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The ABCs of Fall 2021

headshot of Tanya Spencer
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Tanya Spencer
Lead Student Counselling and Chaplaincy

Hello everyone and welcome back. We’ve been busy getting the place ready for you – so glad you could join us. I’m excited to relay a few tidbits that might come in handy and brag about our burgeoning readiness for on-campus service.

A – Apprehension
Reactions to the fall semester are, to say the least, mixed. Mixed because it seems there is a wide range of opinions about every little thing and mixed because many are truly torn about the whole thing. It feels like a very judge-y time. Maybe you are totally ‘over’ this whole (new) c-word thing (I’ve decided I like the old c-word better) and are losing patience with folks who aren’t quite there yet.

Organizations and the province have spent the better part of a year scaring the pants off all of us, hoping it will coax us to do the ‘right thing’. While many of us have and most of us can shed that engineered apprehension, there are some of us who haven’t yet or, even pre-covid, had a natural tendency to overthink, ruminate, and imagine the perfect scenario. Do you recall my bold prediction from a previous article – the return to public life is, in my view, likely going to be more wrought than the shutdown. Many of your schoolmates tell me they want to know the ‘proper’ reaction to all of this so they can compare their own experience – this is baked into the experience of anxiety (it likes to create ways to stick around.).

I see a lot of contention over whether ‘those people’ are rushing things, not rushing things enough, being irresponsible, needlessly fussy, etc. What happened to the chance to notice our own reactions and act accordingly?

A – Approval vs. Acceptance
Strategy of the day #1: one can accept something without approving of it, noting this might take a little practice. Perhaps the mix of in-person and virtual in your program is not to your liking. This is particularly found in our first A. Some feel forced to return to campus when their brains are screaming ‘Don’t do it! How can this be fair!’ But the consequences of not returning could outweigh the prospect of falling short academically.

B – Belonging
A major factor in maintaining our health is feeling like we have a ‘home.’ For some of us, that’s our families – either biological or ‘logical.’For some, the post-secondary experience revolves around adopting a new community and getting excited about feeling a part of it. Those of us getting campus ready for you are very excited to see people back as we discover together what social conventions develop and what safety measures apply when. We consider you a member of our club already. You are the reason we exist and we are happy to make your campus experience a fulfilling one–irrespective of whether you are here in person or zapping in on photons.

C – Conviction
My hunch is, by attending NAIT, you have a goal in mind. For some, it’s to gain a credential. Some are biding their time until true inspiration strikes. For some, it’s to feed themselves or their kids. For others, it’s to get out of that craphole of a job or apartment or personal circumstance. Goals, goals, goals.

Goals are fine, until life interferes and, suddenly, that goal is out of reach. Or, some would argue, a worse circumstance: you achieve the goal with a lot of effort and personal cost and…. it ends up ringing hollow. Can I talk you into something that might offer greater rewards in the end and greater stamina in the meantime? Values-based living. (OK, I know it might sound corny – bear with me.)Bettering your education, even by a class at a time, and the resulting boost in income is hands-down the best way to invest in your wellness. So, hear me now and believe me later, the trials and frustrations of school are all a reflection of care. Caring for yourself, your family, your kids–who-ever does or will depend on you.

Valuing this ability outpaces the ‘goal,’ both in terms of long-term reward and the stamina you’ll need for the day-to- day. Living by our values also offers the chance to ‘stand for something’ when circumstances, our health, or other people fail to cooperate. School is hard work, even for the ‘naturally talented.’

S – Strategies
Just yesterday, I chatted with one of your schoolmates (who gave permission to relay this example). In brief, he was proud to report that he reviewed what is suggested below, digested it for a while, before going all Jordan Peterson on himself and kicking into a whole new gear.

Admittedly, after a long simmer, this transformation happened remarkably quickly. However, he is so thrilled to be living the life he wants on his own terms instead of wasting endless hours feeling trapped in his room, ruminating, horrified that others might think him inadequate or morally bankrupt. The exhilaration in his voice was priceless.

If you are looking for something that might help you decide how to tackle this next semester, here are a few potential YouTube-infused experiments under “The Happiness Trap” banner:

  • Values vs. Goals
  • The Struggle Switch
  • Internal Struggles (The Chessboard)
  • Facing Covid – even if covid isn’t ‘the thing,’ a newsy overview of the total approach
  • Three Happiness Myths
  • And don’t forget stuff to do: Dropping Anchor or Leaves on a Stream

Good luck, my friends. Don’t forget you can always ask questions about this or any other thing at counselling@nait. ca (mention this article) and most Wednesdays at noon during Ask a Psychologist (find the link on Ookslife.ca).

Lastly, may I please mention that Student Counselling remains open for virtual service and we are adding limited in-person service starting Wed Sep 8 at all campuses. Find details at my.nait.ca/counselling.

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