Food for thought

Imagine trying to complete any activity on an empty stomach…  A gurgling tummy, headaches, tiredness, lethargy, dizziness, lack of concentration and nausea.  Not very pleasant, huh?

Yesterday, a NZ Herald article highlighted the financial challenges many Unitec students are facing during their studies.

A survey answered by almost 2000 of its students has found that 17 per cent agree that they “regularly go without food or other necessities because I can’t afford them”.   

Half of all students, including two-thirds of Maori students, said their income was not enough to cover their living costs at some stage in the past year.

At Unitec, I manage an amazing team that actively provides financial assistance, study grants, budgeting advice and referral support for students.  The Student Support team have noticed a spike in students requiring assistance over the past year, often citing rising costs relating to rent, transportation, and food.  Whilst we are limited with what we can provide, the ability to alleviate some of the pressure is vital to keeping the student engaged and thriving in their study.

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The Unitec Student Support team:  I salute you!

What warms my heart is that there are many staff across Unitec who are also playing key roles in tending to these student needs.  I have heard of many great stories where departments and teams are offering breakfasts for students, sharing donated items, and making referring to support services if required.

I remember a few years ago when I had a career guidance session with a mature student.  She was looking to make a career change, sacrificing a lot to focus on her studies.  She came to see me so I could help her prepare for an interview that day, but she seemed tired and said she couldn’t afford any lunch.  How could she possibly present her best self at the interview on an empty stomach??  Without hesitation I bought some lunch for her.

There are some people out there who will argue that students should be prepared for the realities and challenges of study.  They should be held accountable for their actions and choices.

Yes, this is true, but I want people to understand that undertaking tertiary study can be an overwhelming experience for those who have less access to resources or role models, or are using study to create uplift for them, and their family’s life.

Basic needs come first.  Maslow’s model shows that having access to food, shelter and security are fundamental for allowing a person to grow and seek higher level needs.  When these basic needs are compromised, then this has a negative flow-on effect on the student’s study journey – priorities shift and they may dis-engage from their course.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs   (source: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html)

The current environment is challenging and costs are at an all time high.  I don’t see it getting easier anytime soon.  Now is the time for us to work together to support, encourage and empower people where we can.  Genuine, caring, humanitarian-focussed efforts need to be endorsed and supported.   The struggle is real.

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Thank you mum for being you

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Happy Mother’s Day x

My mum is one of those people who have a knowing looking in their eye.  You know, the one where you can tell them know a lot more than the let on.  No, I’m not referring to the reflection from her Lasic-corrected eye (sorry mum, but it does look like you can shoot beams from your eye), I guess it’s the mysterious, unspoken and glorious thing we call intuition or wisdom.

Mum has been retired for several years now and its been amazing to observe her, without the constraints of a busy household and a full-time job.  She now embraces a new type of busy where she involves herself in golf, fishing, spending time with nana and the rest of the family, cooking for loved ones, coffee outings with friends… she truly has a zest for life.

In years gone by she went about her life with a clear focus on supporting the family; she worked long shift-work hours as a duty manager and also maintained many aspects of the home.  She never complained, and if she felt drained or exhausted, then she never let it show.  We depended on her strength and Superwoman she was.  I remember her eyes looking focussed, determined and solid.

Before mum retired, mum started to feel exhausted and her eyes began to look tired and distant.  The years of being the backbone of the family had a been a great responsibility for her, but the pressure coming from her workplace was wearing her down.  Superwoman was not immune to kryptonite.

Mum ended up getting very unwell and it totally blind-sided her and our family.  How could this happen?  It was incredibly difficult to watch mum look so defeated and withdrawn, spending many months in hospital.  Her spirit seemed so eroded and we were unable to communicate with her for what felt like an eternity.  The burden she felt was so great.

Time heals all wounds, and gradually mum began to recover and respond.  Through sheer rest, perseverance and determination, mum slowly regained the glint in her eye.  She told us that even through the hardest days, she heard everything we said and used that as motivation to get better.  She wanted to be there for dad, me, and my sisters.

Life is so bittersweet.  What was a difficult experience for mum ended up being a blessing in disguise.  It has been amazing to watch mum blossom and grow over the past few years.  She seems so philisophical and peaceful about life and genuinely embraces each day.  She talks far more openly that she ever has before.  Her eyes are confident and she constantly reminds my sisters and I to look after ourselves and each other – family and health being the important things in life.

To the most wonderful battler/fighter/sage I know… thank you for your unending compassion, sincerity and love.  I am forever proud of everything you do and wish you a very happy Mother’s Day.

Ia Manuia le aso o Tinā.

 

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Being in the moment:  Mum & dad atop the mighty Haleakalā in Hawaii (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

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Out of the dark, comes light

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Out of the dark, comes light   (source:  www.pexels.com)

“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”

In case you’re wondering, these words came from Prince Harry a few days ago.  Click here to hear his interview.

Alongside his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they set up Heads Together, a charity which promotes good mental well-being.  A significant focus of their charity is to get people talking about mental health, without fear of judgement or reprisal.

I am deeply moved by their efforts and wholeheartedly support their message.  Having personally experienced mental illness, I was able to recover through the help and support of others.  Yes. Talking and sharing DOES help.

As a teenager I always prided myself on being a great listener and mate to my friends, but I had a tendency to be self-critical and internalised my own struggles.  It was easy to keep quiet and I would hope and pray that those feelings would go away.

University was a lonely experience and this exacerbated my feelings of self-doubt.  There were many times when I felt inadequate and I believed there was something wrong with me.  These beliefs turned into sadness, which turned into despair and feeling hopeless.  Of course I didn’t tell my friends and certainly not my family.

I recall one New Year’s Eve where I ended up leaving a party early and retreated to my bed.  I lay there and told myself that I was useless, over and over again.

Then one day at University, I suddenly felt very upset and burst into tears.  I made my way to the counselling office and was quickly seen by a lady who calmed me and spoke in a soft gentle way.  This was my very first experience with a counsellor and I would go on to several more sessions.  Whilst it was scary at first, I felt relieved to be able to offload and talk about things in a non-judgemental environment.

Depression is an ugly thing to experience… I remember the days when I felt like the world was caving in on me.  I felt utterly alone and thought that nothing good would come in my life.  Sometimes it was easy to seek comfort in being numb.

Whilst I was able to learn some coping mechanisms, my recovery would continue throughout my twenties.  There were times when I struggled to regulate my emotions, and faulty thinking would ensue, mostly of the self-loathing and self-defeating kind.

I realised this had become a pattern so re-engaging with counselling was key to processing and understanding why I felt that way.  In using techniques including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness, I was able to approach things in a more rational and calm way.

Today I feel a lot more at ease with myself and accept all my flaws, strengths, quirks… you name it!  It is such a cliche, but I have learnt to love and appreciate myself a lot more and this helps me to navigate life’s bumps when they come along.  I feel more comfortable expressing my feelings to others and I have trusted friends and family I can confide in.  Yes, I still have down days but they honestly don’t sting as much as they used to.

To those of you out there who are hurting, struggling or finding it difficult to make sense of things, do know that you’re not alone.  There are many people out there who will be feeling the same way you are and it is more common than you think.

Even though it feels hard to do, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone be it a friend, family member, colleague, classmate, counsellor or health professional.  People have a huge capacity to love and support and they wouldn’t want you to suffer in silence.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blending work with study

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Balancing study and work is not impossible.   (Source:  Pexels http://www.pexels.com)

I work Monday to Friday in a full-time role.  My days are long and there is always lots to keep me busy.  I regularly spend time with my family and friends.  I also have a partner (and a cat) and we have a mortgage to pay.

On top of this, I decided to start my Masters studies in April this year.  Busy much?  You bet!

I have previous experience balancing full-time study and work, having completed a Graduate Diploma in Career Development from 2007 to 2012.  Even though it was hard work, it was one of the most satisfying learning experiences of my life, enabling to make a successful transition into the careers industry.

No, my story is not uncommon and I am sure there are many of you who are blending work with study.  We all come with different reasons and sets of expectations.  For me, I now wish to challenge myself by creating a project that adds value to my workplace.  ‘Making a difference’ is a strong value for me.  It sounds a tad geeky, but I also am motivated by the tangible idea of gaining a post-graduate qualification.

I’ve also spoken to people who cite other reasons – study is seen as a way to improve career prospects, it can enable a career change, it is a requirement for their profession, or it purely is out of interest (gotta love life-long learners!).

After talking to friends and drawing upon my experiences, here are my tips for successfully navigating work with study….

  • Prioritise time for study.  As much as I want to dabble in lots of my interests and hobbies, I know I need to put some of these aside during my studies.  At the moment I love using Sunday mornings for reflecting and going over my study readings.
  • Know thy deadlines.  Work can go by quickly, and study is just the same. My online calendar is a vital tool and I make sure I block out key dates and times.
  • Chat with your manager.  Make them aware of your aspirations.  They may be able to support you in different ways, for example, providing study leave and creating flexibility around working hours (check if your workplace has any study policies).  Fortunately I work for an organisation that provides allocated days for study leave.
  • Be realistic about what you can do.  There is a natural tendency to want to do things as quickly as possible.  However, I suggest starting small and working your way up.  If working full-time, starting with one course is a great way to ease yourself in and acclimatise.  In future you may be able to do two or more courses if it feels manageable.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You’re going to be busy.  So be selfish with your time and make sure you ask questions.  If need be, schedule an appointment to chat with your lecturer or tutor (yes, they are open to Skype too).
  • Review at key points.  During the semester it is important to step back and look at your balance.  Where are the pressure points?  What needs addressing?
  • Know your support crew!  Study demands also seep into the lives of loved ones.  Talk to them about your studies and let them know how they can help you.  It might be that they pick up key chores, or they simply fetch you cups of tea.
  • Create a study space.  Anchor yourself with a dedicated study zone.  For me, I have placed a desk in my spare room downstairs. I have speakers set-up so I can play chilled-out music in the background (instrumental is best).
  • Familiarise with online tools and resources.  Check what’s provided by your university or institute (eg. online libraries, portals).  Use FB, Messenger, Skype, Zoom or LinkedIn to easily communicate with study colleagues.  This is especially important for those undertaking distance study.
  • BALANCE. BALANCE. BALANCE.  It takes a while to cope with all the competing demands. When things get overwhelming, breathe and take yourself out for a walk.  A clear mind is a calmer mind.

 

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Keep calm and study on.  (Source:  Pexels  www.pexels.com)

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From student to graduate

 

Another year, another successful graduation completed!

It was absolutely fantastic to see many Unitec students graduate despite the awful weather we’ve been experiencing in Auckland recently.  Even though the muggy weather left many looking like they stepped out of a sauna, this didn’t dampen (excuse the pun) the positive vibe that reverberated around the Auckland Town Hall.

To all the graduates out there… carpe diem!  Below are some pointers to think about as you embark on the next chapter of your life.

Tips for job seeking graduates…

  • Firstly, make sure you celebrate your achievement.  You deserve it!
  • Make sure your CV is tailored for the industry and job you’re applying for.  Get a friend or family member to proof-read your CV, or visit the Unitec Career Centre for expert advice.  The Careers New Zealand website has great resources too.
  • Check your spelling.  Employers loathe reading CVs littered with mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Tell everyone you know you are looking for work so they can keep an ear out for you.
  • Be strategic and research companies of interest (yes, do not not even need to wait for the job to be advertised).  Try and organise a meeting so they can get to know you.  Ask questions and leave your details with them as you never know what may come from a conversation.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and full of great content.  Include information on your study projects and voluntary work.
  • Manage your expectations.  Sending out hundreds of applications online will result in a very very small hit rate.  Be prepared to vary your job search.
  • Use your time wisely!  Set aside time to research and look for opportunities.
  • Consider engaging in voluntary work while you wait for a paid role – this will keep you busy and motivated.

Tips for those already in work…

  • Bask in the confidence gained from graduating.  Your positivity will be noticed in the workplace.
  • Consider your short term goals – how long do you wish to stay in your role?  What additional skills or experiences do you wish to gain?
  • Discuss your development with your manager.  How can they best support you?
  • If you feel like you can’t progress further in your workplace, then consider your options – is it time to consider new opportunities, or are there new skills to develop?
  • Review your skills and interests and identify your strengths and areas of development.  Have a session with a member from the Career Centre if you need help with this.
  • Don’t settle for less!  Investing in study is a huge commitment, so take control of your situation and proactively seize opportunities to grow.
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Cake by the ocean

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I recently returned from a ten day boat cruise up to New Caledonia and Vanuatu and the experience totally exceeded my expectations.  It was like a whole new (water) world was opened up to me!

My partner and I were fortunate to travel with P&O’s Pacific Pearl, the beloved New Zealand-based ship going through it’s final few trips before she departs for her new hub in the UK.  It felt weird hearing so many Kiwi accents onboard (“thunk yo”) but this was well contrasted with the myriad of accents from the ship staff.  Ka kite ano Tamaki Makaurau… hello Pacific Ocean…

 

Some of my observations…

  • The process of checking-in and checking-out of the ship is seriously efficient.  I was impressed with how quick and easy it is (heck, who needs aeroplanes?).
  • Cruise ships are HUGE.  The perception that ships feel claustrophobic or too enclosed aren’t true.  The cabin I stayed in was spacious and it was so easy to find quiet spaces around the boat.
  • Yes, we were constantly given a bit-of-stick for saying that we were from Auckland.
  • Ships do rock and roll.  Like hello, the boat moves on water!  You do get used to it after a while and it can make dancing both fun and tricky.

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    The Pearl

  • There is food galore.  The Pearl has numerous restaurants and cafes and you can order room service too.  The buffet is an impressive feat in itself and the food changes everyday.  There are also fancier restaurants for those seeking something a bit more chic and classy.
  • The decor is fresh and contemporary.  The onboard bars are stylish and elegant and wouldn’t look out of place in Britomart or Ponsonby.
  • As a music buff, I loved listening to the bands perform in different areas of the ship.  The musicians are extremely talented, playing music of all genres.
  • There is entertainment of all kinds available on the ship.  From trivia, to dance, to game shows, to live theatre, to table tennis, to movies on the deck, there is something for everyone.
  • It is a thrill to explore each of the stops.  I got to see Mare, Noumea, Lifou and The Isle of Pines in New Caledonia – these truly are picture perfect places.  I also went to the lovely and vibrant town of Port Vila in Vanuatu.
  • My partner and I purchased one of the beverage packages and where we able to have endless amounts of barista coffee each day.  It made two JAFAs very happy.
  • Everyone experiences the cruise differently.  We spoke to some people who were happy to stay on ship for the whole time (they loved sunbathing on the deck and going to the spa), and others who relished all the stops, going on every excursion available.  Whatever floats your boat right?
  • Take a pair of reef shoes with you (around $15 from The Warehouse).  It’s the best investment you’ll make.
  • The themed-party nights are fun.  Lots of people get into costume, in fact, the Great Gatsby night was one of my favourite party’s ever (flashmob + Charleston Dancing + confetti + Champagne = one helluva hootenanny).

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    Mix Bar

  • The Captain’s morning address provided a few chuckles.  “Good morning everyone, this is your Captain speaking.  Yesterday we departed Auckland and now we are in the middle of… NOWHERE!”
  • Do not mention the ‘T’ word on the ship.  And do not thrust your arms out and proclaim to be the King of the World.  It is not cool.
  • The Cabin Stewards are amazing and always made sure our rooms were serviced.  They are creative too… they left us a monkey and an elephant made out of towels!
  • You meet wonderful people on board.  We met travellers from all over New Zealand, some of whom we’ll remain in touch with.  The ability to ‘bump’ into people made it easier to keep conversations going.
  • The staff are fascinating… they live on the sea for 6-12 months at a time and they are have different reasons for embarking on their nautical careers.  The lovely cafe worker from Vanuatu said her 8 year old daughter provides the inspiration to work hard.  The young pianist from NZ said that working on the ship is a great way to see the world.  The tour director from Canada simply loves beaches and water, with the Isle of Pines a personal favourite.
  • Yes, we did end up dining with many baby-boomers.  They were all lovely to chat to and it made me wish my parents were travelling with me too.
  • Do not do a Kate Winslet and try and count up the lifeboats.  Yes, there are plenty of boats for everyone.  It is 2017 after all.
  • Um, you may be required to do the Macarena at some stage during the trip.  It just happens.

I can happily say that I enjoyed my cruise to the Islands as it was such an easy and unique way to go about my holiday.  I highly recommend it to those who haven’t thought about it before.

I leave you with some holiday snaps.  Enjoy x

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50 self care tips

Are work, study, or personal commitments draining you or getting you down?

Self care includes any deliberate actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health.

Taking ‘time out’ for yourself is not selfish act, but a necessary way for restoring energy and maintaining balance when we feel overwhelmed or exhausted.

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Be kind to yourself  (Source:  Pexels)

Here are 50 different self care ideas and tips to help put ‘you’ first. Take what you need…

  1. Go for a morning or evening walk and notice things around you.
  2. Watch your favourite film (even if it’s for the 100th time).
  3. Follow a recipe and cook a meal for you or your loved ones.
  4. Treat yourself to a massage.
  5. Crank up the volume and listen to some evocative music.  Let Spotify or Pandora become your friend!
  6. Do some slow deliberate stretches and breathe slowly… and deeply…
  7. Write a letter to a friend (by hand of course).
  8. Spend time curling up with your pet, if you have one.
  9. Complete a puzzle.  Soduku or a crossword for starters.
  10. Draw, doodle, paint, create.
  11. Get ‘lost’ in a book.
  12. Count your blessings and think of the things you are grateful for.
  13. Sing along to some power ballads.  Adele or Sam Smith are pretty good.
  14. Complete a repetitive chore that gets you moving, such as ironing or vacuuming.
  15. Phone a trusted, supportive friend.
  16. Reminisce and look at photos from years gone by.
  17. Water the plants or do a spot of gardening.
  18. Jam on a musical instrument.
  19. Get creative with a lego set.
  20. Go outside and take random photos of things that spark your curiosity.
  21. Bake a cake to share with workmates or friends.
  22. Grab a journal and write down your thoughts.
  23. Ring your mum, dad, nana or grandpa.
  24. Attend a high intensity fitness class – crossfit, boxing circuit, zumba…
  25. Treat yourself to a hot bath.
  26. Go for a drive… head to a beach or a park.
  27. Savour a coffee or tea with a good friend.
  28. Watch a TED Talk or two.
  29. Head out to the movies for some cinema therapy.
  30. Wander around an art gallery.
  31. Hit the road and go running.
  32. Engage in retail therapy.
  33. Lie still and focus on your breathing.
  34. Plan a future road trip.  Where would you go?
  35. Watch a comedy show at The Classic.
  36. Take out your frustrations out on a boxing bag (or something similar and inanimate).
  37. Watch some clips on Karmatube – seriously uplifting!
  38. Ring Lifeline if things seem really overwhelming: 0800 543 354.
  39. Treat yourself to a haircut or beauty treatment.
  40. Go out dancing.  Or in the lounge if you want to stay at home.
  41. Go to bed earlier.
  42. Seek out positive feedback – ask some friends to tell you what they love about you.
  43. Try a new hobby…. martial arts, archery, sewing, writing, rock climbing, pottery…
  44. Write a letter to yourself.  What advice would your future self give you?
  45. Skim stones across water.
  46. Take a dog out for a walk.
  47. Move slowly. Take notice when you’re wanting to rush and slow it down.
  48. Declutter a space.  Identify items you could donate.
  49. Go for a swim.
  50. Treat yourself to a glass of wine (or maybe two!).
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