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Peer Wellness Coaching offers virtual support to improve physical activity, sleep and mental health.

A young woman interacts online via a laptop computer.
Peer Wellness Coaches help inspire other Queen’s students to be more physically active, decrease their sedentary time, and sleep better. (Unsplash/Brooke Cagle)

Mental health is strongly connected to good sleep habits, physical activity and stress management, but it can be hard to start and maintain positive health behaviours on your own.  Working with someone who can help you set and achieve goals can help, especially if it’s a peer who can relate to your experience. This month, as Queen’s marks Mental Health Promotion Week, Health Promotion in Student Wellness Services is promoting its new Peer Wellness Coaching initiative to further support student wellbeing.  

The program empowers students by facilitating one-on-one conversations aimed at improving sleep strategies, increasing light and moderate physical activity, and reducing sedentary time. These three movement behaviours align with the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults, which Queen’s researchers Dr. Jennifer Tomasone and Dr. Robert Ross helped develop. Students can book 10-to-30-minute one-on-one virtual sessions with a trained Peer Wellness Coach who will use evidence-based strategies and a multiculturally-aware lens to guide an open, confidential dialogue about how to build new skills and track progress toward short and long-term goals.

“Health and wellness affect every area of life, and I am so excited to help others to build self-confidence and self-efficacy in working toward their goals,” says Peer Wellness Coach Chelsea, a third-year Health Studies student.

Thirteen undergraduate students were selected and trained for this inaugural year of the program. Having experienced the stress of balancing academic workloads and healthy lifestyle choices firsthand, the coaches are well suited to inspire their peers to be more physically active, decrease their sedentary time, and get better sleep.

The 24-hour movement guidelines can help all adults increase their knowledge and understanding of what they can do throughout their day to stay healthy.

Importance of Sleep

As devices such as smart phones, tablets, and television become more integrated in our daily routines, so does the need to improve sleep hygiene. This generally consists of three components: improving sleep quality, having consistent bed and wake times and sleeping 7-9 hours each night. Providing guidance on how to identify and manage disruptions to these components of sleep is an important step in reducing stress, improving cognitive function, and feeling more energized throughout the day.

Importance of Activity

For many, the switch to remote learning has increased screen time while limiting opportunities for vigorous and moderate physical activity. From the release of stress-relieving endorphins that comes from this type of movement, to reducing the likelihood of disease and illness, physical activity contributes to current and future health. Learning how to fit different forms of physical activity into our schedules can improve overall mood and help support mental health.

Action Planning

Identifying an area you want to work on allows for a sense of satisfaction as you make steps towards completing goals. Establishing timelines and frequently checking in on progress allows for strategies to be adjusted and refined as you pursue healthy outcomes. Over time the practice of following an action plan increases self-awareness and promotes positive coping strategies to deal with stress.

Students can book a Peer Wellness Coaching appointment, and visit the Student Wellness Services website to learn more about the program.