Beating your Insomnia

Is a lack of sleep affecting your studies or work? You might suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is having difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. Most of us need at least 7-8 hours sleep a night to enable us to function at our best each day and to stay healthy. Insomnia can be a problem if it occurs on a regular basis and causes us distress. The causes of insomnia can range from bad sleep habits, a poor sleep environment, stress and depression.


Here are some strategies for beating your insomnia:

  • Develop a relaxing bedtime routine that enables your mind to get into a sleep mode.
  • A night time ritual such as a bath or getting into your pyjamas can train your body to prepare for sleep.
  • Avoid using your bed for anything else but sleep and don’t force yourself to sleep. The more anxious you become the less you will be able to fall asleep. If you are awake for more than 30 minutes it might be better to get out of bed and to do something else until you become sleepy.
  • Sleep in a dark and quiet room with adequate ventilation that is not too warm or cold.
  •  Avoid taking caffeine and alcohol in the evening before you go to bed as it can decrease the quality of your sleep.
  • Regular exercise during the day will make your body tired and ready for sleep. Also avoid naps during the day.
  • It is important to manage your stress and worries. Use a breathing exercise and self-talk to relax yourself. Get into the habit of writing down your worries and leaving them on your desk, to attend to the next day.
  • Establish regular sleep-wake cycles, even over the weekends.


Over time good lifestyle habits can contribute to better sleep and help us cope with the demands of each day. Contact Student Counselling if you feel that you need to discuss your insomnia with a counsellor.


The above was based on articles on insomnia that can be found at



Sources of Stress and Coping Skills

Being a student can be stressful, but your stress can have different sources. Knowing where your stress comes from can help you develop effective coping skills. Karl Albrecht in his book, Stress and the Manager, mentions the following four types of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress and encounter stress.


Time Stress

You worry about deadlines and the number of things you need to do within a certain time limit.


Coping skills

Learn time management skills and effective prioritizing. Create boundaries and say no when you have too much to do.


Anticipatory stress

This is stress projected at future events or situations. It could be a specific situation or it could be a general worry that things will go wrong.


Coping skills

Use visualization to imagine a better outcome. Mindfulness, meditation and self-talk will help you to focus on the present rather than an imaginary future.


Situational stress

This is when you are in a situation where you have little or no control, such as a conflict situation or a test.


Coping skills

You can use techniques to calm yourself, such as slow breathing, or develop skills in conflict resolution and taking tests. It will be helpful to learn how to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings and how to express them.


Encounter stress

This type of stress revolves around worrying about contact with certain people. It could also be that you feel drained from interacting with too many people.


Coping skills

Work on your people skills and develop effective boundaries. Developing empathy and seeing things from another person’s view will be a valuable skill in communicating with others.



The above was based on an article by Bill Gee, Work on your Stress Type, in the Wellness Magazine of June 2014.  

Emotional Intelligence and Group Work

Most of us have to work in groups some time or other in our lives. Some people dread it, while others excel at it. The secret of successful groups could well be the level of emotional intelligence of the group members.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you. People with a high level of EI know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. With high EI one can delay your own personal gratification if to do so will provide longer-term gain to the group as a whole.


One can see that group members with EI would greatly contribute to the success of a group, whether they take a leadership role or not. According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who wrote extensively on EI, there are five main elements of EI. The more you as group member develop each of these areas, the higher your will EI be.



If you are self-aware you know how you feel and you know how your emotions and actions can affect the people around you. It is also about an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.



Group members who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, or make rushed or emotional decisions. Self-regulation is about staying in control, but also being flexible and accountable.



Self-motivated group members work consistently toward achieving their goals and maintaining high standards for their work.



Having empathy is critical to successful group work. Members with empathy have the ability to place themselves in another persons’ situation. They challenge those who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback and listen to others’ opinions.


Social skills

Group members who do well in the social skills area are great communicators. They are able to gain the support of others and generate excitement for a project.


Take time to develop skills in self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. It will make you a much better group member.


The above was based on a post on Emotional Intelligence at MindTools:

Find Your Type of Procrastinator

You might recognise yourself as one of these 6 different types of procrastinators. Under each type there are tips on how to beat it.



You often find it difficult to begin a task because the thought of getting every detail perfect is overwhelming.


How to beat it

Focus on what is realistic rather than what is ideal. Work towards excellence rather than perfection.



Abstract thoughts are more pleasant to think about than the real-life actions that need to be taken.


How to beat it

Try to differentiate between dreams that are vague and goals that are specific and measurable. Change your dreams into goals.



You feel that you work best under pressure. You enjoy the rush of working under a deadline.


How to beat it

Remind yourself that you may not be interested in a task until you start. Identify and use other motivators to start working earlier on the task rather than using stress as a motivator.



Many tasks seem like an unfair or unnecessary use of your time and energy.


How to beat it

Rank your priorities in life and plan your energies accordingly.



You find it difficult to prioritize and say no to other demands on your time.


How to beat it

Recognize and respect your personal limitations. Rank your priorities and make choices about your time according to this.



Many tasks seem too difficult. You prefer to stay in your comfort zone and avoid change.


How to beat it

Learn to make realistic judgements about the time and effort needed to complete a task. Break down tasks into more manageable parts.



The above was extracted from a post by Joel Brown at:


Is procrastination just a bad habit?

One of the reasons why we are not able to manage our time effectively is procrastination. Procrastination is the habit of putting off doing an important task, but then becoming involved with a less important task. We put off working on our assignment, due next week, and then start cleaning our room. The result is usually that we feel guilty, get behind in our work and do not make effective use of our available time.


Are you a procrastinator? If you tend to put off a task or assignment because it seems too difficult, or it will take too much of your time, or you put it off because you are not in the mood, or feel too tired or hungry, you are procrastinating.


So why do we procrastinate? Some of the reasons for procrastination are:

  • We are not motivated for an unpleasant task and only want to do pleasant tasks
  • We prefer short-term enjoyment over the long term benefits of completing the task
  • We have an unrealistic idea of the amount of effort needed to complete a task
  • The task seems too difficult and overwhelming and we don’t know where to start
  • We want to complete the task perfectly or not do it at all
  • We have a fear of failure and will rather not even attempt to start the task


In countering procrastination, we have to decide whether the task is important enough to do now. Is it worth sacrificing short term pleasure for long term benefits? If the task is important then the immediate desire of putting off doing the assignment should be replaced with the ultimate goal of completing the assignment with a good mark.

It does not help to wait until you are in the right mood for working. A good strategy is to just start doing the assignment for at least 10 minutes even if you don’t feel like it. Once you become involved with the task, it is easier to continue. Break the task into smaller and more manageable bits. A large assignment can be divided into a sequence of smaller tasks and activities that can be completed one by one. This will create good habits and bring you into a routine of working on a regular basis.


It is not enough to have the ability to complete an assignment; you also need to put in the effort to be successful. Next time you don’t feel like it, get into the habit of just doing it!


This article is based on a self-help booklet, Time Management by Abie de Villiers, available at Student Counselling

Mindfulness: Dealing with difficult emotions

Most of us will have problems in dealing with difficult emotions at some time or other in our lives. Unpleasant emotions can be a downward spiral of physical sensations, thoughts and feelings that could be overwhelming. It would be very helpful if we were able to become fully aware of the emotions, suspend judgement and in that way shift our perceptions of the difficult emotions.


The practice of mindfulness can deal with unpleasant emotions by combining a spirit of gentleness and acceptance with a spirit of adventure and discovery. By being aware of what is in the present moment, we will only focus on the problem of the moment rather than on all the problems of next week or next year. This attitude of acceptance of what the present moment brings, is illustrated in the poem “The Guest House” by Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet (in Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn, 2007):


This human being is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival


A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor


Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honourably

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight


The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in


Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.


Mindfulness leads us on the path of full awareness of the moment, coupled with elements of curiosity and self-compassion. In this way mindfulness practice can lead to a positive shift in our perceptions and change our relationship with difficult emotions.



Wllliams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression. The Guilford Press: New York, NY.


For a further exploration of mindfulness make an appointment with a student counsellor

Mindfulness: Freeing yourself from unhappiness

Our thinking can be bad for our health. Constant thinking about an event or problem can take us into a downward spiral of negative memories, images and thinking patterns. This then often leads to a mood of unhappiness or even depression.


An alternative strategy for handling everyday problems and negative moods is through the cultivation of mindfulness. The authors of the book: The mindful way through depression, describes mindfulness as “…..the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally to things as they are” (p47). The key seems to be awareness. Instead of relying on critical thinking to lead us out of a negative or sad mood, we need to focus on an awareness of our thoughts and feelings. This is called the being mode of mind as opposed to the doing mode. By focussing on the awareness of the being mode we can learn to experience the world directly without the relentless commentary of our thoughts. We can learn to see our thoughts as mere thoughts that come and go in the mind, rather than absolute truths. Being more aware of ourselves and our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations can help us focus our actions where they can make a difference in our lives.


The essence of mindfulness can be seen as follows:

  • Intentional and a choice that we can make
  • Experiential with a focus on present experiences, rather than the past or future
  • Non-judgemental and accepting things as they are without comparing them to an internal or external standard


When our thinking gets stuck and takes us into a downward spiral of negative memories, images and thinking patterns, mindfulness might be just the alternative mode of being that we need. With mindfulness we can explore our emotions in a non-judgemental and self-compassionate attitude that could open up new possibilities.



Wllliams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression. The Guilford Press: New York, NY.





How to keep money from ruining your life

Are you in charge of your money matters or is it ruining your life? Now is the ideal time to start learning how to manage your finances while you are a student. Experts tell us that we all have a money personality. Our background, past experiences and the type of person we are all contribute to our attitude towards money. See if you can recognise yourself in the following personalities:


1. The Spender

For this person, buying items is a way of feeling important, loved and validated. They also tend to buy only the best whether they can afford it or not. This is a way of buying status and respect and gaining self-worth with extravagant possessions. The spender needs to get their spending under control and start setting themselves limits to stay debt free by drawing up a budget.


2. The Saver

This person tends to see money as a way of obtaining security. They will only be comfortable if they know they have money in reserve. They will look for specials and bargain items as far as possible. No matter how much money they have, they are afraid of becoming poor. The saver sometimes has to let go and see money as a way of occasionally spoiling themselves and their loved ones.


3. The Avoider

This person is usually not comfortable in dealing with money and will avoid the subject at all costs. The avoider might even ignore paying bills. They feel there are more important things in life than money and might not even know how much they are spending. This person needs to change their attitude towards money and deal with their day to day financial responsibilities. It might be to their benefit to find out more about budgeting and credit rating.


We can see from the above that our money personality indicates our relationship with money and how responsibly we deal with our finances. We might even show some behaviour of each of the personalities. The important thing is to become aware of this and to become knowledgeable about managing our finances. Now is the time to develop the financial skills you can use for the rest of your life.