FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Avoiding the Stress Competition and 6 Other Tips for Surviving Finals

This blog was originally posted on April 30, 2012 and was written by Sarah Weller. Also check out this post by Bob Pleasants for more study tips or The Learning Center for finals week services like Study Boot Camps, Academic Coaching and Peer Tutoring!


Finals period! Oh what a wonderful time of year!

Sike. Let’s just be blunt. Finals. Period. Sucks. It’s a stressful time of year. End of story. There is really no way that a 2 week period testing your knowledge on ALLLL the things that you learned during the past 14 weeks could be anything but a little stressful.  But there are some ways to make it suck less, and maybe to even harness some of that stress for good.

  Above all- Don’t Engage in the Stress Competition at all costs!!!

Person 1:“I’m so stressed. I have 2 papers, and 3 finals to go. I’ve been up since, like, 6:30 this morning.”

Person 2: “Uh, me too. I’ve had like 6 cups of coffee today. I only got like 3 hours of sleep.”

Person 1: “Oh yea, I only got like 2.5. I had to finish that take home we had due for biochem.”

How often have you been hanging out with friends during high-stress times like finals period and suddenly found yourself in a similar conversation, wherein, one person’s stressors just feeds off the other’s. BEWARE! While this might seem like simple commiseration, it only serves to perpetuate an atmosphere of stress! In fact, let’s all actively FIGHT the stress competition. When you find yourself beginning to engage in a Stress Competition, immediately say something nice. Something positive. Do jumping jacks. Make a scene. ANYTHING but engage in the stress competition- for serious.

Oh and here are 6 other handy tips for finals times…

1.       Make a Schedule: Sound familiar? You’ve probably received this advice on repeated occasions, but it’s a good suggestion, so it bears repeating. Many times, stress stems from trying to squeeze too much into too little time. By setting out a schedule, you help to structure your time, ensuring that you’re not left at the 12th hour with 20+ pages to read/write. (Bonus: By creating a schedule and using your time wisely you have more time for #3 and #4!)

2.       Prioritize: Much like making a schedule, prioritizing helps you to avoid that last minute cram.

3.       Avoid Productive Procrastination (Or Procrastination At all): Personally, I often try to do smaller easier tasks, while ignoring my looming larger assignments, something a friend of mine calls productive procrastination. While this might seem like at least I’m getting something done, it really just causes me extra stress when I have to scrabble to finish the BIG assignments in the end. Those little assignments aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be just as easy when you’re done with the big one. Same thing for procrastination at all. It’s only going to sneak up on you in the end. Facebook, Twitter, that trip to Taco Bell will still be there when you’re done (and can even serve as a pleasant reward for finishing!)

4.       Take Care of Yourself: I CANNOT repeat this enough. If your body is not well, your mind is not well. Deprive it of the essentials– sleep, nutrients from good food– it’s just not going to perform the way you want it to, and you’re not going to perform the way that you want to. So treat your body right. Take care of yourself.

5.       Don’t Forget Balance: Staying balanced during finals period can be hard. But don’t forget to intersperse some of the activities that really make you happy in between papers and study sessions.

6.       Set Realistic Goals: Know what you can and cannot do. Finishing an X page paper in X amount of time might be realistic for some, but not for you. Use this knowledge to help guide you in #1 and #2.
Any other great suggestions on avoiding finals time stress?

5 Netflix Movies with Strong Women Characters

by Harper Owens


Living in the age of the internet has given us unprecedented access to popular forms of entertainment – in recent years, expressions like “binge watching” have become an accepted part of our lexicon, indicating how normalized extreme media consumption has become. However, just because we are saturated with media does not mean that we see equal representation of different populations. A quick glance at a list of Netflix recommendations, for instance, will reveal the not-surprising but nevertheless harmful overrepresentation of white men. Though quantity doesn’t determine quality, it is still disconcerting to see that, by and large, the media tells the stories of white males far more than it tells those of any other race or gender.


Fortunately, because the amount of material to be found online is so broad, it is getting easier and easier to find films that are more woman-centric, provided that you look long enough and in the right places. What follows is a list of a few excellent films with strong female leads, currently streaming on Netflix.


"251/365 - 09/07/11 - Netflix" by Shardayy. Flickr Creative Commons.

“251/365 – 09/07/11 – Netflix” by Shardayy. Flickr Creative Commons.


However, I’d like to make two disclaimers. The first concerns what has become known as the Bechdel Test. The idea is that if a film passes the Bechdel Test – that is, if it features a dialogue scene in which two women talk about something besides a man – then the film presents a fairer representation of femininity. The test originated in a 1985 comic written by Alison Bechdel, and has risen dramatically in popularity in recent years, so much so that Swedish cinemas now incorporate the test into their movie ratings.


While the Bechdel Test can be a fun tool to use on your favorite movies (it’s almost guaranteed that few of them will pass), the fact that some use it as the standard by which to hold movies is worrisome. The test has serious limitations. It is fairly useful when it comes to determining female representation in a given film, but it indicates nothing about how women are characterized in said film – a film which passes the test could still have a substantial amount of misogynist content (this complaint was levelled against Guardians of the Galaxy last year). Also, it is conceivable for a female character to be strong and complex without talking to another woman.


Some of the selected films pass the Bechdel Test, others don’t. I promise that they were each chosen with good reason.


My second disclaimer: though the selected films all feature wonderfully vibrant and complex female characters, the directors of these films are all male. The dearth of respected woman directors is a persistent problem in the film industry. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t find female voices out there – Sofia Coppola, Miranda July, and Lisa Cholodenko are three that immediately come to mind, and they each have work available on Netflix. But while Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides has something interesting to say about male perceptions of femininity, I didn’t feel that it fit this list. The same goes for Cholodenko’s The Kids are All Right, which I frankly found to be juvenile in its portrayal of same-sex relationships (it validates, whether unintentionally or not, the myth that all lesbians secretly want men). And I regret to say that I have not yet seen July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know.



Frances Ha

A simply-told, well-observed portrait of twentysomething Frances as she navigates her way through young adulthood. Though coming-of-age stories are common enough, this film still carries the feeling of a story seldom told. Writer-director Noah Baumbach, with his observational camera style and slice-of-life dialogue, places attention on everyday scenes that we don’t typically get in mainstream films, and Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film) gives an excellent performance.


Short Term 12

Another tale of growing up, this time focusing on Grace, a young counselor for at-risk children. The film handles serious subject matter with tact, and there is never a false or heavy-handed moment. A superb effort by newcomer Destin Daniel Crettin, the film pulls off the rare feat of being gripping and tender at the same time.


20 Feet from Stardom

A pleasant and compelling documentary, telling the story of several backup singers in the recording industry, who have each lent their talents to some of the most celebrated music of the last century. These singers, most of them African American women, have lived in relative anonymity despite their massive contributions to pop music, and this film finally gives them some well-deserved time in the spotlight.


The Silence of the Lambs

There are several factors which make this a compelling movie, but one of the most interesting points of conflict is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster)’s status as one of the few females in her FBI training program. Director Johnathan Demme, using long, fluid point-of-view shots, does an excellent job of conveying the discomfort and sense of injustice inherent to being a woman in a male-dominated environment.


Jackie Brown

This was the first time Quentin Tarantino attempted to write a powerful female lead (his Kill Bill movies are also currently streaming), and his attempt is, by and large, a success. Jackie is, without a doubt, the most competent player in this caper where competency is crucial. The story, adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, is labyrinthine – it’s one of those crime thrillers where, whether we think we’re following everything or not, we know the protagonist must be one step ahead of us.


WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Fish Oil, or No Fish Oil? Medical Journal Findings and Fish Oil Sales Just Don’t Match Up!

by: Emily Wheeler

Since this article is about both fish oil and research about fish oil, let’s start off Friday with a related fun fact: in Portuguese, the verb for “to fish” is pescar, and the noun for “research” is pesquisa. I like that combination conceptually because it makes me think of research as the process of fishing for valuable knowledge out of the vast pool of universal information. Pretty cool, right? Just me? Ok, we’ll move on.

Between the years 2007 and 2012, annual sales of fish oils and omega-3 fatty acid supplements increased from $425 million to $1043 million in the United States and similar sales booms were seen in the United Kingdom and Australasia (which consists of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and other small neighboring pacific islands). Considering the fact that 10% of adults in the U.S. take a fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid (FA) supplement, chances are that we all know someone who spends quite a bit of money on those fishy, transparent capsules!

I turned to Google to find 10 different bottles of fish oil capsules with roughly the same quantity of fish oil per bottle (GNC, Nature Made, Sundown, Spring Valley, Nordic Naturals, Nature’s Bounty, Optimum Nutrition, Carlson, and Barlean’s) and found the average price of the 10 bottles to be $16.08 for roughly 100 days of taking 1000 mg fish oil per day (this is not an unusual quantity for people to take). No wonder fish oil sales are so high; that’s not cheap for a plastic bottle that smells like a seafood market!

Fish oil caps

“Fish Oil Caps” by Stephen Cummings of Flickr Creative Commons

In March, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine published a research letter in which Dr.’s Andrew Grey and Mark Bolland identified randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or meta-analyses of RCTs about omega-2 fatty acid use published in the top ranking internal medicine journals in the world between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2012. A randomized control trial is a research study in which two groups of people are followed over time, and one group is given the treatment (fish oil supplements in this case) and the other group is given a placebo (a similar-looking pill that actually contains no fish oil), so each participant does not know which group they are in (to prevent bias). Then the groups are assessed to see if there are any significant differences between the “case” and the “control” groups, such as differences in cardiovascular health in the fish oil trials. The assessment of 18 RCTs found that only 2 of the 18 reported that they found a health benefit to treatment with omega-3 fatty acid supplements (which term I am using interchangeably with fish oil in this article).

The researchers then found the popular news reports that covered the same RCTs that they had assessed and used a 5-point scale with 1 meaning “clearly unfavorable” and 5 meaning “clearly favorable” to assess the way each news report chose to report the findings of the RCTs. For each of the 18 RCTs assessed, they found between 0 and 27 news stories covering each one, ranked them all using the 5-point scale, and then found the median editorial score to be 4. Because a score of 5 means “clearly favorable,” most of the editorial reviews of the RCTs were enthusiastic about the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements, even though only 2 of the 18 studies showed health benefit to their use.

If the majority of RCTs published in the top internal medicine journals in the world have found no notable health benefit to taking fish oil supplements, why have fish oil sales increased exponentially in recent years in various parts of the world?

Randomized clinical trials are considered the “gold standard” for a research study that is trying to establish a clear relationship between a treatment and an outcome, and they are typically the most trusted study design. However, the analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the RCT publications in prominent medical journals have had very little effect on the use of fish oil supplements, as well as the media portrayal of these supplements.

Since 90% of people who take omega-3 FA supplements do so by their own choice and not at the advice of a health care professional, it is understandable why this trend is occurring. These supplements are readily available in the vitamin aisles of thousands of stores, are more affordable than a prescription, and are touted as beneficial to heart health or lowering cholesterol by hundreds of news sources.

These use of these supplements was even endorsed by the American Heart Association in 2002 because less reliable research evidence than the RCTs had shown a benefit to cardiovascular health.

When previous research has shown a benefit, media sources have spread the message far and wide, and supplement companies have seized the opportunity to claim that their product will make people healthier, it is hard to contradict all of this information and change consumer’s minds.  Even when newer, more reliable evidence has emerged saying that what we previously thought about fish oil supplements might not be entirely correct, the majority of consumers don’t take the time to look for hard evidence of a benefit before they make their way to the pharmacy.

Before you go out and spend money on a product claiming a health benefit, it is best to look for the original up-to-date research showing what benefit, or lack thereof, has been found. Even then, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before you alter your diet or begin taking a supplement. You never know how it many affect you based on your unique medical history and it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health! (Plus, I’d personally get my omega-3’s straight from the source and eat real fish instead.)

wild salmon grilled on a cedar plank

“Wild salmon grilled on a cedar plank” by woodlywonderworks of Flickr Creative Commons


Grey A, Bolland M. Clinical Trial Evidence and Use of Fish Oil Supplements. JAMA Intern Med.2014;174(3):460-462. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.12765.

Fitness Boot Camps: Fad or Fact?

[“Bootcamp” by Oklanica, Flickr Creative Commons]

[“Bootcamp” by Oklanica, Flickr Creative Commons]

Please Note: This blog post is written just from one perspective and may not apply to all. Although I have the goal of losing weight, this blog post is written with the understanding that not everyone holds this same goal. This blog post reflects my experience and is not meant to encourage readers to pursue enrollment in bootcamps or to seek to lose weight. 

Can you believe it? It’s already April! We’ve now waved goodbye to winter and said hello to spring…finally. It’s also that time when I want to say goodbye to those few extra pounds I put on during the cold months. If any of you are like me, it’s a lot more difficult to lose weight than it is to gain it. I’ve tried changing up my eating habits and taking up more rigorous exercise plans. I’ve even done what some people consider an extreme in exercising: fitness boot camps.

Fitness boot camps have become a very popular workout regime embraced by people of all ages, shapes, and levels of physical stamina across the country. Fitness boot camps are a type of group physical training program characterized by intense cardio and strength-training routines during a 1-hour period. Modeled after military boot camps, fitness boot camps are generally composed of calisthenics, or exercises like push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, and planks that rely on one’s body weight and require little equipment. Fitness boot camps also usually adopt a circuit-training format, which is composed of 6-8 circuits of strength and cardio exercises completed one after the other for 60-90 seconds each with 15-30 second breaks in between circuits. An example of a circuit would be sixty seconds of squats, lunges, and mountain climbers followed by a 30-second break and then 60 seconds of push-ups, scissor kicks, and side planks. Free weights, medicine balls, jump ropes, and exercise sliders may also be incorporated into circuit training for extra resistance.

So, are fitness boot camps a safe and effective way to get into shape? The answer is…it depends. What may work for some, may not work for all. According to About Health, fitness boot camps have both pros and cons. As far as pros, fitness boot camps are a cost-efficient way to get a full body workout with opportunities to share motivation and camaraderie with fellow boot campers. Therefore, along with promoting physical wellness, fitness boot camps also offer opportunities to strengthen one’s social wellness. However, there are also some limitations to this form of exercise. Because fitness boot camps are group workout sessions, participants may not be able to receive the one-on-one consultation that characterizes individualized personal training programs. Second, fitness boot camps typically require participants to have a steep learning curve. It may take some time to learn the workout routines and to identify exercises you may need to adapt to your abilities and needs.

Overall, it’s very important that you consult with your physician and, if available, complete a fitness assessment to determine if there are exercises that may aggravate prior injuries or health conditions before you engage in fitness boot camp or any other fitness programs. Fitness boot camps can be a great way to shed the winter weight in preparation for summer, but just like any workout, consistency is key. Completing a couple boot camp classes in early May may not help you meet your health goals before Memorial Day. Sticking to a workout plan along with healthy eating habits requires time, dedication, and commitment to translate to results. But you can do it—with or without fitness bootcamp!

Listen & Learn: Relationships in Music

by Hali Archambault

Have you ever started singing along to a song and then quickly realized that what you were singing was actually something derogatory or offensive? The use of catchy lyrics and rhythms can entrance a listener and it is difficult to distinguish how toxic the words really are. Music is such a large part of our culture and it can influence our thoughts and views, whether conscious or unconscious. These lyrics can skew individual views of what is “okay” and provide demonstrations for unhealthy relationships.

But how can one distinguish a healthy adfrelationship from an unhealthy one? One way is to view each characteristic of a relationship as a pillar that holds it together: a relationship cannot work if one of the pillars begins to crumble. So what are these pillars? We can categorize the traits of a healthy relationship into 7 pillars.

  1. Respect
  2. Trust and Support
  3. Honesty and Accountability
  4. Shared Responsibility
  5. Economic Partnership
  6. Negotiation and Fairness
  7. Non-Threatening Behavior

Music often doesn’t destruct all of the pillars– media in general is never 100% bad or 100% good– but we can look at several lyrics to identify any possible unhealthy factors exhibited in a song and how these factors can result in an overall unhealthy relationship. This is not to say that one artist’s music is all bad and you should never listen to their music, but it is important to recognize the lyrics we listen to and their influence on relationships.

  • Nick Jonas, Jealous
    • Pop music has normalized or romanticized the attitude of victim blaming. The title, Jealous, reveals a lack of trust. While there may be debate for a “healthy amount of jealousy” in a relationship, there are several lyrics that point to aggressive behaviors such as “I’m puffing my chest” and “It’s my right to be hellish.” Additionally, the song reveals victim blaming (“’Cause you’re too sexy, beautiful”) such that the pursued is too pretty and should contain that.
  • Sam Smith, Stay with Me
    • This song has a beautiful melody, but contains some concerning messages. Many unhealthy relationships go through a cycle: honeymoon stage, tension builds, and an incident. The unhealthy relationship does not necessarily go through each stage every time, but the honeymoon stage (the calm) makes it feel like everything is fine. It isn’t until an incident happens that people usually seek help. Therefore, the lyrics of Stay With Me, “this ain’t love, it’s clear to see but darling, stay with me” represents a plea the pursued may hear to stay in a relationship, despite it being unhealthy. Check out the lyrics to see how gender plays a large role in unhealthy relationships:

But there are also plenty of songs that display more healthy relationships! These songs focus on trust, equality, respect, and honesty. Here, we will look at two pop songs that convey positive messages about relationships.

  • Fifth Harmony, Miss Movin’ On
    • While this song does not portray a healthy relationship, it places emphasis on the strength it takes to get out of an unhealthy relationship, empowering those to “start from scratch.” It creates assurance that there is a way out and a way to “move on.” The inspiring lyrics can be found at:
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
    • The premise of this song is a love that is long lasting, based on open communication, “I just wanna tell you I am,” and simple acts of comfort, such as “just the touch of a hand.” The healthy relationship is based on the support, trust, communication, respect and safety.

Check out this awesome playlist that emphasizes healthy relationships on: http://www.loveisrespect.org/content/healthy-relationship-playlist-3-0/


So what now? It is important to note that listening to media with messages you don’t love doesn’t make you a bad person — it’s okay to enjoy these songs! It would be impossible to consume any media if we said never to listen to/watch anything that conveyed negative behaviors. However, it’s important to recognize that the media you consume could be affecting your attitudes. Ask yourself: What is the message of this song? And do I like that message?

What can you do right now? Talk to your friends about these songs, or other songs you have realized are either empowering or promote unhealthy relationships.


My One ACT will be talking to my friends about the way media affects our ideas about relationships. What’s your One ACT?

End of An Era

end of an era


As the end of the year draws extremely close, there are those amazing moments when you realize, I’m here!.. I did it. I made it. They are such wonderful moments because then comes the reflection on all of your achievements, hard work, friends (new & old), completed papers, finished exams and the possible excited or nervous thoughts on the next steps in your journey. Within that as well, there could also be the excitement about the memories you have created and the ones you’re getting ready to create. It is a time to celebrate, maybe laugh or cry and contemplate the many possibilities of the summer and even your long-term future.

A word comes to mind with the thoughts of an ending an era. Legacy. The definition of Legacy is something that remains from a previous generation or time. Think about it for a moment. What is your legacy? Moving away from the formal definition, but maybe consider what legacy means personally, spiritually, mentally, physically or academically. Maybe a legacy on a team, a legacy with friends, a legacy in the classroom, a legacy left with new acquaintances or one that’s felt and not seen. What piece of your journey here will always remain? What’s wonderful is there’s always memories and we get to re-visit them in our photos, old textbooks, class rings, achievement awards, old uniforms, trophies and yearbooks. As these last several days come and go, enjoy these memories. Take care of yourself as you are pushing to the last day, smile in knowing your work and perseverance was enough and congratulate yourself on reaching the next step in your voyage.


Order Yearbook:

Class Rings:

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Baby Steps to Finding a JOB!

This post was originally published on April 24, 2014 and was written by Natalie Rich.

The semester is winding down, and suddenly you are faced with the prospect of finding the perfect resume-boosting summer job or internship….or perhaps you are graduating–GASP!–and you are looking for your first post-college full time position to launch your super-duper-fabulous career.

No matter what type of job you are looking for, here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 354_1all_the_eggs_in_one_basket

There is no such thing as the PERFECT job, and wedding yourself to one job as the be-all-and-end-all of jobs or /internships can set you up for disappointment, not to mention the fact that focusing on just one opportunity may mean missing out on other cool opportunities. Remember that this next job, whether a summer internship or post-college position, is just a stepping stone; it does not have to be the job you work for the rest of your life or even the career you end up with.

2. Know what you want.

Ok, so you don’t want to focus on just one opportunity, but you do want to have SOME focus in your search. When someone asks “what kind of job are you looking for?”, have an answer ready (hint: “a job that pays” is NOT enough!). Are you looking for a social media internship with a tech company? Trying to land a research assistant position to help prepare you to apply for a grad program in chemistry? Have clear idea of what field you want to work in and how this fits into your overall career goals. This not only helps narrow your search, it also makes you look more appealing to recruiters or potential employers, who want candidates that demonstrate passion and drive.

3. Have an elevator pitch.

Once you know generally what kind of job or internship you want, find a way to articulate along with your skills in an “elevator pitch.” This is a short speech that you can tailor for networking events or job interviews that summarizes what you are looking for and/or what you have to offer. Different situations and different jobs will require a different pitch, but there is a common thread: keep it short. Check out resources for creating your own elevator pitch here and here.

Also, consider writing a quick pitch at the beginning of your resume too. This is slightly different from an objective, which some experts now discourage in favor of the elevator pitch or list of keys skills.


4. Work your connections.

Notice how I didn’t say “network” because this word tends to drum up visions of awkward meet-and-greets full of scary people in suits. Networking goes way beyond this. It means talking with professors, TAs, friends, mentors, family, and UNC alums. Put the word out that you are looking for a job and the kind of job you want (cue: elevator pitch!). Other ways to network include arranging informational interviews with companies or organizations you are interested in to get an idea of what jobs they are offering and what they look for, and reaching out to supervisors from previous internships or volunteer positions.

5. Check out Career Services!

I could have included tips on drafting the ideal resume or cover letter, prepping for an interview, or conducting an efficient job search, but UNC Career Services has all the resources to help you with those things. They can give you individualized feedback on your resume, cover letter, and interviewing skills as well as a wealth of resources to help guide you through the process of searching, applying, and securing an ideal job for you.

Finding a job can be overwhelming, especially when you have end-of-semester papers and exams to worry about. Keep in mind that this next job will not make or break your career. So, give yourself a break and be flexible. This next job is just a step, and it may be one of many steps you take in your career. Maybe it’s a side step or a baby step…maybe it’s a leap. You’ve made it to Carolina, which already proves you have what it takes to succeed, so let your talents shine and you may be surprised at the opportunities that await you.