Skip to main content

Alum shares tips on mental wellness

April 20, 2023

Man in plaid shirt smiling

UVic triple grad and campus counsellor Adam Tran offers up some life hacks on caring for your health and well-being.

  • Name: Adam Tran
  • Expert in: Adam is a Canadian Certified Counsellor through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. His practice is mindfulness-based, relational and trauma-attuned. 
  • Current job: Counsellor at the UVic Student Wellness Centre
  • UVic degrees: BA in Political Science and Religious Studies ’14, Diploma in Intercultural Education and Training ’14, MA in Counselling ’20.

For those new to the practice, what can meditation offer?

In my experience, meditation has many benefits! Practising arriving in the present moment with awareness and kindness is powerful. It can help us feel more centred and relaxed, notice and shift habits that cause unnecessary suffering and stay present and connected to what matters most to us in our lives.

How does one start?

If you have never tried meditating before, it can really help to find sources of guidance and inspiration. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to find guidance and inspiration these days from an array of contemplative traditions, spiritual lineages and more recent schools of psychology. Here are some ideas:

  • Mindfulness and meditation apps (for example, Insight Timer, Headspace)
  • Podcasts with guided meditations (my favourite these days is Tara Brach’s podcast)
  • In-person or online meditation groups. It can feel really energizing and supportive to meditate with other people.
  • Books (I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing. Peace is Every Step is a classic)
  • Retreats can be wonderful opportunities to grow and deepen your meditation practice
  • Finding a good mindfulness-based or somatic therapist can be really helpful for when we need support being present with places in us that might be wounded or hold trauma.

What is one technique/approach you wish everyone would try?

I really love mindfulness teacher Tara Brach’s practice called RAIN, because it helps us practise both mindfulness and compassion. I like that it is simple and can practised in small doses throughout the day. It can also be used when difficult emotions arise. The acronym stands for:

Recognize what is going on.

Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.

Investigate with interest and care.

Nurture with self-compassion.

You can check out Tara Brach’s website for more information and guided versions of RAIN.

Someone comes into your office who is overwhelmed and stressed out with work or school. What is one first step forward that they can take right away?

I would say making it to the office is a great first step! We are relational creatures, so being with a therapist or another person who is non-judgmental, calm and caring can help us reconnect to ourselves when we are stressed and overwhelmed. And there are lots of great tools, like RAIN, box breathing, or 5-4-3-2-1, that can help ground and reconnect us with our strengths and resources when we feel stuck in the trance of overwhelm.

Pencil crayon drawing of a bird
Drawing by Adam Tran

You mention in your bio that you enjoy hiking, meditation and yoga and drawing birds. How can people find the things that calm and restore them?

These activities fill my cup because they connect me to nature, the present moment and creativity. Knowing what makes them rich and meaningful helps me stay connected to what matters most to me—even in little ways on busy or difficult days. For example, I rarely have time to bring out all of my art supplies and draw birds, like this sassy robin.

But I find that if I do few minutes of writing and doodling in the morning, I get a lot of energy because I am doing something creative. So reflecting on what matters most to you helps. As poet Mary Oliver put it, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?”

In your approach, you mention the importance of non-human relationships on growth and well-being. Can you expand on this?

Yes! When we step outside and open our hearts and our senses to the wild presence of the living beings surrounding us—the animals and birds, wind and trees, stars and moon—we can develop a real intimacy with the natural world. Coming (back) into relationship and belonging with these ancient and wild ones can help us grow in soulful and authentic ways, fill us with wonder and awe, and help us come into rhythm with the living ecosystems in which we are embedded. This is healthy for us as individuals and for the living Earth and is something that Indigenous peoples and mystics have always known.

You’ve had an extremely rich and varied background, including participating in the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiative’s (CAPI) Internship program where you volunteered with the National Domestic Workers Movement/Migrant Forum India in Kerala, India during your time as an undergrad at UVic. What is something you brought back from your travels that you use in your own toolbox in terms of mental health and well-being?

I find that, even after all these years, remembering and “taking in” the beauty from my internship helps sustain my well-being, and it can be a really sweet source of nourishment in difficult times. Imagination is powerful! Here are a couple of excerpts from a poem that I wrote a few years ago for CAPI’s 30th Anniversary Gala. It is inspired by the beauty that I still carry with me from this formative time in my life.

“Internship Reflections”

For six months in Kerala, India, I practised the art of living into a different rhythm.

Gently waking before sunrise to the sound of Allahu Akbar and a stirring call to prayer,

Alone with my thoughts,

Winding through the darkened streets accompanied by early risers sweeping their storefronts Pungent swirls of smoke from their small curbside piles

Wafting low in the humid morning air,

I breathe deeply and greet the canary yellow sunrise at the Sivananda Vedanta yoga centre,

And later enjoy a spicy egg curry with appam

that leaves my hand burning for the rest of the morning.


At work I learn more and more every day to ‘hurry up and wait’

This is not a place for pressure cooker work schedules

Or sky high cortisol levels,

Instead my workflow is regularly punctuated by

mandatory tea breaks, power outages, and requests to go pick a fresh papaya or two,

Learning over lunches with my supervisor, Sister Sally Michael

And how she sustains the uphill climb of grassroots activism

With her mischievous sense of humour and unwavering commitment to empowering the most vulnerable.


—Jenny Manzer, BA '97