Our Lifestyle Panel examines the benefits of reading week for post-secondary students, an Ohio school gets a lesson in teaching kindness and consent, plus just how harmful is a broken heart?

Winter Break for post-secondary students

Many post-secondary students in Alberta are heading back to class this week. It marks the end of the winter term reading break at most institutions, where students are given a few days off from classes to catch up or take a break from their workload. There is also a reading break in the fall semester. The reprieve is intended to support students’ mental health.

Dr. Janet Miller from Mount Royal University says it’s a particularly stressful time for students who are feeling the pressure to keep up with assignments and prepare for exams, and the days off are a much-needed break and very appreciated.

Learning to manage that stress is a life skill that will serve students now and for the rest of their careers. And while built-in breaks can be helpful, Deepika Mittra warns that it also needs to be an ongoing consideration. We all need to learn to find time to sleep, to connect with friends and family, and to balance everything well so that we don’t burn out. And Dr. Ganz Ferrance says the earlier we learn these skills, the healthier we will be as we age.

Balancing kindness and consent

A policy at a school in Utah, aimed at promoting kindness and inclusivity among its students, required them to say yes when asked to dance. Some parents raised alarms, saying it sends mixed messages around consent. The policy was changed before the school’s Valentine’s Day dance.

Dr. Ganz Ferrance says while the intention was good, this policy was a terrible idea. Children should not be taught to sacrifice their own boundaries to make someone else feel good. Instead, teach them how to ask politely, and more importantly, how to handle being turned down.

Staff and teachers can create an inclusive environment by starting a line dance or the chicken dance, bringing groups together on the dance floor.

A broken heart can actually be bad for your health. Is it time to take grief more seriously?

If you count yourself among those who have been rejected or you’ve lost someone you love, take heart; the pain who felt was real. Scientists say a broken heart can cause as much damage as a heart attack, and the stress of losing a relationship can permanently weaken your heart.

Deepika Mittra says we all need to take loss and grieving more seriously, instead of brushing it off too quickly. She says people are often uncomfortable talking about it, and perhaps don’t know how to support those around them. But having a safe space to go through the process and talk about your feelings is very important to your mental health.

Our experts agree that you should not try to suffer through alone. Instead, reach out for support and allow yourself as much time as you need to move through all of your emotions.

Our Lifestyle Panel this week includes: Deepika Mittra, stress expert and self-care advocate; Dr. Ganz Ferrance, Registered Psychologist with the Ferrance Group and Dr. Janet Miller, Registered Psychologist from Mount Royal University.