Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Google Search now "Universal"

The Google search engine has expanded its range (they're calling it a "universal search") and now images, videos and news will be produced when you type in your search query - just click on "video," "news," or "images" at the top of the search list.

Google's blog linked to above provided some fun searches near the bottom of their entry on their new universal search feature; Soprano fans should check out "Sopranos in 7.5 minutes" in the video section.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Self-Care Week: Food for thought

This week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?


I tend to slip into poor eating habits when I am feeling overwhelmed with my coursework, consuming chocolate, soft drinks, or fatty “comfort foods” to console myself. Unfortunately, afterward I usually feel sluggish and less inclined to be productive.

Since I am aware of this tendency of mine, I try to draw to consciousness what I eat during stressful periods. The measuring stick that I use for “healthy” eating is to make food choices that fall within one of the four food groups from the Canada Food Guide. For a printer friendly version of the Canada Food Guide see the Health Canada website:


Easy healthy snacks that I bring from home include low-fat yogurt, fruit (such as apples and oranges), whole grain bagels, and nuts. If I chose to snack on raisins or other sticky dried fruit, I try to remind myself to brush my teeth soon afterward to avoid developing dental cavities.

Another part of healthy eating is ensuring that I have the time to buy these healthy groceries rather than relying on last minute fast-food choices or sugary snacks. This presupposes that I have managed my time effectively. A great resource for looking at how to manage time to include the necessities like shopping is to complete the 168 hour week LAC handout.

I find each term I need to reevaluate my use of time with my changing schedule so my daily and weekly activities are still consistent with my priorities. Staying healthy by eating well is a great way to prepare my body for stressful exam periods or intense course periods such as summer session.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Self-Care Week: Sleep

For those of you just stopping by, the week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?

Sleep on it!
Like most university students, I have lived through periods of little or no sleep. What university student hasn’t stayed up late to study for a test or exam, woken up early to get a reading done before class, and/or “pulled an all-nighter” to get an assignment finished? For the most part, I managed to struggle through these sleepless times and was able to catch up on my sleep within a few days. Sometimes, however, sleep deprivation has become so serious that it severely interferes with my normal daytime activities.

What causes sleep problems?

Sleep difficulties often arise during periods of increased stress. For me the pressures of school, family and social life, which are particularly heightened during the intense
Spring-Summer session at university, certainly qualify as “periods of increased stress.”

What are the effects of poor/inadequate sleep?
When I sleep poorly, I feel less energetic and less alert, especially mid-afternoon. I also have trouble concentrating, and don’t remember things as well. For example, I lose my keys a couple of times a day when I’m really tired.

For me, the worst effects of sleep deprivation are the emotional ones. I’m moody, irritable, and more anxious. The little things (did I mention losing my keys?) are really upsetting when I’m over-tired. When I’m tired, I eat poorly; for example, I’ll have a Pepsi and a chocolate bar to keep me going in the afternoon if I haven’t slept the night before. If I have several days, or even weeks of poor/inadequate sleep, I’m not surprised if I get sick with a cold, because lack of sleep compromises my immune response.

What do I do to improve my sleep?
The more stressful my life is, the more careful and focused I need to be about sleep hygiene. I get more and better sleep by practicing the 4 R’s of good sleep hygiene:

Regularize my sleep-wake patterns.
I stick to a schedule: go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, regular napping during the day helps me to sleep better at night. My best naps are right after lunch, and last 15-30 minutes (longer naps leave me feeling groggy).

Ritualize going to bed.
I do the same thing every night before going to bed (drink warm milk, brush teeth, warm bath, read, listen to music).
I keep my bedroom comfortable for sleep. For me that means dark, cool, and quiet.

Relax before or in bed.
I practice some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, with help from a relaxation CD.

Resist behaviours that interfere with sleep.
I’m careful about what I drink before bed. For me, that means no alcohol, coffee, tea, or soft drinks 4-5 hours before bed.
I also avoid heavy meals and strenuous exercise 2-3 hours before bed.

What to do when I can’t sleep
Tossing and turning in bed leaves me frustrated, so if I lie awake more than 15 minutes, I get up and do something (watch TV, read), then go back to bed.

Want to know more about students and sleep? Check out these sources
Buboltz, Walter C., Franklin Brown and Barlow Soper. “Sleep Habits and Patterns of College Students: A Preliminary Study.” Journal of American College Health. 50.3 (2001): 131-135.

Kelly, William E. “Sleep-length and life satisfaction in a college student sample.” College Student Journal, 38.3 (2004): 428-430.

Click on “sleep” in the index to see a list of websites specifically devoted to university students and sleep.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Self-Care Week

This week the LAC blogs focus on self-care. During the intense Spring and Summer sessions, it can be particularly challenging to meet our basic needs, such as getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. What do the LAC bloggers do to meet these needs? What do you do to keep on track with your self-care?

Exercise and Mental Health
Admittedly, I have always liked exercise, but to me it’s not that I do what I do necessarily to get exercise, I just love to play. I go through phases of liking this activity or that. For example, throughout much of my early 20s I hacky sacked. This was great for me because I could do it in the tunnels during winter, or outside when it was nice. I have now come to appreciate the games that more people play, like squash, tennis, badminton and soccer. These are great because no matter your skill level, there are players to suit you.

Whether you prefer to start playing with a friend or you’re brave enough to join one of the many clubs on campus that meet regularly, you’re sure to have a laugh and get some rejuvenation. I think that’s the reason I love to play so much; with our busy schedules, we’ve always got so many different things on our mind, but when you’re playing a sport, you’re only thinking about what you’re doing in that moment. And that’s where both your mind and body are able to recover form the stresses of our hectic lives.

But I don’t always want the excesses of sports. Often going for a walk around King’s Park or the agriculture fields by The University of Manitoba allows me time and fresh air to rekindle my body, mind and spirit.

But if you don’t believe me, check out this article on the mental benefits of physical activity.

Click on The University of Manitoba’s Recreation Services site to help you get active.

Work your body, work your mind!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Summer Studying

Usually, I arrange my schedule so that I do the most difficult work (for me, writing or reading complex theory-based journal articles) when I am at my most energetic early in the day, and leave less demanding tasks (such as gathering sources, reading texts, and making study note cards) and non-academic activities (including grocery shopping, watching TV, and visiting with friends and family) for the end of the day or evening when my energy levels are lower. In the summer, though, it’s really hard for me to stay indoors all day—especially when it’s sunny! So, I’ve made some sunny-weather adjustments to my schedule.

Every afternoon, I plan to spend an hour studying outside. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to focus on the more demanding tasks when I’m outside. I’m too distracted by summer sights and sounds: the birds twittering nearby, the fluffy clouds in the sky, and the people riding their bikes on the street. I can, however, do some of the less demanding academic work even while I’m slightly distracted.

My time spent working outdoors may not be as productive as the time I spend working indoors, but I think the long term benefits of spending time in the fresh air (including a cheerier mood and a better tan) are worth the slight drop in productivity during that hour. In fact, this scheduled outdoor work time has become a kind of reward for me. I am much more motivated to get work done in the morning, because I have a pleasant outdoor study session to look forward to in the afternoon.

Are there ways you’ve found to get your work done while maximizing your enjoyment of summer?


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It’s a new day! Thoughts on starting a new class…

There have been times when I begin a new class that I just want to hide and not be noticed by the professor or anyone else. It’s easy to feel intimidated by these intelligent people. The problem is that when I do this, I also become disinterested in the class. What have I done to get over these feelings of inferiority? For me, just getting to class a few minutes earlier helps me check out the people as they arrive and that makes me feel less awkward. I’ve also avoided sitting front row center because it’s hard to see the other people in the class if I sit there. I prefer to sit off to the side but still in the front half of the room. I’m fairly close to the action, but I can still see most of the people in the room.

Does anyone have any other strategies they use to feel more comfortable in a brand new class? Do share.