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.


Nuances self-care: the Montreal-based beauty brand catering to women of all shades

Keisha Lamptey helps fill a gap in the Canadian beauty industry with inclusive haircare and skincare products

Keisha Lamptey wears an apron and clear plastic gloves as she carefully adds seed oils and seed butters to her stainless steel KitchenAid mixer. It loudly whips all the ingredients together, creating a smooth and uniform texture.

After a few minutes, she shuts off the mixer, lifts the mixing bowl and gently pours the contents into her filling machine. 

An off-white creamy product comes out of the tube, filling the empty jar that she holds in her left hand with her homemade Moisturizing Hair Butter.  

Lamptey is the owner of Nuances self-care, a company that manufactures natural, vegan and eco-friendly haircare and skincare products for women of all shades at an affordable cost. 

Growing up in Montreal, Lamptey noticed that there was a minimal selection of products designed specifically for Black women in Canada. “I felt very underrepresented when shopping for products,” she said. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

She explained that none of the mass-market beauty companies were Black-owned and none of them understood her needs as a woman with thick, curly hair. Products that did work for her had to be purchased from the United States, making it “just absolutely crazy expensive.” According to Lamptey, one small eight-ounce product would cost her $50. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Canada deserves to have these products, too,’” Lamptey recalled. So, in 2017, she used her background in organic chemistry to begin experimenting with various formulas to create products catered to all skin types and kinky hair types. 

But it wasn’t until December 2020 that she incorporated Nuances self-care after receiving the Canada Starts grant — a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by RBC Ventures aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business.  

According to Lamptey, the grant covered all her start-up costs — including federal and provincial incorporation fees, website expenses, and the cost of necessary equipment, ingredients and packaging — all of which totalled about $3,700. 

“Receiving that grant was so amazing,” she said. It allowed Nuances self-care to start off profitable from the get-go.

According to Lamptey, sales were high in the first few months of business. This was not only because it was the holiday season, but also because Quebec was under a lockdown, making it easier for customers to purchase their beauty products online.

Many of these early customers still support Nuances self-care nearly two years later, like Yasamin Fawzi. 

‘[Nuances self-care’s products] feel good for my skin and hair and they’re really affordable,” Fawzi said. “I’m always about buying local, or buying stuff that’s more ethically sourced and natural.”

Today, Lamptey has 15 products listed on her website, each of which have gone through a detailed process. The process begins with months of researching, experimenting, and testing. Once Lamptey is satisfied with a product recipe, she orders the labels and packaging from the supplier and makes a batch for customers. 

The final step of the process is marketing the new product. 

According to Lamptey, she typically uses social media and her email newsletter to tease upcoming product releases and to announce new products when they come out.

But with the most recent launch, the Apple Cinnamon Body Butter, Lamptey tried a new marketing technique: she planned a launch party at a local Montreal shop. Those who wanted to purchase the product had to attend the event. It was so successful the product nearly sold out, totalling 35 sales and over $1,200 was made.

“It was a great way to create buzz and boost sales,” she said. “But it was also a good way to make myself relevant in people’s eyes.” 

While Nuances self-care started as a retailer business through an e-commerce website, Lamptey is now exploring the wholesale business, too. Nuances self-care’s products are now sold in two hairdresser salons, one perfume store, one hair accessory store, and a few cafés around the city. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

Lamptey shared that regular customer sales are highest in months with celebrations or holidays, with about 50 to 200 customer orders per month.

But in slower months, like last September and October, Lamptey noticed a decline in customer orders but an increase in wholesale orders. According to Lamptey, this shift is more profitable because businesses purchase more units compared to one regular customer. 

Lamptey said that she dreams of selling her products in the United States and Europe, as well as selling in bigger stores like Walmart and Amazon.

While there are big dreams of expansion for Nuances self-care, loyal customers like Fawzi will continue to support them in Montreal.


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


Gwyneth Paltrow has fooled us all

There I was. Dragging my feet, barely stomaching a coffee, trailing through a crowded Indigo, desperately trying to distract myself from a brutal hangover. My boots were leaving muddy wet puddles with every step, my stained sweatpants clashing with my coat—I truly was a mess.

I looked up and in the middle of one of the displays, I saw a book. This was not your average book. It might have been my delusion but as I pushed past the crowd and found myself standing in front of said book, it floated into my hand. Sparkles were springing off it—the smell of lavender hitting my dry nose.

It’s All Easy, was the title.

I stared into Gwyneth Paltrow’s perfectly-shaped eyes. Did she just wink at me?

Her crinkly smile stretched across the cover. I opened the book—save me G.P! Clean my pores, strengthen my hair and make me look like Jennifer Aniston. Quick! I’m desperate and extremely dehydrated.

That day I wanted Gwyneth to change my life with a green juice or a quick and easy broccoli pie, but some days I roll my eyes at her as I see photos of her prancing around the beach in her white flowy pants. She’s ridiculously good looking, ridiculously rich and ridiculously unattainable. This isn’t new for Hollywood stars, but let’s examine what makes Paltrow specifically so frustrating.

It starts with a $250 million, four-letter-word—Goop.

According to their perfectly designed website, Goop started from Paltrow’s kitchen in 2008 as a weekly newsletter. Now, it has a beauty, fashion and famous “wellness” section.

Wellness. Alas—a word that I have been trying to figure out how to write about all week.

Defining wellness is no easy task. It’s a bit of a fluffy word, but it can be defined as, “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.”

Goop’s wellness section sells things like $50 eye masks, $48 altitude oils and a $75 travel diffuser kit. I don’t know what they mean, but I want them all.

The trouble with a wellness brand is the same with many brands these days. Wellness is a right—it should not be commodified. As soon as you start putting a price on wellness, you are saying that one person deserves it more than another. Even though Paltrow promotes inexpensive things like eating an apple, drinking water and going for a walk, it’s impossible not to want to be a part of the expensive version of wellness as well. That right there is a flawed system.

Is she evil? I don’t know. I do, however, think she has huge blindspots. She has created an inaccessible brand that only assists women (or mostly women) of privilege. And yet—through the mass amount of deflected criticism, she still ends up on top.

Paltrow lacks self-awareness. She told the New York Times in 2019, “The true tenets of wellness are all free. Being in nature, meditating, eating whole foods. If you told our grandparents that eating whole and natural foods was elitist, they would have thought you were crazy.”

Gwyneth… c’mon.

You’re better than telling us that eating whole foods is free. Have you ever been to Whole Foods? That place ain’t free. Nine dollars for five organic rice cakes ain’t free. Let’s not get it twisted here, living this “wellness” life that we are all apparently destined to live is elitist, and it would be nice if she could admit that.

That, however, would not be good branding.

There are some good things that have come out of her business. Something that stuck out to me in her Netflix Special was the episode on female bodies and pleasure. The Goop team spoke about empowering and promoting healthy and approachable tips for women’s sexual experiences. Frankly, it was quite badass. I’m sure that Paltrow will continue to evolve, but it’s essential that we also continue to call her out. At the end of the day, she’s a great businesswoman that knows what she’s doing. I just wish she would do it with a little more integrity.

Who knows, maybe I’m just jealous that I’ll never be able to afford a $68 vital skin foundation stick. 

Graphic by

Student Life

Self-care is sometimes more like self-preservation

It was the beginning of November, and I felt like shit.

As the autumn leaves transformed from flaming red to muddy brown, that familiar pre-winter malaise started to sink in. Each day was becoming darker and colder than the last, and rolling out of bed in the morning went from a small challenge to an overwhelming obstacle. Like some twisted tradition, my annual ‘slump’ had taken form, characterized by a growing pile of assignments, a growing pile of laundry, and a sudden decline in my physical health.

Despite all the shittiness, I was still scraping by. I handed in my assignments, even if they were late. I made sure to eat, even if it was just bowl after bowl of yogurt – I really enjoy yogurt. I took things one day at a time, clinging to the holy mantra that had carried me through my entire academic career: just finish the goddamn semester. 

But a few weeks later, just as I was about to finish the goddamn semester, an incident occurred in my personal life. I won’t go into the details because, quite frankly, that’s none of your beeswax, but I will tell you this: it wasn’t fun, and I took a hit.

You know that scene in The Lion King where Mufasa is dangling from the edge of a cliff? I can’t help but think that, if it weren’t for that asshole Scar, he could have pulled himself up—he’s a lion, for f*ck’s sake, his muscles are like cinder blocks. But life came out swinging and that beautiful bastard plummeted to his doom.

After the incident, my assignments became less and less of a priority, my pile of laundry grew even more, and I ran out of yogurt. The whole thing was like the cherry on top of the cake, except instead of a cherry it was a hand grenade and instead of a cake it was a steaming pile of garbage. A question was beginning to form in my mind: am I taking care of myself?

The answer, I learned, was pretty straightforward: no. But if I wasn’t taking care of myself, what could I do to change it? What does ‘self-care’ even mean?

To figure things out, I decided to call my OG caregivers: good ol’ mom and dad.

First, I called my dad. Here’s the thing about me and my old man – we are exactly the same. We are high stress, high anxiety people who both tend to be very hard on ourselves. Since my dad is a few years older than me, though, and presumably full of wisdom, I was curious to hear his advice.

“If you’re feeling like shit,” I asked, “What do you do to make yourself feel better?”

“I would take a break,” he said. “I would probably aimlessly browse the Internet, or I would go for a walk with no particular destination in mind.”

My mom gave me a similar answer. The pinnacle of productivity and self-preservation, she has this remarkable talent for stress management that I, unfortunately, did not inherit.

“I need to be by myself,” she told me. “Without anybody asking me for anything.”

This is true. Every day after work, without fail, my mom settles into the corner of the couch with a heat pad on her back and a book in her hands. She’ll sit in her ‘nest’ for hours until it’s time to go to bed. It’s her happy place. Meanwhile, my dad is in his office, doing essentially the same thing: blasting classical music, he’ll spend the evening combing through Internet forums about remote control helicopters or medical breakthroughs or whatever he’s into that week (he’s a man with many tastes).

After I hung up, I wondered what my happy place was, and what I could do to take a break from it all. I’m still trying to figure that out, so I’ll keep you posted.

There’s something about my parents that I really admire: no matter how hard life gets, they take care of themselves. They feed themselves, they manage their space, and they get stuff done. When my grandma died last year, I think my mom was able to stay afloat because she had set herself a good foundation – she didn’t live her life clinging to the edge of a cliff. When tragedy struck, she didn’t fall into a pit of raging wildebeests, she simply just fell.

Here’s what I’ve learned these past few weeks: there’s always gonna be a new semester coming, and if it’s not a semester, it’ll be something else – a new deadline, a new job, a new life event. Personal emergencies are always going to happen, people I love are going to get hurt, and mental and physical illnesses are always going to be part of my life. The kindest and most compassionate thing I can do for myself is to set up a good foundation.

Take care, everyone.


Photo by Laurence BD


This is fine, I’m fine

You know the meme of a dog in a room on fire, where the speech bubble says: “This is fine”? Yeah, that’s me, I’m the dog. Also a plausible comparison is me as Ross in Friends after having too many margaritas: “I’M FINE!”

Why am I “fine,” you ask? Hi, my name is Kayla-Marie Turriciano, and I take on too many projects at once (as seen in my Twitter bio), and am definitely not in over my head.

In my first year at Concordia, I wrote about how it’s important to maintain a balance between work, school, and a social life, and how you can’t do better than your best. In my second year, I called myself out for being a hypocrite because I had completely gone against my own advice and had a terrible work-school-life balance. I was literally in a perpetual state of stress and anxiety and admitted that it was easier said than done.

Now in my third year, I have something else to add to this stream of articles about balance in life. This past year has honestly been one of the most emotionally draining. From last summer to present, I’ve barely had time off: I went from the fall semester, to winter, to a summer semester intensive, then an internship and a job, to now back in school full time while holding down three jobs. On top of that, I regularly contribute to sections within the paper other than my own.

A lot of people in my life – family, friends, peers, coworkers, basically everyone – worry that I’m going to soon suffer a burnout. They say I’m overworked, over-stressed, and am generally doing too much. Our lovely opinions editor, Youmna, regularly keeps me in check to make sure I don’t have a breakdown by spreading myself too thin. I constantly reassure her I’m doing fine – and here I am writing this article when I have two others this week on top of all my other work and assignments.

See, the thing is I actually am fine. I’ve definitely not been fine in the past, suffering mini breakdowns from being overworked and overtired, resulting in me crying at the kitchen table after someone slightly raises their voice at me.

But truly, this time, I am fine. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve mastered all this multitasking, if I’ve become numb to everything or if I’ve just peaked and reached nirvana. Maybe all the theoretical political science courses discussing Lucretius and Seneca have taken a toll on me.

Whatever it is, I just know that, while I am taking on too many projects at once, I’m actually not stressed, nor do I feel like I’m going to be crushed under the weight of everything.

I truly, finally, actually am fine and I’m not in a theoretical room that’s on fire – I’m just living my life, totally fine.

Graphic: Salomé Blain.

Student Life

Spa day before school gets in the way

Summer 2019 has been busy. Between my retail job and my internship, I spent my days off catching up on chores, seeing friends and family, and just trying to be an adult as best as I could. All this running around led me to be more exhausted than I was at the beginning of the summer, which isn’t the best way to start off a new semester.

Last week, I went to the spa to try to take an actual day off before school starts; before I’m thrown into another eight months of stress before I can actually relax again. Since no technology is allowed and I went by myself, I was really all by myself — no one to talk to or to message, no work emails, no social media.

During the first hour there (out of five total), my mind kept thinking about work, about what other people were doing and posting on social media, what I would write for this week’s paper, etc. The time alone made me zero in on the fact that my brain never stops; it’s always thinking about something other than what’s happening in the moment.

What I did notice, though, was this feeling inside of me, what I could only describe as a ball of chaotic energy that made it a little bit difficult to breathe. I realized that it was a feeling of mild anxiety and stress that I hadn’t really noticed before because I was always on the go.

After focusing on my breathing, my mind started slowing down, and I became more present in the moment: I stopped thinking of work, I forgot about social media. I even lost track of time despite there being clocks everywhere. I became so focused on my breathing and on trying to really relax that I fell asleep.

Over the next couple of hours, I really took that time by myself for myself. I tried out all the different options the spa had available: I went from the hot rooms/water to cold baths, then fell asleep. After a few rounds of this little routine, the ball of stress and anxiety that felt like it was consuming my chest and stomach at the beginning of my day had significantly reduced. I felt at peace, less stressed, and more aware of my body. With school having started, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be stressed.

The point of this little story is to remind you to be mindful of the effects stress has on you, both mentally and physically. You don’t have to go to a spa to try to de-stress; simply be mindful of your breathing, remain aware of the effects of stress on you before it feels like it’s too much to handle.

When you feel that ball of chaotic energy beginning to build up, take some time (even a few hours) to be away from technology and other people. Take some time alone to focus on your breathing, treat yourself to some at-home spa-like treatments, take a nap — you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, less stressed, and more at peace.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Slice of Life: To-Do: Smell a rose

Rethinking what it means to set goals for ourselves

From late December to early January, the internet is riddled with memes generally belonging to four categories: empty bank accounts, being drunk from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, cringey family stories, and, my personal favorite, all the ‘new year, new me’ bullshit. As if overriding our digestive systems with champagne and Jameson somehow flushes out all the toxicity from the previous year, leaving us with a blank-slate liver to tackle the new year with.

Honestly, New Year’s resolutions are pretty dumb. You can search the crap out of it: in January 2013, Forbes reported that only 8 per cent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and in January 2017, Business Insider reported that 80 per cent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. But why? Why is it so difficult to set a goal—a singular goal—and follow through with it?

About a year ago, The New York Times listed tips for making and keeping resolutions. Just a few days ago, The Guardian published an article that touched on similar points: make a personal plan, join a support community, focus on one goal at a time, find what motivates you, externalize your goals, etc. All good advice, sure, but these fluff articles still have a hollow ring to them.

There are so many issues with New Year’s resolutions (not the inherent concept of goal-setting), but mainly it’s the localization of goal-setting to one check-point window in the year and the pressure to make that window. Realistically, we change so much throughout the year, and it’s important to recognize how your goals evolve with you. On top of the pressure to make a New Year’s resolution, there’s also pressure to make your resolution fit into a cutback-box. For most, resolutions consist of goals like: spend less money, go out less, watch less Netflix, start going to [insert physical activity], read that book, eat less junk, pay off debt, etc.

But what if your resolution was stuff you should do more of? Laugh more. Go outside more. Call more friends. Have more dinners at home. Think you’d have an easier time sticking to those resolutions? Melbourne-based queer artist @frances_cannon posted “Frances Cannon’s Big 2019 List” on Jan. 2, and it may surprise you in all the best ways. Cannon lists goals such as: take a breath, let go of someone who hurt you, apply for something that scares you, tell a really good joke, call someone you haven’t called in a while, smell a rose and many more goals, both small and large. It’s time we start rethinking the wide range of what goals can be for each individual, and accepting that self love is both loving ourselves for accomplishing those goals, and loving ourselves for accepting when we simply cannot.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Today, we practice #SelfCare with TRU LUV

Meet the dynamic duo spearheading unconventional app industries

We scroll through social media and often don’t consider that we’re experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions simultaneously. “You’re [online] for ten minutes and you already have forty emotions,” said Eve Thomas, a Concordia communications and journalism graduate. “You can be angry, and frightened, and jealous, and hungry all at once.”

“We definitely made [#SelfCare] because we needed it,” said Code (right). Photo courtesy of the interviewees.
Brie Code, former Artificial Intelligence (AI) lead with Ubisoft Montreal and founder of the company TRU LUV, partnered with Thomas to release the company’s first app, #SelfCare. “For me, [the app] is to help people renegotiate their relationships with their phones,” said Thomas.

#SelfCare is a game-type of app where users maintain their avatar’s well-being by carrying out everyday tasks, such as sorting laundry, tending to your plants, and petting the avatar-kitty (which purrs in response). “In this universe, our goal is simply to feel better. There’s no winning, no failure, no score. No difficulty, no ads, no notifications. There is just us and our feelings,” reads the #SelfCare app description. The more tasks you complete, the more your avatar’s mood balances out; there are no penalties for neglecting to play the game, which is what makes the app unique. You can also be guided through breathing exercises, daily Tarot card readings, and even play a simple word jumble or plant-watering game.

Thomas and Code met about three years ago when Thomas, a magazine editor at the time, wanted to profile Code for an article. Code revealed during their interview that she had plans to quit her job to make games for people who don’t like games.

“I was growing increasingly frustrated with what the industry was making,” Code said, referring to “[shooting] and other fighting games.” She also explained that puzzle games can be boring and often leave her feeling more stressed than when she started playing them. Thus, a beautiful partnership blossomed into a transnational collaboration, with four other core members throughout Europe and Africa.

You can also be guided through breathing exercises, daily Tarot card readings, and even play a simple word jumble or plant-watering game. Image courtesy of the interviewees.

Most conventional gaming and social media apps are designed to keep users locked in for as long as possible. As users, we’re either incessantly scrolling, resisting the urge to check our phone or trying a digital detox. “We’re very feast or famine,” said Thomas. We’re not good at moderation, or respectively limiting our social media intake, she explained. Thomas added that, “if you’re on call, which a lot of jobs are now, […] you don’t have the luxury of turning off your phone.” This is a large part of why she and Code made the app the way it is. Both saw the need to renegotiate a way to open up your phone, and maybe click on a different app—one that you exit feeling calm and relaxed.

Both Code and Thomas actively use their app. “We definitely made [#SelfCare] because we needed it,” said Code. “And I’m finding that I’m not using any other of the mobile games I used to turn to when I had a twinge of anxiety.” Thomas also explained to me that, particularly during the game’s beta testing and prototype development, an understandably stressful period, she was used the app as one of her coping mechanisms.

Code and Thomas both spoke of the pushback #SelfCare received from incumbent members of the conventional gaming industry due to their unconventional app structure. “They told us that this would fail,” said Code. “We’ve also been told that […] what we made is too feminine [and] that it’s not worth making products for women because [they] are too unpredictable.” Despite these sexist comments and being largely self-funded, the app is succeeding and has received more than 500 thousand downloads in only six weeks. “The day I read the review that said ‘thank you for this app. I can tell it will change my life,’” said Code, “I knew that all the risk [we’d] taken on committing to this project was worth it.”

You can download TRU LUV #SelfCare in the App Store and Google Play right now! Check out their website:

Feature image courtesy of the interviewees.


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


Skipping school can be a form of self-care

Why having balance and making time for yourself is important during the school semester

With the winter semester coming to a close, it seems more and more students are behind on their work. That isn’t to say they aren’t working as hard as they did at the beginning of the term, or even in the fall. As the low temperatures and cloudy skies persist, however, I think it’s easier to get tired.

The mix of rain, snow and wind has been exhausting, along with a constant yo-yoing between above and below zero degrees Celsius. This type of weather increases people’s chances of getting sick, and their ever-growing workload can prevent students from making a quick and full recovery. According to a 2014 study from Harvard Medical School, the cold weather forces people to stay indoors in close quarters, causing colds to spread. For students who just emerged from midterms and are already staring down the barrel of finals, an impaired immune system and low energy levels are the last thing they need right now.

Additionally, some students experience seasonal affective disorder. According to CBC News, 35 per cent of Canadians get the “winter blues,” while another 10 to 15 per cent are affected by a mild form of seasonal depression. The days are cold, dark and short, which can have a depressing impact on our lives and our bodies. I know it does for me.

Personally, I feel like my body has been shutting down since January. I almost always finish my school day with a massive headache, and I can’t function again until I lay down and rest. But my program and courses don’t always allow for restful days. As a journalism student, even on the days when I don’t have class, my projects keep me fairly busy, and I have to run around town to complete them. Even though I rested during reading week, it barely felt like an actual break. I still had many projects to complete and exams to prepare for. I slept in, but it didn’t feel like I was catching up on all the sleep I needed.

During high school, I never skipped classes, though I don’t pass any judgment on those who did and do. This semester, however, reading the PowerPoints my professor sends to the class is enough to understand my elective and still get reasonable grades. That is why I have decided to skip that class every week. My elective is on Mondays at 8:45 a.m., and since I don’t live close to campus, I would have to wake up very early to get there on time. I would often end up falling asleep in class anyway, which is why I decided it would be better for my mental and physical health to sleep in on Mondays and get some work done from home instead.

I genuinely don’t believe skipping class is a form of laziness. Though some people skip class to take a break and have fun, most of us need to catch up on sleep and homework. I now take the two hours and 45 minutes I spent in that class getting most of my projects completed—and it’s such a relief! Those extra few hours allow me to rest during the weekend, do more work during the week and still take care of myself. I know some people who even use skipped class time to go to the gym. Balance is incredibly important—it’s necessary to make time for all forms of self-care, even if that means occasionally not going to class.

I have been less stressed out since I began skipping my elective, and I feel more rested and prepared for the rest of my courses. Even though finals are quickly creeping up on us, self-care is no joke and shouldn’t be neglected. Regardless of how you cope with cold weather, a heavy workload and seemingly never-ending exams, you need to take care of yourself. So rest-up, relax and focus on the upcoming summer break we all deserve.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


The winter blues, SAD and self-care

Now that the fall semester is almost over, it’s time to build snowmen, drink hot cocoa, curl up with soft blankets and binge watch every Christmas movie on Netflix. But with the change of the season can come changes in mood, perhaps even seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

While up to 15 per cent of Canadians experience the less severe “winter blues,” according to CBC News, SAD is a form of depression that affects between two and three per cent of Canadians. The disorder has a range of symptoms, including weight gain, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleeping more, being lethargic even after sleeping and avoiding social situations. On the surface, it can seem like a natural instinct to want to curl up in bed and sleep more during the winter. But, unlike bears, humans shouldn’t want to hibernate for an entire season.

The disorder is caused by a decrease in sunlight, according to CBC News, which can throw off normal routines. Light therapy—either sunlight or a high-intensity light unit—is often used to control the disorder and improve a person’s mood. This can be an effective remedy for the larger part of the population who deal with “winter blues” as well.

Instead of closing the blinds and avoiding what little sunlight there is during the winter, buy high-intensity lights and keep the blinds open to let some natural light in. Sunlight and darkness affect the level of the serotonin hormone in your brain, which boosts your mood and helps you stay calm and focused, according to the Huffington Post. If you avoid sunlight or exposure to light, your serotonin levels can decrease which will increase your chance of developing SAD.

According to the same source, another symptom of SAD is increased carbohydrate cravings. Among the ways to combat SAD or the winter blues before it gets serious is to add an extra serving of complex carbs to your diet—but rather than cupcakes, consider oatmeal, quinoa or potatoes for their nutritional value. Also increase your intake of fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate and fish—all which can help maintain energy levels and battle fatigue.

According to CBC News, 80 per cent of those affected by SAD are women between the ages of 18 and 60. That isn’t to say others aren’t affected by the disorder—and that’s why we at The Concordian hope you check in on your friends and family to see whether they’re just feeling bummed out or if there is something more serious happening.

It’s equally as important to check up on yourself. Around this time of year, it’s common to feel stressed or anxious due to exams and final projects. But if you’re feeling anxious, lonely, isolated or sad during this time of year, talk to your doctor who can refer you to a mental health specialist, or try implementing some of the abovementioned recommendations.

Another important way to fight back against SAD or the winter blues is—you guessed it—exercise. Of course, it’s understandable that the idea of getting out of bed in the winter can seem unappealing, let alone putting on your running shoes and going out in the cold. But, as the Huffington Post explains, exercise releases endorphins which are hormones that help you feel good. They can improve sleep, boost your immune system and help regulate your mood.

While three 30-minute sessions of exercise per week can sound difficult during the months of icy roads and crowded gyms, once you start the routine, it will become easier. We at The Concordian recommend trying out a new winter sport, whether it’s skiing, ice skating or winter cycling. Even if it’s just a walk in the park, the goal is to get outside so your body can absorb vitamin D from the sun.

We at The Concordian hope your winter break is filled with great holiday movies, snowball fights, warm fireplaces and relaxation. Good luck with your final exams, and remember to take care of yourself.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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