Thompson Rivers University

Keeping an eye out for miracles

  Posted on: December 8, 2016

Kathy Lauriente, TRU Williams Lake Counselor

Between teaching and counselling, Kathy Lauriente welcomes the variety between clinical and educational work.  Both domains “supports and inspires one another” creating a cyclical element of connectedness on campus at TRU Williams Lake.

The 500 students who attend the Williams Lake campus might meet Kathy through her speaking engagements or Student Success workshops. Upon introduction, she explains her role as counselor and describes the kinds of reasons why students might need support. Kathy remarks that there is an increase in appointments following these sessions.

Known for her humorous, fun and casual nature, Kathy can often be found hanging out in Student Street, chatting and catching up with students.  To her, a little light comedy is “one of the biggest door openers” that allows students to approach her more easily. “I want students to get a sense of me,” and also, of the work that she does. By developing relationships outside of the counselling office, it’s one step closer to the destigmatization of mental health and normalizing counselling as part of your personal care plan.

Whatever is weighing on your mind, Kathy is keen to hash it out, “whether it’s school stress, relationship stress, parenting issues, addiction, global and political issues—I’m happy to talk about the little things, the big things and everything in between.”

Most importantly, Kathy reminds to take self-care practices as seriously as their studies. As for stress, anxiety and personal problems, like exams and assignments, “you don’t want to get behind.”

Kathy credits self-awareness as an essential component to our personal toolbox. “You do not have to be a passive victim to anxiety and stress, you have power in your own life. I want to help people get the reins back in their hands.”

It’s all about perspective: identify your triggers and collect soothing solutions. When we use our coping strategies, “our stress diminishes in intensity and size, and we can better control how we receive and react to stressful situations” Kathy says.

Kathy cites social media as a common trigger of anxiety. Sure, it’s a handy tool for communication, but it also propagates a lot of fake, sensationalistic news, negative comments and unrealistic expectations.

Haven’t we all wasted precious time scrolling away on various timelines? It’s important to check in with yourself: Is this making me happy? Is this appropriate use of my time?  Kathy poses these questions to students when identifying stress triggers. How does social media play a part in your anxiety levels?  Does it feel like everyone is happier and more successful than you—and the news has you feeling like we’re all just polishing brass on the Titanic?

While knowledge of current events has value and importance, there is also value in limiting how much we absorb, and the ways we are exposed to it. Kathy says, “often the media will portray the worst of the world—leading us to believe that the world is a terrible place filled with terrible people—which is clearly not the case.”

Kathy states that the danger lies in “the removal of social context and the lack of social consequence with social media which can heighten the dehumanization of others and this disconnectedness from a shared human experience.”

Kathy refers to the Wordsworth poem, The world is too much with us, as her own personal reminder to reclaim balance when the outside world seems far too stressful. “Our brains are incredibly selective. We can program ourselves to focus solely on fear, trauma, devastation if that is what we are over-exposed to—which can darken our outlook on the world.  It’s important to keep an eye out for the miracles.”

It’s essential to adjust our focus on our community, campus and inner-circle; establish goals that allow you to contribute to the betterment of the world, creating a semblance of control.

Still, it’s easy to slip into hopelessness. What’s the point of studying, trying and succeeding when there’s Donald Trump, terrorism, global warming and rising sea levels to contend with?

Though we might be drawn to negativity like moths to flames, we have the ability to filter. Kathy notes that positivity must be a “proactive, conscious decision and we must be disciplined and practice daily.”

Kathy recommends that we refocus; strive to understand your neighbor; self-monitor; seek support and get back on track. Above all, treat yourself as you would a friend, and care for yourself as such: “we are most vulnerable when tired, undernourished and unwell; it’s easy to get tipped off balance.”

Pinpointing our creative and emotional passions heightens our sense of purpose and capacity for joy. For Kathy, she references her grandsons, her artwork and her travels as positive touchstones.

She and her husband both ride Harley Davidson motorcycles, and have traveled extensively across Canada, as well as throughout northern and western US, and Alaska.  Her experiences are reflected in through her acrylic painting. The adventures also have a meditative quality, as Kathy claims, “I do some of my best thinking on a bike.”

In fact, she connects this to her work in youth outreach when difficult conversations would be remedied by long drives. “We would equate therapeutic work in terms of mileage.”

Behold, the power of mindful, creative meditation, clearing the path to look behind and see ahead of you.

For more information about the Counselling Department at the Williams Lake campus, please visit the website, or call 250-392-8000.