Hungry Like the Wolf: The Freshman 15, Mental Health, and Wellness Resources on Campus
Hello once again, Wolfpack! Welcome back to our bi-weekly orientation blog!
This week, OEC is keeping it 100 with all of you: university is stressful. I know, your mind is blown. You should take a second to process this shocking and unexpected piece of information. You may want to replenish your electrolytes, I’m sure you’re reeling.
I’m being facetious. Everyone knows the following four(ish) years of your life are going to be a wild ride– you’re going to have a lot of good times, and probably some less than good times too. University is often an experience of rapid growth, and it’s rarely comfortable. Even orientation week can be the cause of some anxiety– we’ll get more into this soon.
What I’m trying to say here is that it’s perfectly normal to feel some stress during your time at U of T. A lot of that is going to be unavoidable– I can tell you not to procrastinate until there’s no more breathable oxygen on Earth, but over a four year period, you’re probably going to be guilty of leaving something to the last minute at least once. And you’ll deal with it, and learn from your experience!
Stress is mostly normal and healthy.
Except for when it isn’t.
It would be almost insulting of me to insinuate that if you try hard enough, you can have a totally stress-free university experience. For 99% of students, that’s not true. Instead, we’re going to focus on what resources are available to you on campus to make sure your stress level doesn’t get to a point where it’s detrimental to your physical and mental health.
That was a really long intro, so without further adieu– these are some tips and tricks from OEC about how to take care of your health during your time at U of T!
(leaders welcoming students on the first day of Wordsworth Orientation 2015)
I’m going to quickly bust a myth for you all: U of T actually does care about its students. Don’t believe the rumours– this school is not a monolith trying to turn you into a 9 digit student number. If it feels as though you’ve rocketed past regular school stress and into unfamiliar territory, U of T wants to have your back. As such, there are resources available to you on campus to ensure optimal mental health, and we encourage you use them!
General Mental Health Concerns
Your registrar is an excellent first stop for any academic or personal concerns you may have– they are available to listen to your concerns and recommend next steps and resources fitting your situation.
The Health and Wellness Centre offers an array of health support encompassing both mental and physical concerns, everything from tuberculosis to nicotine addiction to sexual health to grief counselling.
In addition to the events and campaigns put on by the HWC, you can also book an appointment with a trained counsellor online, in person, over the phone, or on a first-come-first-serve drop in basis.
Centre for International Experience
If you’re an international student in Toronto for the first time, there are certain stresses and pressures that local students and counsellors may not be able to fully understand. Fortunately, the CIE provides Transition Advisors to help guide you in your acclimation to life at U of T– more information available here. There are also a plethora of other resources to help make sense of everything from income taxes to health care– explore them here.
If your faith is an integral part of your life, it may be beneficial to you to connect to a chaplain in times of trouble. As such, the Multi-Faith Centre has put together a list of chaplains available for counselling, event information, and community on campus here in addition to other services which you can access here.
The Multi-Faith Centre does provide access to Aboriginal Elders under the list of chaplains, however the Aboriginal Student Centre also does a remarkable job in connecting Aboriginal students to elders, community, and events on campus– access them here.
The Gerstein Crisis Centre is a 24-hour community based service for crisis counselling, offering Telephone Crisis Intervention, a Mobile Crisis Team, and much more. You can explore their entire list of crisis services here.
Sexual Harassment Office
Should you ever need to file a complaint regarding harassment on the basis of sexuality and/or gender, the Sexual Harassment Office is available to handle these concerns.
As an aside, if at any point during Orientation Week you feel uncomfortable in a situation or around an individual, your leaders and head leaders are available, willing, and trained to help you– and if, for whatever reason, you don’t want to go to your leaders or head leaders, you can also come directly to OEC. We are dedicated to making your orientation experience safe, stress-free, and comfortable. Do not hesitate to approach us, our job is to help you!
Academic Success Centre
If ever you need anything from a little to a lot of help regarding your academic success at U of T, the Academic Success Centre is available with workshops, peer support and counselling, and meetings with a learning strategist to help you minimize your stress. Click here to browse through ASC resources!
It’s normal to have concerns about life after graduation, and while first year is definitely too early to truly need to worry about it, if you’re like me, total lack of logical reasoning has never quelled a solid spiral of worrying. That is why the Career Centre is always available to help you develop a game plan for your working life.
Exam Jam/Cram Jam
Every exam season, your student association (WCSA) puts on an Exam/Cram Jam! Drop in and out with friends or alone to enjoy snacks and coffee throughout the day, and study in a relaxed, welcoming, social environment in Kruger Hall. The Exam/Cram Jam is a great way to take some of the stress and pressure out of exam season.
Speaking of removing pressure from exam season, U of T at large and Woodsworth individually also host sessions with therapy dogs! Small groups of students are matched with smaller groups of puppies and are allowed to run wild in a room with the dogs, offering ear rubs and selfies. It’s a tremendous amount of fun and we highly recommend it to all new students.
Concerns Regarding Orientation Week
Remember earlier when I said that we would get to discussing mental health during orientation week in the future? The future is now.
I remember feeling an immense amount of pressure going into my orientation week, because the only stories about orientation I ever seemed to hear always culminated in “…and we’ve been best friends ever since, in fact, I married her brother and we’re expecting a child this fall!” In short, everyone tends to feed incoming students similar versions of cartoonishly idyllic O-Week stories. It felt like if I didn’t have the perfect orientation week that lead to me meeting my best friends in the universe, I would be setting myself up to fail for my entire university experience. Looking back, this has proven itself to be so blatantly untrue it doesn’t even feel like a logical intuitive assumption. Way too much pressure! Orientation is supposed to be fun!
In short, you do not need to stress about if you’re going to make friends during orientation. You will. You also do not need to put yourself under any intense amount of pressure to find your forever-friends during orientation. You’re going to be interacting with a lot of people– you can worry about who’s going to be the Best Man at your wedding later.
You do not need to stress about if you’re going to be forced to participate in or do things you do not want to do. You won’t be. This week is yours, and while we highly recommend you participate fully in as many activities as you can, if there’s something that you don’t want to do or don’t feel comfortable doing, no one will make you do it. We have worked tirelessly to come up with events that cater to everyone– if Club Night isn’t your scene, we have a more low-key drop-in DIY crafts night that will be more to your liking– but ultimately, it’s going to be up to you to decide what you want to do and what you want to miss.
Your health, safety, and mental wellbeing is of the utmost concern to us on OEC. We will hear you.
Physical Health Concerns
The Fabled Freshman 15
Let’s get this out of the way right now: the whole panic about the Freshman 15 is silly. Even if you do gain 15 pounds in your first year of university, it doesn’t actually make any grand statement about who you are– nor will it likely send you careening into a life of weight-related health issues. You will be the same person, one year older, 15 pounds heavier. Maybe.
This section, therefore, is going to focus predominantly on physical health-related resources on campus. Certainly, part of that will be gyms and sports– but don’t think this is our “fight the flab” statement (or whatever phrase magazines use to shame the general populace to the gym these days).
U of T has a huge volume of gyms catering to all levels of fitness.
The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport is a recent addition, boasting state of the art exercise technology, often used in training of varsity athletes.
The Athletic Centre boasts seven gymnasia, Toronto’s only olympic swimming pool, dance studio, squash courts, and other activities and machines.
Hart House Fitness Centre offers drop-in fitness classes, suspended indoor track, and a variety of other exercise experiences.
Whether you join the Varsity Blues or Intramurals or Quidditch Team (the Centaurs!), U of T offers a wide range of options for involvement in sports from basketball to nordic skiing. Joining a sports team is an excellent way to maintain your physical health and develop a community on campus!
The Health and Wellness Centre (Again)
So, we’ve already been here once before, but it bears repeating. In addition to mental health concerns, the HWC offers services to address general health, allergy care, tobacco cessation, food and nutrition counselling, sexual and reproductive health, immunizations, and much more. Check out the full list (again), here.
(Leaders at Wordsworth Orientation Week 2015)
That’s all for this week, Wolfpack! Thank you for reading this instalment of our bi-weekly orientation blog!
By the time orientation rolls around, you’ll be full of pride for your 1 love WW– we’ll see you again June 26th!
Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @woodsworthfrosh to keep up with us as we reveal important dates regarding orientation, drop hints about what we’re up to, and count down the days (literally) to orientation! You can also like us on our Facebook page— Woodsworth Frosh 2016.
WOODY WOODY WOODY!