The University of Winnipeg



Exploring compassion during Mental Health Week

A woman stands outside the Wellness Centre.

Kathryn Fix is a Clinical Coordinator and Counsellor with UWinnipeg’s Student Counselling Services, located in the Wellness Centre.

May 6-12 is Mental Health Week in Canada. This year’s theme is Compassion Connects.

Compassion is the practice of meeting suffering with kindness. Compassion is about being kind to others and extending that same kindness to ourselves.

Kathryn Fix, Clinical Coordinator and Counsellor with The University of Winnipeg’s Student Counselling Services, located in the Wellness Centre on the first floor of Duckworth Centre (1D24), said compassion plays a vital role in mental health.

Check in with your self-talk, especially when going through difficult or stressful times.

Kathryn Fix

“When we offer compassion to others, it can not only improve our own mood, but also releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone which helps reduce stress,” Fix said. “When we practice self-compassion, it helps us manage challenging situations better, makes us more satisfied in our life, and makes it easier to stay motivated, even after a setback.”

Practicing compassion in workplace and classroom settings can enhance interpersonal relationships and create supportive atmospheres.

“Offer empathy to those around you, and try to understand where people and their feelings are coming from,” Fix said. “Offering encouragement and positive reinforcement to colleagues and classmates and celebrating even the smallest of wins can boost morale and foster a positive environment.”

Inclusivity is another dimension of compassion.

“Make efforts to include all group members in discussion and activities, and ensure everyone feels valued and listened to,” Fix said. “Also, be attentive to signs someone may be struggling, either emotionally or with their academic workload. Reach out privately to express concern and offer support or resources.”

Often, we’re our own harshest critic. Negative self-talk can make it difficult to practice compassion with ourselves, especially during stressful times of the academic year. Fix shared some helpful tips to help those trying to incorporate more self-compassion into their daily life.

“First, check in with your self-talk, especially when going through difficult or stressful times like exams, presentations, or receiving a lower mark than expected,” Fix said. “If you’re slipping into that negative internal dialogue, take a moment and ask yourself, ‘How might I speak to a friend if the same thing happened to them?’ Then apply that response toward yourself.”

Mindfulness, or being present in the moment, also fosters self-compassion.

“Notice non-judgmentally any thoughts, feelings or sensations that arise,” Fix said. “Try not to label or define the moment but just observe with curiosity.”

Scheduling a self-compassion break is another strategy.

“This can be helpful if you are noticing your inner critic is particularly loud,” Fix said. “Be intentional by stopping whatever you’re doing, and do something for yourself. Go for a walk or call a good friend.”

Social media and mental well-being

An upcoming UWinnipeg webinar will explore the topic of social media and mental well-being. Join the Wellness Centre on Wednesday, May 15 from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. for this special edition of Webinar Wednesday.

A Peer Wellness Educator will dive into social media usage from a student perspective, unpacking the importance of being mindful online, and sharing tips and tricks for a healthier social media experience. Registration is available online.

All week long, use the hashtags #CompassionConnects and #MentalHealthWeek in your social media posts about Mental Health Week.

Explore wellness resources

Mental Health Week is a great time to review the Student Wellness section of the UWinnipeg website. There you’ll find information on campus wellness services, including the free counselling and health services offered to all students in the Wellness Centre.

The Student Wellness homepage also includes a link to the Wellness Hub, an online portal that connects you to mental health educational resources, online tools, and individual counselling.

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