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Healthy, happy, connected for exam time

[Exam Health]
Students at Queen's are encouraged to eat well, get enough sleep, stay active and remain connected for their own well-being and to be in top form for exams. (University Communications)

The end of term period for many people at Queen’s – faculty, staff, and especially students – is a stressful time. 

Papers are due and final exams, both need to be marked, and after that it’s time to move or take that next life step beyond university.

It can be a lot to handle.

Self-Care video

Video goes viral
A new video posted on the Queen’s University Be Well page on Facebook is providing members of the Queen’s community with a better understanding of self-care during exams.
The video was created by nursing students Hannah Fogel and Jason Basaur for the Practicum in Community Health Promotion (NURS 405) course and focuses on “how do you self-care.” The course provides students with the opportunity to work with a community agency to develop a health promotion initiative after identifying a need.
“Encouraging students to identify activities that help them to feel balanced was the focus of this project,” says Lauren Armstrong, Peer Health Outreach Coordinator, who supervised the students. “The video also helps remind everyone to prioritize their self-care during this busy time of year.”
The video was created with the support of Studio Q and Peer Health Educators.
In just four days the video has been viewed more than 9,000 times along with more than 50 shares and has received more than 100 comments.

Stress management is key and fortunately there are many resources available at Queen’s to help you help yourself or provide extra support when needed. The first step can be identifying the causes of stress. 

“For most students, during this time of year, their goal is to manage their stress levels so that they can keep themselves on track to achieve their academic goals,” says Kate Humphrys, Health Promotion Coordinator at Student Wellness Services. “So one strategy is to identify what is causing the greatest concern and then to seek out the appropriate solution for that particular issue.”

That could mean meeting with a Peer Learning Assistant or attending a workshop at Student Academic Success Services (SASS). It may be as simple as using the Exam Study Schedule from Learning Strategies to help get everything organized or accessing some of the many online resources.

As Ms. Humphrys points out, just as with most things in life, it is important find some sort of balance. But the pressures at this time of year can make that more difficult.

It all starts with taking care of yourself.

“From a health perspective when we look at self-care and stress management during exams we always come back to our key message: be proactive in your efforts to take care of yourself, and remember that effective self-care is individualized – what works for one person doesn’t always work for another,” she explains. “Prioritizing the time to take care of yourself can really help manage stress and can potentially lead to better academic results.” 

This means eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks, both the short breaks – 10 minutes for every hour of study – as well longer breaks to connect with family or go out for a coffee with friends to take your mind off the exam buzz. It also means taking time for physical activity. 

Mental health, physical health and social health form a solid foundation to help manage stress during exam time, Ms. Humphrys says.

“Managing your stress will be easier if you are eating well, sleeping well, getting some activity, and staying connected with others – it’s all connected,” she says “It can seem overwhelming, but often times picking one thing that feels manageable is a good start. Then it’s possible to slow add in other changes, and over time it does get easier.”

For some people, however, self-care may not be enough and Ms. Humphrys encourages students who are feeling very overwhelmed to seek out support through resources such as Counselling Services at Student Wellness Services, the Office of the University Chaplain, the AMS Peer Support Centre, the SGPS Peer Advisor Program, and Student Academic Success Services.  Students can also access support from Career Services, as well at the Queen’s University International Centre and Four Directions Aboriginal Students Centre.

“There are so many people here on campus who support students and every student has access these services,” Ms. Humphrys says. “Sometimes we hear from students that they are unsure. We always encourage students to remember that these services are here for them. They wouldn’t be here if students didn’t use them.”

New this year is #QueensProjectHappy, a positive mental health campaign inspired by Queen’s alumnus Neil Pasricha and the ideas he brings forward in his 2016 book The Happiness Equation.

Throughout the exam period, Health Promotion will be offering tips for social media followers to increase happiness. They will also be distributing Gratitude Journals where students can write down five things they are grateful for over the past week as a reminder that even when times are stressful there is a lot to be happy about.

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There is a wide range of support resources available at Queen’s.

If you are a student and want to improve your learning and studying strategies or academic stress coping skills, you can book a Learning Strategies advising appointment by visiting queensu.mywconline.com.

Students who wish to make an appointment with Counselling Services can do so by calling 613-533-6000, ext. 78264. Counsellors are located in various faculty and university buildings across campus: Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science (613-533-3447), Faculty of Education (613-533-2334), School of Graduate Studies (613-533-2136), School of Business (via Commerce Portal), Residence Counsellors (613-533-6000, ext. 78330 or 78034), the School of Medicine (613-533-6000, ext. 78264), and the Outreach Counsellor/Student Advisor in the JDUC (613-533-6000, ext. 78441).

Another resource available for students is Good 2 Talk, a 24/7/365 post-secondary student helpline which offers free, professional and anonymous support. They can be reached at 1-866-925-5454 to talk about any stressful issues students might be experiencing.