Sitting in the storm

Last week I received some feedback from a student here at UON that being a successful student isn’t as easy as they thought or as easy as some students make it look. Many students in fact are juggling many more commitments in addition to their study or are struggling with their physical or mental health and that sometimes it’s all they can do just to hold on, let alone succeed in making great grades. Initially I heard myself saying “I hear you” and I reflected on my not so recent days completing my postgraduate program whilst juggling part-time work, being pregnant and then a mum and trying to find time for me, and thinking that it would never end. Then I thought surely I must have some words of wisdom and tips for how I made it through.

There is the classic line “P’s get degree’s” that lingers and how you need to adjust and have lower expectations of yourself, or that there are more important measures of success in general other than what grade you get back on an assignment. But these seemed empty then and even emptier now if that’s possible. I thought about other posts I have made on juggling multiple demands and being able to identify and work on all your goals, or how to plan your way to success, or how to breath again when it all seems overwhelming. All of these are great tips and I certainly used some of them from time to time but still I couldn’t help but feel I still had nothing to offer this student, and as she also identified the many other students out there that are juggling many commitments. Those students who feel like the tips are not for them, who feel like they are just holding on.

Then it occurred to me that maybe I couldn’t fix it, maybe what I can offer isn’t a solution but more an acknowledgement that it’s hard to be them. It’s hard to make sacrifices for education. Yes they chose to do it, to make the sacrifices but it doesn’t mean they have to like making them or that it will be an easier road because they made the choice. So instead of a string of tips, suggestions of things to try, or some fabulous resources that you could use today I am acknowledging the struggle. I’m essentially sitting with you in the storm and saying that yes your journey is difficult, yes there are higher hills you climb to try and reach your goals, yes there are days, weeks and months even when you are drenched in self doubt and questioning if you made the right choice. Now I know that this doesn’t fix anything for you and you may feel it’s a bit of a cop out but sometimes it’s not about the solution. Sometimes it’s about acknowledging the struggle and hearing that someone understands that it’s not an easy road you are traveling.

But just in case I’m off base and you are a student who is juggling quite a few commitments and have some ideas to share with others who might find themselves in this same position then please comment below and share your tips –  I could certainly use a few new ones myself.

A cup of tea…So that’s what kids are calling it these days!

ConsentIt has been a great sexual health awareness week so far.  I had the pleasure of attending the expo in the Auchmuty courtyard on Tuesday.  There were some great stalls including Acon, Family Planning and the Sexual Assault Service.  I enjoyed chatting to students about how the counselling service can provide support around all issues, including relationships and sex.  Other great events this week include healthy relationship workshops, sexual health information and support through the university health service, and a Trivia night which sounds like great fun.

The foundation of respectful relationships and healthy sexual interactions is consent.  Consent is sometimes depicted as having grey areas, when in reality it is black and white.  This you tube clip released by the British police uses the analogy of making someone a cup of tea to explain consent.  It is amusing and gives a clear message.  It is very simple – sometimes people want to drink tea and sometimes they don’t, sometimes people change their mind about wanting a cup of tea, and an unconscious person definitely does not want tea.

Universities Australia launched a new campaign, Respect. Now. Always., to raise awareness about sexual assault and sexual harassment at universities in Australia.  This campaign aims to raise awareness, collect data and contribute to policy and procedure review and development.

Sexual assault affects more than just one person.  If you are a victim of sexual assault or have a friend, family member or someone you are supporting that has been the victim of sexual assault there are supports available.  The local Sexual Assault Service are available for information and counselling support for both victims and supporters.  The Newcastle Team can be contacted on 4921 633 and the Lower Hunter Team can be contacted on 4921 3888.  Both teams provide a 24 hour phone service.

Healthy relationships, healthy sexual relationships and consent are super important.  If you would like to talk to someone about these topics or anything else, you can contact 4921 5801 to make an appointment.  Our online counsellor Kellie will also be available to chat via skype drop-in sessions throughout the week.

Happy sexual health awareness week everyone!


Let’s talk about Sex

The much anticipated Sexual Health Awareness Week is here! This week UON has a range of events across campuses to raise awareness about sexual health. Some of these offer information and resources and others offer a laugh! If a laugh is what you are after, with a hint of information then you might also be interested to check out ABC this week Wednesday at 9pm as Luke McGregor talks to a range of sexperts, therapists, scientist, tantric practitioners and sexual empowerment coaches in his quest to become better at sex. Luke will be on weekly and his shows will then be available on iview if you miss them. If you’re interested in finding out more and watching a short trailer then head over the ABC.

The many benefits of exercise….

Lately Ive been talking to a lot of students about ways to improve their general wellbeing and get the most out of being a student at UON. Students often ask me what the easy solutions are – how they can get the most bang for buck so to speak. It’s not because they are lazy or want a free ride but that they are often asking as a result of feeling overwhelmed with the struggles of managing their study load with other work, social and family commitments.  Of course I tell them there is no easy fix an that there are a number of things they could try to get a better balance and improve their quality of life, usually the one about drinking less is the least popular of my recommendations. The other one that students struggle incorporating is more exercise. I find myself wondering if this is because exercise sounds hard? or more time consuming than other tasks? or that you need money to do it? or maybe I’m not telling them all the benefits that exercise can have?

I’ve decided today to share the benefits of exercise the obvious and the not so obvious:

  1. Exercise can help you get to and maintain a healthy body weight – no surprises here really although the roll on benefits to your self esteem are the hidden gem here. When you exercise to assist weight reduction you are actively doing something for your wellbeing and you then feel more confident about yourself.
  2. Exercise can help reduce your risk of developing health conditions like stroke, Coronary heart disease, arthritis etc.
  3. Exercise improves your mood as a result of the release of endorphins – so exercise can be and has been used successfully in combination with other options to treat moderate to severe symptoms of depression.
  4. Exercise boosts your energy levels allowing for improved memory and concentration function – something I think all university students are seeking.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleeps patterns allowing you to fall asleep easier and leading to a deeper pattern of sleep and waking feeling more alert.
  6. Exercise reduces muscle tension through the release of chemicals like adrenalin used in the fight or flight response in anxious situations, so it’s good for anxiety as well as depression.
  7. Exercise improves your sex life – for women it enhances arousal and for men it reduces the probability of erectile dysfunction. If you take into account the potential social aspect of exercise in leading to an increase in meeting new people I guess it could also improve the probability of having sex in the first place too!

So if you were in doubt about the many benefits that exercise can have I’ve cleared that up! If you’re wondering how you can make the time to exercise now think about small steps and start by taking the stairs instead of the lift, or parking across campus from where your classes are so your walk is longer. You don’t have to join a gym and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Are you struggling to make your dollars last the week? Do you need help budgeting?

Are you eating 2 minutes noodles every night of the week? Are you struggling to save the money you need for your trip home to visit your friends and family? Do you need a little help setting up a budget and sticking to it?

Centrelink will be on campus this week offering workshops in budgeting and are also available for individual consultations relating to your payments. If you are on the Callaghan campus they are available tomorrow Wednesday 9th March at 10am at the North Tower. If you are at Ourimbah they are available on Thursday 10th March at 10am in Study Room 5. There is no need to book just come along.

This Way Up

Usually I reserve my reviews and blog posts for free services available for students to access. Every now and again I come across something that is good and affordable and I pass sharing it because I like to think that no one should have to pay for their mental health. However recently I thought about the fact that I would happily pay for my mental health if it was affordable and the help I received was good. So today I am sharing the information about a service called “This Way Up“.

This way up offers a number of different courses including one on depression, anxiety, combined depression and anxiety, social phobia, panic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Stress Management. A lot of online courses are more general but This Way Up also has courses for more specific areas like OCD and social phobia. Each course has online questionnaires, exercise, recovery stories, comic based stories and additional resources. If your GP or psychologist refers you then you can be linked with them and they can provide you with feedback but if you want to give it a go independently the results can be just as effective. I’m a registered clinician so I am happy to be linked with you if you are a UON student and want additional support with completing the course.


This might not be for everyone and maybe it is something that you could use when you are already seeing a counsellor or while you are waiting for an appointment with a counsellor. What it offers you is flexibility in how and when you access support. You usually pay less than $60 and it gets you three months access to the materials for the course you are enrolled in and upon completion you get an additional 90 days to allow you access to the materials and practice time.

What’s good about it: You can access this in your own time with low cost and there are no waiting periods.

What’s not so good about it: If you are accessing this independently then there is no clinical support. Although if you are a UON student and want to give it a go I’d be happy to support you through the program!


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
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