The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

If You’re Stressed Out and You Know it Clap Your Hands!

Stress can be difficult to define. Metabolically it causes our body to release hormones which affect our mood and cause inflammation which is damaging to our overall physical and mental health. Even that wasn’t much of a definition. Stress seems to have varying definitions as it affects individuals differently, some thrive on stress while others buckle from the pressure. Defining stress is as difficult as describing how it feels; exhausting, hungering, painful, tight, irritating, angering, and depressing give a bit of a range. I might not be able to give a good definition of stress, but it is certain that stress is not good for your body or mental wellbeing. Chronic stress is associated with most major diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Research has found that depression and anxiety rates are high among university students and it is no surprise as exams and coursework can be very stressful. What is important for any student is to find a way to manage their stress and to cope with it. There are a plethora of stress management techniques but one that has been the most beneficial in my life is yoga.

 
Yoga has been found to be an effective stress and anxiety reliever. Studies comparing stress levels of yoga practitioners and non-yoga practitioners have found that stress and inflammation go down with yoga practice. There have even been studies where yoga is compared to other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a popular form of psychotherapy that works to change the way you think and act. These studies found that while the other therapies were effective, yoga seemed to bring about more and different positive effects. This is not to say that therapies should be stopped or replaced by yoga, but perhaps yoga should be included as part of the therapy. Looking at studies that are somewhat more relevant that involved undergraduate students, found that yoga helped with perceived stress and was found to raise mood and decrease anxiety; a tool that may be very helpful in the coming weeks.

 
Yoga is a time when your mind can fall away from work and studying and move internally to focus on your body. It’s funny how such a big part of our lives can be forgotten so quickly when we are forced to focus on something else; exams and assignments float away and the release of built up tension in your muscles smacks you in the face. In yoga you feel every shift in every muscle in your body, it is a very active form of movement even though it seems very passive from the outside. Yoga requires strength and endurance as you work to properly and energetically contort your body. The postures allow your muscles to stretch which is where the idea of the “release of tension” comes from. Not only is yoga or even just being active good for your body due to the physical release of stress, it also good for your mind.

 
Mental health studies have found that being active, including yoga practice, will raise mood. In the case of yoga this could be because it allows for meditation or personal reflection. Being able to reflect is paramount for personal growth; it is a major source of learning. When one can reflect on their actions and thoughts they can find out new things about their life and how they really feel. This may seem terrifying but it is extremely useful. When you have an unfiltered opinion of yourself it allows you to see who you are and what you think of yourself; it helps you to answer big questions like: am I happy? You don’t really need yoga to partake in personal reflection, but it does provide you with the time to do so and combing reflection with physical activity may help to clear your mind and allow for deeper thought.


Reflection is something we need in life and finding a way and the time can be difficult but it will be beneficial in the end. Figuring out who we are is a hard task and it takes a lifetime; it’s not something we decide in a day. Reflecting on our life choices as we make them will help us through the process of finding ourselves and will keep us grounded in reality. There is a lot of pressure on young people today to make big life choices in a small amount of time; it’s no wonder we’re all stressed out. Having to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life in four years is difficult. However, one thing to remember is that there is no law that stipulates you must decide your life trajectory right away or that you only have one shot in life; having more than one career is becoming normalized in Canadian society. Looking at myself and my friends, we certainly did not stick to plan A, some of us are on plan E already; it takes time to find what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong the choice and try to avoid letting it stress you out, there’s always a plan B. Go after what you want in life and don’t be afraid to let that change, you don’t know where it might take you.


Ryerson has a Centre for Student Development and Counselling located in JOR-07c, where any student can go to receive counselling and learn more about mental health. If you have feelings of depression or need help managing your stress it would be advantageous to contact the centre. Additionally, if you are interested in trying yoga, Ryerson Moves is putting on free yoga classes (mats available) every day in SLC for the rest of November to combat end-of-term stress. For 40 minutes at varying times of day you can journey up the fifth floor of the SLC (room 508) and hopefully destress a little. If this is your first time trying yoga be sure to inform your instructor and tell them about any injuries you may have had. Yoga can be dangerous if not done properly, so if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

Compliments and Criticisms

As of lately, I have noticed that many people (myself included at times) have difficulty accepting compliments. Accepting compliments with a simple ‘thank you’ can seem vain to some, but I think that it is the perfectly gracious way to accept them. When sincere, compliments are positive and flattering forces – something we should all strive to share more of. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed to accept some flattery – life is about give and take, and you have to receive what others offer once and a while. It’s such a shame to shoot down a sincere compliment with a “thanks – but” counter-strike, but this happens too often. “Your hair looks great today!” “Thanks – but my haircut is so bad…” or “That was a great presentation!” “No, I was so nervous and forgot to say something!” Just accept the compliment! So that is one of my recent observations and resolutions all in one – just accept it with gratitude without ruining a compliment. It is the most gracious way to respond and is not at all vain.

compliment

On the flipside, criticism can be equally as difficult to respond to. As of late, I have taken notice of criticism in my own life and in other’s. Whether constructive or malicious, criticism is an inevitable part of life and we can always improve on giving and taking it with respect and integrity. When faced with criticism it is important to calculate the validity. Who is the criticism from, what is the intent, is it valid? Does it matter? While some opinions matter, others do not. Consider what matters, and let everything else roll off your back. I think that malicious criticism says more about the person who expresses it, than it does about the object of criticism. Unlike the general rule of thumb that applies to compliments (just say thank you, don’t ruin it!), responding to criticism is more of a gray scale. To flare up can make you look just as bad, but to say nothing at all without defence to yourself can be just as bad. To me, it all boils down to assessing the situation and taking the high road. Accept the good with integrity and respond to the bad with an open, yet critical mind. That is my mentality for 2015 because life is too short to waste time on negativity. All the best and happy new year!

Write this Winter

a photograph of a spiral notebook wih a pen.  It is resting ontop of a laptop keyboard.

The holidays are over and the cold weather appears to be settling in. If you are anything like me, then you are probably in hibernation mode, glass of mulled wine in one hand and book in the other, waiting (apprehensively) for the reality and deadlines of this semester’s papers to hit you. To help get you (and myself) motivated to shake off that holiday fueled brain fog, here are some tips that I have been trying.

Time Yourself

There is nothing worse that sitting down to write a paper and then finding a hundred other things to do online. Realizing too late that you spent 3 hours doing nothing. I have started timing myself and this seems to be helping. I started with 30 minutes and am now using a 1 hour alarm. It’s surprising how comforting it can be to know that you only have to work for another 15 minutes before you can take a break. While taking breaks can be helpful, I find this method ensures that I am at least getting some thoughts and ideas down before I surf facebook or procrasti-clean my apartment for the tenth time.

Try Listening instead of reading

I find that with the amount of research and readings I do for work and school, I have difficulty finding the energy to pick up another book. This is especially true when I am knee deep in research as I know reading for pleasure will become just another form of procrastination for me. I have been listening to audio books instead. The two apps I have been using are Overdrive and One Click e Audio. Both allow you to use your library card and borrow audio books. The great thing about audio books is that I only listen to them in transit and my tired. overworked eyes get a break. There are also a great selection of podcasts about writing that are free to download.

Change your scenery

I tend to write in my apartment, at my desk or table, or if I desperately need to feel relaxed I will try on the couch. However, I have started to take my write on the move. Have laptop/notebook will travel. It’s surprising how much of a difference this makes. It is worth it to source out the coffee shops, pubs or comfy hangs near you. Especially if they don’t have wifi. Breathe. Yes, I am suggesting that you go somewhere where there is no wifi. This can help you focus and get down to the business at hand.

Whatever you try to get you motivated this winter… just remember practice does make perfect. Or at least practice makes better.

 

Why Write

An image of a typewriter and the phrase "keep calm and write something'

The act of writing, or not writing, can be full of guilt. If you aren’t writing then you think you should and if you are, then you judge what you are writing. These feelings are even more evident for students. All of our writing tends to be for assignments and we can easily forget that writing should be playful.

It can be difficult to get motivated to start writing but here are some reasons to get that pen back in your hand. Writing for yourself will help to improve your academic writing. It can be difficult to start a piece of writing or an assignment but practice does make it easier to pick up the pen and start again. In some courses you are asked to put yourself into your writing; to be self-reflexive on your place in the narrative. A great way to start thinking about this is to start writing how you are processing a certain piece of information or a theory. Writing outside of academic boundaries and requirements allows you more freedom to explore your writing style. When you write for yourself and not for a grade, there is more flexibility. It doesn’t need to be essay style; try poetry or a collection of images with some description. It’s fun and a good way to relieve stress. It’s easy to get stressed out with family, work and school pressures, try writing it out. You may not think your pressures are unique or interesting but they are. Personal narratives are valuable ways of discussing the relationship between you and society. It’s sociological research at its finest.

Beyond the pleasure of writing, it can also be a form of activism. In the Disability Studies program we are working through perception changing ideas on a regular basis. Writing through that process will not only make it clearer for you, but can give others a glimpse of theory and how it can be put into practice. Catherine Frazee, professor emerita of the School of Disability Studies, had a term she liked to use, ‘deliciously subversive.’ That’s how narrative, how writing can work as activism. Activism doesn’t always need to be signs and protests, a well crafted piece of writing can be just as, if not more, effective. Start a blog, use twitter, get images and writing up with Instagram and Facebook. Social media allows for self publishing and personal activism. I would suggest that if you do decide to put your work out, that you look into accessibility.

Even if you aren’t ready to put your work out yet, keep a record of it for yourself. It’s fascinating to read your own thoughts a year, or two after you recorded them. Not only will it make you a better writer but it will give you a better understanding of yourself.

Preparing for your next interview

Preparing for your next interviewNow that you have been selected to be interviewed, this is an opportunity for the employer to figure out if you are right for this job. This post will include some tips on how to prepare for your next interview.

Before the interview, it is your chance to learn everything about the company and the position. Read the job advertisement and try to come up with a few sentences as to how you can show that you will benefit their company. What skills are you bringing to the company? Start with learning a little about the company itself. The best place to look for this information is company’s website. They often list this information on “about us” page. Employers need someone who can bring new ideas, add value to their company and who is not afraid to share his/her opinion. The best way to prove to the interviewer that you have what it takes is to show what you know about their company (so do your research).

Surveys show that hiring managers make decisions to hire in the first thirty seconds of the interview. Therefore, make sure you are dressed professionally. Avoid wearing too much perfume and cologne. Try to be early and arrive at least 10 minutes ahead of the interview time. You should figure out how long it takes to get there a couple of days before the interview. When meeting the interviewer, start with a smile and a firm handshake.

Practicing makes a huge difference; start by asking a family member/friend to interview you. There is a greater chance that you will be asked questions such as “tell me about yourself” and “why are you interested in this position?” You don’t want to sound unprepared and shouldn’t take too long to answer each question.

When preparing for the interview, think about how you can add value to the company. This way, you will be better prepared to provide examples in your responses. Ask yourself why do I want this position? Be sure to talk about your work experience, volunteer work and how school has helped you get where you are today. Lastly, prepare at least one question to ask the interviewer about this position. This is your way of showing the interviewer that you are really interested in getting the position. Don’t be afraid to ask when you should expect to hear back, if not told during the interview.

Best of luck!

References:
http://www.youth.gc.ca/eng/topics/jobs/interview.shtml

Coping with Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is not to be taken lightly. You’d be surprised just how many people suffer from Anxiety. Anxiety can be classified as a disorder and mental illness where individuals feel a sense of danger, worry and/or fear. Individuals may feel for their safety in a current or future situation, they may experience feelings of worry triggered by a particular event or they may have experienced a traumatic event in the past that brings about anxious feelings. This disorder can also be co-morbid with disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms of anxiety may include rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweaty palms, irrational thoughts, dizziness, shaking and nausea. Not everybody experiences anxiety in the same way. Some people describe the feeling as having a heart attack and others feel as though they are dying.

By age 11 I knew something was wrong. It was shortly after 9/11 occurred in the U.S. that my parents flew home from a vacation in the states. On their way to Toronto, their plane ran out of fuel and had to land in New York. When my sister and I received the call that they would not be returning until the following night and that they would be staying in New York, anxiety took over. After this event, I grew fearful of my parents being away. I would have full blown panic attacks and tantrums when they tried leaving my sister and I at home to go for dinner. Anytime they left the house I feared I would never see them again. Anxiety completely took over my 11 year old life. I could not longer go to sleepovers without panicking and having to call my mum to pick me up. I could no longer be away from my parents for what I considered to be long periods of time. My mother knew that something was wrong, as my life had been significantly impacted by this one event. My mom decided it was time for professional assistance.

I saw my first therapist at age 11. My therapist assisted me to change my perceptions and corresponding behaviours though cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Through CBT, my therapist enabled me to cope with my anxiety by taking small steps towards overcoming a particular problem. For example, she would have my parents leave for 1 hour so that I could learn to deal with my thoughts and emotions that accompanied their absence. She would have me complete worksheets during these times in order to monitor my thoughts and emotions. Such worksheets included mood and thought scales, where I would rate my current mood and anxiousness on a scale of 1-10 and then record it once my parents returned. Another exercise was called the “coping character”, where I would think about someone I considered to be influential and think about what that person might do in this situation in order to help calm my mind.

With a lot of time and hard work, I eventually conquered my separation anxiety. I once had fears that I would never be able move away from home, travel, and study abroad, and yet here I am, being able to say I got to do each of those things. I am sharing my story because people deal with anxiety everyday. I may have overcome my separation anxiety, but I still experience anxiety on a fairly regular basis. I remain proactive in keeping my anxiety under control. Self-help and learning to self-cope is extremely important for any disorder. If you are facing anxiety, start today to learn how to cope with your thoughts so that your anxiety will not hinder on your everyday life. Try doing a thought record where you consider the situation that makes you anxious, rate your current feelings, jot down your anxious thoughts that situation generates, facts that support the anxious thoughts, facts against the anxious thoughts, your alternative/balanced thoughts and your final emotion rating. Thought records help to calm the mind by forcing your mind to think more rationally based on facts. For those of you who can share in the discomfort of anxiety, it is a difficult barrier to deal with, but with the appropriate tools and supports, each day gets easier.

For self-help worksheets such as thought records, check out this website with free downloadable forms: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/freedownloads2.htm

Sources:

http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/anxiety-disorders/

Image From: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/psychological-disorders/anxiety-disorders/explaining-anxiety-disorders/