Self-Care to Complete your Stress Response Cycle

You’ve been dealing with stress lately. It’s the end of the semester. Final exams, papers, grading, holidays, relationships – all of these are complicated and cause stress. Emotions are more than just a momentary feeling – they are a biological process with a beginning, middle and end.

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A complete stress cycle – that is from beginning, to middle, to end – would look something like this:

  • Your body senses danger, Let’s pretend you’re walking in the woods and come across an angry lion. It’s coming right for you.
  • Your body responds to help you survive. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate go up. Your immune system, reproductive system and digestive systems get suppressed to focus on survival. Let’s imagine you run and find a safe place where you close the door on this scary lion. The lion scratches a few times and then wanders away.
  • You survive. You feel grateful to be alive. Your systems come back online and your heart/breathing slow back to normal.

In order for your body to feel safe after stress, you have to complete the stress response cycle.

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Today’s stressors usually aren’t lions. They are papers, exams, traffic, relationships, systems of oppression. Some of these we can’t run away from and aren’t going away anytime soon, making it difficult to complete the full stress response cycle. If you get stuck in the stress response cycle, where your body never realizes that you’ve survived the stressor and are safe, you may begin start seeing the negative impacts of stress.

The behaviors that manage stress in our body and complete the stress response cycle are not the same as those that deal with the solutions to the stressors. 

Which is good news because we don’t need to wait for stressors to be over in order to feel better. 

And it’s bad news because even if you manage a stressor (like completing your last exam of the semester – woohoo!), you haven’t necessarily dealt with the stress itself. 

Deal with the stress.

Separate the stress from the stressor.

Take a break from whatever is causing you stress and focus on the stress, that is, the physical and emotional feelings that exist in your body.

Turn towards the stress with kindness and compassion.

TeKaImagine the scene with Moana and Te Ka, the lava monster (spoiler alert!). Walk towards your stress – in this metaphor, stress is the lava monster and you are Moana – calmly, gently, possibly singing “This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Use the video if a visual helps.

Complete the stress cycle with any of the following evidence-based, self-care strategies:

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Physical activity. Moving your body is the most efficient way to communicate to your body that you have moved out of an unsafe place to a safe place. You could take a walk off campus after you finish an exam to help your body realize it’s safe now. You could experience an evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help you body relax at the end of the day.  You could go for a bike ride in the countryside. Remember that the goal of physical activity as self-care is to help your body recognize that you’ve moved to a safe place. We realize that for some people physical activity can be a source of stress. If you’re the only person of color in your pilates class, going to that class can be stressful. If you’re gender fluid, going to a gym and daring to use a locker room can actually be dangerous. If you go outside and walk you might get harassed or cat-called. So “exercise reduces stress” doesn’t quite cover how complicated it is. Thankfully – there are 3 other strategies you can use! 

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Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates the stress. Your imagination can also complete a stress response cycle. Visualize yourself as a B.A. monster crushing the place where you feel most stressed. Watch a movie or read a book that takes you through a hero’s journey and feel the complete cycle with the character. Use the power of your mind to feel that the danger has passed.

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Creative self-expression. Take your feelings and put them into art. Make a physical object or story representing how you feel. Stream-of-consciousness writing can help get the feelings you’re having on paper which helps move through them. Going dancing with friends uses 3 of the 4 self-care strategies listed here. Find ways to express yourself that work for you and help your body feel safe and connected.

002519_CampusScenes0123 (1).jpgConnection. Humans are built for connection and even positive superficial interactions help. Complimenting your server on their jewelry is all that it takes! These interactions clue your brain into knowing that it’s safe again. If you want to go deeper, try a 20 second hug with someone you really like and trust. When you can hold your body against someone else’s body for that long, eventually your chemistry switches. Your body remembers that you have someone who likes and trusts you enough to hold onto you for 20 whole seconds. And, we realize that people can cause stress. Other ways to connect include connecting with nature or the divine. Some people feel safe and held in nature. Some people experience their spirituality as a relationship with the divine and loving paternal, maternal or familial relationship where they can come home and feel safe. Find connection that makes you feel safe and held in whatever way works for you.

You deserve to feel safe and connected. Take the time to complete your stress cycle.

 

 

Adapted from https://youtu.be/BOaCn9nptN8, the research from Emily and Amelia Nagoski by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator. 

Photo credits:

  • Africa image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
  • Studying image by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Moana image screenshot from Disney
  • Jumprope, piano painting, cube painting and quad hangout images by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

 

Fall 2019 Finals Events

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We have compiled all the finals support events and last week of class activities we can find on the UNC Finals Support Google Calendar also in agenda form below.

Plus, you’ll find ongoing stress-busting opportunities at the following libraries:

  • Davis Library– coloring and origami therapy with snacks
  • Health Sciences Library– making festive cards for kids in UNC Hospitals
  • Kenan Science Library– design and modeling center with coloring, Lego, board games, Play-Doh, knitting, and crocheting
  • Music Library– coloring and jigsaw puzzles
  • Park Library– friendship bracelets, giant crossword, inspirational messages, coloring pages, origami, extended hours
  • Sloane Art Library– coloring therapy
  • Stone Center Library – coloring sheets (starting Monday, December 9th)
  • Undergraduate Library– Origami, coloring pages, LEGO, puzzles, knitting and crochet supplies, Lego contest with theme of “space adventure”
  • Wilson Library– jigsaw puzzles

And finals support ideas through the Writing and Learning Centers:

  • Final Exam Planning Tools help you prepare with confidence.
  • Ace Your Essay Exams Find strategies for analyzing the prompt, planning your answer, and drafting efficiently in this handout on Essay Exams.
  • Doh!! How Did I Miss That? Ever spotted mistakes AFTER you’ve turned your paper in? We can help with these well-tested proofreading strategies. Try them all!

Let us know if we’ve missed something!

 

Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

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Students decorated gingerbread houses at the Carolina Union Great Hall during Holiday Fun Fest on the last day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Photo by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  1. Honor and listen to your body. Let your body be your guide for when you’re hungry (pro tip: eat then!) and when you’re full (pro tip: stop then!). All foods fit – so challenge the food police that join you at holiday meals. Restricting food ultimately means overindulging in foods – so give yourself unconditional permission to eat with attunement to your body.
  2. Savor the good. Whether it’s good food, a good conversation, a good run, a good night’s sleep – take time to savor the things that nourish you this holiday season.
  3. Move your body – ideally with people you adore.  Find ways to keep active during the cooler times. Play some touch football. Run in the Jingle Bell Jog. Do a Turkey Trot with your family.
  4. Stay hydrated with water. Drinking enough water keeps your body healthy and hydrated. Carrying a reuseable bottle with you can help!
  5. Wash your hands. It’s still flu season y’all, and the holidays usually means crowds of people. Keep yourself and your loved ones healthier by washing your hands often.
  6. Connect. Relationships are complicated and very worth navigating complexity to reach connection. Remember what activities make you feel connected with the people you love and do a little extra of those. Keep an eye on our social channels where we’ll post end of semester activities we find that are happening around campus.
  7. Give back. Brighten someone else’s day with a bit of holiday cheer in whatever way works for you. 

New Safety Warnings Regarding Vaping

VapeAs of October 8, 2019, there have been 1299 confirmed cases of vaping-related pulmonary impairment and 26 reported deaths in the United States. Two-thirds of cases are between the ages of 18-34 years old. The exact cause of these illnesses is unknown and still under investigation.

The CDC currently recommends to avoid vaping any substances. Additionally, do NOT purchase vaping products off the streets as formulations may have been altered.

Interested in quitting? Follow these steps:

Set A Quit Date

✅  Make sure it’s realistic. Give yourself time to prepare. You must be physically and mentally ready. Set yourself up for success by establishing a goal and determining WHY quitting is important to you.

Learn Your Triggers/Resist Temptations

✅ This may consist of feelings, people, situations, etc. that tempt you to vape. Attempt to avoid until temptations have disappeared. This may include modifying your normal routine. If avoiding is not an option, prepare for handling triggers. Prepare for cravings and withdrawal.

Make The Mental Shift

✅ Think positive. Imagine your future healthy life without vaping. Make a list of all the benefits you will receive from quitting. It may take time to get used to your new life-style, but will soon become your new normal.

Surround Yourself With Supportive People

  1. Tell your friends and family. They are on your side!
  2. Make an appointment at Campus Health with one of our providers.
  3. Call QuitlineNC – telephone service is 24/7 at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or register online
  4. Access the QuitlineNC WebCoach available 24 hours a day online
  5. Text DITCHJUUL to 88709 to get support from Truth Initiative experts. This program has helped 800,000 people quit their vaping habits.

 

Details from this article were collected from the CDC website.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s-1010-vaping-injury-update.html Published Oct. 10, 2019.

Written by Sarah Garfinkle, PharmD Candidate in the Eschelman School of Pharmacy

 

Wellness Checklist for Incoming UNC Students

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngEstablish healthy habits.

  • Schedule physical activity, healthy eating and stress reduction like you schedule your classes. If you schedule it into your day now, you’re less likely to skip it later. Bonus points for adding in social support – like by joining an intramural or club team, or scheduling fun fitness activities with friends.DSC_2340

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind and explore spaces to help you stay healthy at UNC.

  • Campus Rec offers 10 facilities that host all kinds of fitness classes, outdoor adventures, team sports and aquatics. You have already paid to access these facilities in your tuition and fees so take full advantage!
  • Dining Services alone has 14 locations across campus, plus there are many options nearby in the community. Look for diverse options and nutrient-dense, yummy food!
  • Campus Health hosts a wide range of services including Sports Medicine, International Travel Clinic, Nutrition Services and more. Counseling and Psychological Services is located in the same facility.

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noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind local health care. Connect to a primary care provider and pharmacy.

  • You have already paid for services at Campus Health through tuition and fees, so you can come see a provider during the week at no further cost to you! See a full list of services covered by the health fee at campushealth.unc.edu/healthfee.
  • You can also schedule Campus Health appointments when it’s convenient for you online.
  • Campus Health offers same day care visits for urgent needs 7 days a week during the semester (weekend visits have a service charge associated with them that is not covered by the health fee or insurance – but all other days are already paid for with your student fees!).
  • Visit one of the two on-campus pharmacies – Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy to get the prescription and over the counter items you need.

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noun_Checkbox_798260.pngMake your mental health a priority.

  • Start making friends! You are now in community with more than 5000 UNC students also new to campus. Some of your soon-to-be lifelong friends are among them.
  • Get involved in campus organizations that interest you. This is one easy way to find people with similar interests.
  • Seek professional help before things get awful – ideally as soon as you start to feel overwhelmed. Initial visits to Counseling and Psychological Services are available Monday – Thursday from 9-12, and 1-4 and Fridays 9:30-12 and 1-4. These have already been paid for in tuition and fees!

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noun_Checkbox_798260.pngGet involved for a better UNC and a better you.

  • Grow your leadership skills, your intellect and your circle of friends by getting involved in something larger than yourself.
  • You can also get involved in health through Student Wellness!
    • Attend a health-related event on campus.
    • Connect with Student Wellness or CAPS to provide education and outreach to your student group.
    • Join a Peer Health Organization.
    • Register for a workshop or training.
    • Visit Student Wellness for resources, a piece of fruit, or cup of coffee. On us!

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind a system that works for you.

  • Use a planner or an app to stay organized and proactive about your health and well-being.
  • The Learning Center offers amazing resources including test prep, academic coaching, peer tutoring, workshops and a website full of resources (all at no cost!). Learn more at learningcenter.unc.edu.
  • The Writing Center helps students become stronger, more flexible writers. Work with coaches face-to-face or online at any stage of the writing process, for any kind of writing project. And check out their online resources for tips about many common writing challenges.

We know you want to stay healthy at Carolina, and we are here to help! Reach out if you have questions @UNCHealthyHeels or unchealthyheels@gmail.com.

 

 

Adapted from The Ohio State University

Photos 2 and 3 by UNC Chapel Hill

Healthy Tips for Your Summer Shindig

One of the best parts of summer is having the extra time to socialize with people and enjoy some fun in the sun.  Those cookouts, pool parties, and beach excursions don’t always lend themselves to the healthiest choices, neither for you nor the environment.  Here are a few tips to keep your summer shindigs fun AND healthy!

 

1.       Change up grilling options.

As a guest: Plan ahead and select your favorite grill-able wisely. Think outside of the normal hamburger/hot dog options and go for chicken, fish, or veggies!  If a burger is your thing, look for lean and local meat options.

As a host: Encourage your guests to bring healthy grill choices ahead of time. If you are supplying the treats for the grill, try to offer various healthy options for your guests.

2.       Spice up your drink selection.

As a guest: Not to be a broken record, but hydration is important for overall health and well-being. Drink lots of water, especially if you are out in the sun all day.  If you choose to drink alcohol, make sure you moderate your consumption, as alcohol and sunshine combine for further dehydration.

As a host: Make sure to provide water, especially when you host at a location without fountains/running water.  Having a cooler of water with cucumbers or other fruit in it can be a refreshing option.  Also, spice up the party with festive drink options like this cherry mint spritzer!

3.       Eat what you want, not what’s in front of you.

As a guest: There are all sorts of snack food options that tend to present themselves at cookouts.  Limit your snacking, and if you do nibble away, increase the amount of fruits and veggies you eat.  Also, avoid mindless snacking- just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to eat it!

As a host: Encourage ahead of time that you’d love for people to bring fruits and vegetables as snacks to contribute to the party.

4.       Fun and games (get active!)

  As a guest: Even if it’s hot out, get moving! Be the person at the party who whips out  a Frisbee or starts a relay race.

  As a host: Plan games ahead of time- even games like cornhole can get people up and moving rather than sitting around. If you are in a backyard, go old school and get out the sprinkler! And for beach/pool parties, have beach balls, Frisbees, and other games on hand to liven up any shindig.

5.       Go green!

As a guest: Always ask the host how they prefer your dispose of leftover food, utensils, etc.  If using disposable glasses, write your name on yours to avoid using multiple cups.

As a host: Provide environmentally friendly picnic products for your guests.  Encourage guests to recycle/compost as appropriate.  Put up proper signage above receptacles to make it clear where certain items go.  Set out a basket/ bin for used utensils, then wash and save them for the next party!

6.       Sunscreen/bug spray. 

As a guest: Apply sunscreen liberally and often, especially when you are near water.  Bring your own sunscreen and bug spray in case there isn’t any available at the party.  For more info on choosing a bug spray click here.

As a host: If possible, provide umbrellas or choose a shady area for guests to relax in.  Lighting insect-repelling candles or a similar product can help keep areas relatively bug free.  Provide sunscreen and mosquito repellant for your guests to use.

7.       Wash your hands. 

As a guest: Yes, this might seem obvious, but when you are at a BBQ or the beach, hand washing may slip your mind.  Use hand sanitizer or wipes in a pinch, or make that extra trek to the washroom before you dig in to your food!

As a host:  Consider putting bottles of hand sanitizer out on tables before the party starts to encourage guests to keep their hands squeaky clean!

Originally posted by Brittany O’Malley, former Assistant Director of Student Wellness in Summer 2014. Edited for clarity.

 

Self-Care Spring Break

It’s hashtag Spring Break 2019! Grab your shades and your shorts, your credit card and your cozy PJs. Because wherever you’re going, you deserve to have time for you and time for your wellness. Here are some tips to keep you healthy and safe whatever your plans:

noun_Refresh_1624727_000000Return refreshed

Spring break is the perfect time to check in with your body – what do you need to return to campus refreshed? Good rest, good food, time with people you love and time doing things you love will all help!

noun_Food_1715994Fuel up! 

You need food to fuel you through your spring break adventures. Keep snacks with you while you’re on the go. Eat yummy foods that make you feel good and include fat, fiber, and protein for long-lasting energy. Learn more nutrition tips.

noun_Ear Protection_55347Help your hearing

Whether you’re front and center for your favorite band or catching some ZZZ’s in your room, earplugs can save your day.


noun_care_1862777Take care of each other

Because that’s what Tar Heels do. Decide your limits ahead of time and help each other stay in those limits when partying – this reduces your chance of injury or doing something you’ll later regret. Stick with the same group of friends all night and decide how you will all get home safely. Planning to drink alcohol? Alternate water between alcoholic drinks, and eat before and while you drink. Traveling alone? We have a whole blog on that too!

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noun_safe sex_1671321Play safe

If you choose to have sex, consider how to keep yourself safer from STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Grab some free condoms at Campus Health or Student Wellness before you depart campus for you or your friends. Request them online at go.unc.edu/SSSrequest Remember that consent for sexual activity is an enthusiastic, mutual agreement that can be revoked at any time. For more information on consent and safety, visit safe.unc.edu.

noun_sunblock_1118203Save your skin

Sunburns hurt! They also increase your risk of developing skin cancer and cause wrinkles or pre-mature aging. After you get out of a pool, ocean, or are sweating, dry off and reapply. The sun doesn’t discriminate – sunblock is recommended for all akin tones! Sunscreen details

noun_mosquito-repellent_981858-e1551705168751.pngPause the pests

Keep mosquitoes away with insect repellent. Use it frequently if you’re spending lots of time outside, especially in the evening.

 

noun_Sunglasses_2085073Specs to protect

Head outside in style while protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays with sunglasses. Eye safety looks good on you.

Spring Break Packing List

We know you’ll bring the fun on your adventures! It’s harder to think about what you’ll need when things don’t go perfectly. So for those less likely scenarios, also bring:

  • Copies of your travel documents and ID/passport. We suggest one copy in each piece of luggage (in case a bag gets lost!), one copy with a trusted friend or family member at home, and the actual documents with you.
  • Prescription medications – the ones you regularly take (and enough of them to get you home) and any special prescriptions for your trip such as anti-malarials or meds to help with travel diarrhea (the #1 health issue for international travelers).  Bring your EpiPen if you have one prescribed to you!
  • Over-the-counter medications – ones you regularly use like supplements or asprin as well as those that might help if you become ill while traveling. Antidiarrheal medication is helpful since traveler’s diarrhea hits so many. Bring first aid items like bandages, antifungal and antibacterial creams, moleskin, a thermometer and hydrocortisone. Also think about what works for you if you get a cold, motion sickness, a headache, constipation, indigestion, etc and bring those items as well.
  • Insect repellent containing DEET (30 – 50%)
  • Water-resistant sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater with both UVA and UVB protection, plus a hat and sunglasses
  • Antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Health insurance card (consider supplemental travel insurance if you’re going abroad as many US health plans do not cover all of your needs while abroad).
  • Earplugs, travel pillow or other sleep aids
  • Water bottle – as well as purification tablets or system if you’ll be in the backcountry
  • Condoms – for you or to give away. You can get them for free at Campus Health.
  • Yummy and nutrient-packed snacks for the trip. Try for a mix of fat, protein and fiber!

All of these items are available at Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy, right on UNC’s campus.

Resilience is How You Recharge (not How You Endure)

Resilience is often misunderstood. A lot of people think of football players when they think of resilience – able to take a hit, pick themselves up off the turf, and go for another play.  Well-meaning students trying to celebrate resilience might support each other staying up until 3am trying to finish a paper.

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Jumping over an official to make a left-handed grab likely requires some resilience.          But there are better examples.

A resilient person is a well-rested one. When an exhausted student goes to class, he lacks cognitive resources to do well academically, he has lower self-control, and he’s often moody AF (not sure we can use that abbreviation here, but we’re going to because moodiness from not sleeping is for real).

Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience.

Resilience is the adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. It means rebounding from difficult experiences.

A resilient person tries really hard, then stops to rest, then tries again.

The more time a person spends in their performance zone, they more time they need in the recovery zone. So the more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more value there is in activities that allow us to return to a state of balance. In other words, the value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us.

Most people assume that if you stop doing a task, like working on your Bio Chem homework, that your brain will naturally recover. When you start again the next morning, you’ll have your energy back. But we are confident that most of us reading this has had times where we lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because our brain is thinking about all the things we need to do. If we lie in bed for eight hours, we certainly have have rested, but we can still feel exhausted the next day. Rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping does not equal recovering.

What is recovery?

Internal recovery is the short periods of relaxation that take place throughout our day – via short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, shifting our attention, or changing to other tasks when the mental or physical resources required for task completion are depleted.

External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of scheduled work – so evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations. If after your day you lie around and get riled up by news you read on your phone or stress about the paper you have due on Monday, your brain hasn’t received a break from high mental arousal. Our brains need rest as much as our bodies.

In other words – it’s taking time to do things that are fun and enjoyable. It’s doing different things like going outside and moving your body. It’s letting your brain take a rest by unplugging and getting good sleep.

If you really want to build resilience, you can start by strategically stopping to rest.

Ideas to help:

  • Have tech free time. Apps like Offtime or Unplugged to create tech free zones by strategically scheduling automatic airplane modes.
  • Set a timer to take a cognitive break every 90 minutes when you’re studying to recharge your batteries.
  • Don’t do work over lunch. Instead spend time outside or with your friends — not talking about school.
  • Get good sleep!
  • Balance your class schedule so that no one day is overfilled.
  • Take day trips or mini-vacations, preferably outdoors.
  • Find things that make you laugh.
  • Give yourself permission to get distracted. Sometimes those distractions can be brain breaks.

But when all’s said and done, the best person to tell you how to recharge is YOU. You know what makes you feel refreshed – do those things! At least one of them every day.

This article was adapted from Resilience is About How You Recharge Not How You Endure to make it more relevant to UNC students by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health Services and CAPS. 

6 Tips for Finals Success

Finals makes many students feel anxious, intimidated, and stressed. Feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of making through final exams is a common theme for UNC students. Exam success can still be in your future! Here are 6 tips from the UNC Learning Center that might help you or your friends:

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Photo: “Finals Week Sping 2012-005” by Penn State. Flickr Creative Commons.

1. Prioritize to help make decisions about how much time to allot to prep for each exam.

  • Which exams will be hardest?
  • What portion of my grade is each exam worth?
  • How much time should I spend on each exam based on how I answered those questions?

2. Find out what you know. 

Use your syllabi to make a list of key concepts you need to know for the test.

Hide all notes and books and test your understanding on each key concept. Ask yourself how well you can summarize main ideas, do sample problems, recall facts from memory, and apply concepts in a new way.

Finally, rate yourself. How did you do? Rate your skill and understanding on each bit of content from your list using this sample scale: 3= I know this well | 2= I know this some | 1= don’t know this at all

3. Make a smart study plan.

Make a study guide, merging main ideas from class notes and readings.

Find ways to actively engage with the material and stay accountable to learning. Reviewing lecture notes and assigned readings can often be too passive.  Use active study strategies to practice the content you rated with a 1 or 2:

  • Make mind maps, time-lines, or flashcards.
  • Study with a partner.
  • Teach concepts to someone else.
  • Write or speak aloud the main ideas.
  • Generate higher-level thinking questions to test yourself with.

4. Make a smart study plan (part deux).

Once you’ve selected study tasks for the concepts you rated 1 and 2, estimate how much time you will need to complete them. Look over your calendar and lay out a plan, noting exactly what you will be doing and for how long. Break down studying into specific, discrete tasks. “Study Chem” is too vague.  “Complete practice problems from chapter 3” is specific. Estimate how long each task might take and compare it to available time.  Create an “appointment” to complete practice problems.

5. Test yourself.

When you’ve completed your Study Plan, it’s time to test yourself again. Hide all your materials and test your understanding on concepts you rated 1 and 2 the same way you did in Step 1.

  • Can you do a problem from memory?
  • Can you restate or rewrite what you learned?
  • Can you teach these concepts to a friend?
  • Can you answer questions you generated (not simple recall!)

Still stuck on a particular concept? Keep practicing!

6. Come to the Learning Center!

In addition to the strategies above, you can come to the Learning Center for our Study Boot Camps. Find out more about our Boot Camps and other services such as Academic Coaching and Peer Tutoring at http://learningcenter.unc.edu/.

This blog article was written by Bob Pleasants, Assistant Director of the UNC Learning Center. It has been edited for clarity and reposted. 

Friends with (Grade-Improving) Benefits: Finals Edition

Connecting with others during college, and especially stressful study season, has often been viewed as a distraction from success. But recent research is showing the clear benefits of friends to both your personal well-being and academic success. Bonus: both you and your buddies reap the rewards of friendship!

Here are ways you can help each other succeed during Finals Season:

Support each other’s work.

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Even pets can help!

You can help your friends in so many ways – and doing so will help you too!

  • Use study groups to amplify your learning.
  • Teach each other the information you’ve learned.
  • Quiz each other on information you’ll need to know.
  • Proofread each other’s essays.
  • Hold each other accountable to study goals.

Affirm each other.

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A high five while jumping in the snow is one of the best affirmations.

Celebrate efforts together. After y’all have been studying for a while, find something healthy and fun to do together to celebrate being done studying. As a reminder: focus on the effort rather than the outcome. An A on a test is great, but everyone will feel more supported when others notice the time put into studying instead of the grade received.

Support healthy behaviors.

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Generally doing anything that makes you feel like a kid again counts as health-supportive.

When you celebrate study sessions or the end of finals, do it in a healthy way. Move your body together – go for bike rides, walk and talk, play a round of golf – whatever sounds fun to everyone. Be body positive and food positive – no body- or food-shaming allowed! Encourage sleep and find ways to help your friends sleep well. Earplugs, white noise machines, and light-blocking window shades or eye masks are helpful gifts to friends or roommates during finals and always!

Avoid stress competition.

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Stress is not a competition.

We know the typical answer to “how are you doing?” – especially during finals – is “stressed” or “busy.” But this perpetuates the idea that to survive at UNC means being constantly stressed. A better answer? “I have been working hard.” Or tell your friend something fun you recently did and asking them what they’ve been doing to take a break.

Listen.

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Even the walls recognize the importance of listening.

Feeling genuinely heard and accepted is one of our most important needs, and it doesn’t go away during finals.  Providing empathy and acceptance is one of the most soothing things one can do for another.

As the listener:

  • Try to give your full attention.
  • Show that you are listening by maintaining eye contact.
  • Use body language to show you’re paying attention. Nodding your head and mirroring your friend’s feelings with your facial expressions can make people feel heard.
  • Listen non-judgmentally – meaning resist the impulse to judge who is right or wrong, good or bad, should or should not have done something.
  • Try not to make assumptions.
  • Reflect back what you hear and ask the person with, “did I get it?”
  • Ask, “What would help?”
  • Don’t be too quick to “fix” the problem or give advice.  Make sure you show you understand what the other person’s needs and feelings are first.

Be like family.

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Hugs for the win!

What did your family do to support you during high-stress times? Some ideas:

  • Cook each other dinner.
  • Ask if your friend needs anything when you head to the store.
  • Invite your friend to join you on study breaks.
  • Walk together to get to study locations.
  • Make your shared living spaces environments that are great for studying and connecting.
  • Find healthy ways to celebrate when classes or a big final are over.
  • Be authentic with each other.

Ultimately, you help create the vibe on campus during finals and the community you need to be successful. We guarantee that supporting your friends and the benefits you’ll reap in return will be worth it.

This blog was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator and revised for finals.