Taking Care of Your Mental Health When the News is Awful

Not a week goes by without awful, troubling, traumatic, angering, frustrating, and scary news. The recent shootings in Texas and Buffalo, and the war in Ukraine, and, and, and… 

It’s normal for news like this to result in strong feelings.  

It can be difficult to engage with current events and also difficult to ignore them. 

It’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world. 

It’s vital to take care of yourself and your mental health.  

And that ^^^ is a whole bunch of conflicting but true information. So what can we do about it? 

Notice

Pay attention to what comes up as you engage with the news.

  • Notice how the news makes you feel.
  • Recognize, If possible, how it feels to disengage from the news for a bit.  
  • Pay attention to how people in various communities have to engage with the news in different ways.  
  • Remember that the ability to disengage from what’s happening is a privilege.  
  • Notice when you’re ruminating on things outside of your control. 
  • Recognize when you’re doomscrolling – obsessively scrolling negative news, often to try and get answers when we’re feeling afraid.  

Do Something

When you notice conflict or behaviors that aren’t helpful to you – do something different.

  • Help people more closely affected by the news. 
  • Advocate for systemic changes that may help prevent news like this in the future.
  • Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you. 
  • Limit news intake for a bit. 
  • Do an activity that you enjoy. 
  • Stay connected with friends and family; lean on them when you need. 
  • Stay active – moving your body helps release stress. 
  • Talk to a therapist about your feelings. 
  • Plan an enjoyable event. Remember that your life will continue after this news cycle. Planning something to look forward to can help.  

Be Open

Not everyone feels the same way about the same event. Some worry that differences in how we digest the same events will further divide our communities. Counteract this in your life if you can by maintaining close relationships – even with those who don’t see eye to eye with you. 

Especially when news results in big feelings for you, engaging with people who feel differently can be very difficult. Give yourself some grace to bow out of conversations when you need it.  

When you are ready to engage with others about the event, even with the understanding they may view things differently than you, be open. There are always reasons why people feel the way they do about certain issues.  

  • Avoid assumptions about other people and how they think.  
  • Anticipate differences in opinions to prepare for difficult conversations.  
  • Remember that someone might be trying to limit news exposure for their mental wellbeing. 
  • Be curious! Ask open-ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgemental questions. 
  • Listen to what people say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.  
  • Reflect back on their perspective by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view. 
  • Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience.  

Get Support

There are many ways to get support for yourself or people close to you. At UNC-Chapel Hill, you can use the Resource Hub on the Heels Care Network to filter for the resources that will work best at this moment.

Avoid Getting Sick

We all know someone who has been sick recently. There are a number of viral respiratory illnesses being spread on campus, and your risk of getting any of them can be reduced by using some of the COVID-19 prevention strategies we all know well.

In addition, you can help yourself with the following strategies:

Sleep

We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical in order to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep. Read them nowSeriously.

Hydrate.

Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.

If you get sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through sickness, but we need to change this norm. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get vaccinated.

Most people who work in public health agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect the individual getting the shot as well as people around them.

The flu shot usually comes out in September of each year, but anytime someone gets a flu shot will still offer them protection against the flu once that immunity kicks in. So if you haven’t received yours since September 2021, you can still get a flu vaccine now.

COVID-19 vaccines are also helpful. Become fully vaccinated and boosted.

Both flu and COVID-19 vaccines (and boosters!) are available at Student Stores Pharmacy and Campus Health Pharmacy.

Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.

This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It has been updated and reposted.

LDOC (Last Day Of Class) 2022

LDOC Programming

Ready to celebrate the end of the academic year? Carolina will once again be abuzz with festivities for Last Day of Classes (LDOC) celebrations on April 27.

Games, food, films, giveaways and outdoor recreation are part of this year’s LDOC fun-filled lineup for Carolina students. Bring your One Card to ensure access to all events! 

And if you’re a student, please help improve future LDOC celebrations by taking a short survey!

New events are being added on Heel Life! Here are just a few highlights:

  • CUAB’s LDOC Candyland Carnival in The Pit
    • Come celebrate LDOC with CUAB from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in The Pit and Gift Plaza! Students can enjoy free food, inflatable games, street-sign making, tie-dyeing, prizes, and much more!
  • LDOC at the CGA (Carolina Gaming Arena)
    • 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. Insomnia cookies and pizza plus online gaming!
  • RHA’s Stress Less Fest
    • 2 p.m. -4 p.m. at the Morrison Basketball Court and Art Studio. RHA is ready to craft the stress away at the Morrison Art Studio!
  • LDOC S.N.A.C.K.S. Pack Giveaway
    • CUAB, hha! and Student Wellness are supplying Sleep Kits for pick-up at the CUAB Front Desk! Kits include: eye masks, earplugs, sleepytime tea bag, sanitizer, lavender wipes, stickers, and info on sleep hygiene inside a nifty pencil pouch. There is also a chance to enter a raffle for a JBL speaker if you fill out the survey to let us know your feedback.
  • Carolina After Dark: Movie and Activities Night
    • 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. at the Belltower Amphitheater. Calling All Students! Carolina After Dark is hosting a late night LDOC event and private movie showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Come enjoy yard games, food, a Photo Booth, and succulent terrarium workshops to celebrate the end of the semester! 

For a full list of LDOC events visit Heellife

Taking Care of Tar Heels

Make a plan: 

  • Before LDOC, talk with your friends about getting to and from events safely, how you will get around and how you will get home, and how you will keep tabs on each other throughout the night so no one gets left behind. 
  • Account for all people in your group of friends when you go out and when you head home. Staying with friends throughout the night will help ensure that everyone is safe and having a good time! 
  • Offer to watch your friends’ drinks (alcoholic or not) when they leave the table. 

Make it a night to remember: 

  • Drink water! 
  • Consider your comfort and risk level based on COVID-19. 
  • Talk to your friends about risk reduction strategies if they are planning to drink. Some common strategies among UNC students are: eating before drinking, avoiding shots, alternating alcoholic drinks with water, setting a pacing limit (e.g. 1 drink per hour), or an overall drink limit for the night.  For more ideas, check out this blog post

Ask for Help: 

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, find one of the many uniformed police officers that will be on hand for the event. Their main goal is to keep everyone safe. If you can’t find someone in person, call 911. If someone is experiencing signs of alcohol poisoning or other injuries, call 911 for medical help. 
  • If you see a potentially violent (physical or sexual) situation, call 911 for help! 
  • Keep in mind NC’s Good Samaritan Law: If you seek medical help on behalf of someone with alcohol poisoning, you will be exempt from certain underage alcohol possession charges. In other words, they cannot ticket you with underage possession or consumption of alcohol if you are seeking medical attention on behalf of someone who may have alcohol poisoning. 
  • When things don’t go as planned, contact other resources that night or the next day for support for yourself or your friends. 

No matter how you celebrate your accomplishments at the end of the academic year, take time to reflect on the year, center your wellbeing, and support your fellow Tar Heels .

Check out this healthy heels post for more resources to wind down this semester.

Prompts for Self-Care

This week includes wellness day and a spring holiday – meaning there’s a bit more time to think about what you need.

Self-care – those activities we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health – reduces stress, improves emotional health, and provides a better quality of life.

What counts as self-care is different for all of us. For some, going camping would be an ideal way to spend this long weekend; for others, camping would only add stress. So we recommend starting with some reflection questions. Pick one or a few of these questions, and give yourself permission to consider your answers without any judgment or pressure. The goal is to learn about yourself and the ways to take care of yourself.

How do you recharge?

What did you love to do as a child?

How do you remind yourself that you’re enough?

What’s a choice that you can make this week to prioritize your needs?

Wellness day is a part of the academic calendar this year (and thank goodness!). Use it to take a nap, paint a picture, or host a picnic – just be sure you do something fun that prioritizes your needs.

Understanding Mental Health Triggers

trigger is a stimulus that elicits a reaction. In the context of mental illness, “trigger” is often used to mean something that brings on or worsens symptoms. This often happens to people with a history of trauma or who are recovering from mental illness, self-harm, addiction, and/or eating disorders. When someone has a history of any of these issues, being unexpectedly exposed to imagery or content that deals with that history can cause harm or relapse.

Many different stimuli can be possible triggers, and they are often strongly influenced by past experiences.

Understanding, identifying, and working to prevent triggers can be empowering and effective, especially in comparison to supporting someone after they have been triggered.

Understanding Triggers

Triggers vary widely from person to person. Many different stimuli can be possible triggers, and they are often strongly influenced by past experiences.

  • External triggers: Think senses – sounds, sights, smells, textures that elicit responses based on past experiences. Example: Smelling the cologne that was worn by a loved one who has passed away can trigger grief.
  • Internal triggers: Strong feelings that arise based on past experiences. Example: Making a doctor’s appointment after a negative medical experience can trigger fear.
  • Trauma triggers: Strong feelings that arise based on past trauma. Example: The sound of firecrackers can be trauma triggers for veterans of war.
  • Symptom triggers: A physical change can trigger larger mental health issues. Example: A lack of sleep could trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder.

For some, a trigger might cause a physical response – heavy breathing, sweating, crying. For some, a trigger can elicit an emotional reaction, like thinking “I am being attacked.” For some, a trigger can cause harm or a relapse.

After experiencing a trigger, a person may have big, negative feelings – overwhelm, powerlessness, fear, etc. These feelings can be detrimental to mental health and are often a challenge to effectively address after they arise.

The behavior that emerges after a trigger can range from relatively minimal (crying) to serious (acts of violence). Someone exposed to a trigger may experience impaired judgment or awareness.

Ways to Help Someone Who Gets Triggered

  • Be curious. Learn to engage in difficult situations with a focus on maintaining a positive relationship. Learn what is triggering for those around you, and try to avoid causing pain. Remember to respect an individual’s right to not share, or share on their own timeline.
  • Be empathetic and listen without judgment. Be a safe space for those around you. Avoid taking another’s behavior personally nor making negative judgments about someone’s feelings and behavior.
  • Maintain good boundaries. Boundaries help everyone be clear on expectations, which adds security and predictability.
  • Help with coping. Ask about strategies that work for the person to relax and take care of themselves. Encourage more time spent on self-care activities.
  • Use trigger warnings if you develop content. Providing a warning before potentially triggering content provides time for people to prepare or if needed, to opt-out of challenging or emotional materials.

Coping Strategies for Those Who Get Triggered

There are many possible coping strategies you can try, but all should focus on reducing the impact of the trigger and the strength of emotional reactions.

Trial and error can help each person determine what works best for them. Remember that different coping strategies may work for different triggers and emotions.

  • Learn to identify: Consider reactions to past triggers; who or what was involved, where, when, and why it took place. Observe patterns and obvious signs of risk to prevent a similar situation.
  • Make a plan to address: Create a plan to address triggers and emotional reactions. You may want to talk to loved ones or your treatment team to let them know how they can best help you when you are triggered. Be sure to carefully address triggers that occur repeatedly, because each time they do, the emotional reaction may be greater.
  • Try problem-focused coping: Confront your stressor directly or try to find a solution to the stressor. For example, commuting past a hospital may cause you to remember traumas from the hospital. You could find another commuting route.
  • Try emotion-focused coping: When you cannot eliminate or avoid a trigger, focus on regulating your reaction to a stressor which may help reduce the stressor’s impact. For example, meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Communicate if someone is triggering you: A person triggering another person is often unintentional. Talk to them about the impact of their actions to clear up any misunderstandings and consider possible solutions. Have an open, calm, and understanding dialog. Be willing to work with them. If the person who is triggering you refuses to act sensitively, it may be best to set clear boundaries.
  • Find the right therapy: Specific types of therapy have been shown effective in addressing triggers such as exposure therapy and EMDR therapy. Support groups can also help the person feel less alone.
  • Reality-check your thoughts: To minimize the escalation of thoughts and feelings, it may be helpful to “reality check” thoughts to assess their reasonableness. A few ways to do this include:
    1. Check facts: What is undisputably true and do the facts support your interpretation.
    2. Consider cognitive distortions: Identify faulty or inaccurate thinking, perceptions or beliefs.
    3. Reframe: Reshape automatic negative thoughts into positive thoughts.
    4. Proportionality: Ask yourself, is the reaction disproportionate to the trigger?
  • Look for trigger warnings: Triggers warnings can help alert you to triggering material, especially materials related to suicide or violence. Sometimes, an article will provide a trigger warning at the start of the piece. You can even ask others to provide you with a trigger warning about materials they share.
  • Practice self-care: Prioritizing your mental health can help build resilience against potential triggers. You can start by talking to someone, such as a loved one, friend, or therapist. You may also want to practice mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or journaling.

While it can be difficult to control triggers, those who experience them can learn from past experiences, apply what they learn, and limit the risk of being re-triggered. Avoid only focusing on what happens after a trigger; also focus on what can be done beforehand.

Each time a person is triggered is a learning opportunity that can help manage reactions in the future. If a person can’t control the trigger fully, they may be able to limit the emotional reaction to it before it becomes problematic and harder to address. They might even be able to prevent the trigger by preparing for it. There is always have something you can control. Anything that offers a little control over mental illness can help keep us well.

Adapted from NAMI Blog by Katherine Ponte

Healthy Study Habits

During a pandemic, with the winter weather disruptions of late, and the near-constant tensions in current events, none of us can be as productive as usual. The strategies below can help us be efficiently productive to allow time for self-care. 

Study is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Time is our most limited resource. If you’re feeling exhausted but still don’t have time for all of your work, make a change. Pause, evaluate how you’re spending your time, and find solutions to help you work less but accomplish more. It’s possible.

Winter snow scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, January 22, 2022. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Self-Care is an Academic Responsibility

Hobbies, physical movement, and rest are critical to your studies. Self-care helps your mind and body be ready to focus, write, memorize and perform. Sleeping enough, seeing friends, cooking food, playing sports, finding fun – these activities genuinely help you produce better work. Learn which leisure activities are helpful and which only provide the illusion of rest and recovery. If you ever feel pressured to skip self-care, remember self-care is a responsibility, not an indulgence.

Watch for the Short-Term Task Trap

Academics require balancing three things: short-term tasks, long-term tasks, and self-care. Short-term tasks (due tomorrow, due this week, waiting for a replay) have the most visible deadlines, which push us to prioritize them. Alternatively, long-term tasks (writing a thesis, finishing a paper) and self-care activities (sleep, rest, play, movement) are much more important, but there is little consequence to letting time slip by without working on them. This makes it easy to start skipping on self-care or long-term projects. Fight to keep short-term tasks from taking over. Accountability helps.

  • Create your own deadlines and rules, like “3 pages by X date” or  “Go for a jog M/W/F” or “Meal with a friend 2x per week.”
  • Reserve times exclusively for long-term tasks or self-care. Never let short-term tasks violate those protected hours, even if that means leaving someone waiting.

There are More Things Worth Doing Than Anyone Can Do

When deciding whether or not to take on a new task or project, ask yourself “Is this more worth doing than the thing I will have to give up to do it?” Anything you add means less time for something else. Consider what you’ll be giving up and whether losing that will be worth it. You might wait 24 hours before saying “yes” to something new to give time for reflection.

College Pushes Us in Many Directions

University culture pushes us to ask a lot of ourselves – as a student, friend, intellectual, agent of change, and more. No one can give outstanding effort in so many directions at once. Focus on the aspects of college that are most important for you personally to give your all. 

Reach out for help if you need it.

There are many support structures to help you at UNC-Chapel Hill to help you balance academic demands – advisors, learning center coacheswellbeing coachesCAPS, and more. Reach out for help! 

Adapted from Healthy Work Habits by Ada Palmer

SNOW Much To Do!

With winter storms, snow and ice on campus and more possible in the forecast for the Chapel Hill area,  you can help yourself be prepared to ease stress and avoid crowded stores and lines for essentials. Below are some tips for staying safe and well during winter weather.
Snow falls near the Bell Tower on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on January 16, 2022. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill

Prepare:

  • Plan for power outages: Have a flashlight or battery-powered light in case you lose power. Find and make available extra blankets and jackets to stay warm. Charge your phone and any external chargers to stay in communication if the power lapses.
  • Pick up snacks & bottled water. Avoid feeling like you need to “stock up”  last minute by having non-perishable items and water on hand. Grab a couple of food items you can eat if you lose electricity. Check out the Carolina Cupboard Pantry on campus if you need help accessing groceries 
  • Be aware of assignments and deadlines: Snow days are easier to enjoy by sledding, reading, and cozying up inside. Avoid additional stress by knowing what schoolwork needs to be saved, uploaded, or completed before the weather hits.
  • Bundle up when you go out:  Add layers including gloves, socks, and hats. Footwear with good traction, such as hiking boots & tennis shoes with sturdy soles, can help prevent an unwarranted tumble.
  • Play! Snow turns the whole world into a playground. Trash bags and shower curtains make great improvised sleds. Have a snowball fight. Make a creative snow sculpture. Play snow sports. Get out there and enjoy the rare snows when they happen!
Snow falls on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on January 16, 2022. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Travel Strategies:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel in winter weather. 
  • Keep an eye on the forecast to help prepare if the forecast changes. 
  • Use your best judgment. Recognize your comfort in snow and ice conditions. Stick to what feels safe for you.
  • Listen to the experts. Local officials send advisory, and up-to-date precautions based on conditions and public works teams.  Follow the local experts at; Alert CarolinaTown of Chapel HillTown of CarrboroOrange County Closures & Delays
  • If you have to drive: Plan ahead. Driving in bad weather usually takes longer and is more stressful. Drive slowly. Leave Room In front in case you need to use your brakes and the road is icy. Use your low beams in fog and heavy snow, or avoid driving in dark hours altogether. Buckle up!

Let the spring semester…begin.

Winter campus scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. January 6, 2022. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Starting a new semester amidst the Omicron wave can bring up some feelings. When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed. This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.

But we aren’t helpless. We can choose our response. If you are struggling, here are some things you can do:

Notice

What’s coming up for you right now? Name it to tame it. What feelings are arising in you?
Consider how you’re processing. How are you holding on or letting go of your feelings?

Take Care of Yourself

What helps you stay balanced? Consider spending time outside, talking with people you love, staying in the present through meditation or mindfulness practices. Eat food that nourishes you. Do things that bring you joy. Take a step to move you closer to a goal.

Control what’s within your control

We can’t force the people around us to do exactly what we want. What can you control about your own situation that might bring you relief? Consider:

Have a Plan

While none of us want to plan for getting COVID-19, having a plan can help you feel more in control. Know what you’ll do if you start having symptoms or find out you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive. 

If you’re having symptoms

  • Isolate. Stay home except for food and medical care and wear a medical-grade mask when you can’t avoid being around other people. 
  • Consider getting tested. 
    • Symptomatic testing without an appointment is available at Campus Health Monday – Friday from noon – 4 pm.
    • You can schedule an appointment for a full medical visit to address your symptoms at Campus Health by scheduling online or calling 919-966-2281.

If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but aren’t having symptoms, quarantine. 

CDC guidance is copied below or available online.

If you test positive – isolate.

Students who test positive must isolate until they meet the criteria for ending isolation: 5 days from onset of symptoms or day of the positive test, as well as no fever or symptoms for 24 hours.

After isolation ends, you can resume activities such as returning to campus but must still wear a mask around others for 5 additional days. 

You cannot test out of isolation. A negative result does not override the positive result. A positive result after 5 days does not mean you need to continue to isolate – unless you’re still having symptoms. Please avoid retesting (particularly due to limited test supplies!). 

Reach out for help if you need it.

If you’re feeling stuck – reach. Connect with trusted advisors, loved ones, or a mental health care provider. We are in this together and there are places to get help if you need it. 
CAPS is available 24/7 – by coming for services during business hours or calling after hours 919-966-3658. 
You can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

You Have Not lived as Long as You are Meant to Live

*Content Warning: The below memoir contains content and conversations around suicide. In honor of raising awareness for suicide prevention week, please read as feels appropriate for your individual needs.

Subtitle: An open letter to my younger self in honor of Suicide Prevention Week

I first remember considering suicide when I was 11 years old. Flash forward two years, and 13-year-old me was sitting in my school social worker’s office pouring out my heart, asking for help.

My parents took me to a therapist and a psychiatrist. It took 6 years throughout high school and most of college in therapy, inpatient, relapse, repeat, followed by 3 years of active recovery to get to where I am now. Recently, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my recovery as I am in this relatively newfound phase of stability. During my reflection, I wrote the below letter to my younger self:

My dear younger self,

You are alive.

I bet you’re wondering, ‘how did I make it that far?’

The answer is that I’m not entirely sure. My desire to escape for a moment, to shut out the pain, to die turned into my desire to live so gradually that I almost didn’t notice when it happened.

I know you’re wondering if the feelings you are having now will ever go away. I can’t lie to you and say that you never think about suicide sometimes because you do. But these days the thoughts of suicide are rare, fleeting, and easily ignored.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that life feels so heavy sometimes that you don’t want to see it the next day. I’m sorry for how tired and hurt you are and I’m sorry for all the times when you don’t even feel the hurt anymore and how scary that is.

I want to give you permission to have darkness. You are not broken because you have darkness. You are not flawed because you are lonely or scared.

But can I ask you to do something for me? Can you tell someone how you’re feeling? Your therapist, or your mom, or your brother, or your friend, or your teacher, or your coach. Tell them so that they can share in this loneliness with you. Tell them so that they can be there for you. I know you are scared, but when you do tell them… they help you.

The best thing we ever did was ask for help. Our healing started once we were willing to be honest with yourself and those who care about us when we were struggling so that they could help us.

I know you dream of a day when you are ‘healed.’ But I’m here to tell you that is not how healing works. Healing is not linear, and it is not finite. So, here is the truth: I am not healed, but I am healing. I am in a newly reached sort of remission. I still struggle. I go to counseling. I take medications. I try to do things that make me happy. And most of those things work, most of the time.

I am not sure that everything happens for a reason, but I do know that you were meant to live through those days that felt unlivable. This life is yours to grow in, to heal in, and to be alive in.

So, here’s our story: we’re still in the middle of it. But we are alive and want to be alive. And now, you, me… we’re a more alive version of us than I have ever seen.

I have you to thank for my life. Because my dear self, you know that you have not yet lived as long as you are meant to live.

If you or a loved one needs help, here are some resources:

National Urgent Concern Resources

 Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Connect 24/7 to a crisis counselor by texting the Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741.

*For severe or potentially life-threatening medical or mental health emergencies, call 911, go to a local hospital emergency room, or call campus police at 919-962-8100.

UNC Non-Emergency Campus Resources 

Contact Counseling and Psychological Services at UNC:

  • Call the 24/7 phone line: 919-966-3658
  • For non-emergencies, email  caps@unc.edu with general questions

LGBTQ Center: lgbtq@unc.edu, (919) 843-5376

Student Wellness: studentwellness@unc.edu , (919) 962-9355

Holiday Eating

Winter break and the holidays usually mean a change in routine. For many of us, the changes come as a welcome reprieve from the pace of the semester. And for some of us, when routines change, anxiety increases – especially considering the additional stressors of financial constraints, relationship worries, travel plans, obligatory events, and holiday meals. For a broad look at strategies to minimize holiday stress, read Managing Wellbeing During the Holidays. In that article, we suggest for readers to: “Focus on food flexibility. Remember that all foods (yes, all foods!) have nutrition to offer. Savor the holiday flavors!” This tip comes from intuitive eating practices, which are centered around trusting your inner body’s wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment. This mindset allows eating to be intuitive, imperfect, free from food rules, and nourishing for the brain, body, and soul.

Intuitive eating is a focus on reconnecting with our body’s hunger and fullness cues and understanding some of the emotional and behavioral reasons for why we eat.

Intuitive eating is comprised of 10 principles, all centered around freeing yourself from the restrictions we put on ourselves surrounding food and trusting our bodies.

By practicing intuitive eating, you allow yourself to enjoy all of the holiday foods you desire without going overboard or feeling out of control when it comes to food. Some tips for intuitive eating:

Savor your food

  • When you eat, do so mindfully and with intention.
  • Allow yourself to experience food wholly and completely, without judgment.
  • Observe how your body feels when eating holiday foods and how satisfying it is to your taste buds.
  • Excite your palate with multiple flavors and different textures.
  • Savor the sensations of food – taste, texture, aroma, appearance, and temperature.
  • Consider “what sounds good to me right now?”
  • Give yourself permission to seek and feel pleasure in your food.
  • Practice gratitude for the food that is nourishing you.

Practice flexibility

  • Our bodies thrive when we eat a variety of foods.
  • Food is more than fuel – it’s also a way to bring those we love together and connect with them.
  • Practice gratitude for the relationships that you’re building this holiday season.

Embrace your intuition

  • Bring extra awareness to body cues and intuition.
  • Listen for and honor your feelings of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.
  • Listen to and honor body sensations that indicate or signal hunger. This could include growling stomach, slight headache, inability to focus, lack of energy, thoughts drifting toward food.
  • As soon as you notice biological hunger, make time to eat a food or snack that is physically and psychologically satisfying.
  • Slow down food consumption so you can notice how your body feels as you eat.
  • When you notice feelings of satifaction or satiation, stop eating. Eat again when you feel hunger or after 2-3 hours have passed. Help your body remember that you will regularly feed it!
  • Practice gratitude for the wisdom your body holds.

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat

  • Eat the foods you enjoy without shame or judgment. There’s room for all the foods!
  • Put all foods on the same playing field. If we can approach all foods as emotionally equal, we can begin to connect with our own inner wisdom. Make turkey emotionally equivalent to pumpkin pie or fruits equivalent to chocolates.
  • Give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you enjoy and eat until you’re satisfied or feel full.
  • Practice gratitude for making peace with food.