Study Strategies that Work!

“Crunch Time” Is Stressful for Students. Here are Study Strategies that Work!

By: Oxford Learning Edmonton West (Callingwood)

“Will I pass?  Will I get all my assignments done?  I hate exams!  How will I handle next year?”  Anxiety levels are on the rise among both kids and parents as students head into the final part of the school year after spring break.  While young people in middle schools and high schools are completing end-of-the-year assignments and preparing to write exams and standardized tests, the experts at Oxford Learning – a leading expert in preparing children for lifelong success – recommend that now is the ideal time to put new learning strategies to work.  Students who adopt effective study skills can reduce their stress, maximize the last few months of the school year, and build a foundation to do even better next year.

Which Study Strategy is Best for You?

There is no one great way to study!  Everyone’s way of studying is different.  Don’t limit yourself to one method, try different ones and figure out which ones are best for you.

Study Notes:  Make sure that your class notes are complete, organized, and easy to read.  Study notes are effective for EVERY class, and are highly recommended for use in all forms of study.  When it comes down to studying from class notes, do not simply read them over and over.  Actively read them, and make connections as you are reading.   You can write down new thoughts and ideas in the margins, or underline parts that you need to study further.  A successful student will constantly evaluate their understanding of the material they are studying.

Quizzes and Practice Tests These are great ways to study.  Quizzing yourself before you start studying helps you discover which concepts you don’t understand or remember and in which areas you require the most focus and review.

Memorization Our brains store information in two areas:  short-term memory and long-term memory.  When you see or hear something for the first time, you file it into your short-term memory.  Unless you work to move it to your long-term memory, you will soon forget it.  Storing information in your long-term memory is a very important part of school.

Effective strategies to help you remember what you’ve learned are:

  1. Review all of your study notes and text material regularly.
  2. While reviewing your notes, read them out loud.  Cover the information you are working on and recite it.  Read it over until you have committed it to memory.
  3. Rewriting information can be helpful, especially definitions or vocabulary terms.
  4. Memorizing facts, formulas, and definitions is great for helping you pass a test, but it’s not effective beyond that unless you understand the material.  While you are using your memorization techniques to remember information, make sure you understand how to use it, when to use it, and how it relates to other concepts you have learned.  Understanding the material also helps you retain it.

About Oxford Learning

Since being established in 1984, Oxford Learning has grown to include more than 100 learning centres across Canada and the United States.  Oxford Learning goes beyond tutoring to help students reach their learning potential, not just for one grade or one year but for a lifetime.  The unique programs teach children to learn how to learn.  Just one to two hours a week can make a world of difference in developing the right skills and habits to succeed, no matter what the subject or the grade level, and breaking the cycle of hiring tutors year-after-year.

Oxford Learning is the only supplemental educator that focuses on teaching children to learn how to learn.  A customized supplemental education plan can be integral to advancing a student’s success.  Oxford Learning specialists conduct a personal dynamic assessment of every child who enrolls, and set a plan based on the student’s individual needs.  Just a couple of hours a week can make a lifelong and lasting difference in boosting a child’s learning abilities and self-esteem.

For more information, please contact Carrie MacDonald, Centre Director at Oxford Learning Edmonton West by either phone (780.433.0078) or email (edmontonwest@oxfordlearning.com).  Mention this blog and get your Dynamic Assessment for FREE!

10 Steps to Improve Mental Health by Dr. Chris Bjorndal

10 Steps to Improve Your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine by Dr. Chris Bjorndal

For many, mental illness is fraught with many unanswerable questions. This question has become the central quest of my life’s work as a Naturopathic Doctor. Based on these areas I have developed the 10 steps to improve your mental health and mental wellness.

Note: This is a shortened post from the original, located at Natural Terrain’s website. Read the full version here.

1.) Diet

Conditions like depression and anxiety are commonly seen as a neurotransmitter deficiency. Yet, taking a drug doesn’t fix the root cause of why these chemicals are out of balance. Your body may not be supporting the pathway to make healthy amounts of neurotransmitters in the first place because it may be missing the building blocks or other key biochemical co-factors.

If your diet is poor (highly processed and full of caffeine and sugar) you simply cannot make enough serotonin or other neurotransmitters to feel balanced. Environmental toxins (heavy metals, pesticides and endocrine disruptors) also block nutrient absorption. Key pathways in the brain require proper amounts of essential nutrients. Nutrients such as, There is so much to say about diet that I have written a guide book on this subject: The Essential Diet: Eating for Mental Health.

2.) Sleep

A consistent and regular sleep routine is critical to our mental health. It allows us to rest, detoxify and process what happens to us during the day. Being deprived of sleep decreases energy, increases stress, cortisol, and emotional reactivity, suppresses the immune system, and promotes weight gain. More importantly, doctors now recognize lack of sleep as a direct contributory factor for many chronic and acute mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and episodes of psychosis.

It’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality.

3.) Exercise

I often say that exercise is the most under-prescribed antidepressant treat

ment available. A 2016 meta-analysis focusing on regular aerobic exercise as a treatment for depression shows it is statistically equal to antidepressants as treatment, without the adverse effects. It is also effective in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and OCD. It’s not just aerobic exercise that’s effective; studies have also shown the psychological benefit of other types of activity.

The psychological benefits of exercise are even greater when we do it with others, and especially beneficial when we exercise outdoors. Joining a community sports team that gets you outside and interacting with others regularly is a big step toward improving your mental health.

4.) Stress management

Stress is a psychological experience of feeling like your resources (internal or external) are almost exhausted (or are fully used up), and you are struggling to cope with demands of life.

No matter what the stressful event is, if the mind experiences psychological stress, the body experiences physiological stress. This physiological stress is an ancient survival mechanism built in to our bodies to help us flee harmful situations, but today’s world, it’s less helpful.

With awareness, you can then work to reduce or eliminate stressors. If you can’t reduce stressors, you must learn to manage your reactivity given your current life situation. Working with psychotherapeutic techniques, such as the seven Rs of working with problematic thoughts (that I discuss in my book: Beyond the Label) or systematic relaxation tools you can manage your response to stress.

5.) Exposure to Environmental Toxins

In today’s day-today life, chemicals are everywhere.To understand your toxin load, take our Environmental Quiz which considers exposure you might have to plastics, pesticides, non-stick pans, microwaves, extended cell phone use, artificial colouring and fragrance, make-up and personal care products, genetically modified foods, antibacterial soap, alcohol and pharmaceuticals. Also, what is the air and water quality like in your hometown and do you filter either?

With so many sources it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The point is not to burden you with the task of immediately changing everything. Be aware of initiatives like the Environmental Working Groups’ list of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed foods (The Dirty Dozen) and the least sprayed foods (Clean Fifteen), and apps like Think Dirty® that lets you scan household products to discover their toxin content and find healthier alternatives.

6.) Thoughts

Every thought we think isn’t necessarily true; thoughts are simply ideas that exist in our heads. However, some thoughts are so powerful that we take them to be fact.

When this spiral happens, the work that needs to be done is breaking the thought-emotion cycle. Using a stepwise practice you can learn to widen the space between thoughts and emotions and learn to separate fact from fiction. You will learn that thoughts and the emotional reaction to thoughts don’t have to run your life. You can learn a more balanced approach to thinking. This practice uses a cognitive model to recognize and work with distorted thought patterns, as well as body-focusing techniques and breathing to harness the parasympathetic nervous system and modulate the physiological stress response.

7.) Emotions

For some, emotions can be elusive and hard to pinpoint, and for others they can be clear, overwhelming and incessant. As well, they can be different to you at different times. The emotional work I do with my patients follows a process of understanding what one is feeling in a very present, honest way, then working towards letting go of resistance and accepting one’s emotions.

Skills I teach along the way are recognizing one’s own emotional sensitivity level, learning to set healthy boundaries, and mindfulness of the present moment.

8.) Behaviors versus Reactions

Often in mental health conditions there are cycles of behaviors that reinforce the illness: isolating, sleeping too much or too little, blowing up or shutting down emotionally, eating too much or too little, etc. To address this, following closely behind the work on thoughts and emotions, comes the practice of behavioral change.

As one learns to lengthen the time between thoughts and reactions, there grows a window of opportunity for one to act in a different manner than simply reacting. We can actually learn to choose a healthy behavior, as opposed to immediately reacting in a protective manner.

An example is if we have a negative thought, we have the ability to pause and say to ourselves, “I am thinking a negative thought”. By doing so, we widen the gap between thought and emotion, and we have practiced recognizing exactly what the emotion is.

9.) Spirituality

Mental health is often viewed as a biochemical imbalance. I have made my life’s work an exploration of the other factors that contribute to mental health concerns beyond biochemistry, including psychology, trauma, physiology and environment, but there is another factor to explore: the spiritual aspect of mental health. Here I define spirituality as believing in, or being connected to, a power greater than yourself.

My view is that mental illness is a way by which our spirit is trying to get our attention because some aspect of our lives (such as school, work or a relationship) is not moving in concert with our spirit.

10.) Love and Compassion for Yourself and for Others

Ultimately, it is our feelings about ourselves and how we treat ourselves that are critical to our mental health and well-being. I ask every patient how they much they love themselves on a scale of 1 to 10, and it is rare for me to get a response over five. It breaks my heart to hear someone speak unkindly of themselves, yet I, too, would once have given a similar response.

Ask yourself: If you talked to your best friend the way you talk to yourself, would they accept it?

We hope you’ve enjoyed the list!

Read more about Dr. Chris and Natural Terrain Naturopathic Clinic on their website at  www.naturalterrain.com.

Academy of Learning: Programs for Immigrants

Are you new to Canada? Wondering where to start? Building a new life in a different country can seem overwhelming at times. Academy of Learning is here to help! We have educated thousands of new immigrants entering Alberta and we are here to make the steps to attaining gainful employment as easy as possible.

When coming with credentials from various countries, finding out what they are equivalent to here can be completed by looking up International Qualifications Assessment Services offered by the Government of Alberta. You can find them at this link: https://www.alberta.ca/iqas.aspx. It is a simple process where you will mail them your original documents and they would send them back to you with a formal letter that explains what your education is equivalent to in Alberta. Make sure to take copies of your originals so that you are not left without a copy while they are completing the assessment. When you receive the assessment, you will know whether you need to find an institution where you can take a short term program in order to find work.

This is where the Academy of Learning can help you. Many new immigrants do not want to go back to university to do another four years of education when they have already have a degree. However, usually they will need some sort of Canadian credential to be employable. At the Academy of Learning, all the programs offered are less than a year and if you are permanent resident, you qualify for funding.

These short term vocational courses will update your skill set and give your resume the content employers are looking for. With various courses in fields such as IT, Healthcare, Legal, Business and much more, we offer the short term training you need to get the job! For those of you without previous post-secondary education, we can help you too. If you do not have a previous high school diploma but need to get working, we have exams that you can write to demonstrate equivalency.

Call Academy of Learning today and book an appointment. We are ready to assist you in creating the future you want for you and your family! Call 780 496-9428.

Academy of Learning: Tips for Writing Emails

How many of you struggle when formatting a letter, email or basic correspondence? You are not alone! Many of us have never had any formal training when it comes to what to say, the information necessary to include and how to make your writing clear, concise and diplomatic. Here are some tips for letter/email writing.

Know your audience. Who are you writing to and why? If you jot this down first, this note to self will keep you on track when providing details, questions, and concerns.

Do not enter the recipient’s email address until you have re-read your email or asked for a second set of eyes to look at your work. This will eliminate the risk of accidentally sending an email before it is complete.

When beginning your letter/email always try to have a specific address and person to direct it to. This means doing your homework. Call the office and ask what the manager’s name is. Also, Google the correct, full mailing address and include this under the date on the left hand side of the page. If you know the manager’s name, include “Att:” and their name under the full mailing address.

Avoid using “To whom it may concern,” as this illustrates you have not taken the time to learn about the company, staff, or person to where the letter/email is directed.

In order to present your ideas clearly, take the notes you jotted down before starting and look at them again. What is it that you need to say in order to make your point clear? Should you provide a couple sentences that demonstrate why you are contacting them and how they can help you? Are you trying to relay necessary information and is this information better if listed in point form?  This is where knowing your audience is important. It will help you determine how to present your information.

Make sure that your paragraphs do not run on. Clear and focused writing is key as you do not want to waste anyone’s time (including your own). Sometimes writing a point form outline of the items you want to get across will help you determine what to write in each paragraph.

Try not to make your letter/email long. The more specific and detailed you can get, the better. “Sum it up in the least amount of words possible,” is what I always say to my students!!

Read your letter/email out loud to yourself. If there is a word or phrase that just doesn’t sit right, re-write it. Look for wording or phrasing that could be offensive even if you don’t mean it that way and again, re-write it.

Don’t use emojis, “LOL,” any short form or acronyms that your audience may not understand. When in doubt, eliminate it.

Conclude your letter/ email by thanking that individual for their time and with the details of how that person can contact you. Including both email and phone number is great as most individuals will have their own preference.

If you are looking for more information on how to increase your writing skills, we would be happy to help you at the Academy of Learning Edmonton West located at The Marketplace at Callingwood. We have many short courses you can take that will teach you the finer points of creating documents, punctuation and writing skills as well as grammar. We are here to see you be successful!

We look forward to seeing you soon. Call us today at 780-496-9428.