By Miranda Massie on March 4, 2019
This month’s Thriving Campus feature is Isabeau Iqbal, an educational developer in the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. Isabeau is also the mother of a teenager with an eating disorder. The following interview and information are being shared with permission from Isabeau and her daughter.
Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Can you please tell us how you became aware of your daughter’s eating disorder?
I first became aware of the eating disorder in the summer of 2018. It took being off work and spending holiday time with my daughter to realize how bad it was. At first, it just looked like healthy eating and living (exercise, being cautious about eating foods we typically label as healthy – i.e. lots of fruit and vegetables). Then, I started to notice unusual behaviour around food, especially excessive planning and control. Once I realized how far along and how bad it was, I started looking for resources.
That process of finding resources was surprisingly difficult given the prevalence of eating disorders — trying to figure out who could offer what, and the fastest route [to treatment] was challenging. Early on, I realized I couldn’t just rely on the “free to me” resources in the external community: because the demand is so high, places like the Eating Disorder Clinic only see people who are advanced in their disorder. By coincidence, one of my colleagues from Alberta had presented at a conference I attended, where he shared his experience with his own daughter having an eating disorder. He was the first person I reached out to and he was able to connect me with the Looking Glass Foundation.
How has this impacted your work life?
For a number of months, I was like a deer in headlights, trying to figure out what was going on. Unless you’ve been through the experience, it’s hard to know [what it’s like]. I had never had any experience with mental illness before, so it was a really foreign experience for me. At first, I didn’t tell people what was going on because I was hanging on and trying to understand. I was so lost and trying to figure out what resources might be available to us – all this takes time.
I was receiving multiple calls a day from a highly distressed teenager. I cancelled a conference presentation and a few other significant commitments in order to be more available to my daughter. Thankfully, I work part-time and have a lot of autonomy and flexibility in my work. Eventually, I started telling a few close colleagues and my manager. I had understanding colleagues and collaborators which was really great.
Did you access any UBC specific resources during this time?
The mindfulness challenge. I had done it before, but maybe because of the situation, I felt it was more helpful this time around and I was more into it. That was probably the most helpful resource that I was able to access and make use of.
How are you and your daughter doing at this time?
She’s doing much, much better. She still experiences anxiety, which I think is the normal course of affairs, but she’s transformed. I see her smile, she has energy. I look into her face and it’s a different person. Our relationship is back to what it was.
The amount of crying and the amount of distress I felt in the fall was unlike anything I’ve experienced before, so the fact that she’s better, I’m better. I feel so lucky to have found a great therapist and nutritionist who have been able to support us. And I’m grateful for the support that we have at UBC in terms of benefits. In terms of flexibility and financial supports, it’s big.
Recognizing that eating disorders can have life-long implications, what are you doing to stay resilient and support your continued health and wellbeing?
The ability for me to be present for my daughter has been very important. I’ve been dabbling in mindfulness for a while, and I would say this [experience] really required me to be present. Because when she needed me, I had to let everything else go and be with her. Now, when my head starts to worry that this could come back, what if it happens when she’s not under my care and things like that, I try and bring myself to the now and let go of the worry. It’s too easy to slip into the what-if’s. I subscribe to the Headspace app which helps me keep up my mindfulness practice.
What does being a member of the UBC community mean to you in light of your recent challenges?
I have a supportive manager, as well as fabulous colleagues: they are good friends and people that I trust to be myself around. To be able to speak with colleagues and to let them know this is what’s going on for me has been important.
If you could offer advice to managers or supervisors on campus who don’t have experience in supporting their staff members in a time like this, what would you tell them?
Try and learn a little bit more about the experience that the person [staff member] is going through. I was able to tell my manager that my daughter has an eating disorder and that it is stressful, and it might have been helpful for me to say what that meant for me day-to-day. Ask the person, “What is important for me to know about [what you’re going through]?”
Do you have any suggestions or advice to offer to those who may be experiencing a similar challenge?
Do not suffer alone and do not wait. Access [available] help and resources as soon as possible. The change that we started to see as soon as my daughter started eating was encouragement enough to keep going. I started to see glimmers of recovery. Eating disorders are under the big umbrella of ‘mental health’, but it really is a specific area that needs specialized support. The most important thing is to find the support you need to get your child eating, and for us that was an amazing nutritionist. We are lucky, in this big city, that there are some fabulous and specialized therapists as well as other resources. Consider joining an online support network for people caring for someone with an eating disorder (FEAST-ED).
Why did you want to share this story with us and our Healthy UBC readers?
If this story can help one person, I will be happy. This is the hardest experience I’ve ever lived through. I felt so lost and so alone and so sad. My daughter and I want to share our experience to help others who may be going through something similar. During the fall, when my daughter was struggling through her recovery, I thought, many times, of how much easier it would be to be gone from this earth. I want people to know that getting help for an eating disorder is not easy, but there are ways forward.
To learn more or to support a person struggling with an eating disorder, please access the following resources:
- Employee and Family Assistance Program: Naturopath, dietitian, health coaching and family counselling services; confidential and available 24/7
- Extended Health Benefits: Coverage for naturopath and /or dietitian services
In the community
- Kelty Eating Disorders – BC support and resources
- Dietitians of Canada – Find a Dietitian Service
- Canadian Benefits for Caregivers
Photo credit: Isabeau Iqbal
By Melissa Lafrance on February 5, 2019
Has your physical wellbeing taken a back seat? Whether you have some personal fitness goals or an ailment you should pay attention to, remember that UBC has lots of resources to offer – from extended health benefits to ergonomics. Read on to learn more about the services available to support your physical wellbeing.
Jason’s Challenge: When the path to good physical health becomes a pain
Jason recently decided to start a new training regime to enhance his ability to run a marathon in four months. Since increasing his running schedule to three times a week, Jason has found that the pain in his right calf has returned (the injury was initially brought on by a fall.) The pain is causing him to adjust his daily physical activities. Jason realizes he needs expert advice and treatment to help reduce the pain and prevent further injury.
How to access paramedical coverage through Extended Health benefits:
The UBC Extended Health benefits plan supports employees like Jason in their continuing health and wellbeing. Jason’s benefits include coverage for a wide range of services from paramedical practitioners such as physiotherapists, registered massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, podiatrists and more. Learn about your coverage for paramedical services.
How EFAP can be a coach for improving physical health:
Morneau Shepell, UBC’s Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider, can also support Jason’s training. When he calls the Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765, Jason can book a health coaching consultation, which can motivate him to make changes to be well and stay well.
Morneau Shepell offers an online hub of resources with articles to improve and maintain physical health (e.g. putting the fun back into fitness, fitness at work, and climbing back on the fitness wagon.) (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization to access these articles.)
How mindfulness can provide focus:
Training the mind is also an important part of any fitness goal. If Jason is looking to strengthen his mental resolve, he can sign up for the 30-Day Online Mindfulness Challenge. Using evidence-based curricula, this mindfulness training, which begins every Monday, can be a simple yet powerful tool in honing mental wellbeing.
Jocelyn’s Dilemma: How to get back to active
Jocelyn has been experiencing increasing back tension and discomfort. It might be caused by a variety of factors, including feelings of anxiety which seems to add to her physical tension and using a new desk and chair in a new office environment. The discomfort has caused her to skip out on her favourite yoga classes, which she knows are beneficial for general physical health. Jocelyn wants to address this appropriately and return to her usual, active self.
How EFAP can help:
To address her feelings of anxiety (but to avoid aggravating her back), Jocelyn could use EFAP’s confidential video counselling service from the comfort of her own apartment. A professional counsellor can provide appropriate strategies and tools to help manage anxiety. If the situation requires specialized care or long-term counselling, Morneau Shepell will find resources that best meet individual needs and budget.
How to access paramedical coverage through Extended Health benefits:
Similar to Jason, Jocelyn can access UBC Extended Health benefits that cover paramedical services like physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture and more. Find out about your coverage for paramedical practitioners.
How ergonomics can help:
UBC Ergonomics can help ensure that the design and arrangement of Jocelyn’s workstation allows for optimal use and prevents the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. She can access an online Ergo Your Office Guide, a tool for setting up a workstation ergonomically, or sign up for an upcoming Ergo workshop or training.
By Melissa Lafrance on January 8, 2019
What does your emotional wellbeing look like in the new year? Whether or not you have some personal objectives in mind, remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you need support for your emotional wellbeing this year, or if you’re concerned about a colleague, friend or family member, reach out as early as possible. Your campus community cares, and help is available for you and your dependents.
Melanie’s Dilemma: When family relationships are more rocky than smooth
Melanie just returned from visiting her family. Although she was happy to see her loved ones, she feels emotionally drained after spending time with her younger brother. Since their parents’ divorce, Melanie and her brother have had a sensitive relationship filled with disagreements and confrontations. When they are together, there are tense moments that increase Melanie’s feelings of anxiety and frustration. Melanie really wants to address her emotional wellbeing in the New Year by dealing with the persistent issues between her and her brother in the hopes of improving their relationship.
How EFAP can provide confidential relationship support:
Through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provided by Morneau Shepell, Melanie can connect with a professional counsellor who specializes in relationship challenges and conflict resolution. She can receive confidential, short-term counselling for a range of relationship issues, including communication and mental health challenges. Because EFAP services are available in a variety of formats, including video counselling and First Chat, Melanie can choose the support service that’s most convenient for her.
To help her communicate better, resolve conflicts and approach the situation with her brother differently, Melanie can access Morneau Shepell’s www.workhealthlife.com online hub for articles on improving family communication and resolving family conflicts. (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.)
If the situation requires specialized care or long-term counselling, Morneau Shepell will find resources to best meet individual needs and budget.
EFAP could also refer Melanie to a registered psychologist, social worker or clinical counsellor. Through UBC’s Extended Health Plan, Melanie may be reimbursed for 100% of reasonable and customary charges, up to a maximum of $2,500 per year. No doctor’s referral is required to access this service.
Katie’s Challenge: The emotional toll of caring for an ill family member
Katie’s father has been living with her for the past two years. He’s physically capable of caring for himself, but is financially dependent on Katie and her partner. Recently, he was diagnosed with gout and is having difficulty coming to terms with the diagnosis and the diet changes his doctor advised him to follow. Katie would like some advice for herself as a caregiver and also for her father to support him through this diagnosis.
How EFAP can help:
EFAP is available for eligible staff, faculty, retired employees, and their dependents. Dependents include spouses and children, as well as parents that are financially dependent on the employee. Because Katie already enrolled her father in EFAP, they can both access Morneau Shepell’s support services.
For Katie’s father, a counsellor can help him cope with health changes. He can also receive nutrition advice and health-related consultations from naturopathic doctors, registered dietitians and nurses over the phone. As a caregiver, Katie can support her own emotional wellbeing through counselling. Confidential email or e-counselling for psychological support is available, which Katie might find useful since she enjoys writing and journaling.
By Melissa Lafrance on December 5, 2018
For people who struggle with substance use and addictions, it can sometimes be difficult to seek out help and support. It is important to know that no matter how you are feeling, you are not alone. Whether you are looking for help for yourself or supporting a loved one, reach out. Help is available.
Tara’s Concerns: When you are worried about your teenager
Tara is a mother of two and notices that one of her teenage sons is exhibiting addictive behaviours. Lucas has hinted that he might be experimenting with drugs and alcohol and that it has become a coping mechanism. When Tara has brought up her concerns around substance use, Lucas has become angry, hostile and defensive and has become increasingly emotionally distant. Worried about his safety and wellbeing, she’s in need of finding help for herself and Lucas.
Confidential Addiction and Parenting Support:
The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), provided by Morneau Shepell, is a confidential and voluntary counselling support service. Counsellors can help with a range of issues, including mental health challenges and substance use or addiction. Services are available in a variety of formats, including video counselling. Tara and Lucas would be able to connect with a professional that specializes in substance use and addiction to receive short-term counselling in they own home at a time that is convenient for them.
Tara can also access parenting advice that will help her communicate with her teenage sons about serious issues. This can be in the form of a consultation and/or she can read the many articles available through www.workhealthlife.com, including this one on having the big talk. (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.)
If the situation requires specialized care or long-term counselling, Morneau Shepell will work to find resources to best meet individual needs and budget.
UBC’s Extended Health Plan also provides reimbursement of counselling services. EFAP can refer them to a registered psychologist, social worker or clinical counsellor. Tara and her eligible dependents, may be reimbursed for 100% of reasonable and customary charges, up to a maximum of $2,500 per person, per year. No doctor’s referral is required to access this service.
Bruce’s Challenge: When gambling isn’t fun anymore
Bruce has always enjoyed a night out at the casino with friends. A few months ago, after comments from a family member regarding the amount of time he spent gambling, he switched to online poker instead. He also recently had to sell his car to be able to pay his rent. Bruce is feeling increasingly self conscious about his gambling and has begun to question whether or not his habits are cause for concern. He would like to talk to a counsellor about his situation and also needs help figuring out his finances.
How EFAP can help:
EFAP has many addictions-related articles including this one on understanding gambling addiction. EFAP provides confidential short-term, in-person counselling that can help Bruce talk about his concerns and determine if he has a gambling addiction. An EFAP counsellor could help him develop coping strategies and practical tools for abstaining from addictive behaviour, with the goal of maintaining abstinence over time. Bruce can also access First Chat, a confidential chat platform that provides online support any time of day.
Bruce would also be able to access financial consultations over the phone to help with budgeting and debt reduction. If the situation requires specialized care or long-term counselling, Bruce could be referred to a counsellor within the community and be covered through UBC’s Extended Health Plan.
For a list of additional resources at UBC and within your community including help lines, support groups, and harm reduction and treatment options, visit the Substance Use and Addiction Support Resources page.
By Melissa Lafrance on March 7, 2018
There’s no better time to think about food: March is National Nutrition Month! At UBC, food and nutrition are important priorities of UBC Wellbeing, and your UBC benefits offer many services and programs that can support you (and your eligible dependents) in the shift to healthier eating and living. Read on to learn more.
Extended Health Benefits: Registered Dietitians & Naturopaths
Did you know that the UBC Extended Health Benefits plan offers coverage for a wide range of services, including paramedical practitioners such as registered dietitians and naturopaths?
Registered dietitians provide advice and counselling about diet, food and nutrition. They can help you make healthy food choices and manage any special health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies and obesity.
Registered naturopaths use a natural and holistic approach to the maintenance of good health and can help you improve digestion, boost energy levels and make proper nutrition and food choices.
To learn more about coverage and reimbursements for registered dietitian and/or naturopath services, visit our Extended Health page.
Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Services
UBC’s EFAP provider Shepell offers four services that can help you and your eligible dependants with healthy eating. All services are provided by telephone consultation. To book services or to learn what service is right for you, call the Shepell Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765 or visit www.workhealthlife.com.
(Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.)
1. Nutrition Support Services
Make positive changes to your diet or connect with a registered dietitian who can assess your eating habits, identify dietary concerns and answer nutrition-related questions. Through Shepell, access the following support services:
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Healthy eating on-the-go
- Well-balanced vegetarian diets
- Lowering/managing cholesterol levels
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Regulating diabetes
- Preventing heart disease
- Preventing osteoporosis
- Boosting stress resilience
- Accommodating shift work
2. Health Coaching
Shepell’s health coaches provide support and motivation to help you reach your lifestyle goals, including creating a risk-reduction action plan that targets:
- Weight management
- Healthy eating
- Smoking cessation
- Responsible alcohol use
- Stress management
- Exercise as a component of a healthy lifestyle
3. Naturopathic Services
Interested in learning more about naturopathic medicine and how it works? Shepell’s naturopathic services offer everyday lifestyle practices to help you improve digestion, boost energy levels and make proper nutrition and food choices.
4. Healthy Weight Management
With the support of a personal coach, you can manage your weight by learning how to make positive physical activity and nutrition changes. Shepell’s program consists of:
- An online assessment
- An interactive online program, including trackers, goal setting and challenges
- A smart scale to track progress and outcomes
- Consultations with a coach over the phone or through online chat
By Melissa Lafrance on December 7, 2017
UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provides confidential counselling and work-life consultations to eligible UBC faculty, staff and their dependents. EFAP can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including over the holidays.
As the busy holiday season begins to ramp up with to-do lists and social commitments at work and at home, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Many challenges and complex feelings can come up, such as loneliness for people who live far away or are estranged from their families, anxiety from too many social interactions and to-do items, worry from financial stress, or frustration and anger caused by family arguments. Whatever your challenging situation or feelings about it, EFAP is here to help. Their counselling services include, but are not limited to, issues related to stress, anxiety depression, relationships, parenting, family dynamics, elder care, workplace conflicts, and substance use/addiction. Consultations are also available to help with debt and finances, career transitions and healthy food choices during the holidays.
To review their services, visit the Shepell website, UBC’s EFAP service provider. (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization to access the site.)
If you need immediate support, call Shepell’s Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765.
Prepare for Any Vacation with Shepell’s My EAP Mobile App
You can also prepare for the holidays and get vacation-ready with Shepell’s My EAP mobile device app. Download the My EAP app to gain immediate, confidential and secure access on the go.
Explore Holiday Helper Articles
Here are some holiday-themed articles for you by Shepell that can help you maintain your wellbeing during the holiday season. (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization to access these articles.)
- Rediscover the joy of the holidays with make it meaningful: reconnecting to the spirit of the holiday season
- Become a smart shopper and creative gift-giver with tips for savvy holiday-season spending
- Time out: making the most of the holidays
- Learn how to have a stress free holiday season
It’s important to remember that the holiday season can also bring up feelings of loneliness, sadness and pressure. It’s not uncommon to feel a range of emotions during this time of year.
- Read more about loneliness and the holiday season
- Spot the holiday “blues” and explore helpful tips
- Find out steps to maintain good relationships during the holidays
For more information, including requesting brochures, booking an EFAP orientation presentation, or sharing compliments or concerns about your counselling experience with Shepell, please contact:
Health & Wellbeing Associate
Extended Health Benefit Plan
Don’t forget to get the most of your UBC benefits by reviewing your Extended Health Benefit Plan.
The plan is designed to help promote the continued health and wellbeing of UBC staff and faculty. Benefits include coverage for a wide range of services that are beyond the scope of BC Medical Services Plan coverage.
Want to learn more?
- Learn things you should know about your travel benefits coverage before you go on vacation.
- If you have questions about your UBC Extended Health benefits, contact UBC Benefits.
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP | Tagged balance, coaching, counselling, EFAP, Employee and Family Assistance program, family, Holidays, resilience, resources, Shepell, stress management, Support | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on September 13, 2017
A new school year is here, and as staff and faculty, we may be experiencing a host of emotions. Some days, we might feel excited and joyful; other days we might be anxious and stressed. As we bid farewell to another summer and move into the autumn, check out the available resources you can access to better manage stress and build resilience.
UBC Employee & Family Assistance Program: support services for you and your eligible dependents
- Interactive online program to help you assess, understand and manage stress
- Effective stress management tools with progress, mood and stress level tracking; goal setting and action tools; helpful resources; thoughtful journaling; and life support anytime via online chat
Anxiety Support Group
- Private and secure online support group of 4-5 people led by a clinical counsellor
- Access to real-time interactions with a clinical counsellor and other group members (from outside UBC)
- Group work that includes in-session online activities, homework and self-guided learning modules
- Confidential, short-term and solution-focused one-on-one counselling
- Counselling services include but are not limited to issues related to personal/emotional (stress, anxiety, depression), couple/relationship (communication, separation/divorce), family (parenting, elder care), work (workplace violence/harassment and conflicts), and addiction
- Variety of delivery methods to best suit your needs, including over the phone, in person, email, secure video chat, and more
To access these services, contact Shepell:
- By calling the Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765
- By visiting Shepell website
Counselling Services Coverage through Extended Health Benefits
UBC’s Extended Health plan provides coverage for counselling services and testing. For more details regarding referrals, services and claims, refer to the Extended Health Benefits webpage.
Personal & Professional Development Opportunities for Stress Management and Resilience Building
- Stress Release Workshop Series (free for UBC staff & faculty, Point Grey Campus)
- Mindfulness Programs at UBC
- Professional Development Workshops at UBC
- Stress Strategies: A web-based decision-making tool to assess stressors and assist in developing an action plan for reducing and managing stress in all aspects of life
- Stress 101: Learn about stress response and how to cope with stress in your daily life
- Mindful Moments: Mindfulness and meditation practices, information and research
- Free financial support for UBC staff and faculty
- Workplace Stress Busting Tips
- Understanding Stress
By Miranda Massie on May 4, 2017
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would eventually be writing articles about sex for work, I probably wouldn’t have believed them! It was a common belief at the time (and for many still is), that it was okay to talk about certain aspects of health at work, but sex was definitely not one of them.
Personally, I don’t see how I can honestly and authentically do my job without acknowledging all of the facets of wellbeing that contribute to overall health. I may be biased by the fact that I have a background as a sexual health educator, but I like to dedicate at least one editorial a year to my often underrated, overlooked and sometimes stigmatized friend: sexual health. (Bonus: I get to come up with catchy, tongue-in-cheek titles!)
My top tips for getting re-acquainted with your sexual health
If you don’t use it, you might lose it.
As comical as it sounds, when it comes to sexual health, research says it’s true. Regular use and care for our reproductive parts and sexual organs helps to keep them, and their owners, healthy. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of keeping sexually active.
Parents: It’s going to be ok!
When you’re a parent, talking about sexual health with your kids can add another layer to a tricky topic, one that can provoke both anxiety and stress. For any parents or guardians out there looking for tips on how to talk about this topic with your kids, consider registering for our upcoming workshop:
Find study buddies
There’s a lot of research going on at UBC that relates to sexual health. One example is the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory. Consider signing up to take part in a study – the topics are varied and there are a range of participation options (online, in person, solo, with a partner, etc.). These are often wonderful opportunities to contribute to learning and research while discovering new things about yourself and your sexual health.
Avoid Dr. Google
When it comes to a topic like sexual health, my advice is avoid Google. Not only is there a lot of misinformation on the Internet, but search results can often be unreliable. Learn more about the dangers of Dr. Google here and see the suggestions below for more accurate online sources.
Seek out the right sources
As an alternative to Google, I recommend checking out the following resources for unbiased, non-judgmental sexual health information:
- SexandU: Rated one of the top 10 health websites in Canada, this site is run by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
- Options for Sexual Health: Educational resources for all ages and services available for free to all residents of BC.
- Scarleteen:Don’t be fooled by the teen/20’s label: This site has accessible information and advice for all ages.
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights:Like the World Health Organization, but for sexual health in Canada. Policy, research, advocacy and information.
- Experiencing a non-consensual or unwanted sexual experience can have negative impacts on your mental health and physical health and wellbeing. If you need to speak with someone, you can contact your EFAP at 1-800-361-5676 or learn about sexual assault resources at UBC. Information related to UBC’s new Policy on Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct will be disseminated in the coming weeks.
Sexual health is a broad and diverse realm of our wellbeing that can include intimacy, relationships, sexuality, gender, safety, reproduction and personal values. This month, I encourage you to have fun exploring what sexual health means to you.
All my best,
By Guest Contributor on May 4, 2017
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
When it comes to stress, we’ve all certainly got enough to go around. But when it comes to talking about stress, our language might just end with the words “I’m stressed.”
Although it may be a true feeling, “I’m stressed” doesn’t leave us with options for understanding and managing our situation. To talk about stress in a functional way, we need to be specific about our stressors, and we need clarity on how each stressor affects the body and mind.
Becoming familiar with the words used to describe stress and its impact on health is health literacy – which is essential to help us better understand our bodies, address our stress and find solutions.
How many of the words in bold below can you define? How many of these words could you use in context this week?
Stress: A pressure or tension exerted against a material, psyche or syllable. (i.e. distressed jeans, first day of a new job, EL-e-phant)
Stressor: Any agent, environment or condition that puts pressure on an individual. Not all stressors are negative.
Challenging stressors teach us about self-assurance, inspiration, disappointment, decision and consequence, autonomy, mastery and purpose. Challenge creates EUSTRESS.
Eustress is positive stress. It is often managed with responsive problem-solving, long-term planning, clear thinking and agility in the body, which helps minimize the stress. Eustress builds strength of emotional maturity and physical robustness.
Unrelenting burdens – where we don’t have the time to reflect, recover or repair – put us in a state of alarm and exhaustion. Our immune systems malfunction, our vessels clog and become weak, we become inflamed (emotionally and physically), our pain receptors start firing inappropriately, and we can become nervous, anxious and depressed. Burdens create DISTRESS.
Distress is negative stress. It is often managed with reactive behaviour, short-term solutions, fuzzy logic and comfort food, which compounds the stress. Distress causes the unravelling of mental stability and physical health.
Once we know that we are experiencing distress, it’s even more helpful to know what type of stressor is causing it:
Physical stressors: Illness, insufficient sleep, poor nutrition or hydration, physical strain, sounds and smells.
Emotional stressors: Grief, resentment, fear, anger, shame and anxiety.
Cognitive stressors: Unprepared problem-solving, information overload, rapid demands and over-thinking.
What underlies our response to these stressors is our autonomic (automatic) nervous system, which has two main operating modes:
- Sympathetic nervous system: Nerves in our spine light up when we feel fear or nervousness. These nerves prep us for the “fight or flight” response. The five main clues that this system has been triggered include sweating, increased heart rate, more blood flow to the big muscles and lungs, tunnel vision and less tears/drooling. This system makes us REACT.
- Parasympathetic nervous system: Nerves in the brain and in the pelvis that light up when we feel calm and safe. These nerves allow us to “rest and digest.” The five main clues that this system has been triggered are less obvious, and include less sweating, lowered heart rate, increased digestion, peripheral vision, more tears/salivation. This system helps us RESPOND.
Both of these states are involuntary. They turn on and off depending on our perceptions and our context and are not controlled by our more mature, rational selves. Our job is to create an environment that allows for growth more than depletion.
React: To immediately speak or take action in a situation. Reactions are often instinctual and based on emotions and personal history, and they happen without reflection. Reactions are not negative unless they create negative outcomes. Healthy reactions come from practice. Practice is pausing and responding.
Respond: To take into account the context and desired outcome of a situation, and choose a course of action based on your values. Practicing responsiveness regularly builds the capacity for healthy instincts.
Adrenaline: A hormone (a chemical messenger) produced in the adrenal glands, which sit above your kidneys. When the system becomes alarmed or frightened, adrenaline surges in the bloodstream. Adrenaline helps us get hyped up for the “fight or flight response.” It lasts for around 20 minutes and then passes the torch to…
Cortisol: A hormone that is also produced in the adrenal glands. This hormone is useful for a multitude of important body functions. It rises after adrenaline peaks and it sends messages to keep us alarmed and vigilant if a stressor happens to extend for longer than 20 minutes. Cortisol is only meant to be put to work in this way for a few hours.
Acute stress: A short-term situation that happens when stressors pop up, challenge us and then resolve as the situation calms down. Adrenaline and cortisol shine in acute stress and help us move quickly, stay focused and get stuff done. Although the situation can be distressing, it passes.
Chronic stress: When overwhelming stressors arrive and do not recede. In these situations of chronic stress, cortisol is required in constant amounts, and this unrelenting stream impacts our energy, our intellect and our motivation. The distress lingers and can hinder our best intentions.
Stress reduction: Preventive actions that decrease the likelihood of unhealthy cortisol fluctuations. These actions can include avoiding certain situations, altering your behaviour, accepting the change or adapting to the situation.
Stress management: Preventive habits that assist resiliency. These are also called mindfulness tools, and can include finding quiet time, building sensory awareness, choosing priorities and drawing boundaries.
Stress release: Recognizing what you feel and finding an outlet for the feeling, including exercise, cleaning, laughter and time in nature.
Resilience: This is the power you have to pick yourself up after any type of stressful circumstance (which can include adversity, conflict, loss of control, uncertainty, positive challenge or increased responsibility). Resilience determines how you react or respond. Healthy resilience allows you to absorb, process and move forward. Healthy resilience is built from knowing you have the tools for stress reduction, management and release.
I encourage you to get comfortable with these words so you can be specific and more accurate when describing the types of stress you experience. It will also put you in a better position to understand what’s causing your stress and allow you to find healthy solutions to reduce, manage and release your stress, and to become more resilient.
Once you have the vocabulary, you are ready to go out into the world and be a Stress Literati!
Stress management resources at UBC
- Stress Coach Connects: An online stress management program through UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program
- Learn to Meditate Workshop Series: A three-part series to learn how build a personal meditation practice
- Virtual Health Fair: Online resources and self-assessment tools
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.
Posted in A Thoughtful Mind, Guest Contributor, Mental Health | Tagged definitions, Dr. Thara Vayali, health literacy, impact, language, learning, reactions, resources, Stress, stress management, Support | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on September 13, 2016
A new school year is here, and as staff and faculty, we may be experiencing a realm of emotions that comes with it. Some days, we can feel excited and joyful, other days we may be anxious and downright stressed! As we bid farewell to another summer and move into the autumn, check out the helpful resources you can use to better manage stress.
UBC’s Employee & Family Assistance Program is here to support you and your eligible dependants with the following services:
- Stress Coach Connects
- Interactive online program to help you assess, understand, and manage stress
- Effective stress management tools with progress, mood, and stress level tracking; goal setting and action tools, helpful resources, thoughtful journaling, and life support anytime via online chat
- Anxiety Support Group
- Private and secure online support group led by a counsellor
- Access to real-time interaction with a counsellor and other group members (from outside UBC)
- Group work that includes in-session online activities, homework and self-guided learning modules
- Counselling for a variety of work, health, and life challenges
- Confidential short-term one-on-one counselling
- Counselling services include but are not limited to: issues related to personal/emotional (stress, anxiety, depression), couple/relationship (communication, separation/divorce), family (parenting, elder care), work (workplace violence/harassment and conflicts), and addiction
- Variety of delivery methods to best suit your needs including over the phone, in person, email, secure video chat, and more
To access these services, contact Shepell:
- Call the Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765
- Visit the Shepell website
Counselling Services Coverage through Extended Health Benefits
UBC’s Extended Health plan provides coverage for counselling services and testing. To find out more details regarding referrals, services and claims, refer to our Benefits FYI article on Counselling Services Benefits.
Personal & Professional Development Opportunities for Stress & Time Management
- Health and Wellbeing Workshops
- Professional Development Workshops at UBC
- Stress Strategies: A web-based decision making tool to assess stressors and assist in developing an action plan for reducing and managing stress is all aspects of life.
- Stress 101: Learn more about the stress response and how to cope with stress in daily life.
- Mindful Moments: mindfulness and meditation practices, information and research.
- Free Financial support available for UBC staff & faculty
- Workplace Stress Busting Tips
- Understanding Stress
By Melissa Lafrance on July 6, 2016
We hear a lot about relationships. There are love/romantic relationships, partnerships, work/colleague relationships, friendships and even ships that have sailed. In service of all these outside relationships, we often overlook or even neglect our most important relationship: our relationship with our own selves, or our self-relationship.
When we think about relationships, we often think about the ways in which we are connected and linked with another person. Our minds don’t often go right to our self-relationship. Having a healthy self-relationship can have an immense impact on our frame of mind, which influences our interactions, emotions, experiences and outcomes, and challenges can arise as a result.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind to improve your self-relationship:
Care for your basic physical and mental needs
Start by getting enough good quality sleep, which is absolutely essential to good health, effective functioning, and safety. Eight hours of sleep a night is optimum for healthy adults. Read more about sleep.
We all have priorities in our lives, and it can sometimes seem that there is no time for taking care of ourselves beyond our basic needs. However, a balance is needed in all areas of our lives to build resilience. Caring for yourself involves intentional actions and effort to take care of our own physical, mental, and emotional health. What self-care looks like varies from person to person, but can be in the form of enjoying a bath, cooking, listening to music or podcasts, meditating, travel, exercising, or simply taking a five-minute breathing break in a quiet room to refocus. Check out more ideas for self-care.
Practice love and kindness towards yourself and others
This can take on many forms, and let’s face it, our world needs some love and kindness. Consider practicing loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards yourself as well as others. Download free audio recordings of guided meditations. Select the Loving Kindness Meditation link and go through the practice. You can choose yourself as the medication’s focus.
Reflect and be aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions
On a regular basis, ask yourself “what am I feeling?” and “what am I thinking?” Be curious as to why you are reacting a certain way or why certain things mean so much to you. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts, feelings and emotions. This can help you become more self-aware.
Work towards positive mental health
Positive mental health is a state of being in which social, emotional, and spiritual factors intersect to create a high level of functioning. Positive mental health can coexist alongside mental illness. Find out more about positive mental health.
Thrive is a UBC-specific initiative focused on building positive mental health for students, staff, and faculty and reducing stigma. Thrive week occurs each year during the first week of November and involves a variety of awareness building and knowledge sharing events. Learn more about Thrive.
Take a moment to look in the mirror and speak positive and uplifting words to yourself. Continue speaking these affirmations to yourself every day, and you will bolster your self-confidence and self-acceptance. Check out these 35 affirmations you can say to yourself or write on post it notes.
Ask for help and seek out resources
Many supportive resources are available for UBC staff and faculty. Check out this month’s Benefit Spotlight on healthy relationships to learn about resources you can access through the UBC Employee and Family Assistance Program.
The following resources are available:
- Employee and Family Assistance Program
- Thrive at UBC
- Mental Health Resources at UBC (including available workshops/trainings)
- Learn to Meditate 3-part Series (July 11, 18, 25)
- Mindfulness and Meditation at UBC
- Making the connection: tactics for a healthy mind and body
- Getting involved in summer activities with colleagues
- 6 ways you can have a healthy relationship with yourself