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How Cognitive and Dialectical Behavior Therapy Works in Recovery

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) are similar forms of talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. 

Both forms of therapy will help you to more effectively communicate, and both forms of therapy can help you discover more about the condition you’re using psychotherapy to address. 

Both cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are evidence-based, meaning a battery of hard data proves the effectiveness of both forms of talk therapy. 

These psychotherapies are proven effective for treating: 

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) 
  • Insomnia 
  • Major depressive disorder 
  • Panic disorders 
  • Phobias 
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 
  • Substance use disorder 

NAMI shows that roughly 10% of adults in the US will develop a substance use disorder in any given year, with around 20% of American adults also experiencing some kind of mental health condition during that same year. Both substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonplace, then, and they also frequently co-occur in a dual diagnosis. 

With both of these conditions so prevalent, drug and alcohol rehab centers use therapies like CBT and DBT in combination with medication-assisted treatment to deliver holistic treatment that’s proven effective for treating a range of conditions. 

CBT 101 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly adaptable form of therapy applicable to many conditions from depression and anxiety to substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Once you master the basics, you’ll feel capable of more effectively controlling your emotions and your recovery. 

CBT sessions are delivered individually or in a group setting as appropriate. 

Whether one-to-one or as part of a group, you’ll work with a therapist to explore the close and interrelated nature of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you view things more objectively, and you’ll also discover that you don’t need to allow how you think and feel to govern your behavior. 

CBT is a goal-oriented and skills-based form of therapy with a grounding on logic and reasoning. As you pursue a course of cognitive behavioral therapy, you’ll examine how your thoughts and feelings can influence your behaviors. This is especially valuable in the case of destructive or harmful behaviors.  

Beyond this, CBT will also help you to isolate the people, places, or things that trigger you to engage in self-defeating behaviors.   

Equipped with the ability to identify these triggers, you’ll then create healthier coping strategies for stressors. When triggered in a real-world situation outside the therapy session, you can implement these strategies rather than being guided by the automatic thoughts that can lead to poor behaviors if unchecked. This is perhaps the most powerful way in which CBT can minimize the chance of relapse in recovery.  

DBT 101 

Marsha Linehan created DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) to treat patients with BPD (borderline personality disorder) when working as a psychologist at University of Washington. 

DBT has been used since the 1980s to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including: 

  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Dual diagnosis 
  • Self-harm 
  • Substance use disorder 
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Trauma caused by sexual assault 

 When you engage with dialectical behavior therapy, you’ll learn to acknowledge discomfort or pain while still feeling “normal”. By equipping yourself with the skills to cope with life’s stressors, even in hostile environments, you’ll minimize your chances of engaging in negative or destructive behaviors. 

DBT sessions are delivered in a module-based format. 

You’ll empower yourself and your recovery by mastering the following techniques: 

  • Distress tolerance: DBT will teach you to better tolerate stressful situations and to more comfortably deal with volatile emotional issues without relapsing or experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety 
  • Emotion regulation: Through DBT, you’ll gain a more thorough understanding of your emotions, and you’ll become more capable of resisting the impulsive and emotion-driven behavior you’re trying to eliminate 
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Dialectical behavior therapy can help you to sharpen your communication skills, improving your interpersonal relationships at the same time 
  • Mindfulness: Instead of getting bogged down in the past or anxious about the future, DBT will help you to focus fully on the present with a mindfulness component to therapy applicable to many conditions 

How CBT and DBT Work for Recovery 

Your treatment provider will advise you whether CBT or DBT is most suitable for treating your condition. 

In the case of a personality disorder, for instance, DBT in combination with medication-assisted treatment is likely the most effective approach to treatment.  

Substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder, on the other hand, often respond best to treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy. 

The core focus of CBT is the interconnected nature of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. DBT acknowledges this interconnection, but focuses on mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation. 

CBT is proven effective for treating: 

  • Anxiety disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Panic disorder 
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 
  • Sleep disorder 

DBT was created for the treatment of BPD, and is still commonly used in this area. There is also robust research on the effectiveness of DBT for treating: 

  • Anxiety disorder
  • BPD with substance use disorder 
  • Depressive disorder 
  • Eating disorders 
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 

CBT vs DBT for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder 

CBT and DBT can both be effectively used to treat alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. 

A simple course of CBT will help you to pinpoint your triggers for substance use. You’ll also learn to implement coping strategies that don’t involve a chemical crutch. 

With DBT, you’ll dive deeper, examining the core issue. The mindfulness component of DBT can help many people with substance use disorder to better navigate the emotional imbalances confronting them. 

 DBT vs CBT for Treating Co-Occurring Disorder 

DBT is proven effective for treating a variety of mental health conditions, from anxiety and depression to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). These mental health disorders often co-occur with alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder.  

When DBT is used to treat a dual diagnosis like this, you can address both issues simultaneously through this form of therapy. 

CBB is used even more often for the treatment of dual diagnosis, delivered in combination with medication-assisted treatment if appropriate. There is a strong empirical evidence base demonstrating the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for treating substance use disorders. 

CBT vs DBT for Treating Anxiety 

Data indicates that CBT is more effective than CBT for treating anxiety. It’s also more effective for treating depressive disorders, phobias. 

CBT has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in this meta-analysis of studies. 

CBT vs DBT for Treating Bipolar 

Bipolar disorder typically requires integrated treatment combining psychopharmacology with adjunctive psychotherapy. 

 Both forms of psychotherapy are effective for treating bipolar disorder. 

With CBT interventions, you can manage unhelpful thought processes while establishing a relapse prevention strategy for episodes of mania and depression. 

With DBT interventions, you’ll learn to sharpen your focus, improve communication and social functioning, decrease negative, self-defeating behaviors, and more effectively cope with emotional pain. 

 Final Thoughts 

Both CBT and DBT can be effective for treating substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder and a broad spectrum of mental health conditions. 

CBT can help you to recognise the triggers for poor behaviors with the aim of avoiding them, while DBT will empower you with superior emotional regulation and enhanced mindfulness. 



This is a guest post written by Joe Gilmore, a creator on behalf of Renaissance Recovery. Renaissance Recovery is a drug and alcohol rehab in Orange County dedicated to helping clients kick their substance abuse habit and establish long-lasting sobriety. You can view their website at the following link: https://www.renaissancerecovery.com/


What you need to know about the 2019-2020 Human Development and Sexual Health Curriculum

Last year, Doug Ford promised voters that if the Conservatives were elected, they would repeal the controversial 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum introduced by Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals.

At the time, Wynne stated that the 2015 curriculum brought Ontario in line with other provinces. In the fall of 2014, the Ministry of Education consulted around 4,000 parents across Ontario, 2,400 educators and other stakeholders, 700 students, as well as police, academics, and other community organizations. Ford however, insisted that parents were not consulted and as promised, he scrapped the 2015 curriculum last summer and replaced it with an interim version that was a combination of the 1998 and the 2010 revised curriculums. Read more about the interim version here.

On Wednesday August 21, the province released the 2019 Revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum, Grades 1-8, to be implemented this September. This new curriculum collected feedback from more than 72,000 parents, students, educators, employers, and organizations across the province. It covers topics on mental health, healthy relationships, cyber-bullying, consent, cannabis, vaping, concussions, body image, LGBTQ experiences and communities, homophobia, and gender identity and expression.

Human Development and Sexual Health is only one part of the Health and Physical and Education Curriculum, but it is the only component that parents/caring adults may exempt students from learning this school year. In comparison to the 2015 Human Development and Sexual Health component, there are very few differences:

(1) Body appreciation is now a mandatory topic in grade 2.

(2) Gender identity and sexual orientation have been removed as  subtopics of invisible differences in grade 3. Mental illness has been included instead.

(3) The topics of sexual orientation are mandatory in grade 5 (2019), instead of grade 6 (2015).

(4) Gender identity and expression is now a mandatory topic in grade 8 (2019), instead of grade 6 (2015).

(5) Sexually explicit media (i.e., pornography) is now a mandatory topic in grade 6.

(6) Transsexual (i.e., a person who transitions from their sex assigned at birth) and intersex (i.e., a person born with male and female sex characteristics, typically assigned one or the other at birth) has been removed from the topic of gender identity in grade 8 and there is no explicit mention of them elsewhere (aside from the Glossary of Terms). Male and female, which are sexes assigned at birth, remain a topic of gender identity. Pansexual and asexual are now included in the topic of sexual orientation.

(7) Pleasure has been removed from the topic of decision-making skills in grade 8.

(8) Greater focus on consent and the legal age of consent, personal boundaries, respect for others, avoiding assumptions, discrimination (e.g., homophobia/racism), body image, mental health, and that decisions regarding sexual activity be made in consideration to being in a loving and healthy relationship.

(9) Minor edits to the terminology/language being used throughout the document (e.g., STBBIs, unplanned pregnancy/becoming a parent, self-awareness, self-acceptance, etc.)

For more detail on each topic and to compare the differences between the two curriculums, click here Comparison of Curriculums.

If a parent/caring adult wishes to opt a student out, they will be given a form 3 weeks before the lesson is to be taught. This form will need to be returned up to 5 days before the class. The form will offer the following three options:

(1) The child may remain in the classroom, but is not to be involved in the lesson.

(2) The child may be removed from the classroom and kept in a safe and supervised location elsewhere on school property.

(3) The child may be removed from the school.

As parents and caring adults who are looking to exempt students from the Human Development and Sexual Health component, ask yourselves why this is may be important to you:

How might the topics be conflicting or challenging your personal values and beliefs?

What are the short and long term benefits and harms of discussing certain topics?

What is missing from the curriculum?

Will you have these conversations instead, and to what capacity or with what resources?

This curriculum was designed in order to keep all children healthy and safe in Ontario. Many of these topics are in line with human rights at both the federal and provincial level. But, diverse perspectives about sex, sexuality, gender identity and expression, media, consent, joy, and respect (among others!) are still missing. You can address these gaps by having conversations about human development and sexual health regularly with your kids. Although they are not available yet, the Ministry of Education will be releasing online resources this 2019-2020 school year so that parents/caring adults can discuss these topics at home, once they feel ready to do so.

For more information on all of the topics being taught in the new Health and Physical Education Curriculum, click here. You can also compare the Human Development and Sexual Health components to other educational resources that describe the appropriate age to discuss sex and sexuality with children, such as About Kids Health and Caring for Kids.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for ideas and resources on when and how to have more ongoing talks about sex and sexuality with your kids!


Written by: Jess Boulé, Pronouns: they, them, theirs / she, her, hers

Jess is our office strategist at Bliss Counselling. Jess is a Master’s graduate from the University of Guelph. During their degree, they focused on aging and end-of-life, communication, human sexuality, LGBTQI2S+ health, inclusive practice and policies, knowledge mobilization strategies, research methods, and program evaluation.

Tips for Managing Back to School Anxiety

Back to school season – for some parents, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” (do you remember that commercial too?). However, for those of us with anxious children, the back to school season can be seriously tough. Children and teens who regularly experience anxiety often struggle with changes and transitions, and switching suddenly from summer mode to school mode is a significant change (even more so if they are switching schools or dealing with new situations at home simultaneously). Returning to school often leaves them with a lot of unanswered questions, such as: Who will my teacher be? Will I have friends in my class? What if I get lost and can’t find my classroom? Teens might also be worrying about taking on new responsibilities, balancing school with hobbies or part-time jobs, and beginning to think about their future beyond secondary school, on top of the regular back to school concerns.

While it is normal to have some fears about returning to school, for an anxious child these fears can become overwhelming and place stress on the entire family. If you are struggling to help your anxious child through this back to school season, here are some strategies that might help you ease the stress for your child – and yourself!

  1. Establish a routine. Children and teens who struggle with anxiety often benefit from established routines. For younger children especially, it can help to slowly ease into or begin a back-to-school routine a few days before school actually begins. Ensure that they are eating healthy foods, maybe making lunches similar to what you would give them for school lunches, and that they are getting appropriate amounts of sleep for their age or individual sleep needs. I suggest starting to build a routine with them at least a week prior to the start of school, if at all possible.
  2. Talk to your child. Validate their fears, listen to them, and establish a routine or ritual where they can openly discuss their concerns with you. For example, teens are more likely to open up if you are doing something with them, such as going for a walk or taking a drive. Making it a regular thing can help keep you connected and encourage them to open up to you without the pressure of a sit-down conversation.
  3. Familiarize them with the environment. Take your child to the school, especially if it is a new school. You could walk or drive past the school a few times, or even spend some time together making use of the school grounds if possible (soccer? tag? duck-duck-goose?). Get them acquainted with their new surroundings so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
  4. Be prepared. Come up with a plan so that your child feels prepared for their first day or week. Have them describe their fears, and walk through how they could manage each situation if it did occur. This will help them to feel empowered rather than frightened. Or have them imagine other possible outcomes. When children/teens are anxious they often think of the worst case scenario – help them see that the worst case scenario is not the only possible scenario.
  5. Provide healthy distractions. If your child is focusing on their anxiety, and you are struggling to help ease their worry or help them think through it productively, try to provide a healthy distraction until they are able to reach a more relaxed state. Encourage them to think of other things, come up with as special end of first day snack or dinner, ask them about what they are excited about with returning to school (seeing friends, playing on the playground, the lunch cafeteria).
  6. Parents, watch your own behaviour. If you are also worried or nervous about your child’s first day this will have an impact on them. Practice your tried and true self care techniques to help ease your own worries, or try to use some of the above techniques on yourself. Sending your child to school can be just as stressful for you – if you ignore your own needs, you won’t be in a good position to help your child. Get your oxygen mask on first!
  7. Say goodbye and leave. This just may be the hardest thing to do, especially for first time parents dropping their children off. Saying goodbye several times or returning after you have left will not be helpful for your child. Rest assured that most of the time, your child will be fine without you – maybe not instantly, but it is perfectly normal if it takes them some time.


Written by Bliss therapist, Tammy Benwell. This post originally appeared on The Coach House Blog. 


Tammy Benwell is a Registered Social Worker who holds an undergraduate degree in Social Work from the University of Waterloo and Master’s degree in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University. She believes in fostering a collaborative, therapeutic relationship within which clients are best able to direct their own care. Tammy’s philosophy is best described as one which helps clients understand their role and their ability to achieve their desired happiness. In addition to providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families, Tammy’s work has also involved finding community supports for clients in distress, assisting with life transitions, and enhancing effective interpersonal communication styles.

Sexual Health & Young Adults on Campus


Recently, Sexologist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold invited me on her Rogers TV Talk Show, “Sex Talk with Kelly.” (Airing Wednesday’s at 10:30 pm, on Rogers Cable Network, check it out!) Our goal was to start a conversation around how parents might approach sexual health topics with their adult children on campus. Apparently there’s much to say on that topic, and those 7 minutes really flew by! We felt it was important to encourage healthy sexual attitudes while also keeping safety in mind. Here are a few suggestions on how to continue the conversation, as well as links to some excellent online resources.

What should parents know?

1 in 5 female students will be sexually assaulted while attending university (CFOSO, 2015). What I want to highlight even further, is that for those 1 in 5 woman – it’s likely the assault will be done by someone they know. Keep in mind that females aren’t the only ones at risk to be sexually assaulted. Everyone deserves to feel safe on campus while exploring their sexuality.

What can parents do?

Open the door for conversation. Use media and current events as conversation starters. Encourage them to talk about safety and sexual health with their peers. Are they going to party? Encourage them to talk about safety planning with their roommates before they head out for the evening. Young people are creative and they’ll make a plan that suits them best.

What could parents say?       

“I wrote down a list of all the sexual health resources on campus and I left it on your desk along with some condoms. Remember, sex should be fun but it should also always feel safe.”

This is a BIG topic, so don’t feel like you have to communicate everything about sexual health all in one conversation. Simply being a resource, or linking your children to appropriate resources is a great place to start.


Written by Bliss therapist Jenna Luelo. Learn more about Jenna and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.

We are thrilled that you’ve found your way to our Bliss Blog, and hope that Jenna’s article has helped you as either a parent or student, prepare for a safe experience on campus! Check out the resources that Jenna recommends below!


Resource Links:

Sex and U: https://www.sexandu.ca

Sexual Assault Center: http://sacha.ca/resources/statistics

Local Sexual Health Campus Contacts:

University of Waterloo: https://uwaterloo.ca/campus-wellness/blog/post/sexual-health-resources-or-near-campus

Wilfrid Laurier University: https://students.wlu.ca/wellness-and-recreation/health-and-wellness/self-help-resources.html

Conestoga College: https://www.conestogac.on.ca/medical-care-clinic/education/sexuality


Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario [CFOSO]. (2015). Sexual Violence on Campus. Retrieved from: http://cfsontario.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2017/07/Factsheet-SexualAssault.pdf


Do you have any questions for us? We’re happy to help! Feel free to get in touch with us here.

If you’re interested in booking your first appointment with Bliss, you can do that here.


Study, Study, Study. The Student Life.

It’s almost April and for those in college or university, that means exams are just around the corner. Bliss Therapist, Jenna Luelo, just completed a course and re-experienced the exam season pressure herself. And so, Jenna has some tips and tricks to help you make it through another semester, you’re welcome!

Study, Study, Study. The Student Life.

I know what you’re thinking, more study tips?? “Jenna, what are you going to tell me, that I don’t already know?” Well, if you feel prepared for this upcoming exam season, feel free to jump to point 1. If you’re not feeling entirely prepared, I hope this will be helpful.

Having recently completed a course in Learning Psychology, with a final exam worth 50% of my grade, the preparation followed a predictable pattern. It happened to look something like this: study…stress…procrastinate…try more studying. Hidden, in what I now refer to, as my “stress-study cycle” was actually a wonderful opportunity to reflect.

So, I thought I would pass along 5 of my most useful study tips as quick refresher:

  1. Over learn. If you think you know it, keep studying. Although it may be time consuming, this is one of the best ways to learn and retain information.
  2. Create meaning. If the concept is particularly confusing or difficult, try connecting the information to something you already know. This could be achieved by creating an acronym, rhyme or anything else that helps create personal meaning to the material.
  3. Study in small bits, frequently. A study session will be better retained if you take breaks. This also means you should organize yourself so that you have these short and frequent study sessions, well in advance of the exam.
  4. Use the stress. Stress can make us hyper-vigilant, which is excellent if you need to memorize information. We just want to make sure that the stress stays positive and in the “able to work really hard” state, not the “I’m overwhelmed and can’t function” state. The latter happens when we push the boundaries and neglect to actually do the work with balance. Refer back to point 3.
  5. So, you’ve started early, kept organized, over learned the material, understand important definitions and concepts and managed to keep things fun and balanced. Great, you’re on the right track! But, this tips is for those of you who have procrastinated, are falling behind or have fallen into the stress trap. I want you to sit down and reflect: why are you here at school, what habits are supporting your goals, what habits are interfering with your goals? What small changes, can you make to help align yourself? Commit to doing better now.


I hope these tips are helpful as you begin preparing for exams. Remember, there is always someone in your corner whenever you feel overwhelmed or unsure, so reach out to your resources both on and off campus. As always, we are more than happy to help. Click here for more information about our team and available resources!



Jenna Luelo comes to Bliss Counselling with a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University and an Honours degree in Psychology from Carleton University. Ms. Luelo is a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

Ms. Luelo’s philosophy is that the relationship between a counsellor and a client is deeply personal and finding the ‘right-fit’ is of real importance to successful therapy. Ms. Luelo considers therapy to be a collaborative process and a strong therapeutic relationship is essential in creating an environment that fosters change and personal growth. She has the clinical skills to support a variety of client issues but is passionate in supporting her clients navigate through their experiences of stress, anxiety and depression. Tailoring the treatment to each client’s specific needs, her clinical style combines genuine warmth and guidance toward effective and lasting solutions.

Ms. Luelo was recruited to Bliss Counselling for her exceptional clinical skills and dedication to excellence in providing counselling services to adolescents and young adults struggling with stress management, anxiety and depression, and has proved to be an invaluable addition to the team.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time


Ask any busy person what they need and most will respond with “MORE TIME”. More time to work, more time at home, more time to relax. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the things we need or want to do. While committing more time to a job or a project might seem like the solution to your stress, it is important to remember that time is a finite resource. By spending more time on something that stresses you out, you are stealing hours from other activities that are important to your health and wellbeing.

Energy is a different story. Energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Learning how to manage your energy will help you to use your time more effectively and reduce the pressure of to-do lists and deadlines.

The Body: Physical Energy

Cultivating physical energy requires you to develop healthy habits surrounding nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest. Significant lack in any of those areas can impact your basic energy levels, as well as your ability to manage emotions and focus your attention.

Identify rituals that will help you with the process of building and renewing your physical energy. These rituals could include:

  • walking, jogging or running
  • a yoga or gym routine that you enjoy
  • cooking meals that you can love to make (and to eat!)
  • finding a restaurant you love with a relaxing atmosphere and healthy food
  • a bedtime routine to help you wind down
  • a relaxation technique that you can employ quickly and in public when needed (such as a breathing or visualization technique that works for you)

The Emotions: Quality of Energy

The ability to manage your emotions is an important skill, and can improve the quality of the energy you bring to your work regardless of the external pressures you face. To do this, try to check in with yourself at various points in your day – how are you feeling? How is that affecting your ability to remain present or work? What can you do to help yourself navigate or process what you are feeling? If we routinely check in throughout the day, we are better able to stay on top of emotions that normally would affect the rest of our day.

You can also cultivate positive energy by learning to change the stories you tell yourself about the events of your day. Develop more hopeful stories, and that positivity will help you keep negative emotions in check.

The Mind: Focus of Energy

Many view multitasking as a necessity in the face of all the demands we juggle, but it actually undermines productivity. Think about what multitasking requires of us – a temporary shift in attention from one task to another. Multitasking is just a glorified version of yielding to distractions, and distractions are costly. It’s far more efficient to focus your full attention on one task for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then devote the same attention to your next task.

The Human Spirit: Energy of Meaning and Purpose

We tap into the energy of the human spirit when our activities are consistent with what we value most and with what gives us a sense of meaning or purpose. If what you are doing really matters to you, you are more likely to radiate positive energy and enjoy yourself.

To access the energy of the human spirit, you need to clarify your priorities and establish accompanying rituals in three categories

  1. Doing what you do best and enjoy most.
  2. Consciously allocating time and energy to the areas of your life—work, family, health, service to others—that you deem most important.
  3. Living your core values in your daily behaviours.



Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, MA, MBA, RSW

Realistic Sleep Tips for Busy Students

When you’re in school, one of the most important keys to success is a decent night’s sleep. Yet for many students in university or college late night study sessions and coffee binges are normal and, unfortunately, necessary. Lectures and readings and essays and exam study sessions eat up your precious time, never mind balancing a social life, extracurriculars, and a job on top of your school work! Even writing that sentence was exhausting.

So how do you balance your busy schedule with your need for sleep? The recommended 7-8 hours might not be within reach, but we have some tips that just might help you reclaim your nights (or at least some of them).

  1. Limit afternoon naps to one hour if possible. You may have been up all night writing an 8 page paper and need some extra nap time to get you through your shift at work. Ultimately you know what’s best for you, but longer naps during the day tend to affect the quality of your nighttime sleep, so avoid those three hour afternoon naps when you can!
  2. Exercise as regularly as possible. Bodies that have been put to good use during the day sleep better at night. Take the stairs whenever you can, walk to class or to work, do some yoga in the morning – squeezing in small bits of physical activity whenever you can is still better than nothing at all!
  3. Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself. About a half an hour before you decide to go to bed put down the books, put away the phone, and do a few things that you find relaxing. It will make it much easier to fall asleep if you have allowed your brain to make that transition to a comfortable, sleep-ready state.
  4. Invest in earplugs or an eye mask if you share your sleep space with a roommate. Hopefully you generally try to respect one another’s sleep schedules, but if your roommate just has to read in bed or talk to their partner on the phone before they sleep, you will be happy to have some way to tune them out.


We know that the idea of a well-rested University student can seem laughable. But prioritizing a healthy sleep routine can actually make it easier for you to balance your busy schedule during the day.

Healthy Habits For A New School Year

Regardless of what year or grade you are entering into this September, the beginning of a new school year is a great time to formulate some new habits for yourself. You’ve likely had a break from the stress of due dates and exams, maybe even gone on a relaxing vacation or two, and hopefully feel refreshed and ready to tackle the new challenges before you.

The choices that you make these first few weeks could help set a fresh tone for this upcoming school year. To help with creating a heaIthy habit, it might be helpful for you to take some time to reflect on your previous year: what did you do right? What could you improve upon? What are some habits that you could change to make this year more productive, or less stressful for yourself? Answering these questions will help you determine the areas that are most important to you or the areas that you struggle with. From there you can focus on altering habits relating to those areas.

Here are some examples of habits that might be useful to you:

1. Get a planner and look at it every day. You can record assignment due dates, tests, study sessions, or appointments – anything that might easily slip through the cracks once your classes get busy. You can even write and track some of your goals in your planner, write inspirational or funny quotes to cheer yourself up, or keep track of fun time with friends! That way your planner won’t feel quite as dull.

2. Make a point to eat a healthy breakfast. Often students skip this meal, but we need nutrients to feed our brains and to keep up with the demands of this school year. Preparing the next day’s meals the night before might make it easier for you, as well as keeping fruit and nuts in your bag or better yet, in a bowl by your front door as it just might help you to remember on your way out the door.

3. Practice active reading and listening. Focus on the speaker, what they are saying and how they are saying it – they will usually give you clues as to what they think is important or interesting, and if they are the one testing you that could be very helpful information for you. When you read, really pay attention to the text. Write down anything that seems important to you and any questions you might have about what you are reading. Try to integrate what you are reading with what you are learning in other classes! The information will stick with you much better that way.

There are many more things that you can do to help you excel this school year, as long as you are willing to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and commit to the changes you decide to make.

For more information on creating a healthy habit or how to set yourself up for a successful school year, feel free to contact us at Bliss Counselling.

Jenna Luelo

Top 10 Tips for University Students

By Bliss Specialist Jenna

1. Get Organized.

Set yourself up for success. Get a planner. Get a calendar. Highlighters. Pens. Notebooks. Do you know where your classes are? A little time spent preparing yourself will make that first month a little less stressful.

2. Settle Into Your Living Situation.

Have roommates? Discuss boundaries/expectations. For example: What can I do to make living together more comfortable for you? Make your space your own. If you are living at home still, maybe this is the time to add a study space and create an area where you can focus.

3. Find The Resources.

Look into all the services that are available to you on campus and utilize them. Meet the TA’s, figure out how the library works, join a study group. Universities have an abundance of support – but they won’t find you, you need to be proactive and reach out to them.

4. Make School Your 1st Priority.

It is your choice to be here. It is a big financial decision and it will be your life for the next 4 years. University is your full-time job, so balance your social decisions with your primary goal. In considering balance, although school is priority number one, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Be present in the experience and really make it a goal to enjoy this time in your life. The late night studying, the cafeteria food, those special prof’s – will all be wonderful memories one day.

5. Get a Part-Time Job, Join a Social Club or Volunteer.

This is a great way to meet people and have a little fun but make sure to set limits on the time spent on these social activities. Having a weekly commitment will help you stay organized, bolster your resume and enhance your connection with your community.

6. Watch The Partying.

Be mindful of the dangers of binge-drinking. Safety should always be a priority. Be sure to do a check-in with yourself after a late night. Did you really feel more confident and social while drinking? Is being tired and hung-over worth it? Plan activities where alcohol isn’t the main focus. Check out this Wiki-How for great tips on preventing binge-drinking.

7. Make Healthy Choices.

Sleeping, Healthy Eating and Exercise are the foundations of feeling well. Use your gym membership, work on making a few health food choices throughout the day and get a sleep routine in order. Taking care of your self will make writing papers and taking tests a little less draining.

8. Know Your Program.

Do the research on what your program will look like in 2nd, 3rd and 4th year. Are you inspired and excited? First year is typically an introduction period and specialized courses come in the final years. You should be looking ahead and understand what that will look like for you. Meet with your Academic Advisor to clarify what your journey will be like. If it’s your major – be excited about it or for the opportunities it will create for you.

9. Reflect on Your Expectations.

A self-directed learning environment takes a bit to get use to. It will not be easy in the beginning, but you will find your way. A great way to gauge your success is not based on your high-school grades but on the class average of that course. If you don’t understand, you need to ask questions. The best advice: attend lectures, take notes. Read the assigned chapters, take notes. Take notes of your notes. You’re preparing for the exam the whole way through, not just the week before.

10. If Your Struggling, Overwhelmed or Unsure – Get Help.

University is a stressful time, full of changes and challenges. Don’t struggle in silence. Reach out and ask for help – there are so many caring and supportive people on and off campus – ready and willing to help you. Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide are common on campus – don’t let the stigma of mental health challenges be a barrier, once you are connected to the appropriate resources, these stressors can become manageable.

Here are two Helpful Links:

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