Throughout the Fall semester, TRSM’s Academic Success Centre will be sharing a series of articles related to the pillars that guide their work.

The next pillar is Fostering Student Wellness.

Following Madelyn Steed’s article introducing the pillars of the Academic Success Centre and discussing student transitions, this article explores the concept of wellness, some different approaches to wellness, and strategies offered by some of our team members.

Defining Wellness

First off, what do we mean when we say ‘wellness’?  

According to the World Health Organization’s glossary of new health promotion terms (2006), wellness is:

  • the optimal state of health of individuals and groups,
  • the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and
  • the fulfilment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings

Members of the Academic Success Centre professional and student staff described wellness as:

  • Being in balance with inner and outer self; being comfortable in your own skin and with your surroundings. – Maria, ITM100 Breakout Group Facilitator
  • Taking care of the whole individual in order to function more effectively. – Joana Londono, Learning Strategist
  • Balance of positive thoughts, energy, healthy eating habits, respect for nature, and exercise. – Ana Paula, ITM100 Breakout Group Facilitator
  • Wellness is complex, yet uniquely important and varies from person to person. It involves connecting parts of one person and their life in meaningful ways. Wellness is a cycle of continual self-care: taking care of yourself in all aspects. –Sheena Ewan, ASC Administrator
  • Being about relationships. The relationship with yourself – which includes many aspects: spiritual, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, work, financial and environmental. Nurturing all your relationship with yourself and with others requires different inputs at different times. To me, wellness is about being in touch when with those relationships and making thoughtful use of the resources around you to replenish and grow. – Madelyn Steed, Manager, Academic Support

My Wellness Journey and Habits

I’m a reluctant “health/wellness practice-r”. Growing up, the couch was my friend and gym wasn’t one of my favourite classes. I attended a music school, and many of my hobbies involved the arts. My immediate family was not the most active – we really like TV and movies!

My first venture and commitment to health and wellness activities occurred when I moved to BC for my first professional role. Being new to the city and adjusting to a job that was at times quite demanding, I sought ways to relieve stress outside of my work environment, once I felt I understood my job. A colleague invited me to try yoga – hot yoga at that – for the first time. Having a music background, I explored and joined choirs in the community.

The author practising yoga

When I returned to live and work in Toronto, my sister was a huge support and reason why I got involved with regular yoga and running. Benefiting from a host of free offerings with Lululemon and Tribe Fitness, I actually got out to yoga classes and running groups in large part because I would have the chance to catch-up with my sister. She has proven to be an incredible accountability partner.

Truthfully, I don’t enjoy “working out” and getting sweaty. So if something comes up in our schedules and I know my sister can’t go that night… I probably won’t either. But the times we do make it out to class (which we are fairly good about!), it’s cherished time. We support each other, make sure we laugh even if we are not doing every vinyasa or keeping up with the fastest runners. And that for me defines my wellness. It’s about relationships and feeling connected.

Other Wellness Strategies

  • “Wellness looks like REALLY getting to know what you need to keep yourself feeling good, mentally focused and soulfully connected. Most important though is ALLOWING yourself to take the time for wellness. This could be a stretch break every hour, disconnecting from your phone, reaching out to to friends or co-workers, and making space for fun and laughter.” – Sheena E.
  • “I take care of myself by trying to eat well, sleeping enough hours, exercising and performing other activities that bring me joy, as well as physical and emotional health. In my case, such activities are meeting positive-minded friends, taking long walks, mediating, taking self-improvement courses, and practicing with my bow, among others.” – Joana L.
  • “Focusing on my intellectual wellness lately, I have enjoyed listening to audiobooks on my way into work or on a walk through the park by my house. Lately, I have also enjoyed Hidden Brains podcasts.” – Madelyn S.

Our Commitment to Fostering Wellness

The programs and supports we offer through the Academic Success Centre are meant to help foster student wellness as well as help students recognize gaps in their wellness, which may be impacting their learning experience and academic performance. The work of the Learning Strategist, Peer Academic Coaches and the Guided Academic Planning Program (GAPP) help students recognize and understand challenges they encounter with things like time management and self-regulation, which may be impeding their progress towards their individual academic goals. The team of Student Support Specialists, under the guidance of the ASC Administrator, provide support to many TRSM students, faculty, staff and community members with regards to wayfinding, referrals and resources beyond the TRS building. The many breakout session facilitators for BUS100 and ITM100 serve as important upper-year peer mentors to many of our first-year students navigating the transition to university. And our Academic Peer Helpers (tutors) can help our students build confidence in their courses and academic performance.

This pillar of fostering wellness is of critical importance to the work that our department does, and informs how the professional team decides which projects to take on and develop. Given that we employ more than 150 student staff employees throughout the year, we know that we have the opportunity to greatly impact their staff experience and always prioritize their personal well-being and success as students.

As a newly formed professional team, we have learned how essential it is to acknowledge our own wellness and weave conversations about wellness and supporting each other’s efforts.

To be well, it’s all about connection.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Visit the Academic Success Centre for more tips, tools and support!

Posted by Dan Cantiller

Dan Cantiller is a learning specialist and Student Affairs professional working at the TRSM Academic Success Centre. Dan focuses on academic success and transition support, and has interests in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and leadership. Dan has an Hon.BSc in Biology and Psychology from the University of Toronto, an ARCT diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and a certificate in Student Affairs and Services from Seneca College. Currently, Dan is studying Aboriginal Knowledges & Experiences through the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson. Pronouns: he/him/his