8 ways to deal with stress, from a former Vantage student

The first year at university can be overwhelming at times, but there are many ways to maintain your mental wellness. Here former Vantage student, Aya Hioki, reveals the most effective ways she deals with stress.

Having spent the last three years studying at UBC, I have found that managing stress and mental wellness is one of the most important skills that any university student can learn. There are many potential causes of stress, from multiple assignments and finding time to socialize with friends, to thinking about your future career. It can be especially challenging for first year students at UBC Vantage College, who are also dealing with living away from home in a new country, while still learning a new language. As an alumnus of the Vantage program, I would like to share how I deal with stress.

Get involved with UBC student clubs

Joining a UBC student club is key to managing stress. This is how I have made so many friends whom I can count on, who I now call my best friends. Surrounding yourself with friends and speaking with someone who you trust is a great way to overcome stress. 

There are so many clubs at UBC where you can meet like-minded people, whatever your interests, from crafts, cooking, and music, to dance and various sports. For instance, I am currently a member of Krav Maga Self-Defense Club, where I am learning how to protect myself, as well as the International Student Association, where I have met students from all over the world.

Clubs are a great way to meet new people outside the classroom, and widens your perspective on the world. Doing something you are interested other than study also helps your mental wellness. It’s really important to spend time enjoying your hobbies and to give your brain a break from study.

To find out more about UBC student clubs and organizations visit www.ams.ubc.ca/clubs/

Connect with your academic advisor

One of the biggest causes of stress is often academic performance and uncertainty about your future career. Talking to your Vantage academic advisor can reduce anxiety about such issues, as they can give you really useful advice.

I talk to my advisor at least twice a semester to discuss how I’m going academically and if I’m on track to pursue my career ambitions, even when I don’t have specific concerns to talk about.

The Vantage One program has wonderful academic advisors that you should make full use of. If you haven’t already had an opportunity to talk to them, you can contact them via the details below:

Vantage Management Academic Advisor
Daniel Levangie

Vantage Engineering Academic Advisor
Tina Chan

Vantage Arts Academic Advisor
Shane Campbell

Vantage Science Academic Advisor
Wendy Brett

Participate in regular physical exercise

Physical exercise is another good way to deal with stress. It’s not healthy to spend all day at a desk — your brain and body need exercise. Thankfully, UBC has so many excellent facilities that you can access for a variety of exercise options. As well as various sporting clubs, UBC REC has a great gym and an awesome new aquatic centre for swimming.

Your residence should also have gym facilities or if the weather is nice, I recommend jogging around this beautiful campus!

Personally, I’m a fan of exercising with a buddy so I find clubs (like UBC Krav Maga Self-defense club) a really positive way to exercise regularly. I’ve also found that achieving physical goals makes me more confident and feel better, like you can sweat out all those stresses.

See the Vantage counsellor for extra support

Besides your academic advisor, there other people at Vantage who you can turn to for extra support, including the college’s own dedicated registered psychologist, Manbeena Sekhon. It’s important that if you’re struggling or need help maintaining your mental wellness, to make an appointment with Manbeena by calling 604.822.3811. You can also make an appointment through UBC Student Counselling Services.

There is also the Vantage Peer Mentors available to offer support and advice. As UBC Vantage College alumni, these student mentors are a great support network as they might have had the same experience as you and have learned to overcome similar issues. You can contact them through the Vantage Peer Mentors Facebook group, attending their regular events, or emailing students@vantagecollege.ubc.ca with subject line “Vantage Peer Mentors”.

Small concerns can develop into major sources of stress — don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Get enough sleep

While it is tempting to sacrifice sleep to finish assignments or study for exams, it can be damaging to your mental wellness.

When I study when I’m tired I usually don’t perform well and I find it even harder to concentrate in exams. It is such an inefficient way to complete tasks and makes you even more overwhelmed. I have learned that I need at least six hours of sleep to have a productive day, otherwise I will be moody and stressed, which can cause others to feel unpleasant too. It’s really important to figure out your ideal amount of sleep and time manage your day to ensure you get enough sleep at night. With sufficient rest, every day is a fresh start.

Eat well

With your brain working so hard at university, you need nutrients and energy to support your body, and that starts with a healthy diet. Without eating well, your brain doesn’t function properly, no matter how hard and how long you study. A healthy diet also supports your immune system, so you’re less likely to get sick.

For me, I’ve learned that I need breakfast to ensure my day is as productive as possible. I also enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, so cooking has also become a great way to plan a study break and give my mind a rest.

Connect with families, friends back in home

Being away from home is not easy — I still find it one of the most difficult challenges as an international student at UBC. Even though it has been several years since I moved here, I still feel homesick from time to time. But I’ve found that staying in contact with my family, sharing my ups and downs, helps me to feel more connected. They don’t necessary solve my concerns every time, but it’s comforting to hear their supportive words. I also find it important to keep myself updated with news in their lives too.

Contacting old friends from my home also helps to maintain mental wellness. It motivates me when I hear how they are, and how we’re both achieving our goals, no matter how far we are apart.

Treat and reward yourself

One of the most effective strategies I have experienced for dealing with stress is setting goals and rewards. Giving myself a reward to work towards helps to keep me motivated and eager to accomplish whatever goal I’ve set.

I usually set a goal like “I will get an A for this quiz” or “I will finish this paper by this weekend”, then if I can achieve, I treat myself to my favourite food, watching movies, or buying some new clothes.

You don’t have to be too hard on yourself — start from small goals and gradually work your way up. Remember that everyone feels stressed at some point, and you are not alone. However, gaining the skills to deal with it makes you mentally stronger and as a result, better equipped to thrive as a UBC student.