By Miranda Massie on January 8, 2019
Guest contribution from Wendy Quan
Mindfulness offers a wealth of practices that can help in times of distress. It can allow you to observe when your thoughts are spiralling out of control and to notice what’s influencing your reactions. It can help you make better decisions, be more effective and not regret your reactions afterwards.
Here is a simple practice you can call upon in the heat of the moment:
Pause and take a mindful breath. Give yourself a micro opportunity to mentally ‘step away’.
Notice your emotions. Check in with yourself. It only takes an instant to do so. Can you identify and label the emotions you’re having right now, in this moment? It could be surprise, anger, disbelief or many other emotions.
By identifying and labeling your emotions, you give yourself the opportunity to gain some objectivity on the situation at hand. It gives you some space to consider what you feel are appropriate possible responses.
If you are in a situation that requires immediate action, take a mindful breath. If you have a bit more time (e.g. preparing to go into a heated meeting), close your eyes just for a minute and experience your breath. You can find some calmness, composure and clarity of thought in just a short moment.
3. Take Action
After making a decision on the best appropriate response, take action mindfully. Notice how you are responding: your behaviour, body language, tone of voice, etc. Being mindful of your actions lets you create the experience you wish to have, rather than succumbing to auto-pilot responses triggered in the heat of the moment.
Call upon this simple Pause, Notice, Take Action practice as a tool to get you through those unsettling moments.
Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is an industry leader in training and certifying experienced meditators to become mindfulness meditation facilitators in their workplace or community. She combines change management with mindfulness meditation to help people through difficult change and is the creator of the Dealing with Change Toolkit.
Wendy is a certified organizational change manager who has been recognized as a pioneer by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley, the global Association of Change Management Professionals and the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources. Her clients include Google, the government of Dubai, University of British Columbia, the US Senate, and individuals and Fortune 500 organizations worldwide.
By Miranda Massie on August 7, 2018
Guest contribution from Amelia Douglas
Summer is in full swing and based on current heat warnings from Environment Canada, it is unsurprising that Metro Vancouver workers and residents are feeling the heat.
Prolonged exposure to increased temperatures can result in health impacts that range from mild to severe, such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.1 While temperature affects all people, certain groups are at higher risk for heat related illness.2 Individuals who work outdoors, are over the age of 45, are pregnant, have poor general health, or are taking certain medications that interfere with thermoregulation (the body’s ability to maintain its internal temperature) can be at an elevated risk of experiencing adverse health effects in times of increased or prolonged heat events.1-3
The good news is that at UBC, there are a number of strategies and tools employees, supervisors and managers can use to prevent and reduce the risk of heat stress and illnesses.4
1. Drink plenty of water. For tips on how to hydrate, check out this Healthy UBC article, Top Tips for Staying Well This Summer.
2. Wear cool clothing (e.g. loose fitting, cotton, light coloured). If you are required to wear a hardhat, try attaching a light-coloured piece of fabric to the back to shade your neck.
3. Take breaks out of the heat. Opt for the shade or air-conditioned buildings.
4. Work in pairs or groups. Avoid working alone in conditions where heat stress is possible.
5. Schedule work to reduce heat exposure. Be aware of daily temperature changes, and schedule the hardest physical tasks for cooler parts of the day (e.g. in the morning).
Recognition & Action
Recognizing if a colleague is exhibiting any signs and symptoms of heat stress or heat-related illness is critical for intervening early and reducing the risk of serious health effects. To learn more about the physiological effects of heat and what you can do if you are a manager/supervisor/colleague, visit this WorkSafeBC page on heat stress. If you recognize signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, follow these St. John Ambulance first aid guidelines.5
Amelia Douglas is the Program Coordinator for UBC’s Occupational & Preventive Health Unit. Originally from the ‘friendly town’ of Almonte, Ontario, she moved to Vancouver in 2015 to pursue her Masters of Public Health in Environmental & Occupational Health at Simon Fraser University. Amelia has a keen interest in risk assessment and disease prevention and brings a background in community engagement and outreach to her work at UBC.
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 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 Melissa Lafrance on September 13, 2017
What Exactly is Resiliency?
How can some people bounce back from hardship or remain in challenging situations while others get disconcerted and remain affected for a longer period of time? Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy and other significant sources of stress. Research has shown that resilience is ordinary not extraordinary, and people regularly demonstrate resilience. Having strong resiliency skills doesn’t remove challenging or distressed feelings altogether, but rather can help reduce the time it takes to return to “normal” everyday functioning. Luckily, resilience involves behaviours, thoughts, actions and skills that can be learned and developed.
Several achievable factors are associated with resilience, including:
- Having caring and supportive relationships
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Skills in communication and problem solving
- The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
Developing or enhancing resilience is a completely personal journey. Here are a few general tips  to consider when developing your personal resiliency:
Make connections. Having a good support system involving positive relationships is crucial, as is accepting help from those who care about you and your wellbeing. Read more about improving the quality of your relationships.
Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You may not be able to control or avoid stressful events from happening, but you can change your outlook and how you respond to these events. Find out how you can maintain your inner strength amidst life’s daily challenges.
Accept change. It is part of life. This may change your course of action or make certain goals no longer attainable. Learn how to deal with the stress resulting from change and how to adapt and respond effectively to changes.
Explore, determine and move towards your goals. Learn the SMART guide to goal setting.
Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as possible rather than passively ignoring problems and stresses. Check out some tips for great decision making.
Seize opportunities for self-discovery. Learn to meditate or try a new team sport or hobby.
Nurture a positive view of yourself. Read more on constructing confidence and building self-belief.
Maintain a perspective view on things. Avoid making difficult situations a bigger deal than they actually are. View stressful events in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. Being optimistic about the future allows you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Instead of worrying and fearing for the worst, visualize a hopeful outcome. Nourish your inner optimist. Consider using a journal such as the Five Minute Journal  to help you focus on the good in your life.
Take care of yourself. Read more on how to improve your relationship with yourself.
Explore Mindfulness and Meditation at UBC. Consider enrolling in our upcoming programs:
30-Day Online Mindfulness Challenge – Free for UBC employees
Two Start Dates: October 16, 2017 and February 19, 2018
Learn the core skills of mindfulness through evidence-based online training. The 30-day challenge does not involve a formal meditation practice, but rather teaches mindfulness-in-action for everyday life.
How it works:
- 5-10 minutes per day
- Online, anytime, any device
- 30 consecutive days
- Invite a buddy or colleagues to join you
Key impact areas:
- Health and wellbeing
- Increased performance
- Teamwork and conflict resolution
Mindfulness@Work – $100 for UBC employees (eligible for PD funding)
Two Start Dates: November 7, 2017 and April 5, 2018
For a deeper understanding of mindfulness and/or to develop a meditation practice, Mindfulness@Work offers an in-person educational program experience that uses the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) model.
How it works
- Six-week, in-person training
- Meet for 1 hour and 15 minutes once a week in a small supportive group led by a mindfulness teacher
- Attend a half day weekend retreat
- Daily home assignments for 15-30 minutes a day
Key impact areas
- Stress reduction
- Physical and mental wellbeing
- Effectiveness, teamwork, communication skills
- Focuses on integrating mindfulness in the workplace
Additional resources on building resiliency:
- More steps to building resiliency in your life
- Tips for balance and talking about resiliency
- Workplace and career resiliency
Photo credit: Melissa Lafrance