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.
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Photo Credit: Sean McGrath (Flickr)
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
By Miranda Massie on October 5, 2016
How do you celebrate the fall? A walk through crunchy leaves or perhaps by curling up with a good book? Maybe hauling out your favourite fuzzy scarf, or by ordering as many pumpkin spice lattes as you can?
As social beings, we crave connections and interactions with others, but the change in weather around this time of year, coupled with shortening days, can sometimes lead us to recede into the warmth of our homes to hibernate.
Spending some quality time in solitude is a great way to recharge and relax, but too much can leave us feeling lonely, isolated and out of touch.
Here are our top six 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.
- Be proactive: Social support, and associated boost in self-esteem are protective factors against life’s stresses.
- Live longer: Being emotionally supported by others leads to improvements in physical health and longevity.
- Boost self-esteem: Social support impacts self-esteem. Higher self-esteem is associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression and distress.
- Find satisfaction: Self-esteem is also associated with higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness.
- Get well: Allowing yourself to seek support and help during stressful times can improve a person’s health and wellbeing.
This month, as the days grow shorter and we start to bundle up against the cold and impending rain, I invite you to spend some time re-invigorating your connections with others.
Need a place to start? October is Healthy Workplace Month. Think about how you can create supportive environments by nurturing your relationships and connections across campus.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on October 6, 2015
As the days grow shorter and we start to bundle up against the cold, I have noticed that we also have a tendency to hibernate. Although this is a necessary annual practice for some of our relatives in the animal kingdom, it has the potential to be detrimental to us humans.
We are social beings, and as such, crave connection and support, both of which can wane as we recede into the warmth of our homes and huddle inside awaiting winter. I am the first to admit that I am guilty of this practice. There is something about coming home when it’s already dark outside that makes me yearn for my couch and reach for my sweatpants. I find myself less motivated to call up a friend or invite people over and after a few weeks, I end up feeling quite lonely and out of touch.
There is some great research out there to keep in mind this fall. I am hoping that it will serve as a reminder to reach out and that it will motivate me to stay more connected with others.
Five Fun Facts about Social Support
De-stress: Connecting with others and allowing for support during stressful situations can improve a person’s health and wellbeing.
Boost longevity: Emotional support from others positively influences physical health and longevity.
Be empowered: Individuals with meaningful connections to others are more likely to think in positive and empowering ways.
Protect yourself: Self-esteem and social support serve as protective factors against perceived life stressors.
Up your satisfaction: Self-esteem is associated with lower anxiety, depression and distress and higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.
This month, I invite you to be more aware of your emotions and behavior as the seasons change. Are you spending more time inside? Are you feeling disconnected? Are you craving a boost in your social network? Or perhaps you have not heard from a friend in a while.
There is nothing wrong with spending time alone but when this solo time begins to shift to loneliness, it may be time to re-connect and reach out.
All my best,
Chao, Ruth Chu-Lien. (2012) Managing Perceived Stress Among College Students: The Roles of Social Support and Dysfunctional Coping. Journal of College Counseling, 15:5-21.
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.