First Day in Grounding Ourselves

This project is supported by a grant from CIRA’s Community Investment Program. CIRA’s Community Investment Program gives back by supporting initiatives and programs that help build a better online Canada.

This post is submitted by Erum Hasan from the YWCA Girls Centre. Erum is a 17 year-old blogger, an active member of the YWCA Girls Council, a long-time member of Hive Toronto and part of the Ca.pture Youth Council. The accompanying illustration is done by youth facilitator and artist Lena Xu.

On Saturday December 3rd, 2016 our youth council met for our third meeting. This time the session was different and we focused more on creating a safe environment and team building. Up to this point, we haven’t had much time to get to know each other very well. With the help of the tower-building activity, we learned more about each other and the different ways we communicate. We were given materials to build a tower in our groups. It was interesting to see how the towers looked different and the concept behind their construction.

We talked about self care and looked at various strategies. We explored topics like neuroplasticity, meditation and expressive arts. I learned that the brain is malleable and that we have a potential to create change. If you’ve heard of the common expression that starts with “neurons that fire together wire together” then you have learned about neuroscience. The concept helps us understand that certain experiences and actions can light up different regions of the brain, and that brain activity in the most well-traveled neural pathways only becomes stronger. This is why it is important to develop and practice strategies for self-care. Meditating can be calming and has benefits for improving concentration and focus. We can develop mastery in the ability to concentrate and focus by practicing meditation. For our first activity, we tried belly breathing where we took a deep breath using our diaphragm.  Imagining our stomach as a balloon that is filling up with air, we learned to take controlled, slower, and deeper breaths. We then held that breath for seconds and exhaled the air. We learned that in situations where someone is having a panic attack that they aren’t “lacking air or not able to breathe” but they are forgetting the important step of exhaling. Sometimes we hold our breath without even knowing.

The next activity we did was blind contouring. We were asked to choose an object and place the item in front of us.  Without looking at our paper, we were asked to draw the object.  This was supposed to help us cultivate our intuition.  Expressive arts are useful in helping us utilizing the right hemisphere of the brain.  This side of the brain allows us to feel and access emotions that might be suppressed. We also learned that art helps us bypass the filtering that’s done through our left brain, the side that usually gives us the ability to use language.  Art can help with integrating the functions of both sides of the brain. I felt that it was necessary to speak about self care because we are working on a project that looks at the topic of cyberbullying which is a sensitive issue for many. I will be be supporting my own team and if anyone is struggling and participants are unhappy I would be helpful in that sense.

Self-care is very important, for example: taking care of ourselves allows us to understand how to have better conversations with others and helps us create a safe space with our peers as well. In order to to work well together, we have to be able to take care of ourselves since we will also be working with those who are affected by bullying. For me, I thought about what I could do if something happens and the kind of skills needed to get through it and to also help others.

Lastly, we visited different self care strategies and listed ideas that focused on sensory, physical, spiritual, emotional, mental/mastery, and social activities.  We shared our brainstorming with each other and I realized that we had a lot of common struggles, but we approached our stress in positive ways. This self-care session gave me a lot to think about afterwards and I will continue to explore different activities that will improve my well-being and share knowledge. I’ve come to a realization that self care is a topic that doesn’t have enough focus geared towards it. The bigger picture is we bought awareness to a subject of self care that’s often overlooked, especially since the focus of our sessions seem to be tech related. Learning about self care has changed the way I might approach a cyberbullying situation. I am more aware of how I would respond in a difficult situation, I will remain calm, take deep breaths and listen more effectively. My hope is that we can have more hands-on experiences and opportunities to connect with our YEP friends.