Legislative overhaul sparks housing anxiety amongst students

Lease transfer, an indirect method of rent control, may no longer be a viable option to renting students

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s new housing legislature, Bill 31, is sending ripples across the housing market as students must consider moving come their next lease renewal period.

Introduced in early summer, the bill has been under scrutiny by landlords and tenants alike for its changes. Amongst them is the removal of Article 7, which gives landlords permission to deny lease assignments between tenants, better known as lease transfers.

Although said to be fair and balanced by Housing Minister France-Elaine Duranceau, protests across Quebec by tenant rights groups have been organized to argue otherwise.

“It is a direct attack on our right to affordable housing,” Ria Mayer said, a student organizer for the Concordia Research and Education Workers’ Union (CREW-CSN), who attended one of these protests. “It kind of spits in the face of tenants everywhere.”

In Préfontaine Park on Sept. 16, a demonstration was held by the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) to protest the latest bill and the increased cost of living. 

Mayer explained that for years, those of lower-income housing could rely on lease transfers to artificially maintain a stable cost of living while circumventing rent increases by avoiding the lease renewal period. 

Mayer added that she had the lease transfers to thank for her brother’s current living space, an opportunity she lamented over, as her peers may no longer be able to do the same soon.

“For some students it is a way to have access to housing for the first time,” Cedric Dussault, spokesperson for RCLALQ, said. “These students often don’t have anyone to back them up for their lease.”

Protesters marching down the street against Bill 31’s unfair housing laws. / Photo by Miet Verhauwaert 

Dussault explained that although lease transfers won’t be disappearing outright, the process will become much more threatening for tenants, as landlords would be given the power to nullify a lease. 

Dussault added that this addition to lease transfer law will in turn create a greater disparity in power between tenant and landlord.

Adia Giddings, an assistant worker at Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Center (HOJO), said that she’s already witnessed the effects first-hand of the proposed bill on some students.

“We’re seeing most students go to court over their lease transfers right now, landlords are just outright denying it, they’re coming up with excuses,” Giddings said. “So, all of these types of issues have already started.”

Despite protests recently emerging throughout the province, Giddings claims that landlord groups such as the Landlord Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec (CORPIQ) have discussed enacting a bill to render lease transfers less viable for almost two years.

Last week’s demonstration lasted almost four hours, with separate marches taking place simultaneously in Montreal, Quebec City, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, and Sherbrooke.

With the Bill expected to be debated over later in the fall , only time will tell if the protestors’ actions will make the desired mark.


Underrated Albums of 2020, Vol. 3: MIKE – weight of the world

The Bronx-bred lyricist presents us with an extremely cerebral album dealing with depression, grief and the emotional aftermath of losing his mother.

Carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders can be a crushing burden, but since his teenage years, MIKE has been doing just that. Born Michael Jordan Bonema, the 22-year-old lyricist is a pioneer in the underground lo-fi hip hop scene, all the while delivering some of its most emotionally resonant, introspective and prolific works to date.

With weight of the world, MIKE delivers yet another extremely personal, transparent and cerebral experience that continues this trend. As always, the Bronx-born MC wears his heart on his sleeve, exploring his anxieties, depression and the emotional toll that the loss of his mother has taken on him.

It’s this emotional weight that MIKE carries with him that he masterfully conveys through his lyrics, crafting immensely impressive verses that are as intriguingly poetic and abstract as they are emotionally impactful. In just a few words, he’s able to effectively encapsulate some of his most visceral feelings and agonizing memories in ways so visual that it plays like a movie scene for the listener. This is exemplified on “222,” as MIKE rifles through his dealings with substance abuse and depression, his relationship with his brother and the moment that his mother died, “Walked her out the Earth, just me, a couple nurses.”

This lyrical prowess is perfectly complemented by the work that MIKE does behind the boards, handling the majority of the album’s production under his producer pseudonym, dj blackpower. In doing so, he creates a soundscape that’s as scattered and dense as the thoughts he’s put to paper in his verses. The murky lo-fi instrumentals, mostly comprised of chopped-up soul samples and irregular drum patterns, are deliberately messy enough to match the emotion within his lyrics while still creating a comfortable enough pocket for MIKE to sound his best in.

And while this isn’t his best project per se, as a writer and rapper, he is absolutely at his best. His writing is sharp, and his delivery is more confident than ever, even when he’s teetering on sounding monotone. From the exchanging verses with Earl Sweatshirt on the album’s closer “allstar,” to his personal reflections on songs like “no, no” and “trail of tears,” MIKE showcases that within his sadness and pain, his growth has been the light at the end of the tunnel.

On his 2019 magnum opus tears of joy (released shortly after his mother’s passing), we heard verses that played like the reflective diary entries of an emotionally distressed, grieving son. weight of the world sees that son, still sorrowful and grieving, finding solace in his music and further confidence in his abilities. It’s as hopeful as it is harrowing, a true testament to MIKE’s growth as a lyricist and producer, and one of the best and most unjustly overlooked albums of last year.



Ditch the guilt

These past few weeks, we have been witnessing the world change as the infamous COVID-19 virus takes over the globe.

Our daily routines have been disrupted, our social calendars cleared, and the walls at our homes have become way too familiar.

Personally, I’ve been anxious and unproductive. The uncertainty of the whole situation is a daily struggle, since we as individuals have little to no control over what the next few months will be like, when will this end and how it will be afterwards. Anxiety is always ill-timed, but now even more so, as it has been getting in the way of my productivity.

Every morning, I wake up to dozens of notifications from different media apps covering the latest on COVID-19—its spread, the death count, the civil restrictions, which politician said what; the list goes on. This need to know and be informed is distracting and triggering, making me way slower at checking things off my to-do list. I mean, even this article was hard to write.

Now that staying at home is not a sign of laziness but a worldwide requirement to fight the fast-spreading of the virus, we are still expected to produce at the same levels we normally do from our homes, the place where all of our distractions are contained in one space. The pressure is real. The whole world cannot halt because our normal lives have changed. If that was the case, our whole system would collapse in response—not that it already isn’t anyway. Social relationships have also become difficult to keep up with since the list of excuses to not be available has shortened entirely.

In today’s capitalist world, we are measured by how much we produce and how efficient we are in doing so. We are socially pressured to be our most productive selves. I mean, look at all this time we have on our hands. When in reality, we are not. Now advertisements and apps are being tailored to this time of crisis promoting how to get fit at home, how to write a novel, how to organize our time wisely, and so on. This pressure is being created by all these external forces but also by our own minds, when the truth is that we are way more than our productivity or our anxiety. We don’t need to turn our lives around just because we have time. And we don’t need to be available to FaceTime and text all day just because we can. If we didn’t before, why would we now?

Not because Shakespeare wrote King Lear while self-isolating from the plague or because Isaac Newton came up with calculus during a pandemic, we should be doing the same. Extraordinary times don’t necessarily turn us into extraordinary people. We should be focusing on living as simple as that sounds, without feeling a strong sense of judgement weighing us down. There will be days where we’re going to feel like we have all of our shit together, and they will also be many others where we feel ourselves drifting further and further from that.

Realistically speaking, there will be people who will come out of this pandemic only with the newly acquired skills of washing their hands. While there will also be someone who will create something as big as Newton and Shakespeare did. Or not.

In times of distress like this, I believe it’s better to be honest and realistic with oneself, if you work well under pressure, that’s amazing. If you do not, why beat yourself up for it? We should all be doing what is right and works for us to fight the self-judgement that comes with underproductivity. Also, having these kinds of worries in the first place only highlights the amount of privilege with which we experience this global crisis.

Graphic by @sumdaeghost


Another article about COVID-19

Over the years as a journalism student, I have struggled with the balance between staying informed and staying sane.

Living through Trump’s presidency, dire times for climate change and now COVID-19, it’s hard to find ways to turn my brain off and take care of myself.

Even though this is something that I have been trying to balance for over five years, I can’t say I have come close to mastering it, even prior to this pandemic.

As we unpack some strategies on how to stay calm during these wild times, remember that I am right there with you—an unnerved and anxious girl doing her best.

For some, the news is simply too much. This being said, it’s quite difficult to stay informed without listening to at least some type of news, as you don’t want to depend on second-hand information. Although, in a situation like COVID-19, where it feels like you must stay informed at all times, I would suggest designating a specific time of your day to check in on what’s happening.

Things are moving quickly, but they are also moving very, very slowly. We are likely to be in this mess for quite some time, so together let’s learn how to share our brainpower with the outside world and within our apartments (or wherever it might be that you’re self-isolating.)

I’ll be honest, yesterday I spent a lot of the day on the couch. I began to ruminate about how long I’m going to be in this situation, how bored I am and when I’ll get my life back. This type of thinking is normal during a crisis, but one thing that brought me back to a more realistic mindset was to remember how lucky I am.

The other day, one of my friends said, “I can’t think of another person that is less affected by this than me.”

For me, this is absolutely true. My challenge is finding a balance between making space for myself to feel anxious and uncomfortable during this time while keeping perspective. I have so much privilege in this situation and it’s harmful to disregard that.

I’m in a family of health-care workers. They are lovely stress balls of worry, as they see what’s happening on the front lines. Yes, somedays I am twiddling my thumbs, but that in itself is a privilege.

Despite the privilege, let yourself feel whatever you are feeling, even if it’s self-pity and despair. Then, get up and move. We can do this.

One thing you can do during these times is reach out on social media and see if anyone needs help. If you are able to, see if you can pick up groceries for someone, walk their dog, donate to the food bank or help promote small businesses. Even just reaching out to your circle to see who needs to chat could be beneficial.

Social media has been a positive force through some of these crazy times. My echo-chamber is filled with activity suggestions, poignant comics and uplifting posts—yours can be too! Unfollow anyone that is making you anxious, and let it be a sanctuary of helpful tips and tricks. It’s helped me feel less alone—maybe it will help you too!

Although it’s a time where people need to come together, also keep in mind that you need to take care of yourself. Keep your house clean, create a space that makes you feel calm and perhaps make a solid schedule of tasks you’d like to complete each day.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that COVID-19 is taking over every single conversation I’ve had in the past little while. Heck, it even took over this whole article. Try, if you can, to distract yourself throughout the day as well. Even if you can only do it for 10 minutes, we can start there. Learn a silly dance, go for a run or play a new videogame.

As cliche as it sounds, it looks like we are really just going to have to take one day at a time. Oh! And call your mom, that always helps. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Simply Scientific: New semester, new stress

Many students experience stress with the start of a new semester, but few know the process behind it.

With the beginning of a new semester, you might have some questions on your mind such as, “why am I already stressed after a week of class?”

Stress is common among university students, especially at the beginning of a new semester. It might be caused by increased workload, new responsibilities, and lifestyle changes, according to NYU’s website.

The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as the “body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.” When you experience stress, your body generates stress hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. It causes a “fight or flight” response, also called acute stress response, which helps you quickly respond to dangerous situations, as stated on the Mayo Clinic.

According to Harvard Medical School, when such a situation occurs, the amygdala, a part of the brain that takes part in emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which works as a command centre.

The NIH explains this process as nerve cells linking the hypothalamus to the hippocampus, connecting the event to a past situation, as the hippocampus is the brain’s memory storage. Finally, the adrenal glands, found above the kidneys, will release adrenaline to all parts of the body so the person has enough energy to fight or flee, as stated by the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

However, this mechanism can also harm you if the situation is too stressful or can’t be controlled, as your body keeps experiencing this “fight or flight” response, which can be overwhelming. While stress is a response to a threat, anxiety is a response to stress.

According to an article in Global News, more college students in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. have high expectations of themselves and others, meaning they expect people and themselves to act in a certain way, which causes more stress.

Stressors can be external, meaning they are situations that happen to you such as life changes or unpredictable events. But they can also be internal or self-induced, which means they are thoughts that you have, such as fears, beliefs or lack of control, as explained on the Mayo Clinic. Pessimism can be an internal stressor.

The Government of Canada shared some common symptoms of stress and a few tips to prevent it. Feeling irritated, sad, guilty or restless, seeing changes in your sleep patterns, appetite or weight, having difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and losing interest in things you used to enjoy, all could be signs of stress.

To prevent stress, avoid procrastinating and don’t be afraid to make decisions, as leaving tasks for later and worrying about them will cause more stress. Let people help you if possible and keep a positive and realistic mindset.

Have a great semester!


Graphic by @sundaeghost


A note from an angsty graduate

Mismatched socks, messy hair and bags under my eyes as I rush to my 9 a.m. class. I am then humbled by flunking a pop quiz, a clear reflection of my lack of sharp focus throughout the lecture. Despite all the stress manifesting itself as sweat on my brow, and being surrounded by my peers drinking their preferred warm brown liquid, there’s one bigger question that looms above my head.

What’s next?

I know how to do this part. I know how to finish assignments, fail pop quizzes and make presentations. I can scramble to put a last minute project together, meet my teachers at their office hours for help, and sit in the library trying to absorb whatever academic innovator my teacher is praising that week. Wonderful, I have figured out the education system (took me long enough).

The looming reality of graduation has been more present in my life than expected, and if we’ve had a conversation in the last two months, you are likely aware of that.

I think, as students, we often forget that along with the stress of midterms, the frustration of a crowded bus or the lack of sleep, lies comfort. I didn’t look at school this way until this year – my final one.

If you’re thinking that this article seems like a disguised diary entry with cathartic motives, you’re not wrong. Throughout my university career, I have had the privilege of switching universities and degrees. I have speculated career paths, fantasizing about working for an NGO, becoming a psychologist, and picturing myself as a powerful lawyer, with fancy shoes and manicured fingernails. I contemplated my career options, as I sipped an overpriced latte and worked on my introduction to religion course at the window seat in a hipster cafe. I am a walking, talking, cliche of an individualistic arts student, whose parents told her she could do anything. Poor me.

I’m not complaining. Actually, I guess I am, but I wrote that to sound more self-aware. Did it work?

I am lucky to be in school, and that isn’t to be taken lightly. Although I don’t know what my next step is, I do know that I’m lucky to feel this way. Many millennial and Gen Z  university students, like myself, have internalized the message that we must find a good career that gives us a deep sense of purpose and lights up our life. It is hard to deny the privilege dripping from this notion, in a world where so many people are working incredibly hard to support their families and don’t have the time or space to find that “perfect” and “fulfilling” start up company with recycled toilet paper, incredible benefits and a mandate to save the planet.

School has often made me feel motivated and excited for the future, but as the end approaches, I’d be lying if I said I was handling it well. A lot of this semester has been spent spread out on the floor getting a pep talk from my sister on the phone. I am a mechanically and hyper-trained student, and I often feel like I don’t know how to be anything else.

Stuck in a cycle, I’m trying to remain calm and absorb every moment of the student environment, while I simultaneously sabotage myself by comparing how employable I am with my peers. So, how can I conclude this article without leaving you in deep despair of my own existential angst?

Truly, I am not sure. Perhaps I should tell you to drink water, learn to meditate, eat vegetables, enjoy the safe school environment and don’t take life too seriously. I am still grappling with fostering self compassion for feeling lost, and gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given.

I didn’t know how to be a university student until I was one, so maybe I’ll also learn to be a functioning member of society.

After all, I have my whole life to figure it out.

Graphic: @sundaeghost


Stress levels rise with screen-addiction

While one hand is holding a phone, the other is distractedly tapping on the computer keyboard – and perhaps the television is on in the background. This scene is one that we have now become obliviously acclimated to. Screens are everywhere. How often do we truly stop to recognize the impact they have on our mental health?

A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, led by neuroscientist Najmeh Khalili-Mahani, is taking a different approach in trying to understand the relationship between screen time and stress. Most studies previously conducted look at the effects of screen time with a focus on online gaming and gambling, TV, or internet addiction. The relationship to specific types of mental disorders, such as that between depression and social networking, has become a common conversation. Khalili-Mahani’s study uses a holistic approach to analyze the interrelation between different technologies used by the same person.

“It’s a post-modern study, the relation between everything, as opposed to cause and effect between one and the other,” said Khalili-Mahani, who is also an affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia. “We wanted to understand how the same person is using television and a smartphone. We are showing these interrelations between these technologies and this is allowing us to somehow zoom in on devices or on usages that are most likely to be associated with mental health or physical difficulties.”

The results reveal that all the different aspects of stress, such as financial or relationship difficulties, seem to be higher in individuals also suffering from screen addiction.

Moreover, the study shows that age and gender are key factors. Unsurprisingly, the effect on adults using social networks is not as significant as the younger generations or even women, said Khalili-Mahani.

“Everybody uses technology for finding information or working,” said Khalili-Mahani. “About 30 per cent of the population seems to be addicted to screens, in the sense that they are spending more than 8 hours of their daily time on the internet. Twenty per cent are also stressed and it’s those individuals who are both screen-addicted and stressed that have a significantly higher level of emotional stress.”

The study looks into individuals who already struggled with anxiety – whether emotionally or physically – and their relationship with these screens for various activities, such as relaxing, entertaining, and social networking. Computers, televisions, smartphones, all screens may serve as a coping mechanism for people who already suffer or are actively developing mental health disorders; and this is what needs to be unpacked, according to Khalili-Mahani.

As mental health is still a considerably social taboo topic, people do not necessarily associate the simple use of screens for consuming news, or work-related activities, with screen addiction. Khalili-Mahani pointed out the fact that there is a sense of social guilt when it comes to using technology, which arguably impedes the conversation surrounding screen addiction and stress. Yet, everyone is using technology, one way or another. According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of the population [using technology] is above 90 per cent in most provinces, no matter what category of addiction or stress groups they fit into.

Paradoxically, the goal of the research is not to find a solution to withdraw screen-addicted individuals from technology, but rather to develop information and communication technology, using screens for health care prevention. This could be quite a controversial approach, as some social movements are calling for technology’s total disengagement, such as quitting Facebook. Indeed, the abrupt rise of technology confronts us with a lack of comprehension, which can lead to demonization and even disdain. The more stressed or anxious someone is feeling, the greater the opportunity for escaping reality via the internet.

But finding a solution within the problem makes sense. Individuals suffering from both screen-addiction and intense levels of stress could find a familiar comfort as they are undeniably more drawn to these technologies, argued Khalili-Mahani. Using screen technologies to reach out to highly-stressed individuals and help with mental health diseases, such as depression or suicidal tendencies, are still under development. Nonetheless, it is a great step towards positively adapting rather than passively losing our inner personal battles with technology.


Photos by Laurence B.D.


Climate change in the context of mental health

As an avid consumer of media, the knot in my stomach continues to tighten every time I see “climate change” in a headline.

There seems to be one heartbreaking news story after another, whether it is the fires in the Amazon or the floods in Sudan. This makes me think: I’m not the only millennial with a metal straw, reusable grocery bag, and a deep fear at the back of my mind regarding the doom of our planet, right?

I wish I could say that every news headline made me pick up a picket sign, donate to the World Wildlife Fund, and compel me to eat a vegan diet – but often it just makes me feel like a sack of potatoes. So if I care ‘so deeply’ about the environment, why is my anxiety not motivating me to do anything about it?

In hopes of validating my own anxious thoughts, I started doing some research and I found that I’m not alone in my woes. In fact, this is not a new development by any sort. According to, feeling desperate and helpless when it comes to environmental issues is a common psychological disorder called “eco-anxiety.” The American Psychological Association explains that this anxiety focuses on the feeling of doom and a chronic fear regarding environmental problems.

Thomas Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland Oregon, explained to that people are not taught how to talk about the climate issue.

“Up to a certain point, arousal — how alert or worried you feel — leads people to take action and perform better, “ said Doherty. “But overly high levels of anxiety can become paralyzing.”

As Doherty said, anxiety can cause avoidance. For me personally, I often shut down the conversation about climate change because on a global scale it feels like there is nothing I can do to help.

Susan Clayton, one of the lead authors of a climate-change guide by the American Psychological Association, told CNN that our human tendencies towards avoiding conflict and to feel fear, helplessness, and resignation in response to climate change is growing. She continued by explaining that this is limiting citizens from developing “psychological resiliency,” meaning they are not able to handle and conceptualize the reality of climate change.

I am slowly learning that the more dialogue we create regarding our own panic and uneasiness, the less alone we will feel in the world of climate anxiety.

“Treating climate anxiety in children is very similar to treating general anxiety,” said Rhonda Matters, a Child Psychologist in PEI, to CBC – she stated that acknowledging the anxiety goes a long way.

In an interview with CNN, Wendy Petersen Boring, a professor from Yale University, has said she has expanded her climate anxiety curriculum from one week of lessons, to two full courses. She now addresses the emotional and psychological toll of activism in 2019 with greater depth, as we continue to uncover the urgency of the situation.

I also think it is irresponsible to talk about climate change without talking about privilege. Although I’m aware this issue affects us all, I have to acknowledge my avoidant anxiety as not only an issue I have to actively work on, but also as a privilege. My socio-economic environment has protected me from many repercussions that other countries, cities and neighbourhoods are dealing with on a direct and daily basis. I am also privileged to live in a country with news outlets sharing truths about the state of our environment.

Well, as cliche as it sounds, “knowledge is power,” but learning how to cope with our own discomfort is also power. I must continue to voice my anxieties in the hopes they will lead to fruitful discussions with others, but most importantly I must stay aware and informed. As a society, we are blocked by the immensity of the situation. We need to continue to learn how to approach this issue in a productive and sustainable way. Perhaps Susan Clayton said it best, “We can’t just curl up in a ball and wait for the end of the world.”


Graphic by Victoria Blair

Student Life

Grabbing your mental health by the horns

Girl, Let’s Talk tips and tricks for recognizing signs of interpersonal distress

The Female Department, a Montreal-based women’s collective, hosted the first edition of their event, Girl, Let’s Talk, last Thursday, Jan. 31. The goal of the event was to open up a conversation on mental health led by two experts in the field, and to create an environment where women can speak freely about their mental health struggles with other women.

The founders of the Female Department, Danièle-Jocelyne Otou and Stephanie Arthur, timed the 10th edition of their series Cocktails n Confessions just ahead of Psychology Month, and the day after Bell Let’s Talk Day.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians experiences mental health issues or mental illness each year. Kristin Horsley, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at McGill University, offered simple tactics to keep mental health in check.

“Track it,” said Horsley. “Write it down. It doesn’t get more sophisticated than that. […]This is important to do because you need to know where you are to know where you can go. If you’re hungry, not sleeping, not getting enough exercise, not seeing enough people, you can expect your mental health to suffer,” said Horsley. “Basic self-care is everything. It is the foundation of our mental health.” Therein lies the struggle: keeping that foundation sound.

We live in a society where we measure ourselves based on those around us. However, you will never be anyone but yourself. “We’re constantly trying to see [how we take care of ourselves] […] as a form of progression,” said Em Tardif-Bennett, an event attendee. “We’re constantly trying to strive to perfection while also giving the illusion that we’re perfect.”

The event attendees agreed that, like anything else, mental health has an ebb and flow. It’s constantly in a state of flux, and determining when your mental health is under threat is onerous. “Once we let go of that expectation,” Tardif-Bennett said, “We can finally just be present in our lives, acknowledging how far we’ve come and how much work we’ve done for ourselves.”

But how do you recognize the signs of transitioning from being stable, to in a slump, to exhibiting detrimental behaviour? “When it affects your social function, your function at work and your interpersonal relationships, that’s when you know it’s time to seek help,” Horsley said. It is also essential to understand that emotions are our bodies’ response to change, and they indicate which areas of ourselves and our lives need more tender love and care.

Above all, Horsley explained, know that your emotions are entirely valid. “When you feel your anxiety and fear, lean into them because they’re telling you something,” Horsley said. “Lean into your fear and help yourself understand what it is telling you.”

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


Digital detoxing and the dark side of social media

One student’s account of the pressure to post and how they dealt with their anxiety

As a journalism student, social media plays a major role in my studies and my future career. With this in mind, I struggle to describe my relationship with social media; we’ve been through a lot these past years. There have been many highs followed by sickening lows, but ultimately, I always came back wanting more.

I appreciate the benefits and abilities that social media comes with. However, from time to time, I find myself lost in a whirlwind of anxiety caused by the pressure to conform to the “norm.” It is important to acknowledge that everybody has a unique experience when dealing with social media and anxiety.

For a long time, my anxiety stemmed from how others reacted to what I posted on social media. Instagram and Snapchat, specifically, were platforms that caused me to worry myself sick and over-analyze every detail. I would search for validation through likes and replies. When a post did not receive positive reactions from my followers, I would worry I was doing something wrong.

On Instagram in particular, I would over-analyze my photos, my captions and my decision to post each one in the first place. A 2017 study titled “#StatusofMind” by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement, a public health organization in the U.K., found that Instagram and Snapchat were the most detrimental platforms to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Avoid certain filters unconditionally.” “Don’t use the #nofilter hashtag.” “Avoid the cliché.” These are just three examples from an article written by Narcity titled “The 20 unwritten rules of Instagram you should be following.” The idea that there are “rules” for social media is absurd. I think young people in particular are susceptible to following these rules and getting lost in social media.

I have gotten carried away with these unwritten rules. There were times when I would not post for months because of the societal pressure to adhere to a certain standard on social media—something completely out of character for me. It was during one of these times that I decided a digital detox would be in my best interest. The first time I stepped away from the digital world was in 2016. My anxiety towards social media had peaked, and temporarily deactivating my accounts seemed like the only solution.

I spent a week social-media free, focusing on myself and the people around me. During my digital detox, I no longer felt the pressure to update my social media. I became aware of how much time I used to spend on social media. I realized that it is a major distraction that can quickly become toxic if not used appropriately. As a generation that grew up in a digitalized world, constantly hearing adults tell us that our phones are a distraction is something we have learned to tune out.

I think the most important realization I came to was why I started posting on social media in the first place: for myself. After a week, I felt ready to log back on, but this time with a fresh mindset. It has been two years since my first digital detox. Whenever I begin to feel anxious again, I immediately detach myself from social media and take some time to reflect.

There is no doubt that social media use will not decline anytime soon, which makes it all the more important to learn how to balance it and our well-being. I am still learning how to do that myself, and I believe digital detoxes give me the chance to unplug and realign my priorities without giving up social media altogether.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



How to prepare yourself for the apocalypse

The birds are chirping, the snow is melting, and the sun is shining. But most of us are probably too preoccupied to be admiring these beautiful changes. Instead, we’re preparing for the apocalypse: finals are coming. It’s not unusual for students to be panicked, anxiety-ridden and stressed out at this time of year. This is why we at The Concordian thought this editorial could be useful for students facing these obstacles.

According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, 33 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students are stressed. Among those people, 27.4 per cent have anxiety issues and 21.3 per cent have sleep problems. We all know how the accumulation of stress from homework and finals preparation can affect our sleeping schedule. Most of us stay up much later than we should to catch up on readings and assignments we left until the last minute. Our go-to substance is coffee, and although it might help us feel more productive, coffee actually increases anxiety, according to a 2010 study conducted by the experimental psychology department at the University of Bristol.

We might also find ourselves relying on comfort food to feel better, like ice cream or macaroni and cheese. But according to Harvard Health Publishing, while these foods release brain chemicals that help us feel good in the moment, processed foods are higher in sugar and caffeine which can cause our body more distress in the long run. So, in the fight against stress, start by picking up a couple of blueberries which contain antioxidants that improve our reaction to stress. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also known to alleviate depression and fatigue, according to the same source. Zinc in cashews can help reduce anxiety; spinach can produce dopamine in the brain and calm you down; milk’s Vitamin D can boost happiness; and carbohydrates in oatmeal help the brain produce serotonin and essentially battle stress.

Students can also look to Concordia for help. The Stress Management page on Concordia’s website in the Healthy Living section includes a stress management worksheet that can help students identify their stressor and offers possible stress management strategies. A list of ways to combat stress includes deep breathing, massages, exercise, meditation, working on hobbies or developing new ones, as well as spending time with loved ones.

Campus services also include the Zen Den, a place where students can find peace and serenity when they feel overwhelmed or stressed out. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Zen Den is located in GM 300 on the downtown campus and includes comfortable seating, warm lighting and soothing images. It also has resources to practice stress reduction and workshops that can help with your wellbeing. Staff members are present to provide techniques for self-care, and upcoming workshops will be based on mindfulness, anxiety and panic attacks, as well as positive psychology.

Concordia also offers counselling and psychological services to help students maintain their mental health, as well as gymnasiums and fitness centres for students looking to relieve tension and boost their physical health.

It’s easy to feel alone and helpless when our stress is a huge, seemingly all-too powerful monster. But it’s important to remember that help is available, through Concordia and through easy at-home remedies. Take the time to eat healthy foods to boost your mood and reduce your stress. Take a nap, avoid the coffee and go outside for a walk. If you feel severely overwhelmed or panicked, reach out to Concordia’s counselling and psychological services to book an appointment with a professional.

On a more positive note, at least we’re all on this stress-filled boat together.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


We race for success, but what’s at the finish line?

University culture encourages competition and stress among students in their 20s

​Trying to be successful in a short amount of time definitely comes with a lot of stress. As university students, many of us feel the need to accomplish as much as we can as fast as we can. The pressure we put on ourselves to succeed creates a stressful environment for us to live in, knowing very well there are more important things to worry about.

I don’t believe there’s an approaching deadline for success, seeing as so many well-known people became successful later in life. However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and pressured to accomplish “success” in school when you hear your classmates talk about their achievements.

We often hear stories of young adults who have already accomplished so much. For example, Chloe Kim is a 17-year-old American who won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics for the women’s snowboard halfpipe. It can be tough to watch a bunch of fit 20-somethings achieve the highest level in their field. It reminds us of how unaccomplished we are in our own lives. Although there is no time limit for success, especially not in yours 20s, it can certainly feel that way sometimes.
​University culture plays a big part in the pressure to amount to something. We should be focused on our schoolwork and nothing more, but many of us can’t help but feel the need to get a headstart on our careers. Whether that means starting a blog or getting an internship, any step we can take to get closer to “success,” we take it.

The majority of university students I talk to usually say they’re stressed almost all the time during the school year. Although some stress is normal, our overthinking about success causes a large amount of unnecessary stress. Our 20s is when we start to figure out what we really want from a career and build our way up from there. We can’t expect to accomplish all our goals in such a short amount of time.

​In 2013, a study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that almost 50 per cent of students listed anxiety as the main reason for seeking help from a school counsellor. Even though there can be many reasons for having anxiety, I believe a major factor is school-related stress. In the same year, another study revealed that 55 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students feel stressed because of health, relationships and academics, according to The Globe and Mail.

Countless articles discuss the pressure students face to feel accomplished; it affects our health and self-esteem, and it sabotages our academic experience. However, I believe very few of these articles discuss why we feel this pressure in the first place. Maybe we don’t quite know all the reasons behind it. What I believe is that putting students in such competitive environments creates a pressure to be better.

The other students in your program are generally striving for the same career as you and can, therefore, be seen as competitors. This level of competitiveness is too often seen as positive because educational systems have emphasized that competitiveness is one of the ways someone can be successful. But there is no race to success. We have our whole lives to be able to accomplish everything we want to, so we shouldn’t rush through our younger years, always feeling stressed out.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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