March is National Social Work Month.
In Canada, social workers work on behalf of children and families, students and the elderly in schools, hospitals, provincial and federal government agencies, correctional institutions and in private practice to counsel and advocate on the behalf of Canadians.
In the Laurier community, social workers provide, psychotherapy, counselling and case management across campus in Counselling Services, Student Affairs, Career Services and Accessible Learning Services. Did you know that the President of Laurier’s Graduate Student’s Association is a social worker?
Leanne Holland Brown, dean of students at Laurier’s Waterloo campus, will give Laurier students the chance to ask her their burning questions when she takes over the university’s Twitter account March 5 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Students are invited to tweet their questions using the #AskDeanLeanne hashtag and Holland Brown will answer via @LaurierNews on Twitter. Students can send in their questions ahead of time, or tweet during the event. Holland Brown will be seated in the Concourse at Laurier’s Waterloo campus, and students are also welcome to stop by to ask their questions in person.
“I am looking forward to connecting with students in a new way, and to talking about issues that are important to them,” said Holland Brown. “The best part of my job is meeting our students, hearing about their Laurier experience, and understanding what we can do better to support student success.”
Monday was National Cupcake Day in support of Canada’s SPCAs and Humane Societies.
Come out to the Concourse in support of the KW Humane Society this Thursday (February 27, 2014). Visit with the therapy dogs and buy a cupcake between 11:00 and 1:00.
Imagine for a moment that you are a caveman or cavewoman. Your cave is your safe place; a place to store a bit of food and be protected from the weather and wild animals. Since there are no grocery stores, you have to leave your cave to hunt and gather food. On one particular day, you exit your cave and find yourself face to face with a snarling, drooling sabre-toothed tiger. You don’t have time to stand there thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder if he’s a little bit hungry.” You want to react and react quickly – fight or run!
This fight or flight survival instinct is the biological root of anxiety. In order for your body to react quickly, physical changes happen. Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes short, shallow and quick, your muscles go on alert, and your senses sharpen. There are other physical changes that happen that are also part of this same survival response. There is a shut-down of non-essential operations; for example, digestion secretions stop which is why your mouth feels dry. You may sweat in preparation for cooling the body, and blood is diverted from your extremities to your large muscles groups leaving you feeling shaky or light-headed.
These physical changes make sense when you can see the threat such as a hungry sabre-toothed tiger. But in this day and age, sabre-toothed tigers no longer exist; however, we can react to perceived threats as strongly as we would react to a real life threatening situation. We feel these physical symptoms but we don’t understand what’s happening to us because there doesn’t seem to be any threat. The rational part of our brain tries to understand, and sometimes we think we are losing control or even dying. The physical symptoms are so strong that we can’t think ourselves back to a calmer state.
In times of threat, the survival instinct takes over and shuts down our ability to think clearly, specifically our ability to concentrate, organize, prioritize, and motivate become impaired. The challenge for university students is that during times of high stress you are also required to think clearly in order to do your best work.
So, what can you do? If you think about the physical symptoms of anxiety, reducing them can be more effective than trying to think. There are only a few physical symptoms with which you can create change, but the effects can be powerful. The first thing you can try is to slow down and deepen your breathing. When you are experiencing high anxiety, you are breathing short, shallow and quick. If you really were facing a sabre-toothed tiger, once he was dead or gone home, your breathing would return to normal. If you slow down and deepen your breathing, you are effectively telling your body that the tiger has gone home and you are safe.
The other physical symptom you can change is the tension in your muscles. When you are facing a threat, real or perceived, your muscles go on alert. It might seem counterintuitive, but the best way to relax your muscles is to tense them to their fullest and then, while breathing deeply, slowly relax them. Do this exercise with all of the major muscle groups in your body. The idea is to focus on isolating individual muscle groups, tense them fully, and then slowly relax. You can also do this exercise to relax areas in your body where you notice tension. In particular, after hunching over your laptop or books when studying, you may want to try this exercise on your neck and shoulders.
Anxiety often feels overwhelming because we may think we have no way to control it. However, trying these strategies may help you feel more calm and confident so you can reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety so your ability to think clearly naturally returns.