Tag Archives: health

End-of-term Parent & Family Updates

York U’s fall 2017 term is coming to a close, and by now your student is likely preparing for final exams. They have been studying for more than three months, developing expertise in their chosen field and expanding their worldview. The exam period is an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge they have gained, but it can also be a stressful time for students. York U has prepared the following tips for parents and families to help support your student through the exam period. In this end-of-term parent and family update, you’ll find:

  • Important sessional dates;
  • Final exam stress management techniques;
  • How to help your student stay motivated; and
  • Campus safety and weather information.

Visit York University’s Parents & Family website for additional resources.

​Important Dates

  • Dec. 4: Fall Classes End
  • Dec. 5: Fall Study Day (no classes; University open)
  • Dec. 6 to 21: Fall examinations
  • Dec. 22 to Jan. 3: Holiday break

For a complete list of all Undergraduate Fall/Winter 2017/18 Important Dates, visit the Registrar’s Office website.

Image by York University.
Important exam period dates for York U students.

Health & Wellness – Final Exam Stress Management

Image by York University.
Help your student prepare for the final exam period by emphasizing the importance of one’s health, including getting enough sleep.

As December 1 arrives, exam anxiety becomes one of the most common concerns for students. A little routine exam anxiety is not a bad thing; in fact, having a sense of urgency is actually beneficial in that it alerts your body to be prepared to mobilize energy stores.” Without a sense of urgency, students wouldn’t have the motivation to meet the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. If, however, the anxiety gets too overwhelming, you should encourage your student to take some proactive steps to cope with anxiety before and during exams.

Health comes first

Often parents place emphasis on success and achieving exceptional grades, but the best advice you can offer your student is to make sure they make self-care their priority. Here are some tips you can share with your student to help them optimize their health and well-being:

  • Your student should always communicate with someone close to them when they feel stressed or anxious.
  • It is important that students avoid making important decisions when they are distressed or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Exercise can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins and increase blood flow to your brain for improved cognition.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can worsen anxiety and depression.

Last but not the least, your student should always remember that exam stress is only temporary and will eventually pass. At one point or another, the dark clouds will give way to sunshine and perhaps even a rainbow!

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

Sleep is the most important thing that students often forgo in order to study, complete assignments or enjoy a night out. However, the quality and quantity of sleep a student gets determines how effective they will be the next day. Sleep is also necessary for consolidating memory, diminishing stress, restoring the body’s energy supply and repairing muscles and tissues for optimal functionality. If your student is not getting at least seven hours of sleep, let them know that altering their sleep habits, schedule and day-to-day routines can have huge impact on the quality of their night’s rest. Here are some things your student can do to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule – Set a regular bedtime, wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends) and take 20-minute power naps to make up for lost sleep.
  • Use your bed for sleep only – Your student should avoid using their sleeping space for doing work, eating or watching TV as it will be harder for them to unwind when it’s time to hit the hay.
  • Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle – During the day, increase light exposure by spending time outside and have a well-lit workspace with sources of natural light to help your student feel awake and alert. Your student can also enhance melatonin production at night by turning off television and computer screens as well as by avoiding reading from back-lit devices such as tablets and smartphones.
  • Try some relaxing bedtime routines – Before going to bed, your student can create a relaxing, noise-free environment and wind down by reading a book, listening to soft music, taking a warm bath or doing some light stretches.
  • Eat well and exercise – Avoid eating heavy meals at night and limit caffeine intake in the evenings. Exercise regularly as even 20-30 minutes per day can result in a deeper and more rejuvenating night’s sleep.

WellTrack™

York University.
Encourage your student to download the Welltrack app, which makes it easy to monitor your health and well-being.

York University has made WellTrack™ – an online resource for managing stress, anxiety and depression – available to students. WellTrack™ is a secure and anonymous way for users to assess their personal well-being and quickly gain access to resources tailored to meet their individual needs. Students are able to engage in self-guided therapy and interact with tools designed to help them adjust their thoughts and behaviour. The app also includes a Moodcheck tool to help build a database of people, places, and things that are positive and negative for your mental health. Other components include a Zen Zone (for meditation), a Thought Diary and Activity Scheduler. WellTrack™ is available as an app and as a website at welltrack.com.

Motivation During Exam Season

If you can’t fly, then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
But whatever you do,
You have to keep moving forward.
– Martin Luther King Jr.

Your student might be starting to get homesick, lonely or frustrated with all the work that University brings. They may not have seen their friends in a while or had the chance to spend a night out free of worries. At this point, there is one thing that can get them through exams: motivation.

No, not a “coach-yelling-at-you-from-the-sidelines” kind of motivation, but an internal desire that pushes you to attain success. We absolutely cannot emphasize enough the significance that motivation plays in your student’s success. University students who lack motivation can unfortunately run into numerous social and academic difficulties, but this piece will help you avoid this by providing you with ways in which your student can stay motivated!

The first thing to recognize is that there is only one type of motivation and that is self-motivation. Family, friends or co-workers can help your student get excited to accomplish a certain task, but at the end of the day your student will have to channel their own willpower to get the job done.

Secondly, it is important for your student to establish a strong, compelling and personal “WHY” for being at university. This will give them something concrete to focus on and serve as the light at the end of the tunnel when they are feeling down. One of the best ways of staying motivated is to be surrounded by others who are motivated. Your student should establish friendships with those who are also academically motivated and willing to help them when they need inspiration. They can also find a mentor who will be available to talk when your student feels they need a fresh perspective.

Most importantly, tell your student that they should never let failure discourage them. It is vital to stay positive, celebrate successes and learn from mistakes. The biggest key to success is: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Last, but not the least, encourage your student to focus on what their future will hold if they continue to work hard and accomplish their goals. Start by first looking toward the near future for motivation, which could involve an upcoming fun weekend or a night out with friends after exams. Then, gradually increase the timeframe – one month, one year, four years (graduation!), ten years – until they have created a picture of their career path and the successful future that can serve as an excellent motivator in the present.

Weather Conditions & Safety

During the winter months in Canada, it will get darker out earlier in the day and there is an increased chance of inclement weather. For these reasons, it’s important to keep safety top of mind and to be aware of York’s various safety resources and procedures.

In the case of a weather event or an emergency on campus, York University has various methods of keeping students, faculty, staff and their families informed. Information is made available through:

  • Mainstream media including television and radio
  • Social media
  • The York U Safety App
  • York University webpage
  • York University Information Line (416-736-5600)
  • Emergency LCD screens placed around campus

In weather or emergency situations, you’ll also find information regarding class scheduling and examinations on the Registrar’s Office website.

Ongoing personal safety is also important.

If your student needs to get to their car or another location on campus after dark and doesn’t feel safe doing so by themselves, they can take advantage of York’s goSAFE service, one of the largest services of its kind in Canada. This year-round operation sends two staff members to your location to accompany your student on their walk to another building, the bus stop or car. They can be reached by phone (416-736-5454) or via the York U Safety App.

The York U Safety App is a must for all students with smartphones. It provides direct calling to campus security and goSAFE as well as campus weather information and access to all other campus safety-related services.

For more information, please visit the Safety website and bookmark York’s Parents & Family website! You can also follow York University on Twitter and Facebook.

York Launches Strategy to Advance Campus Mental Health

York's Campus Mental Health Strategy
York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy

Do you know someone who has struggled with their mental health? Perhaps a family member, close friend, colleague or even yourself? Given that 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, chances are the dialogue around mental health taking place at York, in Canada and across the world directly impacts you or someone you know.

As this conversation grows, the impetus for change falls to institutions such as York to lead the charge to raise awareness around mental health and ensure support is readily available and accessible to all of our community members – students, staff and faculty.

The University has recognized this need and has responded by developing York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy that seeks to address the needs of our campus community. The strategy officially launched this past October 18 at Founders College Assembly Hall. More than a hundred people attended.

National College Health Assessment Findings
National College Health Assessment survey data

Among others, key stakeholder Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton and Mental Health Steering Committee Co-Chairs Lesley Beagrie, Suzanne Killick and Stephanie Francis spoke to the importance of York paving the way for other institutions to prioritize and support the advancement of mentally healthy campuses.

The strategy highlights mental health priorities for three key campus groups: students, staff and faculty, as identified during the community consultations spearheaded by York’s Mental Health Steering Committee. The plan will continue to reflect York’s commitment to health and wellness promotion; facilitation of care and support; and collaboration and discussion. New principles developed as a result of the consultations include:

  • deliver a long-term approach for the management of mental health challenges;
  • outline initiatives to help achieve improved mental health outcomes for members of the University community;
  • identify support aimed at helping individuals becoming more involved in managing their own mental health;
  • advocate for accessible services to be made available to the community, both on and off campus; and
  • focus on partnership with the University community and working together to achieve a mentally healthy campus.

The plan will also focus on four key priorities: leadership; planning and promotion; campus engagement; and service delivery.

Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead
Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead

Stephanie Francis, Coordinator, Health Education & Promotion, Student Success Centre, and the Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead, is encouraged by the gain made so far.

“We have already witnessed signs of progress towards advancing a mentally healthy campus within the Division of Students, and will continue to provide support and resources for students to meet strategic goals. This year, we developed and provided Mental Health training to 1000 Orientation-Week leaders; welcomed more than 600 Grade 12 students from the York Region District School Board to campus for a full day of games and lectures dedicated to educating young people about mental health; and helped conduct more than 50 community consultation sessions with students, faculty and staff to help inform the Strategy.”

Mental health extends beyond our borders here at York. It is prevalent at campuses across the country and the globe. Founder and student ambassadors from Jack.org echoed this sentiment, sharing their personal struggles and encounters with mental health issues inside and outside school communities. Led by Eric Windeler, and created in memory of his late son Jack, Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health and aims to put an end to mental health stigma.

Jack.org
Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health.

The investment of community members in York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy was made clear by the attendance, engagement and concerns brought forth during the question and answer period of the launch. Questions posed ranged from how York plans to simplify access to counselling services for students and increase availability of counsellors. Staff and faculty raised the need for clear resources to help them address and respond to student mental health concerns, as well as support when dealing with personal and professional issues.

While York does already offer a number of resources to aid its community members – accessible through the Mental Health & Wellness at York website – the University will also soon be adding specific, actionable recommendations that address day-to-day mental health concerns that arise on campus. Additional short-term goals include: further development of existing supports, identification of resource gaps and a continuation of community roundtable discussions (similar to past consultations) to support an open campus dialogue.

York students, staff and faculty members in attendance
York students, staff and faculty members in attendance

By re-evaluating progress every three years, the University hopes to ensure a progressive movement toward creating and maintaining a mentally healthy campus that empowers our community to thrive.

For more information about York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy and community updates, please visit: yorku.ca/mentalhealth.