Henry John, History PhD student and Teacher Assistant, has a message for students at UBC: take time out from your studies to nurture your mental and physical wellbeing. This is especially important during the month of December when final paper deadlines are approaching and exams are looming.
“Navigating life as a graduate student and meeting the pressures required to succeed were weighing heavy on me.”
Henry takes care of his mental health by practicing yoga and meditation regularly during the week. He finds these practices help him stay calm and more productive during hours of research, writing, teaching, and marking. He is also a passionate yoga teacher outside of academia, and teaches classes at both the UBC Yoga Club and Semperviva Yoga in Kitsilano.
Henry was introduced to yoga during his first year at UBC when his mental health was challenged. After moving from the UK to Vancouver to pursue his master’s degree, he was feeling lonely and falling deeper into depression each day. He explains, “Navigating life as a graduate student and meeting the pressures required to succeed were weighing heavy on me.” At a crisis point, Henry didn’t leave his apartment for over two weeks and lived off of pancake mix when he ran out of groceries.
Things shifted for Henry after a new friend recommended he try a yoga class. The yoga class offered him a space free from distractions to focus on his breath, movement, and relaxation. After just one class, he began to feel better. From that point on, yoga has become central to Henry’s Life, and a necessary tool to ride the wave of stress that comes with graduate studies. During a break between his MA and PhD at UBC, Henry moved to Victoria and completed his yoga teacher training at Moksana Yoga.
Tools for a Healthy Study/Life Balance
“I find taking a pause for yoga, exercise, or meditation actually creates time for me because my ability to concentrate improves drastically.”
Whether it’s yoga or another activity: take breaks, walks, and naps to ensure you have energy to finish your paper and study for your exam. If you are not well, your school work will reflect that.
Don’t forget that most people have a concentration capacity of less than an hour and require a break to continue. As explained by Henry, “I find taking a pause for yoga, exercise, or meditation actually creates time for me because my ability to concentrate improves drastically.”
If you’re strapped for time or money, Henry suggests downloading the Insights Timer app. It’s a free app filled with easy meditations that can help with sleep, stress, or relaxation. For students suffering from insomnia, he recommends any of the yoga nidras (sleep meditations) by Jennifer Piercey, one of Henry’s yoga teachers from Victoria.
If you’re interested in pursuing yoga at UBC, try the UBC Yoga Club. It’s an amazing yoga program that offers students, faculty, and staff classes for only $2 per class. The mission is to make yoga physically and financially accessible to all. Try one of Henry’s classes or find out more here: https://ubcyogaclub.com/
You can also check out UBC Recreation for other ideas: https://recreation.ubc.ca/fitness-classes/programs-classes/yoga-pilates/
Please note, UBC has mental health support, check out their website to find out more: https://students.ubc.ca/health/counselling-services
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