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A Mental Health Journey – Weeks 6

After a stressful week of exams, assignments, and the overwhelming push of life in general, Gabriella was feeling overwhelmed. Postponing the memory exercise, the counsellor instead chose to focus on helping Gabriella address her feelings of anxiety from the week before.

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By Katherine Gibson (The Cascade) – Email

Online March 31, 2014

When we last saw Gabriella she had just handed a list of memories over to UFV’s counsellors and was waiting with anticipation to discuss and decipher them.

However, after a stressful week of exams, assignments, and the overwhelming push of life in general, Gabriella was feeling overwhelmed. Postponing the memory exercise, the counsellor instead chose to focus on helping Gabriella address her feelings of anxiety from the week before.

“After we last spoke, I had a week of ‘I have so much to do, why can’t I just do this?’ … I had a midterm coming up and just silly little things that I had to do,” explains Gabriella. “We start every session and we breathe, check in, and feel what thoughts are going through [my] head,” she goes on, “pinpoint them and analyze them … and then breathe them out.”

One of the techniques suggested by the counsellor was to use “one minute” reflections. Although a method explained to Gabriella during past sessions, the reinforcement of it helped Gabriella centre on what she was feeling and the negative effects of the stress on her body.

“A minute feels different clock-time verses focusing on one thought — you notice sensations,” says Gabriella. “If you’re feeling stressed, for instance, your breathing becomes shallow.”

After taking the time to examine how she was feeling and relax her body, the counsellor discussed organization techniques with Gabriella. A procrastinator by nature, Gabriella recognizes her own need for deadlines to help her accomplish all the required tasks within her life, however small, noting that the extreme stress she feels sometimes cripples her.

“I’m a procrastinator; I’m a little ADD; I have a hard time focusing on little stuff,” Gabriella explains. “Just doing small tasks for me is at the point where it’s so difficult — like sending an email to someone.

“In order for me to get over the feeling of ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I sometimes have to sob — even though it’s such a small thing. It’s something that I have to do to get through it,” she goes on. “So, when stuff like that builds up … [the counsellor] told me to put it down on paper so that everything is there.”

The counsellor’s suggestion to to write every task in her life on paper is one that Gabriella sees real value in, noting that it gives her a concrete way to not only look at what needs to be done, but actively see herself completing the tasks.

“I’m someone who likes to know what I’m doing,” Gabriella says. “If I don’t know what I’m doing, I freak out and run around in circles in my brain… and then I don’t have a place to start because I’m constantly looping, not knowing where the start of the situation is.

“Some people are organized to craziness and I applaud them; I wish sometimes that I was like that — but I’m not. So I need [these] methods,” Gabriella concludes. “Sometimes it’s just for a short amount of time , like just getting through [a] weekend — to be able to look at [what I need to do] and say, ‘yeah, I can do this.’”

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