The Stress of Starting Over

I am a mature student and starting my life over again from scratch has been exciting and liberating.  It has also been overwhelming and stress inducing.  When I left a terrible and toxic past behind in pursuit of a brighter and more meaningful future, I expected that balancing work and studies would be difficult and was prepared to learn new skills in time management and stress management.  I had no idea; however, that social dynamics would become my biggest hurdle.

I like to describe my current life situation like Christmas dinner.  There’s the adults table and the kids table.  I however, don’t belong at either.  Many of my instructors and friends are fully accomplished and are years ahead of myself.  On the other hand, I am surrounded by a group of young adults, most of whom are barely outside of puberty and so finding my place within this new environment of students has been a lonely struggle.  My maturity does; however, give me some advantages: I am unafraid to be different, I am open with my emotions, have little time for gossip, have the capacity to appreciate a variety of different people, and have a passion and perseverance to overcome obstacles and find the positivity in every situation.

So, when the young students call me their “school mom”, I find comfort in the fact that I help nurture a group of individuals who need extra support and know that this capacity is appreciated.  I take pleasure in being able to connect with a younger group of individuals, that teaches me patience and shows me an excitement that is admirable.  I respect my own accomplishments and appreciate the growth that I have had, since I was 18, and it makes me excited to know that I am sure to see even more personal development as I go through this program.

Ultimately, I know that I don’t have to sit at the kids table or the grown ups table.  I sit at a table of my own making and welcome a new group of diverse individuals.  Many of whom will be older and younger, many whom I can teach or whom may teach me, but all of whom are on a journey of education and enlightenment.  I have chosen, as I enter my second semester, to approach these struggles as opportunities.  This experience will make me wiser, but perhaps keep me younger and I will carve my own unique place in this world, choosing optimism over fear.


End of the Semester Stretch

Every time the end of the semester hits I always get super lazy and complacent. It always happens… I want to get my stuff done and over with, but I can’t seem to just get it done. I stare at the paper for hours… I just want to give up and be done, but there is still so much more to do that I just want to sleep and not worry about finals.

Finals aren’t even a thing for me. I can’t study because all I want to do is again sleep. Maybe do a little crying and some stress eating.. and some more crying. I literally just want the semester over and I somehow cannot see the end in sight yet it is LITERALLY RIGHT THERE. I can never know why I cannot just get my butt off the couch and get the stuff done!

How do I beat this stretch and get on the ball? Well… usually I stop crying and hike up my socks and just take a mass amount of breaks and eat waaaaay too much chocolate. It may be hard but somehow I always get it done.

Basically, just try your best and breath. You are not the only one who is trying to fight the stretch and you can do it!! I believe in you! Good luck and kick some finals butts!

A Good Nights Sleep

We all can agree that sleep is wonderful…for those who can sleep or those who have a regular sleep schedule. From my experience being in university, there are three main types of sleep a university student can have: *Feel free to add your own in the comments section below

  1. The “I am going to go to bed early so I will be well rested,” but your body, or mind, or both feel like you just ran a marathon and are too wide awake to sleep (despite your desire to). And thus you fall asleep much later than intended or 1 hour before you are supposed to wake up.
  2. The “I have an assignment and/or test that I need to work on and I don’t want to go to bed”. Shrugging off all the studies that show that sleep actually helps you learn and retain information, because like me sometimes you feel that some how you are the exception. Spoiler alert! Though it may be in different quantities for every person, no one is the exception, we all need our sleep.
  3. The ever allusive good night sleep. Which some times comes from being so exhausted you just crash, or your body/mind finally goes to bed once you lay down. However, this can sometimes lead to sleeping-in the next day. Hopefully the next day is a day off from school and work for those reading this. However, in my experience it has either caused me to almost miss my bus/ride to school or as a result of a very good night sleep, I have slept half of what was supposed to be a productive Saturday away.

Never the less, we try our best. We try and take those who give us tips and tricks to sleep in combination with reading countless studies and articles on what will get us to sleep faster and more peacefully. But at the end of the day, you have to take other’s advice with a grain of salt and look inward (and I know for some this might sound silly), but really ask yourself why you aren’t getting a good enough sleep.

Are there external factors causing a lack of sleep, internal, or maybe a bit of both? For me I know it is a mixture of both. It’s equal parts – my body is wide awake, I feel restless, uncomfortable, and I just want to be hit over the head with one of those cartoon mallets and have stars or birds fly around my head. On the other side, I know I have a problem with completing assignments the night before they are due. And let me clarify, I do not procrastinate, I really do plan out what I want to do. And yet, without fail I always end up putting everything together the night before, regardless of any preparation I might do. Because something can always be fixed or tweaked. And finally, sometimes I let myself get so exhausted, running around and trying to get things done that I just pass out once my head hits the pillow. Usually waking to an unknown time, my phone, glasses, and headphones still somewhere wrapped up in my bed sheets, but I don’t know where. Some how I am both refreshed and still tired, and feeling a sense of disappointment because I really wanted to be productive the next day. I can even remember a time where I had been getting up really early but going to bed fairly late for a week, that when it came Friday and I told myself I was just going to lay down for 5 minutes. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep till I woke up several hours later.

However, there is one type of sleep I forgot to mention. As we are all in the age of technology, it can become very tempting (and I often succumb) to go on my phone late at night before I go to bed. Extending the process my body takes to fall asleep. And I know if I want a proper sleep than I have to put it down. But really the only time I get to do what I want to do or catch up on my favourite shows or videos is the time between when I go to bed and when I am about to fall asleep. But that is no excuse. And yes I have a ‘night time mode’ setting on my phone but nothing beats a natural good night sleep. Nothing is worse for your body and your mind than not getting any sleep.

With lack of sleep can come anxiety, paranoia, exhaustion phases and just a lack of enthusiasm mixed with extreme bolts of energy, as far as my experience has shown me. And as students I know it can be hard to take time for ourselves, but we need it. We need to give our bodies and minds a break, so we cannot only be of use to others, but to ourselves as well. And I understand that everyone has their own schedule and their own way of doing things, but you should never underestimate a good night sleep.

Well wishes, L.R.










The Never Ending Exhaustion

Despite getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, I have been exhausted every day for the past 2 or 3 weeks. No matter how much I sleep or relax, I am in a constant state of both physical and mental exhaustion. I wake up tired most days and struggle to get myself out of bed, often setting a later alarm once I have been woke up by the one I initially set the night before. On the few days I wake up feeling energized and ready to go, I’m ready to go back to bed after 3 hours of being awake.

Since high school I have been a frequent napper. During the school year it’s a little harder to schedule in naps, as I’m out all day and to be honest the chairs and sofas at school aren’t very comfortable, especially for napping on. When I finally get home, I’m ready to pass out. But that’s not the option most nights. Dinner needs to be eaten, I need to shower and dry my hair, and most importantly there are midterms to study for and assignments to complete.

Almost every night this week I have got home, showered, ate dinner, and then attempted to study for a few hours. When I am tired I cannot concentrate on homework at all. I will read the same thing 3 times and still have no idea what it was even about. I also fall asleep studying quite frequently. I will usually nap first to make sure this doesn’t happen, but when it’s already 8 or 9 pm I know a nap isn’t an option – if I try to nap this late, I will be asleep for the whole night. So what really happens is I go to bed early, deciding I will just wake up a little earlier the next morning and study before I have to leave for class/work. Most people can agree that when you make this decision, to wake up early and get things done, you’ve already lost. In the morning, your alarm will go off and you will go back asleep until you actually have to get up in order to leave on time. I’m guilty of this.

I don’t really know what is causing me to be so exhausted each and every day, but if I had to guess I would say it’s life. Having to balance everything is a lot of work, and there are typically more things to balance during this time of the semester. Next week alone, I have 3 papers due all worth between 15-40% of my final marks, and am writing my GRE test, which I have barely even studied for yet. I wish I could say being a procrastinator was my excuse for not having started or even finished any of these assignments earlier, but I can’t. I’m a very organized student and like to start working on assignments as soon as possible. But this year hasn’t allowed it – it’s been to hectic.

I know that I am not the only student constantly feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, and that is why I wrote this. I know that someone out there is dealing with the same amount of stress and pressure as me, if not more. I know that I will power through it all, and everything will be okay. I might have to make myself pull an all-nighter or two to get all my papers done on time, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Sacrifices must be made and unfortunately, this time around the sacrifice is my sleep.

The Plight of Productivity: The Importance of Mental Health In The Workplace

By Michael Cassar – Peer Employment Advisor

“A B C! It’s easy 1 2 3! As simple as, do re mi!”

On February 20th,  1970,  a youthful band known as the “Jackson Five” released the song “A B C”. This would be the launching point of a career for the musician and performer named Michael Jackson. He would go on to make history and change the world through his art and passion for entertainment.

The lyrics from “A B C” not only reflect what strong talent, creativity, and captivating potential The Jackson Five had,  it also became their second number one hit; displacing The Beatles “Let It Be”.

So in the world of competing musical artists and performers, it can be said that it pays to be productive, and then some. Millions and even billions of dollars are to be made. Today’s digitized world is one where human beings can do everything they could do in person through the medium of a technologically sophisticated smartphone or computer screen; fame, productivity, and creativity can have a truly global and international audience!

It is not uncommon to see the YouTube stars of today cash in paychecks that can pay for much more than just rent and a Netflix account. Whether or not such dollars and groundswell will lead to fame and fortune, it is in a lot of ways up to the audience that the individual is trying to connect and establish a relationship with to determine how renowned and globally known that person will become . When you start to think about it, putting your name, your ideas, and your methods of life, work, or perceptions of the world out there can require much effort and time to keep your audience satisfied and engaged.

I have wondered for a long time, what is the main driver or source of such creative and relevant content for others? Whether it be in the social media sphere, the music and entertainment industry, or the workplace environment in general,  I think I can identify it with one word:


Yes, pronounced as [proh-duhk-tiv-i-tee]. From my years of experience as a university student, as a YouTube watcher, as a music fan, and as a consumer, I have personally arrived at the conclusion that if an individual feels and is inspired to be empowered in their workplace environment, they can maximize their potential and utility of knowledge, skills, and abilities!

So when I thought long and  hard about to what to write for this article, I arrived at the realization that a crucial and integral part to any workplace is the mental health awareness programs and services. Now more than ever, especially considering that 1 in 5 of all Canadians suffers from a mental health problem, it is vital that such programs are available for those in their respective workplace environments to continue to provide individuals with the positive and re-encouraging environment to be productive.

I am a commerce student who intends to one day become a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL). This designation would allow me a multitude of opportunities to work with people in a capacity that influences how their work environment functions. I was inspired by the fact that it can take one person to be a positive force of change in the lives of others. There are three crucial areas I hope to make a positive societal change within: recruitment, employee retention, and workplace motivation. That is what inspired me to begin blogging and advocating for the importance of mental health in the workplace, no matter what you define that workplace to be.

In my opinion, being a post-secondary student is a full-time job. Managing five courses and doing it well is quite a challenge. Think of the stress at this time in your life like an aggravated queen bee, coming home to a displaced, defunct, and destroyed hive. Doing well on exams, achieving high grades, maintaining relationships, friendships, and securing employment after graduation are all crucial to defining your success after the fastest-paced four years of your life. However, these same four years are crucial stages in the development of your cognitive and behavioural functions that will define who you will become.

While this is alarming, so is the statistic of how many students lack the simple element of sleep. Sleep is crucial to managing stress, staying energized and ready for the day, and being able to regulate the busyness that is life. I was reading the Dairy Farmers of Canada Project Sleep which has some very troubling facts from the Canadian Sleep Review Study of 2016:

  • 59% of all Canadians are not getting enough sleep (That’s over 15 million people)
  • 40% of all Canadians have a sleeping disorder (Insomnia, sleepwalking, sleeping talking, sleep apnea, nightmares, and teeth grinding just to name a few)
  • 1 in 4 people call in sick to work to catch up on their sleep (The average worker in Canada loses about 11 days of productivity each year from if the suffer from insomnia)
  • It is recommended that 30 minutes before you go to bed that you don’t see or watch any screens. They omit light blueish and green colours that can spur your brain to think it is daytime and stay awake.
  • Studies have shown that by getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week can improve sleep quality by 65%.

With each of these facts in mind, think about how other stress factors can either attribute to or increase the frequency of insufficient sleep.  Whether it is the fear of academic failure, debt and financial struggle, managing and maintaining relationships, all of these challenges in life can present adversity that can keep you up at night.

One verbal phrase and or life philosophy that I live by and use to calm me down when I am stressed is: “Prepare for tomorrow, live for the now, and dream for the future”. I find this sentence to help bring clarity and process-oriented decision making into my life that makes identifying what I need to achieve much easier. As a consequence, that makes me feel and be more productive, confident, and energetic about life. When I need to get a good night’s sleep (which I really need to do more often), I prepare for tomorrow, not just in the figurative sense, by doing well in school and getting involved in the community, but in the literal sense as well. Even if it is a simple task that allows for more time in the morning, such as preparing what I will wear to the office, making a lunch and keeping it cool it in the fridge. This allows me to not only stay in bed a little bit longer, but it then takes away the stress of having to get extra early to prepare for the work day. This can also work towards preparing a gym bag for a workout after work. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. I have learned this to be true in school and life. It is also worth knowing and going back to the intuitive truth that you can’t plan for everything; and that is what makes this world, and life, interesting!

That leads me to my next point about ‘living in the now’. No matter what sort of religious background, personal beliefs or viewpoints we might have or share, everything that has happened is in the past, and everything that is coming is what we define to be the future. Among all of this is the present. This moment! The now! The milliseconds that have gone by after reading this paragraph. It is in all of these moments where we have the most influence. The world is full of possibilities and knowing what you want is the first step to making it a reality. This is only limited by one tenuous and ever-changing factor: getting out what you put in. For example, if you have a group project that is due tomorrow, and everyone within your group (including yourself once in a while) decided to procrastinate, then you will not get your desired grade on that project. When it comes to balancing work and school, however, it is lessons like these that can help you improve on things such as your time-management skills. Living a balanced lifestyle does not have to be a perfect one. That is why it is crucial to do as the language of Latin simplifies well: “Carpe Diem” or Seize the Day.

Then we get to what is known, for most, to be a very scary thought: “dreaming for the future”. In a world as competitive, globalized and interconnected as the one today,  knowing what you want to do in the future will determine, not only how productive you will be in the days, weeks, months and years to come, but also how happy and content you will be with your life. Keeping in mind the obvious interest of financial benefits of working for an organization, in my view, those who are the most content, confident, and enthusiastic towards their current job or intended career path have the best opportunity of maximizing their happiness. If there is one important piece of advice I would pass on to any student, it is this: take the time to consider the values and beliefs of the organization you are interested in working for in the future. Should their values match yours, let that be a confirmation or indication of what is best for you going forward.  So as cliche as it may sound, if you truly do what you love, and love what you do, you can spend your entire career never having to ‘work’ a day in your life.

Even though I might not release a song or album  anytime soon that will be at the top of the queue on the radio, or have over a million subscribers on a video game YouTube Channel; I know that I can make it anywhere so long as I live, love and appreciate the work that I do everyday. I am confident that if I ever need any help, clarity, or  just someone to hear me out, I know that the Student Life staff in U5 portables are there for me. Everyone is really friendly, and they can help you find more ways of getting through tough decisions or times of adversity that you may face during the roller coaster ride that is university.

This is Michael Cassar, wishing you all the best! Until next week: good morning, good afternoon, and good evening!