Wear It Purple

Tomorrow is wear it purple day on campus! It’s time to put on your purple clothes and celebrate and support diversity on campus. Wear it Purple exists in order to help GLBTIQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) youth overcome stigma and discrimination within the community. I’ll be celebrating with other staff and students in the Auchmuty courtyard between 11am-2pm. Come and say hello and get to know staff and students on campus. Show your support by wearing purple, or just by dropping in and finding out more.

See you there!

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Anxious? – How to stay grounded in the moment

Grounding techniques are simple quick and easy strategies to help you stay calm and reduce your symptoms of anxiety or panic. There are some really easy ones like counting to 10 or stamping your feet on the ground or holding a familiar soft object. Then there are those that will take a little more time like using visual imagery or keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings and observations. I’ve put together a list of a few that you might find useful.

  1. Counting from 1-10 and then reversing from 10-1
  2. Using a grounding phase like “I’m ok” or “stay calm”
  3. Focus on your breath. Inhale for a count of six and then exhale to a count of four
  4. Connect with your senses – name 3 things you can see, hear, smell and touch.
  5. Visualise yourself walking along a beach and watching the waves wash ashore, or sitting under a tree watching the wind gently blow the branches above you back and forth.
  6. Go for a walk and notice the things around you, what do you see? hear? smell?
  7. Stamp your feet on the ground
  8. Have a shower, bath or go for a swim and feel the water wash over you
  9. Chew gum, blow bubbles if it’s bubble gum.
  10. Brush your hair, paint your nails or moisturise your hands or body.

This techniques don’t work for everything but they can be useful in helping quickly and with little to no cost to you. They can often be done without someone knowing why you are doing something or that you are even doing anything at all.  I love using the water one, the visual imagery and the breathing one myself. I find the counting one really useful but more in the context of calming my anger (usually when eating dinner with my two young boys). Next time you feel anxious, overwhelmed or a little stressed try one or two of these and see if they can help you.


QLife – keeping our LGBTI communities connected

QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people. it is a nation wide service which offers information ans early intervention and support for people experiencing  poor mental health, psychological distress, social isolation, discrimination, experiences of being misgendered and/or other social determinants that impact on their health and wellbeing. They offer both phone and web- chat services. QLife is open every day of the year between the hours of  5:30 pm – 10:30 pm Australia wide.

The staff offering support are all volunteers who as supported by paid members of staff. They offer support and guidance on information and where you can seek help if what you are experiencing is needing some additional support.

What’s good about it: It offers support to individuals of the LGBTI community who are experiencing difficulties and need someone to talk with whom they believe will understand their experience. The service is available outside of normal business hours  and offers a continued avenue for support for the community.

What’s not so good about it: The service is really about support and guidance for those with low levels of mental health difficulties and concerns – which is exactly what they say on their page. They aim to provide a link to appropriate services and offer the support during times that those services may be closed. So really even the ‘not so good’ is really a good thing!

“Inviting In” – turning the tables on coming out

Having never had the experience of coming out myself but being in receipt of the news I can’t say I know first hand about the difficulties and pain that comes with this decision. I do know that I can see and hear about the pain and discomfort that many people face when they think about telling someone something so personal about themselves that they believe won’t be accepted. The fear of being judged and rejected can be overwhelming.  So changing from coming out to “Inviting In” does shift the focus from asking for acceptance to offering to share a part of who you are. Much the same as choosing to share other private beliefs you have. It’s a sign of trust in the relationship the burden is now on the person who has been chosen to step up and offer their support!

So how do we show this support? Firstly suspend all your preconceived judgements and ideas about sexuality. Listen to what the person is saying to you. There are no rule books to sexuality and gender. Life depends on diversity to survive. As human’s we are constantly engineering and cross pollinating to ensure there is diversity and progression. We continually improve technology to ensure success – think about how slow the internet used to be! Or worse when it didn’t exist. We engineering new foods and plants, I’m confident that there were no rainbow roses when I was growing up and yet they are hard not to appreciate now. So instead of being stuck in the past move into the present and accept the diversity of sexuality and gender.

Secondly do a little research. Gender and sexuality are quite diverse. It’s not just about heterosexual or homosexual, and female or male. There are so many great resources available where you can get the information you need, The Rainbow Network, Twenty10 and Beyond Blue offer a few different types of resources you might find helpful. Twenty10 have also released a YouTube video for gender diverse young people, their families and communities created by young people participating in a series of Digital Storytelling Workshops held at Twenty10 in June 2012.

My third tip is a simple one and that’s listen. So often I hear people who are worried about what they say, will it be wrong, what if I hurt someone with my words. The most damage you can do to someone is not in what you say but it’s when you don’t listen. Listening is a sign of respect, it doesn’t mean that you agree with someone but it means you respect their right to have their own opinions and share them. It’s respecting their right to be acknowledge and be who they are.

There are of course many more tips I could share but ultimately these are the top three. If you can be accepting of diversity, make an attempt to understand the diversity and listen to someone then the rest of the journey for both of you will be a lot easier.  This week on campus is Pride Week, so get along to some of the events (find out more from NUSA) and learn more and show your support of diversity.

Be SMART setting your goals

Be Smart is a smartphone application designed to provide you with the principles of SMART goal setting and provide a platform to allow you to set and monitor goals.

In addition to providing the description of the SMART principles it also provides you with examples of SMART goals. It limits you to three goals for yourself and 3 goals for someone else in this free version – although I think you could use all 6 for yourself – who’s going to know.

Each goal can be assigned to a category: Career, Family, Health & Fitness, Knowledge & Skills, etc. You can also assign priorities to your goals and set reminders for when the app should check in with how you are going on reaching your goals.

For each Goal you can set up an action plan, this is where you should break down the larger goal into smaller steps. For example if you set the goal of weight loss you could break it into smaller goals of joining the gym, walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes etc. You can also use the Tasks function to make a list of the things you need to do, like phone around and get gym membership prices, look up gym class timetable.

What’s good about it: The SMART principles are described and it forces you to think about them when setting the goal.

What’s not so good about it: There isn’t a progress bar where you can record your progress toward the goal 🙁 It also doesn’t allow you to delete a goal and it’s only available on iPhone. I will be looking into other alternatives and put up some more links for you all.

Skype Drop-In hours

Hi everyone, I’m coming to you from the sunny Surfer’s Paradise this week where I am lucky enough to be attending the 16th International Mental Health Conference. There is a whole day dedicated to e-mental health  so I will be doing a post later in the week with some links to online resources and new apps.

Since I’ll be at the conference during the day the online Skype Drop-In times during the day will be cancelled. I will however still be online for the evening times. So if you want to catch me then Tuesday at 7 or Thursday at 8pm. Just request to add me uononlinecounsellor and identify yourself as a student of UON, no need for an appointment just send me a text message using Skype. See you online.

Blue Stocking Week

You may or may not have noticed that this week on campus all the buildings named after males have been renamed to female names. Why you ask? It’s blue stocking week. I must admit until last week I had never heard of Blue Stocking Week.  Bluestocking Week is named for the first generations of university women of the 19th century. Whilst used as a derogatory term back then we proudly celebrate these pioneers who paved the way for women in higher education. If you are interested in reading more about the history then have a look on the NTEU webpage.

Blue Stocking Week has been used to not only celebrate women in higher education but also as an opportunity to focus on equality and women’s health issues, such as equality of pay, paid maternity leave, and domestic violence. This year we celebrate not only how far women have come but also what the road ahead holds for women in higher education. Professor Penny Jane Burke argues that whilst statistics show that women are accessing higher education in many countries at higher rates than males sheer numbers of enrollments are not the only factor to consider. She argues that other inequalities must be addressed including the under-representation of women from lower socioeconomic groups in higher education. You can read more about her arguments on this blog.

Changing the names of building on campus is a little fun and UON have more activities to celebrate Blue Stocking Week including movie screening, talks on women’s health issues and short story and poetry reading. Get the full details of what’s happening when here.

Mindfulness Workshops online

Have you wanted to try mindfulness but all the workshops you can find are at times you can’t make? Or the cost is out of your budget? Monash university is hosting a free online series of workshops on learning more about and practicing the skills of mindfulness. The workshop goes over 6 weeks and is for 2 hours a week starting the 14th September. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the skills and the benefits of mindfulness and how you can incorporate it into everyday life. Mindfulness skills have been used to reduce stress and improve general wellbeing and study performance.

If you are interested in finding out more click here.

Why do you drink?

Tomorrow is autonomy day at Callaghan and what this usually equates to is a day for students to let lose and drink. Now I have no problem with drinking or letting lose and I’ve certainly done both of these before so I have no judgement. For those people joining in and having fun with a drink or two enjoy yourselves, but if you stop before your third drink or if you are reading this after the fact ask yourself, ‘Why am I drinking?’ you might be surprised at your answer.

Some people drink because they feel uncomfortable in a crowd and it helps calm there nerves. Others drink because they feel sad and they are seeking the pick me up that alcohol gives initially. You may also find yourself saying yes to another drink because your friends are doing the same thing and you feel like you need to be drinking to fit in (I can recall plenty of these experiences in my student days). For some of you pain may be the reason, either physical or emotional pain and drinking is a way of coping or numbing the pain. Finally you may be drinking because you are addicted and can’t stop, or don’t see a problem with your drinking. If you answered yes or maybe to any of these then maybe you are not drinking for fun, maybe your are trying to hide from something or using it to cope, and if this is the case you could be on the pathway to addiction.

Men are twice as likely as women to develop problematic drinking behaviours in their lifetime and the most risk is at late 20’s and 40’s. For women the most risky time is between 18-24 years of age. One in six people will have more than 11 standard drinks on one single occasion of drinking during a 12 month period. Alcohol often fuels violence with 26% of physical assaults being attributed to alcohol, that’s 1.7 million people who experience physical abuse by someone under the influence of alcohol.

If these statistics are not enough to get you questioning why you drink then think about the benefits of cutting back your drinking or changing your drinking behaviour:

  • You will feel better in the mornings (no hangovers)
  • You will feel less tired during the day as alcohol consumption interferes with our sleeping patterns
  • You may stop gaining weight (the calories in alcohol are larger than you think)
  • Your mood will improve (alcohol initially provides a euphoric experience but is followed by a large crash and depressed mood)
  • Drinking interferes with your judgement and you may do things you wouldn’t normally do and then have to face the consequences the next day (ringing your ex and telling them you miss them….or worse ringing your current partner and telling them you miss your ex)
  • Drinking increases physical illness through suppression of your immune system and complications with your heart.

If by now you are thinking I should really think about cutting back there is good news. Here at UON we have a drug and alcohol counsellor who can help you make a plan of how to reduce your intake. You can make an appointment to see Lachlan by phoning counselling on 49215801 and asking for an initial appointment with the Health and Welfare Advisor and letting them know you are interested in counselling with Lachlan. Or if you want to give it a go by yourself to start with or make some changes before you see him then give these a go:

  • Make a plan and set a limit of how much you will drink each time
  • Set a budget of how much you will spend each week
  • Share your goals with others so you can get support
  • Take it one day at a time. Failure one day doesn’t mean you are destined to fail every day.
  • Use portion control – reduce the size of the drink
  • Have a lower strength drink
  • Stay hydrated and alternate drinks with water
  • Take a break from drinking with a alcohol free day.

Wise Drinking App

Well it’s the week of Autonomy on campus this week, and in preparation for tomorrow (the big day) I thought I would review a smartphone app that might help you pace yourself and make better decisions around drinking. Wise Drinking is a free app that allows you to track what you are drinking and where you are on your limit for the day. It’s easy to download and quick to set up. You enter a few details for your profile and if you share your location with it then it allows gives you a map with your location so when you are calling a taxi or friend to come pick you up you can give them the location easily.

The app also gives you some advice and information about alcohol metabolism, pacing your drinks and you can set reminders to check your rate throughout the night. Whilst it isn’t an accurate breathalyser by adding to the drink diary it gives a good estimate of your limit and range and if you should be driving. It asks you for your gender and weight and also about your food intake to give a better estimate of this.

Whilst you are logged in you can also let a friend use it by clicking the test guest button. They need to enter a few simple fields about gender, alcohol and food intake and they will also get an estimate of what range they are in.

Whats good about it: You can set reminders to check where you are at and start making a plan for how to get home if you have gone over your limit for the night.

What’s not so good about it: Other apps also incorporate a challenges options so you can start reducing your intake as well as regular tips on avoiding triggers, learning to say no and pacing yourself whereas this one is designed to give you the feedback of where you are at not reducing your intake or helping you stay on your plan with drinking.

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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