KSA Hosts Workshop on “Skillfully Responding To Stress”

Tiffany Robinson shows students how to help others and themselves during times of stress

Students participate in an active listening activity, recognizing helpful and non-helpful responses to someone in distress. (Sandra Alhunaidi)

In order to help students learn how to address their own well-being and provide support to others who are struggling, the Kwantlen Student Association held a workshop called Skillfully Responding to Stress on Oct. 12.

The workshop, which took place on KPU’s Surrey campus, was conducted by Tiffany Robinson from Youth Programs and Community Learning & Engagement in the Crisis Centre. It included a slideshow presentation, stress response activities, and a complimentary lunch.

Robinson’s approach to “skillfully responding to stress” revolves around brain science, mindfulness, and meditation principles. She encouraged participants to focus on being present during the three-hour event, which explored two major themes—how to comfort someone in distress and how to help oneself.

For comforting others, she suggests responding as a helper and letting people feel what they need to feel. According to Robinson, an active listener is empathetic, not sympathetic, and she adds that the tone and language one uses can easily make them either a helpful or unhelpful listener.

She also emphasizes the importance of “being okay with silence and acknowledging that we might not always know what to say.”

“Our presence is more powerful quite often than any words we can string together,” says Robinson.

To help yourself, she advises that you focus on self-care, inner clarity, and expressing to others what makes you feel uncomfortable. Remember that you’re a human being before you’re anything else, and that you aren’t obligated to help those in distress.

“If someone is in a state of distress, our goal is not to match that, but to be an empathetic witness if we feel like we’re in a position to offer support,” she says. “Understand there’s a lot that must be going on for them that can help us have more insight into how we can be more supportive … and ultimately, more compassionate to what they must be experiencing.”

The group then practiced a mindfulness exercise called, S.T.O.P., which stands for “Stop. Take a breath. Observe yourself and your situation. Proceed thoughtfully.” Robinson uses S.T.O.P. as a supportive tool to explain how to “de-escalate stress” and “create feelings of safety.”

Caitlin McCutchen, Kwantlen Student Association Vice President of External Affairs, wants to ensure that mental illnesses are seen as genuine health issues on campus. She is working on creating a KSA mental health campaign to “raise awareness, reduce stigma, and make sure services are available for students” called A More Mindful U.

The Association for University and College Counseling Center’s 2016 report revealed that mental health issues for students is a growing concern, with anxiety affecting 50.6 per cent and depression affecting 41.2 per cent of its participants. Relationship concerns, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and alcohol abuse were among other common mental health struggles reported by the 6,308,747 students surveyed.

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