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New psychoeducational groups at the Student Wellness Centre starting this month

Psychoeducational groups are designed to focus on teaching a specific topic with an emphasis on developing healthy coping mechanisms. 

This month, McMaster University’s Student Wellness Centre is launching multiple psychoeducational groups. This includes the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, the Love Better group and the Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety group.

Psychoeducational groups at McMaster have been done in the past by counselors, health promoters or SWC staff. Simone Gomes, a counselor at SWC and facilitator of the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, explained that these groups are developed by these professionals based on their area of expertise and interest. 

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Starting Jan. 12, Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness is a consecutive five-week psychoeducational group that dives into what self-compassion and mindfulness mean and how students can develop these things in their lives. 

It will take place online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Gomes explained that each of the five weeks highlights a different area within this topic. This includes introducing self-compassion and mindfulness, identifying self-criticism, practicing mindfulness and techniques to integrate that into one’s life. 

Each session will aim to be informative by having students read articles or a particular website for discussion prior to entering the session. Gomes stated that this particular group tends to run once per semester (including spring and summer) and if curious, folks can contact her at gomessf@mcmaster.ca

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience,” said Gomes. 

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience.”

Simone Gomes, counselor at The SWC and facilitator of Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Also starting Jan. 12, Love Better is another consecutive five-week psychoeducational group. This group will run online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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Liz Nabi, a counselor at the SWC and facilitator for this group, explained that this group aims to educate students about healthy relationships and help them build skills that are crucial in developing these relationships. 

Over the weeks, the group will touch base on qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the effect of past relationships on current relationships, tools to build long-lasting relationships and how to deal with conflict and/or breakups. 

Nabi emphasized that love is not just a feeling but a skill that one can get better at with practice and that sentiment was actually the inspiration behind the group's name. 

“I decided to run a relationship group because this is really a phase of life where dating/intimate relationships start to become a main focus for students. Students often describe wanting to have really positive, healthy relationships yet at times struggle to develop the types of relationships they want. We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being,” said Nabi.

"We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being."

Liz Nabi, counselor at the SWC and facilitator of Love Better

Nabi shared that Love Better may also be running a second time in March. If students are unable to join the group in January, they can keep an eye out for the second recruitment. 

Those who are interested or have questions can contact Nabi at nabie@mcmaster.ca

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Starting on Jan. 19, Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety is a four week group that uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and narrative skills therapy to explore social anxiety and strategies to cope. 

This program will run Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Within the four weeks, four different topics will be covered. This includes defining social anxiety, models of social anxiety, self-reflection about one's own boundaries and understanding the implications shame has on one’s self. These concepts will be tied together at the end with an activity called Life Map where students will highlight significant people or events that shape their social anxiety. 

If interested, students can contact Morgan Lucas, a facilitator for this group, at lucasm10@mcmaster.ca

The variety of psychoeducational groups provided by the SWC gives students the opportunity to target specific topics they would like to work on. Aside from the groups mentioned in this article, other groups such as Embracing Gender Diversity and Mindfulness approach to Food and Eating are also available starting in January. For a full list of programs offered by the SWC, students can visit https://wellness.mcmaster.ca/programs/

The mental illness label can have tremendous impacts and we should approach it with more care

By: Frank Chen, Contributor

CW: mentions of mental illness

Veterans of university know: this late-November to mid-December stretch is not a good time of the year. As midterms wrap up and exam season ramps into full gear, this is the point where students become overwhelmed, burnt out and exhausted. Yet, we have some of the most important examinations ahead. Especially in this “unprecedented” year, the burden on students is massive, and the McMaster University community has been vocal about it.

At the forefront of this is a discussion regarding student mental health. Over the past year, the ideas of mental health and mental illness have been thrown around a lot by students. Students are increasingly expressing loneliness, reporting frustration with coursework and burning out. As a result of those feelings, I’ve seen more and more people labelling themselves as depressed or anxious. But “mental illness” is a term with a lot more weight than many people realize. 

When the “mental illness” tag is put on you, it’s often seen as a fixed state — a never-ending onslaught of “bad” mental health. It becomes easy to stop appreciating the good parts of your life when you fixate on the idea that you are “mentally unfit.” Regardless of illness or not, there can be real harm done just by the label itself. 

As an example, in my first year of university (which was in person), I bought into the idea that my stresses and insecurities were a form of generalized anxiety disorder. Due to this, I put boundaries on how I could or could not act based on what I thought of my own mental state. This took away so many possibilities. 

Instead, I now realize how my stresses in my first year could be reframed as a normal response to a change of environment and an adaptation to university life. But regardless, my belief of having anxiety limited me and it can be incredibly easy to misjudge these negative emotions to mental illness. 

Both my personal experience and some of the nuances in how students talk about mental illness illustrate an important idea: that our view of mental illness can be incredibly individualized. In stressful situations that evoke emotional responses and actions, we often miscategorize our failings to ourselves rather than a product of our environment.

For example, students often blame themselves for their grades, for not being prepared enough or for not being that star student who can simultaneously juggle many commitments. However, what we fail to consider are the social contexts that we are in that often make it difficult to achieve these standards, such as home conditions, family duties or socioeconomic status. 

In stressful situations that evoke emotional responses and actions, we often miscategorize our failings to ourselves rather than a product of our environment.

Similarly, students also often talk about mental health as a dichotomous issue, as either having good or bad mental health, which inherently puts pressure on themselves to “fix” their mental states. But realistically, everyone has good and bad days, largely influenced by the events and activities taking place that day. Mental health is less a fixed state based on your own failures, but rather something that is constantly fluctuating largely influenced by your surroundings. 

Our individualized view of mental illness poses danger for those caught up in it. Mental health when approached from the view that it’s the fault of the individual can often lead to a vicious cycle where mental illness can lead to self-doubt and self-hate, furthering negative self-perceptions. The label of illness can be hard to escape from, but social context is key when approaching the way you feel. Understanding that the vast majority of signs and symptoms of what you may think is illness can actually come as normal responses to stressful contexts.

It can be hard to step back and convince yourself that social contexts can play the role it does. Historically, mental health as a discipline has been rooted in individualism, harkening back to the days when disabled people, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks and others who were deemed socially undesirable were blamed for their “mental illness.”

Mental illness was used as a tool to control those who didn’t conform to social standards set at the time, their purpose was originally to condemn the individual. In part, it’s this long-standing history of individualized mental illness that contributes to why so many people still think of it this way today.  

With the impending exam season, we need to be more aware of the implications of a term like “mental illness.” As we move into a stressful time for students and educators alike, I hope that we can all consider whether those negative thoughts and emotions are truly arising from mental illness or something else — because it can be very easy to misattribute feelings as disease, when there can be bigger and broader social contexts in play.

By Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Each year of university can feel like a new beginning, culminating in a gruelling session of final exams. Final exams are customarily used to test students’ comprehension of course material over the course of the semester. However, many students study for exams by cramming as much information as they can the week, or sometimes even the night before the final. This trend has birthed what is commonly dubbed ‘exam culture’. Habits such as pulling all-nighters and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine are shared on social media and amongst friends, sometimes in an attempt to justify these unhealthy behaviours. Promoting these behaviours amongst peers and friends by sharing your poor habits can cause students to believe that these practices are acceptable, or even commendable.

The realistic approach to approaching education, on social media and otherwise, is to understand the repercussions of these exam habits. Rather than shaming friends and followers across Instagram or Twitter, I opt to lead by example. Refusing to contribute or engage with this type of behaviour on the internet may dissuade friends from posting these habits online due to lack of engagement. Also, encouraging positive habits will hopefully have the same impact by influencing others to adopt improved means of coping during exam season.

After I finished my first year, I learned how to study for exams in a way that was not detrimental to my mental or physical well-being. Students are often overwhelmingly stressed during exam season, as due dates for final papers, projects and exams approach. This can lead to issues such as insomnia, anxiety and lower sleep quality. The stress felt during exam season can lead to poor sleep quality and push students to consume excessive amounts of caffeine.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health. I believe one of the biggest problems that students face today is that these poor habits are being shared across various social media platforms in an attempt to normalize them. Sharing your unhealthy habits can encourage others to follow these behaviours, which is harmful.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Often, I see students compete on social media about who stays up the latest, who drinks the most caffeine or who buys the most snacks. When these mindsets are shared online, they become accessible and may incite a trend, leading others to partake or post similar photos or videos. Along with this, it has become increasingly common to see students indulging in unhealthy foods, easily accessible via UberEats or other delivery methods.

This can be dangerous, especially during exam season when these poor habits often are used as distractions from studying and can lead to a mentally and physically vulnerable state.

Overall, exam season is a time when students are most at risk in terms of their health. Rather than normalizing poor behaviours by posting about your unhealthy habits online, it is more beneficial for these behaviours surrounding studying to be called out and given direction. If we all begin to conform and assimilate to “exam culture,” it will simply lead to more harm for students.

During the upcoming semester, it is essential to address and confront negative habits that cause more harm than good. It is also imperative to understand personal limits, rather than conform to the habits of the crowd. Through knowing and understanding individual capacities, poor habits can be substituted for more healthy ones. Investing time in discovering new and improved coping strategies for stress management may encourage students to prioritize their health alongside studies and education.

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Photo by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

By Mads Clement, Contributor

cw: mental health, suicide

In 2018, the Student Representative Assembly voted to rescind the Peer Support Line (PSL), an anonymous hotline that existed to support students and their mental health. 

PSL offered students a place to chat with another student trained in peer support about difficulties that they were experiencing. These challenges could range from relationship issues to academic problems. 

According to a former vice president (administration) of the McMaster Students Union, the main reason the PSL was rescinded was because it received too many “crisis calls”, which posed a liability to all parties involved. Given student staff were not trained in crisis management or how to address calls with students experiencing suicidal ideation, this is a reasonable concern. 

WGEN is a peer support and community building space on the second floor of the student centre.

However, closing a mental health-based service has had negative impacts on the student body. We have lost one more resource on our already very small list of mental health resources. Anonymous peer support is extremely valuable. These services can be accessed without the fear of your name being officially attached to your mental health issues and because peers can relate to you on levels that adult therapists often cannot. Having someone who can relate to you without worrying about whether you will be institutionalized is an important facet of mental health care.

For these reasons and many others, students were outraged by the closing of PSL. We took to Twitter and Facebook, asking for answers as to why such a valuable service would be rescinded. It’s hard to find mental health care on campus, and reducing our options makes it even harder. 

I actually received a reply from a member of the SRA to my outraged tweets where they wrote; “actually, there are 4 new counsellors that have been added to increase 4,000 hours of counselling to decrease the waiting time that students face when accessing the Student Wellness Centre.”

There are three main reasons why this resolution is an issue.

Problem number one: as mentioned above, going to a therapist is not the ideal option for everyone, as some students are likely to have minimal shared experiences with therapists. This especially applies to marginalized folks; patients of colour are less likely to find a racialized therapist that understands the impacts of systemic racism on their mental health. 2SLGBTQ+ students face a similar struggle when dealing with cisgender, heterosexual therapists. The same can be said of various other marginalized identities.

The second problem is that four more therapists isn’t enough. Ask anyone who goes to therapy at the SWC about how long they wait for appointments. In the majority of cases, there’s a two week to one month gap in between appointments. This is not adequate. On top of that, the therapists and counsellors are so swamped with students that they rarely have time to dedicate care to their patients beyond a surface level interaction. Mental health problems often run a lot deeper than what therapists are able to deal with because of their volume of patients.

Since there are many students floundering for mental health care outside of the SWC and PSL, more pressure has been put on the MSU peer support services: Women and Gender Equity Network, the Pride Community Centre, Student Health Education Centre and Maccess. These services, like PSL, are run by students who have entry level peer support training and are not compensated for their work. They are not equipped to handle the volume of students coming to them for help, let alone the degree of mental distress some of their space users are in. These students are not trained therapists.

Additionally, the majority of students that volunteer for these services are marginalized, which leads to the issue of marginalized students taking on all the mental health work on campus. These students, because of the pressures in their own lives and the added pressures of dealing with the mental health crises of others that they can’t always handle, often develop their own mental health problems and also need support or therapy. This system is unbalanced and unsustainable.

We need a balance of both therapists and peer support services. Therapists can provide specialized care to those who need it, but they are at capacity at McMaster University right now. We need more therapists; specifically therapists who have experiences with marginalization. It’s super weird talking about institutionalized transphobia with a cisgender, heterosexual person. This needs to change. 

In addition, the MSU peer support services need more funding and volunteers should be compensated for their work. They put hours of unpaid labour into an unforgiving system that does not support them.

McMaster needs to rework its mental health support systems, and it needs to do this as urgently as possible. Everyone suffers when mental health services are limited, not just mentally ill folks. 

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Bridgette Walker

There have been and will continue to be various types of service and working dogs in educational environments like McMaster University and out in the world at large. I’m Bridgette and I have a dog guide named Estelle.

Please don’t freak out! Properly trained dogs are more effective, efficient and reliable than technology for a lot of physical and mental health conditions. These dogs truly do save lives.

Estelle plays many important roles in my life including going to McMaster University with me. She does many things including listening for certain sounds — especially my snack alarms — and knows where all the really important places are. Aside from deafness, I have anxiety, autism and chronic migraines. Estelle keeps me in check mentally and emotionally.

When meeting service dogs, there are some ground rules: ask first, establish what’s helpful and what are the limits. There are some things Estelle really shouldn’t do for her own sake, and a few things that would actually cause problems for me. Meeting other service dogs is cool too, as long as they're all well-behaved and ready to get right back to work.

Anyway, I don’t appreciate people randomly trying to pet or play with Estelle while I’m walking between classes. In general, all dog guides need to pay attention to where they’re going, and to their person.  We're on the move, but she’s still listening for what sounds are in the area, how I am doing and so forth.  

Please respect my space. I don’t like being “crowded in” and neither does Estelle.  She may be a dog, but she’s also regarded as a medical device — same as a wheelchair or other medical apparatus.

And yes, you can take a picture of us as part of the scenery going by, but don’t stop us to pose for snaps; if we did this every time, I'd be late for everything.

Enough with distracting the dogs themselves! This can be dangerous for other people with more serious conditions when their service dogs are being distracted and hindered from alerting them to potentially harmful or even fatal issues that can crop up at any time. I’m blessed that this isn’t the case for me, so far.

Then there are people with phobias. I don’t know whatever trauma you have endured in the past but we really don’t mean you any harm! Please, stop screaming and whining. It’s not good for Estelle's ears, not good for my anxiety and certainly not good for your throat or mental health.

Don’t project your personal problem onto us like that. You are an adult in university and entering the working world. If you’re going to be like that every time you see Estelle or another kind of service dog on campus or out in the world, you’re not going to live as good a quality life as you deserve. Everyone should be able to enjoy or at least tolerate seeing these dogs on duty — they’re really good at heart!

The secret is that if she weren’t on duty, she'd like to try being your friend! Estelle also likes visiting babies, kittens and even pet chickens. Anyway, since she can’t try comforting you in her doggy-way, try refocusing your perspective of the dog with: “It’s a special animal. It’s somebody’s lifeline.”  

From Estelle and me, see you around campus!

 

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Photos by Kyle West

On Jan. 30, the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, an advertising campaign created by Bell Canada, took the country by storm. In an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health in Canada, Bell donated money to mental health funds for every social interaction with campaigns hashtag.

While the world tweeted, snapped and Instagram-ed away, The McMaster Women’s Athletic Leadership Committee took it one step further and hosted their first-ever Bell Let’s Talk event.

The event consisted of McMaster student-athletes sharing their personal stories in an open and safe environment that was open to the entire McMaster community. Five student-athletes, Sabrina Schindel, Allison Sippel, Aurora Zuraw, Nicolas Belliveau and Louis Sharland, took the floor and led discussions on depression, eating disorders, language and anxiety and men’s mental health.

http://www.instagram.com/p/BtRPDA0BkSb/

The event was a success with a great turn out that included open discussion and much-needed conversations on mental health and how it affects athletes, in addition to the right steps that need to be taken to combat different stigmas.

“At first, I was expecting it to be a small event with just members of WALC, but to have my teammates, friends and people I didn’t even know come out to support was so amazing and inspiring,” said Sippel, the initiator for the event.

The idea for the event came up after Sippel, a cross-country runner, wanted to be able to create an open space for people to be able to talk about their battles with mental health.

“I feel like if we are able to create a space where people are open to talking, there would be less of a stigma around it,” said Sippel.

She first wrote down her story after she got out of the hospital after suffering from an eating disorder. After reading it to her close friends and family members, she never really shared it with the public. But when the idea of creating an event for Bell Let’s Talk came up, the idea of the panel sharing personal stories came to mind.

Working with Claire Arsenault, McMaster’s Athlete Services Coordinator and WALC, the panel that would originally be a conversation for members of the committee grew to more.

“I was happy that male athletes joined in and it was really inspirational that the group of us could be able to share our stories,” said Sippel.

🗣️ #OneTeamForMentalHealth 🗣️

Ask someone how they are doing.

📸 @MPHcentral#WeAreONE | #BellLetsTalk pic.twitter.com/OlmEeBWH9r

— Ontario University Athletics (@OUAsport) January 31, 2019

Each speaker shared their story then opened up the floor for discussion, answering questions in regard to their experiences, advice for others and much more.

During the panel, Sippel shared her story about how her eating disorder led her to be hospitalized when she was 14 years old. After losing too much weight and no longer being allowed to run, her journey to bounce back was not easy.

“This illness had turned mind against body and person against person because nurses were trained to trust no one,” Sippel explained about her time in the hospital.

Eventually, Sippel showed signs of improvement and was allowed to leave the hospital and return to her everyday life. Fast-forward to today, and she is now running on the Mac cross-country team while trying her best to stay on top of her condition.

“It’s a lifetime of fighting against my mind so I never had to go back,” Sippel said.

For Sippel, having the student-athletes lead this conversation was important for a number of reasons.

“I feel like a lot of times, it is frowned upon to express our feelings. If we start the conversation, there is no better way to set an example for our fellow students,” said Sippel. “Hopefully five students sharing their stories can spiral into something bigger and start a movement.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtREZWEh1QA/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Schindel, another one of the five student-athletes who shared their stories, is a lacrosse player who suffered from depression. Through the ups and downs of dealing with her battle, she eventually discovered that staying busy and active is what kept helped her out the most. This meant that when her lacrosse season was over, she would have to find something to keep her occupied so she did not fall down that dark hole again.

“Realizing that no one is beyond help and getting in front of my depression before it could do the same damage it used to,” Schindel explained as the steps she takes to keep herself from falling again.

Schindel’s story, though devastating, is more common amongst young people than one may think. This is why it is so important that these conversations are happening. Having the bravery to start the conversation, and sharing tips and resources with their fellow students is a great way for Marauders to do their part in helping end the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Justin Temple

Waiting for final grades to be posted is a terrible experience defined by an abundance of anxiety coupled with the constant refreshing of Mosaic. Usually, this biannual waiting game ends before the new year for fall term grades and before the beginning of May for winter term. At that point, the "grade anxiety" faced by so many students, myself included, has subdued.

This time around, however, I am still waiting on a final grade nearly two months after the course ended. A situation like this should never occur at McMaster University and needs to be addressed by mandating grade submission deadlines for course instructors.

Such a mandate is not without precedent. Carleton University requires that instructors submit their final grades within 10 calendar days of the course's final exam. The University of Western Ontario grants instructors even less time, requiring submission of final grades within a week of the final exam.

Besides Carleton and Western, the University of Regina, the University of Victoria, the University of Windsor and Ryerson University are other postsecondary institutions which have implemented grade submission deadlines for instructors. It is evidently not a new idea.  

Despite this, McMaster currently has no policy that requires instructors to submit final grades by a specific deadline. This is beyond an inconvenience and only serves to complicate students’ lives.

For example, should an instructor fail to submit marks by the drop-and-add deadline for a prerequisite course, students' registration in a secondary course may be thrown into limbo.

Simultaneously, students planning on taking a second course based on their performance in the prerequisite class are withheld critical information that would likely dictate their decision to take the second course or not.

Even more alarming, a long delay in the submission of final grades can create a negative impact for students eyeing graduate studies. Given that grades are required to be reported to an applicant's desired graduate school as early as late December, an instructor sitting on their hands can put prospective graduate students in a completely unnecessary pinch.

With so much riding on those applications, McMaster is doing a disservice to its students by failing to force accountability onto its faculty.

Moreover, McMaster’s mission to promote health and wellness amongst its students could be furthered by mandating a grade submission deadline. As the time between when a student finishes a course and subsequently receives their final grade is variable and can last for weeks in length, existing academic anxiety is worsened.

A mark deadline could quell some of the existing anxiety by limiting the amount of time students spend worrying about marks they have yet to receive. Additionally, a grading deadline would provide students with a much more concrete timeframe to expect their marks, limiting any anxiety derived from the uncertainty of when grades will be uploaded.

As students, we should not have to deal with the mental and bureaucratic turmoil created from the inability of instructors to submit our marks promptly. Such issues could easily be averted by requiring instructors to provide their final marks by a specified date. Besides, as instructors demand us to submit our assignments on time, is it not time that they get a taste of their own medicine?

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Saadia Shahid

How does a student get good grades? I know the most obvious answer being shouted out is “by studying, of course,” with some sarcastic replies of “watching Netflix” thrown in the mix. But what if I told you both those answers were correct?

A balance of socializing and studying, which can include watching Netflix, is necessary to achieve those highly sought-after grades.

Though our cognitive needs are met by virtue of being university students, it is our need for "love and belongingness" that is present on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Socializing is a basic human need. To become functioning members of the society, we must engage in leisure activities.

Yet, we almost never put time aside to socialize with our friends. Even when we do, studying takes precedence and ends up taking over the time we allocated for socializing.

This is often a result of procrastination. Whether it is procrastinating by scrolling through clickbait articles or watching videos, when we procrastinate, we take away time from both socializing and studying.

Procrastination is also looked down upon so badly. Rarely do we try to understand why the person might be engaging in procrastination. Procrastination is a sign of anxiety.

In my opinion, procrastination is often a hugely unrecognized sign, too. Besides anxiety, procrastinating habits have been linked to depression and low self-esteem.

If you find your friend procrastinating, don’t “leave them alone so they can study”. Study with them. If left alone, they may continue procrastinating for even longer, and worsen their mental health.

Some people do emphasize their preference for studying alone. In that case, make sure they’re okay and continually check on their progress and their mental health. In severe cases of anxiety, they may even lie about it.

As a perfectionist, I speak from experience. My habit of procrastination stemmed from being anxious about the imperfect outcome that might ensue. As a result, I took longer getting started on assignments with the thought that if I didn’t do well, I could justify it by telling myself that I didn’t have enough time.

So far this year, I have been doing better as I have come to terms with the non-existent nature of perfection. This is something creatives struggle with as well. Things like “is this good enough?”, “should I post this now?” and “I want to make this better” are examples of what goes through their minds on a regular basis.

So how do you achieve the grade you’ve been aiming for? Consistency is the answer. Being consistently diligent with your workflow will not just aid in improving your skills, but also get you your coveted grade. Doing well in a course is a long-term goal, and definitely doesn’t occur when you start an assignment a day before its due.

Procrastination also leads to long hours of isolation in the library behind laptop screens or a stack of books, taking away the satisfaction of “love and belongingness”, and according to Maslow, halting an individual’s growth.

So, the next time you find your friend procrastinating, ask them why, take them out to get them relaxed and help them get started on their studying. Mental health is no light issue.

 

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By: Anonymous Contributor

No one wants to be unhealthy. No one wants their health to be negatively affected by other people’s actions.

I think we can all agree on these assertions. But is a full-stop, McMaster-wide smoking ban going to make us healthier? Is it really going to make Marauders “breathe easy”? This ban will not work.

I am a McMaster student and I smoke. I smoke on campus. I stay away from doors, windows, air intakes and fellow students when I smoke.

I don’t exhale if someone passes by.

I put my cigarette butts in the proper boxes, which are becoming harder to find on campus.

You won’t find me next to the student centre doors blowing smoke in your face.

Nor will you find me fogging up the bus stop and choking everyone else out. I don’t want my unhealthy choice to affect you.

I don’t want to be unhealthy either. I don’t think smoking is cool, and I’m well aware of the negative effects cigarette smoking has and will have on my health.

Smoking at school has helped me cope with overwhelming anxiety/panic attacks and OCD, allowing me to attend classes and make it to my third year without relying on a constant supply of Xanax for support.

I certainly don’t need the school or its student groups to explain to me, an adult, that smoking is bad.

I certainly don’t need your support groups. If I were interested, I’d join myself. But I am not.

McMaster, for all of its supposed efforts to address mental health issues, seems all too eager to ignore a major reason that people, including myself, take up smoking: my mental illness.

Smoking at school has helped me cope with overwhelming anxiety/panic attacks and OCD, allowing me to attend classes and make it to my third year without relying on a constant supply of Xanax for support.

Those who don’t suffer from mental illness may not understand, but the relief of knowing that in between classes you can recoup, prepare yourself and have something on hand that isn’t mind altering, is truly great.

It is much more difficult and embarrassing to roll out a yoga mat, play with a stress ball, practice meditative breathing, or whatever other suggestion you may have.

Now, if I need a cigarette, I’ll leave campus property.

That’s fine supposing there is a garbage bin nearby so I don’t have to litter and supposing that there aren’t too many people on the same sidewalk or residential street as me.

This also makes it difficult for me to be able to smoke in between classes with the added stress of worrying if I will be able to make it back to campus on time.

I’m sure to most, the expected response to this ban is “too bad, so sad”.

But I just want to live my life and attend my classes without further dirty looks and scoffs for my choice to smoke and my choice of stress relief.

Instead of guilting those who smoke and isolating them, why not enforce the rules that we already have in place?

You’ll find that most, like me, do our best to follow the rules in place.

For those who don’t it’s not a smoking issue, it’s a character issue. Have designated smoking areas.

Actually, enforce ban areas. Don’t demonize and make people feel unwelcome on their campus just because they smoke for reasons you choose not to understand.

Miranda Babbitt
Assistant LifeStyle Editor

Having a panic attack on Valentine’s Day? First up, breathe. Second, peruse through the following suggestions to some common problemos.

I’m the only one alone!!!
Even though you’re not someone’s “one”, you’re not “the only one” single. 40% of the population won’t be going home to a cuddle-mate. Unless you count your furry friends in the feline and canine world, in which case 56% of us are going home to a glorious night of adorable cuddles. Bonus, they’re not expecting chocolate anytime soon (as in they die from it, yes).

My movie life is bombarded by rom-coms.
Teary eyes on Valentine’s Day are only okay if they’re from ROFLing (but I get if that’s too much physical activity - LMAO is cool too). So ditch the “rom” and stick to the “com”, with the near-classic, Bridesmaids. Or get in touch with your inner cooties-believer and watch “Frozen”, which graced the Oscars so it’s worthy for our adult, cultured eyes.

People think I have no plans.
Well, here is the riskiest but perhaps the easiest: lie. Nothing too grandiose, like saying you’ve been asked by three tall, dark, and handsome men if you would accompany them to Hawaii, but a small, “A fella from my stats class asked if he could make me dinner. Can’t give up a cooked meal on V Day.” Then go on about how you both love food, because I think that’s a universal similarity between all humans on Valentine’s Day. Or, stay moral, and say you’re planning on rounding up a bunch of gals and hitting the clubs (clubs, as in a sleepover for twenty-somethings who love the Notebook).

General anxiety issues.
Let me hear you say, namasteeee! Throw yo hands up in the air! But only if you’re doing a sun salutation, because we want you in that addictive meditative state all yogis strive to achieve. Yoga has the ability to reduce stress and decrease physiological arousal (in terms of symptoms related to stress… yoga doesn’t harm your sex life), so you can walk away super calm and super cool.

I just want someone to buy me a drank.
Turn on some Beyonce and and get your hands dirty! A blood orange margarita promises that Valentine’s Day festivity without the potentially sleazy offer of that guy lurking on you from down the bar. Invite a friend or two over and you’re night is now flawless.

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