Name: Marcela Farias
School: Carleton University
Major: Neuroscience & Mental Health BSc.
Fav thing about your campus: Our campus is really it’s own little island between the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal which makes it really easy to find a study spot with a gorgeous view. We are also equipped with our own underground tunnel system that connects every building including residences that can be especially helpful when you want to avoid Ottawa’s wintertime brutality or sprint to class a little faster.
Dream Job: I’ve always had a difficult time deciding between a travel related career to feed my wanderlust or a medically related career for my passion to help others so I guess if I were to marry the two I’d be looking to be a travel nurse or maybe an international tour guide/pediatrician (I’ll keep you posted on that one though).
What is your connection to mental illness?
My connection with mental illness is really one that stretches over my entire lifetime. My mom has worked as an Autism Support Worker for twenty-five years that has luckily allowed me to meet many of her clients. As a result, my mom’s career made me realize at a very young age that we are not all entirely the same and that’s something to celebrate rather than fear. On a more personal level, I have depression, generalized and social anxiety, and body dysmorphia all co-existing since I was around the age of thirteen. In terms of my physical health, I also suffer from a disease called ulcerative colitis that I was told by many of my doctors does happen to make me more vulnerable to the mental health disorders I possess. Some days really are harder than others, and through the support of my family and one especially kind psychologist I’m extremely grateful to say more often than not I can usually end every day on top.
How do you deal with stress from school?
I’d like to say that I deal with stress in very productive ways at all times as if every time an important paper deadline creeps up or a midterm is approaching I handle it with poise, grace, and effortless studying. But that’s just not the case. I’ve found what helps me most with dealing with stress from school is to organize and decompress. I tend to set deadlines for myself to keep up with assignments and course material while also remembering to take breaks to spend quality time with my friends and for myself. I have grown to understand that it’s a little impossible to schedule every minute of every hour of your life, and it’s more than okay to give yourself even five extra minutes to listen to your favorite song, clear your head, and start fresh over again.
What does your campus do to help students' mental health?
I’m very proud to be a student at Carleton for the efforts that the university puts into making mental health resource availability really a major priority. Firstly, Carleton’s Health and Counseling office has two specialists, three G.P Psychotherapists, and over ten different counselors available to see students on a drop-in/referral basis as well as a substance abuse program targeted towards alcohol and marijuana usage. Also, Carleton’s Health and Counseling offers a residence only office set aside for short-term counseling with three counselors of its own, an adorable therapy dog named Blue, a wellness space for group therapy, and mental health related workshops.
If that wasn’t enough, Carleton University’s Student Association (or CUSA) puts on two-weeks of mental health awareness activities and promotion known as “Pop the Stigma” to encourage and educate students on mental health illnesses. Finally, there are several mental health clubs on campus that are actively engaging the Carleton community through all types of events such as the Student Alliance for Mental Health (SAMH) and Carleton’s chapter of jack.org.
Do you have any school year self care tips to share with other students?
After spending four years in university, I feel like I might be able to give a few pointers that have helped me cope with the demand and change that comes along with this chapter of life.
1. Don’t forget to breathe! After my first appointment ever with my psychologist, I left dumb founded really on one particular point she had made. She had told me that somewhere along the way I had forgotten to breathe properly. At that moment, I laughed the comment off suggesting I must be breathing just fine if I’m sitting in front of her. However, she suggested I try to breathe in from my diaphragm or “belly” without moving my chest while holding the inhale for a few seconds before slowly exhaling for a few seconds. I attempted it and could admit that I felt a bit better after a few times. This point stuck with me and I remind myself very often to take a moment to be aware of my breathing and get it back under control especially before the start of an exam, the start of an assignment, or even checking my grades.
2. Get out of your comfort zone (as comfortably or uncomfortably as you’d like) I have personally found university to be a whirlwind of opportunities and a fantastic time for doing a little “soul-searching”. At first, I can admit I was often too afraid to extend myself to new things and more importantly people so I started slow. I took to volunteering and participating in clubs I found interesting which eventually lead me to the clubs I remain in today and my sorority I so proudly became a part of. I feel that even if you’re afraid to take that initial step, it is often worthwhile but you should keep in mind your level of comfort and start from wherever you are first.
3. Try your best to eat/sleep/repeat It’s cliché, but extremely important to get that beauty rest and eat those veggies! It’s very easy to get into patterns of eating poorly and sleeping poorly, but if you can try little by little to gear towards getting 7-8 hours and opting for something a little healthier it will pay off greatly physically and mentally too.
4. Find your passion When I was growing up, my parents directed a lot of my focus towards academics and I was never really encouraged to look much into different hobbies or sports. This left me to find mine on my own and I’m happy to say I spend a lot of my extra time day dreaming of places I can travel, taking pictures of things I’d really like to remember or share, and watching Netflix (yes it’s a hobby and a lifestyle). These hobbies of mine really let me escape the pressures of school work for some moments and it’s really what has helped me in the great balancing act that is student life.