Make your hobby a priority

Integrating a hobby into your everyday life is essential for your well being. 

During lockdown in 2021, I came across a YouTube video on how to make a doll. I was mind-blown after seeing how a few pieces of felt, cotton and thread came together into a beautiful creation. I went on Amazon and purchased all the supplies needed—it took me three days to make my first doll and the process felt relaxing. All of a sudden, I went from feeling bored to being busy sketching and sewing more dolls. My time in lockdown was no longer depressing, but rather fulfilling.

Memories of knitting when I was in high school all came back to me. I started knitting again, and realized that in the same way doll-making was getting me through the pandemic, knitting helped me cope with anxiety and depression. 

Creating something is so calming; seeing something forming before your eyes is such a rewarding experience. More importantly, it helped me discover new things about myself. I learned that I am a creative person. My passion and curiosity for crafting grew, and I started crocheting.

The time I had alone, putting thousands of stitches together, allowed me to self-reflect. It was a way to calm my mind and take a step back from everything to process what I was going through. Crafting feels like you’re making magic, which made me feel joyful. I never imagined that something as simple as yarn could have this power. I had consistently underestimated the power of having a hobby.

We all need a little fresh air in our chaotic schedule. We experience so many feelings and situations throughout the day, and we must discover ways to release those negative emotions. Some people do that through writing, others paint or go for a run. Regardless of our chosen hobby, the outcome is guaranteed to be positive.

Studies have shown that a hobby improves mental health; it reduces stress and creates a sense of escapism. People experience fulfillment and a boost in their self-confidence. Having a hobby will also enhance your social life, which helps reduce feelings of loneliness. From my experience, crochet helped me make new friends as I joined crochet workshops. 

Interestingly, hobbies can actually enhance productivity.  A study led by Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, showed that people with creative hobbies had 15 to 30 percent higher performance rankings. When we unwind, our mind becomes more focused, which improves performance.

Overall, having a hobby contributes to our personal growth. We learn new things about ourselves, discover unexpected passions, and make ourselves more curious. My hobbies transformed my mind and made me feel better about myself. Incorporating hobbies into your daily life is as simple as reading before bed, redirecting screen time toward something more creative, or crocheting on the bus. Check out Concordia’s Student Life to discover available workshops and activities on campus.

Student Life

White Space — why having a mental blank canvas is important

There’s a reason why our best ideas occur in the shower or during our morning run

Ever felt like there just isn’t enough time in your day? For many of us, our reality is often running or maybe even sprinting between back-to-back classes, while simultaneously working and juggling assignments, emails, exams, and a cup of coffee that got cold 20 minutes ago. After a week or two of exams, too many deadlines, and just the regular stress of life, do you feel that midterm syndrome is pushing you down?

Well, you are not alone.

Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. There isn’t a person on Earth that gets more or less than anyone else. The key differentiator becomes who can leverage their 24 hours most appropriately. I didn’t use the word “efficiently” or “effectively” because I want to avoid the notion that packing more stuff into your day is the ultimate goal. I am actually advocating the opposite.

So how can we overcome this self-imposed frantic notion of busyness, and regain our ability to be truly productive and creative? The first step is to proactively include white space into our routines.

What is white space?

White space is dedicated time that allows  you to take a mental pause from university and other commitments to let your mind travel in whatever direction it sees fit. It is perhaps one hour or two, preferably scheduled into your calendar in advance, intended to allow and sometimes force you to zoom out, reflect, relax, and refuel.

It’s like giving yourself a mental blank canvas. The more time you give yourself to stop and take a breath instead of scheduling every minute of your day, the more focused and clear-minded you will be when you are studying, writing that paper, or working.

One analogy to illustrate this is of a slow computer. If you have too many applications and programs running on your computer at once the entire system slows down. Too many files open means less efficiency. To offset this, you need to close the apps you aren’t using. This then frees up a great deal of memory.

Often, your brain is holding on to too many things, which requires it to to stay running in order to maintain those files (i.e. thoughts and to-do lists). Basically, your brain and body are constantly giving you the spinning dial or hourglass image you get on your computer when it needs time to execute an action. Following this analogy, the goal is to close down unused files, and then collapse and condense the remaining ones we still need to use. By doing so, you free up space in your operating system which allows for more creativity, problem-solving, and overall efficiency.

It’s easier to describe white space by what it isn’t. White space is not time to create to-do lists, work on your assignment or finish that pending email.

The general idea of white space is to zone out and reconnect but it is really up to you. A few ideas to get you started: going for a walk around the block, free drawing with no specific objective, automatic writing, and meditation.

Create your own white space

The next time your mind starts buzzing and you realize that you haven’t had a second to stop and take a breath in your day, free up space in your operating system with these four easy steps:

Step 1: Do an audit of how you are currently spending your time

Step 2: Take control of your calendar and schedule your white space in advance if possible

Step 3: Find activities that work for you

Step 4: Guard and protect white space

Alright, the ball is in your court now. You’ve got the basics. What are you going to do with them?

Is this going to be another strategy you file away under “good ideas to try later,” or are you truly committed to making a difference?


Feature graphic by James Fay

Plants: filling the void and helping you succeed

Plant babies are offering hidden benefits in their new homes, especially during quarantine

Are you a plant parent? No? What are you waiting for? Many see those green leafy items just as some-thing to forget to water. Those ideas are changing.

In recent months, there has been a rise in plant culture. Videos of plant tips and tricks, and some of plant parents just showing off their collections, have been taking the internet by storm. You can scroll through the vines of Instagram as well as “PlantTok,” the plant side of TikTok, watching plant-filled content for hours.

Odarlyn, the creator of plantiiplants on Instagram and YouTube, started her page in October 2020 and has since grown a community of over 22,000 plant lovers. With her community rapidly growing, she shared her thoughts over Instagram on why plants were suddenly becoming such an interest: “Quarantine! People are in need of feeling responsible for something. In this case, keeping plants alive.”

All throughout quarantine, many nurseries reported soaring plant sales, as people used plants as an outlet for all things they were missing from the pre-COVID world.

“Somewhere amid COVID-19 lockdowns, pandemic plant parents are filling the voids in their social life — and apartments — with an influx of flora,” stated an article by NBC.

Plants can actually do more for you than fill the void left from pre-COVID times. Overall, houseplants have countless benefits, especially in your workspace.

When spending all week preparing for an exam, the last thing you want to worry about is the space in which you work. However, your space can have an impact on your studies. Small changes like adding some greenery to your desk can actually improve your concentration. Multiple studies have been conducted over the years demonstrating how having indoor plants can lead to better focus and more productivity overall.

Even for the most focused students, school can be extremely stressful. Getting a plant to put on your desk won’t eliminate all that pressure; however, a study done by the University of Hyogo in Japan proved that having plants in your work environment can lead to less stress in your life. The researchers agreed that stress is a pressing issue in today’s workspaces and felt that adding some greenery is a solution that is often overlooked.

Nature and greenery have been known to reduce stress compared to urban landscapes. By adding a small house plant on your desk and looking at it when you feel stressed, you are providing your brain with a little bit of natural scenery to decompress.

When you have a new plant and it’s thriving, you feel as though you’re thriving too. New leaves can be almost as exciting as passing that course you have been working so hard for. This is because the answer is also in the interaction: the Hyogo study showed that people who took care of their plant grew a positive attachment, which leads to greater stress relieving benefits.

Don’t worry — there is no need to buy millions of houseplants and turn your office into your own personal forest (although you could if you want). The study shared that even just one small plant reduced the stress of their participants.

Now after all that information, there is only one final step in becoming a plant parent, and that is to buy a plant. This can seem like a daunting task as there are many varieties of houseplants you can choose from. It’s important to take a look at the kind of environment the plants will be living in and use this to guide your decision.

Plants aren’t always easy to take care of, especially if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs (I know I’ve killed quite a few in my time). What’s important is that if you keep trying; eventually, you will find the right plant.

And don’t forget to water it.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Take a nap, we’ll deal with this tomorrow

As a collective society, we are not used to moving slowly. Productivity is often linked to our self worth, and why wouldn’t it be? After all, economic gain and capitalist success relies on constant production and consumption.

This being said, it should be no surprise that when an obnoxiously large stop sign has halted the world, it causes stress and panic. Many think, I can’t go to work? My dentist appointment is cancelled? Well, I better start training for a marathon. I won’t let this quarantine be the thing to slow me down.

Between workout videos, working from home and non-essentials being closed, lies a lot of uneasiness. The solution to this feeling is not necessarily to start a new project, publish that research paper you never had time to finish, or get to your push-up max.

Let me assure you that taking time to feel your angst is not wasted time. We are so scared to sit with our feelings, because we have never taken the time to do it before.

That’s why tools like meditation and mindfulness have found themselves to be so useful in the westernized world in 2020. They bring about clarity if we let them, which is not easy. In the podcast Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, Meditation teacher, Dt. Jay Michaelson says that medication, “can help you be free-er from panic, more able to protect yourself, and more in touch with your own inner wisdom and resilience.”

Now, I can sit here in front of my laptop, and tell you that I haven’t felt guilty skipping my run today, shortening an online yoga class and eating a chocolate bar. I can tell you that I am fully embracing my own stresses and have learned to feel my feelings in my body, but I’d be lying.

We are all operating at least a ten percent higher stress level than normal. There is a constant strain on our energy that wasn’t there before. We have to understand that this makes our bodies tired, and we can’t expect to be 100 per cent ourselves.

Psychologist Dr. Luana Marques also adds on the podcast, “Anxiety has an inverse relationship with performance. Up to a point, the more anxious you get, the more performance you have. There is a point, a tilting point, though, that too much anxiety affects anything that we’re doing. So we can’t think critically. We get stuck. We start to get more anxious.”

We need to work together and find a balance between distracting ourselves from the upsetting world events, and feeling the stress. The space between panic and numbness might be a big part of the solution.

This is a process. We have to rewire our capitalistic brains to understand that it’s okay to be still and it’s also okay to not be productive.

Now excuse me while I finish my art project, wash my dishes, over-water my plants and lay on the floor, I’m very busy. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Editorial: Enjoy a guilt-free break!

It’s finally happening. Soon, we’ll get the break we all deserve. We at The Concordian think it’s safe to assume that this semester has been hectic and exhausting for most of us.

The seemingly infinite weight of deadlines, assignments, projects, essays—we cannot wait until everything is finally submitted and done with. We thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this last editorial of the semester to promoting a radical idea: you can be lazy this upcoming break.

A recent CBC Radio piece highlighted why we should stop being so obsessed with productivity. “We tend to judge other people and their status by the number of hours of work they put in every week,” Brad Aeon, a researcher at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, told the CBC. The piece also featured some of Aeon’s rules about time management, which include prioritizing leisure time over work and being clear about your boundaries. His research emphasizes that it’s OK to set your own limits and disregard other people’s expectations about how much a person should work.

Perhaps taking a step away from a productivity-oriented lifestyle doesn’t have to mean a lesser work output. One of the fundamental pillars of behavioural psychology is that positive reinforcement creates desirable behaviour patterns. It’s important to reward yourself as a means of self-care, but also because this will ultimately lead to a lifestyle that effectively balances responsibilities in healthy ways. Rewards are what make hard work meaningful. If you take the time to let yourself experience them, you will be more driven when it’s time to work again.

Developing a rhythm of hard work mixed with downtime is not encouraged in our super productive, go-go-go society. We often celebrate overworking ourselves to the brink of exhaustion and dismiss the importance of finding a healthy relationship with our work. In fact, in Aeon’s research, he noticed a tendency for people to view productivity as an investment in their happiness. With this mentality, productivity takes on a sort of desperate, addictive quality that consistently leaves people unsatisfied with their performance level. This contributes to an environment in which everyone is constantly working themselves to the extreme and reinforcing an unrealistically high standard for work output. Aeon proposes an important idea that happiness doesn’t lie in overworking yourself, but rather in taking lengthy amounts of time for self-care.

We do realize, however, that this is all easier said than done. Taking time for yourself can be guilt-inducing. As students, most of our free time is overshadowed by impending deadlines for assignments or projects, and so moments of self-care can feel like simple procrastination. There is no easy answer for how to combat this feeling during the semester—sometimes there simply isn’t enough time for self-care, and the boundaries between self-care and procrastination can become blurred. That is precisely why it is so important to let yourself experience the reward of relaxation during the winter break.

Of course, your break will not be void of responsibility or anxiety. You may be working full-time, Christmas shopping or attending stressful family gatherings. But you can still take a break from less urgent pressures in your life. At the end of the semester, the stress of school is replaced by other anxieties—like getting work experience, reading books or making new friends—and while these may be important, remember that it is OK just to chill out for a few weeks after a taxing semester. We at The Concordian celebrate guilt-free self-care and taking an adequate amount of time to focus on yourself. Enjoy your break!

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Burning out: Why students should take the initiative of self-care

It’s a new year at Concordia, which means new teachers, new assignments and quite possibly new struggles. One of those struggles can simply be a lack of self-care. As university students, we’re taught at an early age to follow a certain routine when it comes to our education. Wake up, attend classes, come home, do homework and catch up on readings, sleep and then repeat.

A negative consequence of constantly following this redundant cycle is “burning out.”

According to an article by Global News, more and more psychiatrists are beginning to use this term to refer to patients who suffer from chronic stress. People can experience burnouts when they’re undergoing stressful situations everyday— it eventually builds up and causes various symptoms. These can include physical exhaustion, weight gain, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, pessimism, detachment, increased forgetfulness, lack of concentration and a drop in productivity. Sound familiar?

There are also other symptoms that aren’t as apparent. According to the same article, burnouts can result in “shrinkage or enlargement, thinning and premature aging” of various areas of the brain.

Although the article strongly focuses on adults with high-stress careers, we at The Concordian believe university students are equally and sometimes more stressed due to school work, internships, jobs, social lives and planning for the future. Therefore, we felt it was imperative to suggest a few way students can take care of themselves this year.

Lifestyle choices and changes can allow students to relax and prevent burnouts. This can be as simple as finding a hobby unrelated to your work or school, anything from biking to reading comic books. The Global News article put a particular emphasis on choosing a hobby that stimulates your brain in a creative way in order to prevent chronic stress.

Having strong, positive connections with people outside of your family is also extremely important. Of course, we all know the struggle of finding time during the semester to have fun. But doing so can stop students from being unproductive and doing poorly in school, according to the same article, which would actually be more beneficial for your grades in the long run.

Unplugging yourself from social media and cellphones can also help. While social media and technology are great tools for everyday life, they can also be pervasive distractions preventing you not only from getting work done, but also from properly relaxing during those study breaks.

Many free apps exist to help you stay off of your devices or distracting websites. Flipd and Freedom Reduce Distractions, to name a few, block your access to certain apps and websites. An article by the Huffington Post also suggests that, before going to bed, phones and other devices should be kept away in order to get a good night’s rest.

As university students, we rarely have time to eat lunch let alone manage a schedule that includes time for breaks. But by taking care of yourself and forcing hobbies and down time back into your life can actually make you more productive and will certainly boost your mental health. Finding time during the day to walk away from your keyboard and textbook, and instead go for a walk or drink a glass of water can mean the difference between a burnout and achieving your goals—and more importantly, enjoying yourself in the process.

Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth

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