offering up a quick guide for how to “heart your parts”.
Re-imagining the mind as a sexual organ
Sexuality is often considered as being exclusively physical, and yet it has fundamental connections to our mental health. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions linked to gender, sexuality and sexual health can impact our mental wellbeing in both positive and negative ways. The state of our mental health (positive, challenges, illness or diagnosis) can also affect our ability to lead the sexual lives we want.
Recent UBC research has shown the positive impact of regular mindfulness practice on sexual pleasure. The sexual response “really requires this back-and-forth communication between the brain and the body” says Dr. Lori Brotto in a recent article on research linking mindfulness to increased sexual satisfaction.
- Learn more about the connections between mental health and sexual health courtesy of Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights.
Reproductive health regardless of reproduction
Regular checkups are an important part of sexual health maintenance. Even if you’re not sexually active, or planning on conceiving, that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of certain health problems relating to your reproductive systems.
Often, seeking medical advice on the subject can be intimidating, but there are many resources available to you:
- Find a list of sex-positive sexual health service providers (province-wide).
- Read more about common reproductive system health concerns, including signs and symptoms. Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.
Consent is for everyone
In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye: “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be? I’m askin’ you, baby, to get it on with me.” He was both ahead of his time in role modeling sexual consent and in creating space for conversations about pleasure (self or partnered – it’s your prerogative). Consent is not something that disappears when we graduate, get married or are in a situation where we have previously consented. Consent is a constant conversation that requires communication, openness and active listening.
- Remember: Consent must be freely given and can be withdrawn at any time.
This month, regardless of what kind of parts you’re working with, I invite you to show them some love.
Want more on this subject?
Photo Credit: Sean McGrath (Flickr)
By Miranda Massie on April 3, 2018
I was fortunate to take a short vacation to a sunnier destination at the end of last month. Nothing gets me thinking about my finances more than travel, especially when converting hard-earned Canadian dollars into US currency. With tax season upon us, and in an effort to bring attention to the importance of financial wellbeing, I present a list of our top financial hacks to help set you on the right track for the new financial season.
Hack #1: Deal with high debt
Prioritize debt with the highest interest rates. When you’ve paid off one, move on to the next highest.
Hack #2: Unsubscribe from temptation
If you are trying to practice good financial health, unsubscribe from mailing lists so that you are not tempted to impulse-buy through online shopping deals.
Hack #3: Travel tips
Planning a vacation and want to stretch your dollars? Look at “value for money” destination lists such as Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best Value guide. Or, try clearing your cache (browsing history) each time you search for flights online, as sites often raise their prices if they see that you are searching multiple times for the same flight.
Hack #4: Statements serve a purpose
Read your monthly financial statements to help combat fraud and identify potential mix-ups early. Real-life example: I discovered I was being overcharged on my cellphone bill even after contacting the company to clear up the error. I would not have caught it without fully reading through my statement each month.
Hack #5: Get gift card savvy
If eating out is important, save some money by giving someone an “experience” gift, purchasing prizes in bulk, or buying discounted gift cards from places like Costco or London Drugs. Alternately, if you find yourself with a wallet full of unused gift cards, look at re-selling them online through sites like CardSwap.ca.
Hack #6: Maximize your benefits
Do you know all of the details of your UBC Extended Health plan? You might be missing out on opportunities to save money. Learn more about your benefit details, or check out our Health, Fitness and Family Discounts.
Hack #7: Strengthen your money know-how
Attend our upcoming workshop on Debt Freedom & Finances or The Psychology of Money, or read some of our past finance-related articles, including A Financial Cleanse in Five Steps and ‘Cha-Ching’: Cost Effective Health Hacks.
Here’s to healthier wallets this spring!
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on March 7, 2018
I love breakfast. Besides being one of those people who MUST eat something within an hour of waking up, I also just love breakfast food. Sweet, savoury, hot, cold, liquid, solid – it’s one of the most versatile meals around.
How many of you have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Particularly in North America, this common social understanding dates back to childhood, and despite evidence to support it, many people still don’t eat breakfast. 
Now, I’m not here to get all parental and tell you what to do. Instead, in honour of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share my love of breakfast. Here are my four reasons to feed your brain the most delicious meal of the day!
If you’re someone who needs variety, eating the same breakfast day after day may not sound very appetizing. Below is a go-to recipe that uses seasonally available ingredients and can be customized to your tastes. You can also find more oatmeal-topping ideas here.
Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal:
|5 cups||Quick oats|
|1 cup||Nut of your choice
(almond slices, toasted pecans, walnuts
|1 cup||Seed of your choice
(sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp)
|1 cup||Dried fruit of your choice
(cranberries, apricots, pineapple, banana)
|1 cup||Dried shredded coconut|
|Optional||Sliced fresh fruit (apples, banana, berries)|
- Prep ingredients in advance.
- Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your oatmeal into a bowl or Tupperware container. Add water.
- Microwave for 2 minutes. Enjoy!
Time can be a big barrier, but it doesn’t have to take ages to prepare breakfast. Here is a list of time-tested meal ideas to keep you moving in the morning:
- Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal (see above)
- Total time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (30 seconds to scoop + 2 minutes to microwave)
- Toasted English muffin with melted cheese
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute in toaster + 30 seconds to melt cheese)
- Night-before yogurt parfait
- Total time: 2 minutes night before, no time in the morning (45 seconds to scoop yogurt + 45 seconds to add frozen fruit + 30 seconds to pack granola)
- Nut butter Eggo
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute to toast frozen Eggo waffle + 30 seconds to spread nut butter of choice)
- Make-ahead breakfast egg cups 
- Total time: 31 minutes (30 minutes to make head of time + 45 seconds to microwave on the go)
It makes you smarter
Food fuels our bodies. The same way that wood fuels a fire, we can’t function optimally or survive without it. When we sleep, we fast for six to eight hours, which means the longer we put off eating, the longer our bodies have to try and function without fuel. Breakfast can help support our brains to do great things and be productive. It also prevents us from being distracted by rumbling tummies. Read more about the effects of nutrients on brain function. 
Another barrier to breakfast is cost. We often assume that it’s easier to make a quick stop at a coffee shop, but this routine can end up being more expensive over time. For example, a yogurt parfait and a banana loaf from Starbucks costs $6.63 including tax, but you can get the equivalent items — all homemade by UBC nutrition students – at the Agora Café for $4. It also pays (pun intended) to be prepared. Prepping your meals in advance (as per the time saving tips above) is another way to cut costs.
This month, I invite you to rise and shine with breakfast, and if that’s not for you, find a way to incorporate an early morning snack into your routine a few days a week. Turning meals into social events (a potluck brunch perhaps?) is a great way to start.
All my best,
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on February 5, 2018
A variety of personal, professional and educational situations have presented themselves recently that have prompted me to explore and reflect on my values.
Perhaps influenced by the current state of the world (or any number of other factors in my life at the moment), the value I seem most drawn to is love. After some coaching and reflection, I am able to say that I see love as the most foundational value upon which my values system is built.
Within a workplace context, I value leading with the heart and strongly believe that we should be able to bring our whole selves and whole hearts to work. I think work should be a place where is it safe to be authentic, and to openly acknowledge and practice our values.
There was a time not too long ago, when I felt that I had to separate my values from my professional self. I was sure that my personal values were too ‘soft’ to be present in my work. Bringing love into the workplace might seem like a radical idea, but I realize now that it might be a way to create change and to re-frame the idea of “workplace culture”.
In the spirit of love (and Valentine’s Day), I offer five ways to improve the physical and emotional health of your heart:
1. Say Thank You
Practice gratitude by thanking others, either publicly or privately. Doing this on a regular basis can increase happiness, contentment, pride and hope. It also make us more willing to help others. 
2. Laugh Out Loud
Laughter is one of the oldest and most cost-effective health products on the market. It produces a wide range of both physical (pain reduction, improved cardiovascular health, better immunity) and psychological benefits (elevates mood, creates focus, reduces stress). 
3. Show Compassion
Practicing compassion towards ourselves is just as important as showing compassion to others. Through compassion, we learn to soften our hearts and see improvements in kindness, self-confidence and connectedness. 
4. Spend Time in Nature
Exposure to nature not only boosts lower blood pressure, but it also builds empathy and fosters community. 
5. Stay Connected
Social support creates physical and emotional connection. It has also been found to be a protective factor against stress, and less stress on our hearts leads to healthier lives! 
This month, I invite you to imagine what it would be like if we worked from our hearts. Wishing you a February full of love, warmth and happiness.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on January 11, 2018
January has arrived and we are back to greet another new year at UBC.
Despite missing my morning sleep-ins and binge-watching true crime dramas on Netflix, I derive a certain satisfaction from returning to a routine. I feel more productive and organized, and I notice an immediate improvement to both my sleeping and eating habits. I even started writing in my Five Minute Journal. (It remains to be seen how long this will last, but I’m cautiously optimistic!)
We are primed for all things new and renewed at this time of year and often start out feeling strong and motivated. But is this sustainable? How long do our resolutions really last? Can our intentions stand the test of time, and should they? How do we avoid feeling like we have failed if things don’t go as planned?
When it comes to changing habits or taking action, I truly believe that the most important factor is a deep understanding of the self. “Sticking with it” or having a “can-do attitude” doesn’t work for me personally. I have learned that in order to avoid feeling like a failure, a specific set of factors must be in place if I’m to be successful. It starts with an examination of what gets me excited, what keeps me going and what can derail my good intentions. My musings might help guide your New Year intentions.
If it’s not right in front of me, I won’t do it.
I easily forget (or intentionally avoid) tasks, even when I chose them. For my 2018 workout plan, I wrote it out calendar-style, with colourful markers and check boxes. It will sit on my kitchen table to ensure that I follow it. It makes for a messier home, but also keeps me accountable. Check out some of my inspiration from Pinterest.
I get bored easily.
Times like these I wish I was a runner. I envy people who like to run: it’s so simple and accessible, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less. In order to stay interested and involved in my fitness routine, I need to change things up. I incorporate apps and different types of workouts including yoga, and I’m hoping to take up swimming again in our beautiful UBC Aquatic Centre.
I like a challenge.
The competitive streak in me shines when a challenge is thrown down, even when it is with myself. I like to win and want to win, so I turn my resolutions into mini competitions with myself or others. I’ll be joining the UBC Walkabout this month as a way of increasing and tracking my daily steps, and I use the Carrot app to get rewards for my walking because who doesn’t want more Aeroplan or Scene points?
I need a deadline.
The best way for me to fail at a new habit or resolution is to have it last forever. I am fundamentally unmotivated by anything that does not have an end in sight. My New Year fitness plan is currently set for 10 weeks. Once I complete that, I will celebrate, take a few weeks off and then re-assess what I want to do next. I also make sure to write out a list of rules (guidelines or criteria if you prefer) to keep me accountable, one that includes minimum time limits and what types of activity count.
Setting the stage for change has become just as or even more important than what my ultimate goals are. In being more intentional at the start, I find that I’m much more likely to have all the pieces in place to feel successful.
This month, I invite you to leave some room for self-compassion, inspiration and success in whatever form your resolutions might take. Find ways to manage your New Year energy, investigate ways to keep motivated and perhaps even step out of your comfort zone like Professor Ono.
Wishing you a wonderful start to 2018!
All my best,
Photo credit: Miranda Massie
By Miranda Massie on December 7, 2017
In the true spirit of the holiday season, I feel it is important that I not only be honest with myself, but with you as well. This fall was tough: it was probably the most demanding, hectic and draining fall that I have experienced in many years, at work and in my life outside of work. The upside is that I’ve been able to share my wellbeing work with large numbers of the UBC community, and that I’ve handed in my last school paper for the semester. It was a rewarding and meaningful time, both personally and professionally, and I hope the same is true for you. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact that my personal gas tank is hovering on empty as I push myself towards the finish line that is my holiday break. As we find ourselves in the middle of yet another busy season (one that is sometimes overshadowed by consumerism, busyness and all manners of excess), I’m experiencing a lot of internal questions:
Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more? Why do I feel guilty when I’m not working or studying? Have I let others down? Am I capable? What should success look like?
In sharing these vulnerable thoughts and insecurities recently with friends and now with you, I’m reminded of a practice that is often overlooked but one imperative to our survival – especially at this time of year: self-compassion.
Practicing self- compassion
What is self-compassion?
It is taking the time to treat ourselves the same way that we would treat a loved one, whether they’re two-legged, four-legged, winged, etc. It is acknowledging that we, too, deserve care and comfort during stressful and difficult times. It is the act of silencing our inner critic in the hope of accepting that we are entitled to a break.
Why is it important?
Self-compassion has been strongly linked to wellbeing. It can lead to reductions in negative mind states such as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism and shame. It has also been found to increase positive mind states like life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity and gratitude .
How do you start?
- Practice self-kindness instead of self-judgement.This means accepting our imperfections with empathy instead of shame and criticism. The more we cling to aspirations of perfection, the more we judge the end result. Recognize and value the massiveness of what we try to do each day and know there will be situations, histories and events beyond our control and that these are not a reflection of our worth or character.
- Look for common humanity instead of isolation.This involves acknowledging that we may face difficult situations, but we are not alone in doing so. Trials and tribulations are part of the common human experience, and they are ones that we do not have to face alone.
- Try mindfulness instead of over-identification. This is working to process negative emotions in a constructive way in order to avoid emotional reactivity and negative thought patterns. Reflect on how you are more than your external achievements and that internal accomplishments are worth just as much.
Want to learn more?
Watch this two-minute video for tips on practicing self-compassion
Or, listen to this 10-minute guided meditation for self-compassion:
This holiday season, as a reminder of the true meaning and spirit of this time of year, I invite you to give yourself the gift of self-compassion. Take it slow and be kind in your expectations of the self. Cut yourself some slack. Find new ways to silence that internal critic and replace it with a voice of kindness and charity. And I promise to try and do the same for myself as well. As 2017 closes, let’s get ready to meet the New Year with fresh eyes and an open heart.
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged editorial, generosity, kindness, Mindfulness, Miranda Massie, patience, recharge, rest, self-care, self-compassion, spiritual health, Support, survival | 2 Responses
By Miranda Massie on October 25, 2017
It can be challenging to stay resilient in the face of life’s challenges, but the good news is that we all have the capacity to make small improvements to boost our mental health. These strategies and changes are individual, and what works to boost your positive mental health may not work for someone else.
It is nearly Thrive week at UBC and what is unique about Thrive are the variety of engaging and diverse events, activities and experiences to help each person thrive in their own way. Find a full list of the week’s events here.
For those unable to attend a Thrive event, participate online in the #LetsThriveUBC social media challenge. Each day of the challenge is centred around a theme based on UBC’s five wellbeing priorities.
Inspired by these themes – and because I get asked this a lot by folks across UBC – I created a list of suggestions to help you get started. Check out my tips for small actions you can take to thrive each day of the week.
Fifteen Ways to Thrive (in Five Days)
Day 1: Feel Good Foods
A well-balanced, nourishing diet helps us all to thrive, fueling important academic and professional work.
- Eating breakfast or adding protein to your breakfast (egg, peanut butter, cottage cheese)
- Trading your caffeine for flavoured (lemon, cucumber) or fizzy water
- Buying yourself a small, feel-good treat
Day 2: Active Movement
Moving more can improve both mental and physical health, and impact academic and professional success.
- Walking briskly for 10 minutes today
- Standing for five minutes at the top of every hour
- Dancing around your house for the length of one song (suggestions)
Day 3: Thriving Spaces
Environments, both built and natural, play an important role in facilitating physical, mental, social and ecological wellbeing.
- Breathing in fresh, outside air for five minutes
- Making your bed with fresh sheets
- Spending 30 minutes somewhere with exposure to natural light
Day 4: Resilience
Reducing stigma, a supportive campus culture, and access to resources are key to improving resiliency and coping skills.
- Writing a gratitude Post-It (list three things you are grateful for in two minutes or less)
- Taking five deep breaths, counting to five on each inhale and to five on each exhale
- Laughing at a funny movie, meme or video
Day 5: Key Connections
Diversity, equity, inclusion and respect are key values in building and sustaining environments where we can all thrive and be well.
- Putting away or turning off your phone (and other electronic devices) during all meals today
- Talking to a friend (or a pet if they are a better listener)
- Asking for or accepting help from someone else, even if it is for something small
You may not feel the results immediately, but over time all of these small actions can pave the way for improved resilience and help fine-tune our mental health.
We are well into the fall semester, and I know of many staff, faculty and students who are feeling the impact of work, academic and personal pressures. This month, I encourage you to take the time to care for yourselves so that you may be at your best to support those around you. Consider attending a special Staff & Faculty Pop-up Wellness Lounge (Nov. 2, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.).
All my best,
References and further reading:
Photo credit: UBC Thrive
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie | Tagged action, environmental health, gratitude, inclusion, mental health, Nutrition, physical activity, resilience, self-care, thrive, Thrive week, UBC, wellbeing | 1 Response
By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2017
I came across this tweet from UBC Public Affairs last week:
“New UBC research explains why you think everyone else has more friends than you do”
It piqued my interest because the theme for this month’s newsletter is social health. In preparation, our team has been reflecting on what social health looks like and how it takes shape within our relationships and connections with others.
This new research reflects a widespread belief that people think their peers are more socially connected and have more friends. However, the reality reveals this to be untrue. Essentially, we are convincing ourselves that everyone else is getting invited to the party but us, and this is resulting in negative consequences on our self-esteem and mental health.
The word social can be intimidating, particularly for those who identify as introverts, but we can still reap the benefits of social connections even when we keep our circle small.
Top five reasons to stay connected this fall:
- Improve your thinking. We are more likely to think in positive and empowering ways when we have meaningful connections with others.
- Protect yourself. Social support and associated boosts in self-esteem are protective factors against life’s stressors.
- Get well and live longer. Being emotionally supported by others leads to improvements in physical health and longevity. Allowing yourself to seek this support during stressful times can improve a person’s overall wellbeing.
- Boost self-esteem. Social support impacts self-esteem. Higher self-esteem is associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression and distress.
- Find more satisfaction. Self-esteem is also associated with higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness.
Check out this TED Talk about the power of human connection:
More than ever, I’m convinced that FOMO (the fear of missing out), is a real thing — I have a major case of it most of the time — but I am comforted in the fact that research has now confirmed that it is mostly in my own head.
This month I invite you to reflect on, and appreciate, the friendships and social opportunities that you have instead of those that you don’t. Whether your social circles are large or small, we can all benefit from continuing to connect with others.
If you are interested in practical ways to create and deepen connections with others, check out the following links:
- The Chopra Centre’s 10 Ways to Deepen Your Connections With Others
- TED Talk’s How to connect with others
- Entrepreneur.com’s How to Immediately Connect with Anyone
Photo credit: UBC Communications and Marketing
Kawachi, Ichiro and Lisa Berkman. (2001) Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78:458-467.
Steinhardt, Mary and Christyn Dolbier. (2008) Evaluation of a Resilience Intervention to Enhance Coping Strategies and Protective Factors and Decrease Symptomatology. Journal of American College Health, 56: 445-453.
Thoits, Peggy. (2011). Mechanisms Linking Social tied and Support to Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 52:145-161.
By Miranda Massie on September 13, 2017
Welcome back! The familiar September hum, indicative of the start of another academic year, is all around us and faculty, staff and students are as busy as ever. In particular, for those of our colleagues working in front-facing, advising or instructional roles, this time of year can be challenging as they are often required to put the needs and priorities of others well ahead of their own.
Our dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic staff and faculty are a huge part of what makes our UBC communities so unique, and in order to ensure that we remain at the top of our game for others, we must not forget ourselves.
Have you taken a lunch break this week? When was the last time that you stood up from your desk and stretched? Did you drink any water yesterday? Have you socialized with colleagues today?
The truth about caring for others is that it can leave us feeling amazing and exhausted. We can feel positive, proud, fulfilled and rewarded, yet experience anxiety, fear, resentment and frustration at the same time. These emotions are natural and even have names :
- Burnout: Gradual mental and/or physical feelings of detachment, exhaustion and negative feelings associated with frustrations or a perceived inability to make a difference
- Compassion Satisfaction: Positive emotions and satisfaction received from helping others
- Compassion Stress (a.k.a. Secondary Traumatic Stress): Negative reaction experienced by a caregiver in response to an indirect event (something experienced by someone else)
- Compassion Fatigue: State of burnout or exhaustion as a result of prolonged compassion stress
When our roles are so tightly tied to the successes and achievements of others, it can be challenging to remember to care for ourselves. To be the most effective and successful in our work, we need to continually maintain our vitality and resilience. 
So how do we find the time to look after ourselves and recharge in meaningful ways? The key is to find small, manageable and affordable things that can be done on a daily basis to promote renewal while reducing immediate stress. A note of caution: we run the risk of setting lofty self-care goals that may not be realistic or attainable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure or make it easy to send goals to the bottom of the to-do list.
This month I invite you to consider your own needs along with those of the people that you are working for and working with. Reflect on what you do for your own self-care and try to find ways to incorporate these things into each day.
Self-care ideas :
- Read a book on your own or with your child
- Listen to a favourite playlist/song
- Savour a bath or shower
- Find ways to laugh
- Keep your work environment bright and cheerful (plants, flowers, pictures, art)
- Snuggle with a pet
- Write in a journal (try The Five Minute Journal!)
- Meditate, reflection or prayer
- Take breaks
- Spend time in nature
- Establish a sleep routine
- Check out this video of people sharing their self-care routines (BuzzFeedBlue)
- Use the Self-Care chart below (@instadoodles)
Here’s to an exciting and resilient September!
All my best,
 Mental Health Commission of Canada (3rd ed.). (2016). Mental Health First Aid.
 Skovholt, T. M., Trotter-Mathison, M. (2016). The resilient practitioner: Burnout and compassion fatigue prevention and self-care strategies for the helping professions (3rd ed.). New York; London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.4324/9781315737447
 Riordan, M.M. Self-Care Advice for Caregivers. Human Development, 22(4), 27-31.
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie | Tagged boundaries, burnout, compassion, fatigue, health benefits, Higher ed, satisfaction, self-care, Stress, stress management, UBC, work, workplace | 3 Responses