The Counselling Centre

The Counselling Centre

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The Counselling Centre is holding a Well Wednesday event on November 30, 2016.

The Counselling Centre provides a broad range of confidential services all free of charge to students currently registered and attending classes at Saint Mary's.

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We offer individual personal counselling, academic & life skills coaching and consultations. Our team of professionals will help you meet your academic and personal goals. We understand how stressful university life can be and how making small changes can have a huge impact. Staff are generalists in their training with experience working with University students.

We try our best to respond as quickly as possible to meet the needs of our students. We are not an emergency clinic therefore we will refer all emergencies to the QEII Emergency Department (18 and over), located on Robie Street or the IWK Emergency Department (younger than 18), located on South Street.

Our hours during the academic year are 8:30am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-4:30pm and during the summer 8:30am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-4:00pm.

When students first come to The Counselling Centre they are required to complete an intake form which takes 5-10 minutes. Students who have never used the services of The Counselling Centre have the opportunity to drop in for their first session, in order to be seen immediately when it best suits their schedule. You will meet with our Intake & Programs Coordinator for approximately 30 minutes to discuss your concerns and options. Drop in times are as follows: Monday/Thursday/Friday: 1pm-4pm and Tuesday/Wednesday: 8:30am-11:30am.

All new students for Academic & Life Skills Coaching also have an opportunity for a drop in session first. Drop in times for this service are offered Monday: 8:30am-11:30am and Tuesday: 1pm-4pm.

Note: Drop in times are subject to change. Students are seen on a first come-first served basis. Subsequent appointments for Counselling and Coaching will be scheduled for set times.

Returning students can book an appointment for personal counselling and/or academic & life skills coaching by calling 902-420-5615, emailing or dropping by our office, 4th Floor, Student Centre (turn left once you get off the elevator) or you can book online.

Morneau Shepell offers 24/7 free, confidential phone, email and web counselling to Saint Mary's students. If you are an emergency or crisis after hours, please contact Morneau-Shepell at 1-855-649-8641 and tell them you need immediate assistance. This service is confidential and you will speak with a Counsellor right away if you are in crisis.

To view Morneau Shepell's new student support website visit and be sure to check out the articles on: Managing stress with yoga, mental health myths, etc.

What is Peer Support?

Peer Support happens in a relationship between people who have experiences in common. This could be a mental illness, stress or anxiety, a difficult time in life, or university adjustment. Peer Supporters offer their fellow students emotional and social support as they too have struggled.  This support is grounded in hope, empowerment, and recovery.

Peer Support focuses on health and recovery rather than on illness and disability. Supporters can help individuals move towards a greater sense of self-confidence and wellbeing.

All students are welcome to visit a Peer Supporter during drop-in hours. Peer Support can be an additional resource from students already seeking treatment as well as a safe, confidential space for students to talk to a trained peer.

Who are my Peer Supporters?

Peer Supporters are students who have experience dealing with mental health concerns. These students are trained within the Stay Connected Mental Health Project and The Counselling Centre to support their peers through active listening, goal-setting, and resource referral. As students, Supporters understand how stressful university life can be. Peer Supporters are here to help with a lot of mental health concerns including managing stress, coping strategies, relationship problems, and referrals to other important resources.

Sexual Assault Brochure & Sexual Misconduct Reporting Referral Form

Addictions Community-Based Services Program Schedule

For more information on mental health and life balance please visit

Healthy Minds is now available for free for iPhone, iPad, iPad mini and iPod Touch through the App Store or through and, where printable promotional materials are also available.

Transitions is a free mental health booklet. To view the booklet please click the link .

The Counselling Centre has various mental health initiatives we have developed which include: how to help a student in distress, SMU Talks for Faculty and Staff, WellTrack an online mood tracker for students and much more.

SMU offers some great InBalance Wellness programs. Please visit to view upcoming events/sessions being held.

November Thoughts from The Counselling Centre

Sleep Hygiene

How many hours of sleep did you get last night? If you are like many university students, the answer is “not enough”. As you wrap up the semester at Saint Mary’s with this final month of classes, we focus on the importance of sleep hygiene and also, provide some suggestions on how to fall asleep.

“I need more hours in a day”

You may have heard that 8 hours of sleep per night is recommended for most adults. Unfortunately, many university students develop routines in which they get far less sleep than they should. Even though academic responsibilities alone can be the equivalent of a full-time job, it is unlikely that your activities and commitments end there (if they do, lucky you!). When academic, work, and personal responsibilities increase, it is easy to make the mistake of sacrificing sleep to accommodate your busy schedule.

“I’m not convinced…what are the benefits of getting enough sleep?”

Although it can be tempting to give up sleep when your workload increases, try to minimize doing this if at all possible. Optimal performance in university is closely tied to proper sleep habits. With enough sleep you are:

- More likely to stay physically healthy.

- Better able to concentrate. Obviously this has implications for taking in information during class, making efficient use of study time, completing assignments, and staying focused during exams.

- Less likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

- More likely to have the necessary energy and motivation to stay on top of your studies.

- More likely to retain important information when studying (i.e., improved memory).

- Less likely to crave unhealthy foods.

OK, great…but I can’t fall asleep!”

Not being able to fall asleep is a problem that we all face from time to time. Here are some steps you can take to ease the transition from wakefulness to slumber. Of course, you will not be able to follow all of these suggestions, but just tweaking a few things about your sleeping habits can sometimes make a large difference the quality of your sleep.

 1) Practice good "sleep hygiene". Get yourself ready for sleep by relaxing a few hours before bedtime -- take a warm bath, or write in a journal or diary. You can also put a few droplets of lavender oil on your pillow. Drink a glass of warm milk, with a teaspoon of honey stirred through if you'd like. Do this just before bed but be sure to brush your teeth before bed-- the sugar in milk and honey can cause tooth decay, especially if your mouth dries out at night. Try a two-week regimen to get your body into this habit. Make notes if you discover patterns of sleep or going to bed that work. For some people, sleep can be highly ritualistic...cultivate the rituals that produce your best sleep experiences. If you don't like the taste of plain warm milk, try it by making hot chocolate with warm milk instead of water. However, if you drink hot chocolate, make sure it's caffeine-free or you won't be able to sleep.

2) Create a personalized “sleep topic”. A problem that commonly interferes with falling asleep is a “racing mind”. Has the following ever happened to you? Late in the evening when you are trying to study you feel yourself slowly drifting off. The words on the pages start to blur. Your eyelids become increasingly heavy. Your head starts to drop. You decide that this isn’t a great use of your time and drag yourself to bed. And then…instantly awake! Fully alert, thoughts racing, the stressors of today and the worries of tomorrow spinning in your head.

There is a time and a place to address stressor and worries, but while trying to fall asleep is not the time to do so. Here is where a personalized “sleep topic” can help. The goal is to replace your racing thoughts and worries with a positive, moderately interesting topic. Everyone will have their own topic, so it is important to think about what may work for you. The trick is to settle on a topic that is personally interesting but not too exciting and also, something that is not a problem to be solved (as you want to return to this topic whenever you cannot fall asleep). The topic could be virtually anything that is relevant to you. Some examples: A person interested in photography may think about the locations she would like to shoot. A person interested in computers may think about future upgrades. Someone who likes to cook may think about possible recipes for the coming week. A person with a favorite hockey team may imagine the changes he would make as coach. If the topic is interested enough (but not so exciting that it keeps you awake), you will not be pulled back into your worrisome thoughts and will slowly drift off with your mind filled with pleasant thoughts. Note: It may take trial and error to find the “perfect” topic, but once your have it this is great technique for falling asleep.

3) Make sure you have a comfortable bed in which you can get a good night's sleep. Buy a decent mattress. A mattress is worth more than you think, considering you use it every night, so don't hold back! If you're too hot or cold, add or remove blankets until comfortable. Adjust the temperature so it is cooler than usual, but not too cold. Make sure to stock up on blankets if you do this. If you have time, consider cleaning your room before trying to get to bed. Having a clean room can be calming when trying to fall asleep. A messy room will distract most people, and it can make you feel uncomfortable.

4) Read. Reading will help the mind focus on only one thing, instead of racing about the day's activities. Read something calming rather than an exciting thriller novel. Nonfiction would be a good choice. Avoid reading your textbooks – it is not a great idea to associate your study material with falling asleep!

5) Adjust the lights to a level you are comfortable with. For optimal results, a pitch black room with no lights helps you sleep better through the night. If you have an alarm clock that is lighting up half the room as you try to sleep, turn it around or cover it with a towel. Most cell phones have an alarm on them, so you can use that instead of a bright, bulky alarm clock. If you must have mild illumination in your bedroom (e.g. glowing face of digital clock, night light), remember that red wavelengths of light generally are not as disruptive to sleep cycles as blue or green wavelengths. If you need to sleep during the day, use eye covers.

6) Get into a comfortable position, loosen any tight restrictive clothing. Position yourself comfortably on your back in bed, with your arms by your side. If you are uncomfortable with any way your body feels on the bed, correct it immediately, e.g., your body's weight on your arm is too strong, or your hip feels awkward--change position quickly until you're completely comfortable.

7) Practice deep breathing. If you're having trouble trying to sleep, try a deep breathing exercise. For example, lie on your back in bed and breathe in deeply for three counts, watching your stomach rise, and then breathe out for three counts. Do this for about ten minutes and then switch so you're lying on your right, and repeat the breathing process.

8) Imagine yourself sinking into the mattress, Starting from the very tips of your toes. In your mind, begin to "acknowledge" everything around you that all your senses are experiencing. For example: Say to yourself (not out loud), "I hear the clock ticking. I smell the lotion I just applied to my hands. I feel my legs' weight on the bed. I hear my spouse/partner breathing. I see different shades of black. I hear the dog barking in the distance. I hear myself in my own mind talking.", etc. This should help to clear your mind by slowly acknowledging everything and subsequently dismissing it. Stay on your back, sunk into the mattress until you feel it is time to roll into your desired position.

9) Pray or meditate. Whatever is on your mind is probably there for a reason. When you pray, do it the way you are supposed to. Dismiss whatever it is racing through your mind, and forget about the situation. If meditating, visualize yourself addressing your thoughts and resolving them. Or, meditate on a calming word or phrase. As you do so, it helps you to lower your heart rate and relax your muscles, making it easier for you to lie down and fall asleep. Many times this will work because you no longer have that burden on your mind and you can relax enough to fall asleep.

10) Give your brain an exercise. Imagine yourself walking down a flight of stairs counting as you descend. Also, try doing mathematical calculations in your mind, for example, think of two or three digit numbers and add them up in your mind. Try counting backwards by threes or fours: 100, 97, 94... You may find that you are asleep before you get to 0. If you're still awake try a bigger number and count slower.

11) Think of something very calming. Perhaps picture a waterfall. This can get your mind away from distractions of life. Pretend that you are floating on a river. Look up and see the blue sky and feel the water below you. Picture your ideal fantasy and try to play it out in your head. Also, try imagining that you are in a perfect room. What would it look like? What color is it? What's in it? Imagine yourself lying in it. Why is it so relaxing to you? Imagining yourself in this perfect room focuses your mind on relaxation.

12) Start the habit of using your bed only for sleeping. Do not read, play video games, etc. because then your body will be used to doing those things while in bed and make you more awake.

13) Sing a song in your head. Pick a song that you know very well and sing all of the lyrics in your head. You can also plan to listen to music while you sleep. Listen to the softer songs of your favorite band. If you have trouble blocking out sounds around you (especially in an apartment building) then wear a set of earbud headphones to bed with some language tapes running. Listening to the language tapes provides you with a soothing voice that is talking in a very mellow tone and has the bonus of reinforcing your knowledge of the language while you sleep.

14) Start relaxing and stop thinking about falling asleep. Relax your mind and think about how you picture your life in 20 years. Do not think about falling asleep, this will stop you from doing so. Try chilling your pillow for two minutes in the fridge. Even on a cold day, it will relax your head and the rest of the body will follow.

15) Have a three hour famine. If you want to sleep easily and soundly, the time for dinner is at least 3 hours before bedtime.

16) Explore a place in your mind. Get into a comfortable position, relax your eyes, and breathe. Then begin exploring and walking in a familiar and calming place in your mind and pay attention to every small detail. Be sure to block out any other thoughts. Focus only on walking.

17) Think of the dream that you want to have that night.

18) Avoid clocks. Turn all your clocks away from you and make sure that they don't tick when everything is quiet. This constant reminder that time is passing and you are still awake raises your stress level and makes it harder to sleep, plus it’s just annoying. Alternately you can concentrate on the ticking noise and fall asleep.

19) Get up and move. If you haven't fallen asleep for the past 30 minutes then get up, read a book, write in a journal, or listen to soft music. Anything that is relaxing. Getting up to do something peaceful will calm you down so you are more likely to feel relaxed when you get back in bed. Just sitting in a comfortable chair with the lights off, or looking out the window for a few minutes, can help you relax and make it easier to fall asleep.

20) Create a calm area. It's much easier to get to sleep if it's quiet and dark. Close all the blinds tightly and wear earplugs if needed. A peaceful environment helps you have a peaceful sleep. Tell yourself you're tired this may not work for some people but for others it is very effective. Convince yourself that you are really tired and your brain will follow these signals and actually make you tired.

21) Compile a playlist on a MP3 player. Compile a playlist of relaxing and soothing songs. Try not to include songs that will make you want to sing. Turn the volume down as low as possible but make sure the music is still audible.

22) Try ambient music. Ambient music is supposed to give natural background noise, and with a little searching, you will likely find one thing that works.

23) Try not to eat carbohydrates too close to bed time; eat a reasonably light meal of protein, fat, and vegetables for your evening meal--save carbs for earlier in the day.

24) Keep a regular schedule. If everyday you take 3 hours or so to fall asleep, then you may be suffering from insomnia. What you can do is take strict bed times: go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.

25) Try looking upward gently while your eyes are closed (like trying to look at your forehead with your eyes closed.) This makes your mind think that you are sleeping- making you fall asleep faster.

26) If your mind races with thoughts, keep a notebook or journal by the bed and write them down so you can rest your mind and not worry about forgetting that thought.

27) Massage your leg and arm muscles. If you are very active your body may be restless at night.

28) Find something that makes a very quiet, steady sound. A small fan on low setting or a real, non-electric, ticking watch. For some the sound will induce stress and make sleep harder, but for some, the steady beat of the ticking (because a watch has many smaller ticks inside of the tick-tock-tick-tock), or the quiet hum that the electric motor in the fan makes can be very peaceful.

29) Eat a banana before bed. The magnesium in the banana will help your muscles to relax. Some people believe that eating protein-enriched foods as a snack will help slow the mind so it can focus on sleeping. So a small pack of nuts or trail mix may be helpful.

30) Exercise during the late afternoon.

31) Do not watch T.V. or use the computer to help you go to sleep.

32) Keep pets out of your room while sleeping.

33) Focus on the color black you "see" when you close your eyes. Deflect any other thought that arrives, as it will hinder your ability to focus on black. It is a difficult task initially, but if you can stick to it, it may help you fall asleep much faster.

Happy zzzzzzzzzzz from The Counselling Centre!