By Miranda Massie on June 4, 2019
Baby schema is a scientific theory presented by ethologist Konrad Lorenz that describes the human instinct to perceive small or miniature things as cute. We are not only attracted to the playfulness and craftiness of other mammals (babies and animals), but also to that of inanimate objects (think toy cars, dollhouse furniture and ‘mini’ food). Could the same be true for meditation?
In addition to being small and bite-sized, mini meditations don’t require huge amounts of our time. They are approachable, easily digestible, and perhaps even more likely to make it into our daily routine than other practices.
There are a wealth of mini meditations available online for free, including:
- 30-Second Meditations (Psychology Today)
- 50 mini meditations (Wanderlust)
- STOP acronym meditation (mrsmindfulness.com)
Or, try this mini meditation now:
- Inhale deeply through your nose, as though you are smelling flowers.
- Exhale deeply out through your mouth, as though you are blowing bubbles.
Easy, right? If you’re looking for more mini meditation inspiration, select one of the Headspace options from the list below. They serve as a perfect, mindful snack that can be sampled on a coffee break, after lunch or before bed.
- Let go of stress (1:07)
- Unwind (1:11)
- Finding balance in the mind (1:06)
- Find your focus (1:11)
- Understanding dark thoughts (1:33)
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance
By Miranda Massie on February 5, 2019
Looking to reap the mental benefits of your movement this month? Discover ways to enhance your mental fitness while being physically active. To inspire you, check out these previous guest articles by Wendy Quan (The Calm Monkey) and Dr. Thara Vayali.
- Try a Walking Meditation: A how-to-guide for trying a walking meditation
- 3 Secret Stress Senses: Innovative body movements to combat stress
- 3 Walking Meditations for the Summer: Still perfect to try in the early spring or in rain-proof gear!
Remember, a mindful moment doesn’t have to lack movement. Enjoy!
Photo credit: UBC Thrive
By Miranda Massie on September 11, 2018
Welcome back to another academic year at UBC.
In our efforts to be our best professional selves to the populations we serve, we often overlook an important element: ourselves. It’s tempting to prioritize everything and everyone above ourselves, particularly during busy times of the year like September. The general sense of overwhelm can lead to increased stress, and if we’re unable to manage this stress, we tend to fall into negative behaviours that can result in ill health (mental, physical and emotional).
So what’s the solution? Instead of a one-off activity (that will ultimately find its way to the bottom of our to-do list), utilize self-care as an ongoing stress management tool. It’s best implemented through activities and practices that are small, manageable and either low-cost or no-cost; you’ll reduce as many barriers as possible and increase success.
There are effective ways to incorporate self-care in both personal and professional settings to enhance your overall resilience and reduce stress. If you are finding it difficult to come up with self-care strategies of your own, use some of our ideas below.
Strategies to inspire self-care in your professional setting: [1,2]
- Set clear expectations of self and others.
- Be open to help offered by others.
- Share your feelings (with someone or with yourself).
- Find ways to infuse humour into your day. Can you see the lighter side of situations or interactions?
- Make a fulfillment list: write down the aspects of your job that you find the most rewarding, fulfilling and nurturing. Keep it handy.
- Try the ‘3 Things a Day” rule. Start your day by listing three, non-negotiable tasks that you want to accomplish and schedule your day in order to prioritize them. It gets things done while producing a sense of accomplishment.
Strategies to incorporate personal self-care: [1,2]
- Make gratitude Post-it Notes.
- Start eating breakfast or add protein to your breakfast.
- Spice up your water. Try flavoured or fizzy water to encourage hydration.
- Stand, stretch or change the position that you are in at the top of every hour.
- Create a sleep routine to encourage quality sleep.
- Take a 5-minute digital detox (no devices!)
This month, I invite you to try implementing just one new self-care strategy using the examples above. I hope that it will help to keep your own wellbeing in mind while you’re working and serving our broader UBC communities.
Happy school year!
All my best,
 The Resilient Practitioner: Burnout and Compassion Fatigue Prevention and Self-Care Strategies for Helping Professionals, Skovholt and Trotter Mathison, 2011.
 Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization, Pearlman & Staff, 1996.
Photo Credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Guest Contributor on September 11, 2018
Guest contribution from Dr. Thara Vayali
The five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste – are familiar to most of us. We often employ these senses to become more mindful of our environment. But did you know there are three other senses that are incredibly valuable to recognizing our stress triggers and responses?
Those folks who say “I can’t dance”, I believe you can! Though it seems that coordination is innate, proprioception – the ability to know where and how your body parts are held in space – is a skill learned with practice. Whether it is your elbow, your knee, your shoulder muscles or the top of your head, there are receptors in your muscles and joints that help you understand tension, relaxation and balance. Proprioception can temporarily falter when you are tired, distressed or experiencing pain.
Try the blindfolded balance
Stand on one leg for 30 seconds with your eyes closed. For the pros, try doing this on a blanket.
The capacity to connect a physical sensation to your needs is a practiced skill as well. Yawning, tummy discomfort, a full bladder, butterflies in the belly, sweating, goose bumps, a racing heart, and breathlessness are all physiological signals that move us to act. If you aren’t paying attention, your actions can be delayed, mindless or stress-inducing. The better you are at sensing your internal environment, the better you will be at decision-making during stress. Interoception helps you recognize your reactions, adapt and respond in a way that serves you best.
Do a breakfast body scan
On waking, you have likely not eaten for at least 8-12 hours. This is a great time to take a scan of your mood, your abdomen and your cognition. After eating a small amount of food, note what happens. What happens if you eat a large amount?
Beyond your “gut sense” of physiological sensations, you have a “spidey sense”. Neuroception is involuntary: subconsciously assessing people, situations and environments for danger and safety. Depending on your history, your patterns of behaviour and other factors, neural circuits can sometimes perceive danger inaccurately. In this case, safe situations can elicit fear, or risky situations can be entered without caution. The better your neuroception functions, the better we can take care of ourselves.
Practice Softening your Eyes
The muscles around the eyes tense when we feel fear. This muscular change influences our cognition and decision-making. On your daily commute (or another neutral situation), take 30 seconds to practice the following:
- What does it feel like to harden your eye muscles?
- Now try softening them.
- Notice your default.
- Then try changing it in a challenging situation.
Practice using all of your secret senses. These hidden senses are how your mind and body work together to signal and regulate your stress responses.
Dr. Thara Vayali is a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher, UBC alum and popular guest contributor to our Healthy UBC newsletter who specializes in intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. For more information about Thara, visit www.tharavayali.ca
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance
By Melissa Lafrance on September 11, 2018
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 overwhelmed. As we bid farewell to another summer and move into the fall, check out the available resources you can access to better manage stress and build resilience. In this month’s Benefits Spotlight, let’s look at the services and resources available through Workplace Wellbeing & Benefits, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and UBC’s Extended Health Benefits Plan that can help you manage stress and build resilience.
Mona’s Challenge: When it’s difficult to bounce forward
Mona is excited to welcome back the fall semester and the many eager students to campus, some of whom will be coming to her for support. Dedicated to her role and to enhancing the student experience, Mona knows that the coming months will be busy and sometimes stressful and overwhelming. This knowledge is causing Mona to feel anxious and wonder if she is prepared to manage her emotions and to handle students who may come to her in distress.
How HR resources can help:
There is a range of programs and resources available to help improve individual mental health and resiliency, and support UBC workplaces that want to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of its staff and faculty. Visit our Mental Health webpage for more information, including:
- Tools and resources for staff and faculty
- Upcoming workshops
- Training programs and on-demand workshops
- Mindfulness and meditation
If you are enrolled in UBC’s Extended Health Plan, you can access counselling services from a licensed psychologist, registered social worker or registered clinical counsellor and be 100% reimbursed up to a maximum of $2,500 for each person per benefit year. For more details, refer to the information applicable to your UBC Employee Group.
Marc’s Challenge: When you want to be a healthy role model for your team
Marc manages a team of employees at UBC. He understands that he plays an important role in creating a positive and healthy working environment. Marc wants to be equipped to respond and support someone in distress and also wants to lead by example by taking a proactive approach to manage his own stress levels.
How HR resources can help:
Marc might want to think about professional development opportunities in this area including Health & Wellbeing Workshops and training programs. Marc can also access free, individualized Coaching support through HR’s Coaching program and access the Orange Insert for ways to help staff and faculty in distress.
How EFAP can help Marc:
UBC’s EFAP provider, Morneau Shepell, offers a range of supports and resources for managers, including manager consultations to help equip Marc to notice when someone is struggling or to refer his staff to counselling through EFAP.
Stress Coach Connects is a free, self-directed, online program. In a quick call to EFAP, Marc could enrol to assess, understand and manage high stress through tracking tools, goal setting, resources, and support from a counsellor via online chat.
Morneau Shepell delivers support services in a number of ways, including in-person, over the phone and through the web. Choose the format that works best for you. To book services or to learn which service is right for you, call the Shepell Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765 or visit www.worklifehealth.com. (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.)
Photo Credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP | Tagged assistance, Benefits, EFAP, faculty, help, manager consultation, managers, Morneau Shepell, staff, stress coach connects, stress management, Support, UBC | Leave a response
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 October 25, 2017
Managing Your Money | October 25 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Location: Point Grey)
Creating a plan to manage your money is a sound way to achieve the goals you want in life, whether it be a house, travel, education or retirement. The quote, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” does apply to the process of managing personal finances. In this session, join money coach Melanie Buffel to learn how to manage and control finances, reinforce good habits, build new ones and create a manageable budget. There will be additional information on saving to meet your financial needs and investing these savings. Find out more and register now.
Conflict Management Series (Location: Point Grey)
Part 2 – Dealing with Difficult Personalities | October 26 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Workplaces can produce high achievers and dynamic team players. They can also be places where employees become regularly frustrated or annoyed with co-workers. Developing techniques to address these challenging personality types can greatly increase staff morale and job satisfaction. This session will look at the distinction between difficult behaviour and difficult people and provide participants with strategies to respond effectively to challenging situations with a focus on assertive communication. Find out more and register now.
Part 3 – Understanding High Conflict Personalities at Work | November 9 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
This workshop will outline the skills and strategies for understanding complex personalities in the workplace from the perspective of a mental health diagnosis. Participants will gain insight into how and why individuals with diagnosed personality disorders might behave and interact with others the way they do. The workshop also examines how compassion can help increase one’s competency in recognizing challenging behaviours and handling high conflict interactions. Find out more and register now.
Thrive Week Workshops & Courses (October 30 – November 3)
Thrive Kick-off | October 30 | 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (Location: Point Grey)
All staff, faculty and students are invited to join the Thrive week 2017 kick-off event. Grab a healthy snack, hot drink and yellow stress ball. Enjoy upbeat music. The event will take place in Lee Square at the corner of East Mall and University Boulevard (near the Bookstore). Learn more about the Thrive Kick-off and other Thrive events on both campuses.
Thriving in Change | October 30 | 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Cost: $200 (Location: Point Grey)
Change is normal and natural, and we can respond to change and support others to make it a positive experience. Attend this half-day course to explore your own attitudes and reactions to change. Learn foundational models to broaden your appreciation and gain new tools and strategies to use in an interpersonal and organizational context. This course is PD-eligible and costs $200 to enrol. Find out more and register now.
Relaxation Techniques to Help You Thrive | November 2 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Location: Point Grey)
Make time to calm down and reduce stress, using both proactive and reactive relaxation techniques. You will leave this workshop with an understanding of your stress response, discuss the importance of managing stress, and practice stress-reducing exercises. Learn more and register now.
UBC’s Largest Zumba | November 3 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Location: Point Grey)
Join UBC Recreation and your fellow colleagues, students and friends for UBC’s annual Largest Zumba. The event will include a Zumba session, refreshments, info booths, and other fun activities. Get moving and celebrate the end of Thrive week! Learn more.
Mindfulness@Work Program | Starts November 7, 2017 (Location: Point Grey) and April 5, 2018 (Location: DHCC/VGH) | Cost: $100
The six-week, in-person Mindfulness@Work training program runs in November 2017 and in April 2018. If you are looking for more in-depth mindfulness training, Mindfulness@Work specifically focuses on integrating the practice of mindfulness in the workplace to promote effectiveness, teamwork and communication. Find out more and register now.
QPR Suicide Prevention Training | November 23 | 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Location: DHCC/VGH)
QPR Training is an internationally recognized suicide prevention program designed to help you question, persuade and refer. QPR acts as an emergency mental health intervention designed to save lives, much like CPR or other methods of emergency medical intervention. Learn to recognize suicide warning signs, how to approach someone who may be at risk, persuade the person to seek appropriate health services, and connect the person to resources that will help resolve crises. Suicide is preventable. Find out more and register now.
Ergo Your Office Tutorial | November 29 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Location: Point Grey)
Optimize your computer work environment to improve comfort and reduce the risk of injury. This one-hour tutorial combines a presentation and a practical session, giving you hands-on experience adjusting typical office equipment. By the end of the tutorial, you will know how to set up your chair, keyboard/mouse and monitor to promote neutral working postures. Find out more and register now.
Photo credit: UBC Thrive
Posted in Events, Healthy UBC Initiatives | Tagged conflict, courses, Ergonomics, events, financial health, Mindfulness, money management, QPR, Relaxation, stress management, Suicide prevention, thrive, workshops | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on October 25, 2017
In November, we are exploring the link between nutrition and mental health. Food and cooking are being appreciated for more than just satisfying hunger and nutritional needs; its psychological benefits and in some cases, even therapeutic benefits are now being acknowledged. It’s about the whole process of gathering and preparation. Although the determinants of mental health are complex, food and nutrition are influential factors.
Each week in November, we will be sharing tips, recipes and information on how food and nutrition is related to mental health and wellbeing. Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders, tips and tricks.
Week 1: Cooking and Positive Mental Health
It’s been suggested that completing small creative tasks such as cooking and baking increases wellbeing, particularly enthusiasm and feelings of flourishing . Focusing on small tasks in a manner similar to meditation can help boost mood. Cooking or meal prepping can be similar to meditation; the outcome is good food if executed properly. Culinary therapy is being implemented as a viable part of treatment plans for mental health clinics for a wide range of mental and behavioural health conditions .
Check out the following to help boost your abilities and confidence:
- Simple and fun cooking videos with Sarah Carey in Everyday Food
- Quick and easy recipe videos via Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube
Week 2: Link Between Proper Nutrition and Mental Wellbeing
A clear link between cooking and mental health is nutrition and the ability to have better control of the quality of your diet if you prepare food yourself. Nutrition plays a huge factor in keeping our brains healthy and for mental wellbeing. Brains operate at a very high metabolic rate, and therefore use a lot of the body’s total energy and nutrient intake. Some nutrients that are key to brain health and functioning include carbohydrates, fat, protein and in particular omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamins C and E, iron, zinc and magnesium , .
Here are some healthy recipes to try out:
- Cookspiration’s Scottish oat and leek pilaf with salmon
- Oh She Glows’ maple cinnamon apple and pear baked oatmeal. Have it with walnuts and soy milk for extra brain health benefits.
- Feasting at Home’s lentil with swiss chard, roasted beets and goat cheese
Week 3: Hacks to Reduce Stress
Cooking and preparing food is a sensory experience involving aromas, tastes, touch, visuals and sounds. It can even be a way to relieve stress because it serves as a creative outlet that can also improve daily happiness . Why not add a dash of mindfulness? Cooking can be an activity that is grounding and keeps you in the moment while focusing on the task at hand.
- Check out Huffington Post’s five tips for mindful cooking
- Check out Melissa Baker’s blog post on meals to help you Thrive. Melissa is a registered dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing in UBC Food Services.
Week 4: Celebrating Food and Being Together
How about a heaping spoonful of joy? It’s easy to dismiss cooking as just another chore, however cooking can be fun and a lot more interesting than folding laundry. Here’s how you can enjoy the cooking process more and not worry too much about the end product being perfect. As long as it tastes good, right?
Try these tips and tricks to have more fun in the kitchen:
- Huffington Post’s five tips for having fun in the kitchen
- Check out Thug Kitchen recipes to lighten up the mood in the kitchen
Melissa Lafrance’s Tip of the Month
Try a friendship salad or meal where each colleague brings a prepared ingredient. When friends and flavours come together collectively, you’re left with a delicious dish for everyone to enjoy. Check out Greatist’s healthy and easy fall salads.