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:
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:
Get boosted / vaccinated. The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing death and hospitalization from COVID-19, including the new variant.
Upgrade your mask strategy. Add a filter to your cloth mask. Layer a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask. Order some KN95s and fit them to your face. Remember – you MUST WEAR A MASK in all public, indoor settings on campus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The holiday season often provides an opportunity to be with family and other loved ones, while ushering us towards parties, gift-giving, eating out, and other celebratory events. This seasonal whirlwind can also bring up challenges such as unwelcome guests, financial strain, stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. A 2021 CDC report found that the anxiety and depression levels for adults aged 18-29 have doubled compared to 2020. This is most likely due to the long-lasting effects of the pandemic. The virus is still present and active, and the Omicron variant adds extra concerns as we enter the season.
With some slight shifts in your behavior, you may be able to minimize your stress, while creating a supportive environment that centers on wellbeing.
Tips to Manage Holiday Stress
The holidays are rarely “perfect” and that means being flexible and realistic with our time, energy, and expectations. At times, family members and/or holiday time can be trigger memories of past unpleasant experiences or trauma. Communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries with family and friends, especially around COVID-19 risk mitigation. Virtual gatherings can be different, but they can also provide an opportunity for creativity as well as connections across distance. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Many of us have experienced loss over the last two years and many more of us are grieving a loss from some time ago. It’s ok to feel sad, and crying or expressing that sadness is normal, especially during the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and do not hesitate to ask those you’re closest to for support.
As previously stated, reach out to your friends, family, and community. Human connection matters and isolation can cause us to forget the power of sharing time with others. Utilize social media, meet-ups, and other social events (safely) to make new friends or be reacquainted with friends from your past.
Set aside differences.
It can be easy to politicize current events. Try to practice a pause. Listen with empathy and pause before commenting while thinking to yourself, “Is this statement based on fact or opinion, and do I have the energy to discuss it with compassion?”. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and need some grace or space to pause and process. Also, if it’s best for you to limit interactions with specific individuals around this time, know that it is acceptable to prioritize your care during a challenging time.
Stick to a budget.
Before you do your gift-giving and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget! Look for ways to share costs with family and friends. Remember that time together or sharing experiences is the best gift we can give.
Plan, plan, plan! Having a plan minimizes stress and allows you to share work with others. This is not the time to “do everything.” Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Schedule downtime so you are able to rest, relax, and restore. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Do not be afraid to ask for support. Asking for support is a continuous and integral theme to holiday self-care.
As we all do our best to continue navigating a global pandemic while engaging with each other during this season it is imperative that we find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also help extend these same virtues to others during this time. Uncertainty and stress are difficult for everyone.
Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:
How am I feeling right now?
What does my self-talk sound like?
Is this self-talk something that I would say to support a small child or good friend?
Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:
I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
This is a difficult time. It is natural to feel stressed. I am here for you.
I am safe and supported.
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends, family, and co-workers will understand if you can’t participate in every activity or project. Saying no is a complete sentence and requires practice in self-compassion, self-preservation, and self-love.
Don’t disregard healthy habits.
In our current climate, wellbeing may or may not be top of mind. Center your wellbeing and engage in activities that boost your mood and enhance your health. These strategies make us more resilient and may improve our outlook.
Try these suggestions:
Have gratitude and share it, let others know you’re grateful for them.
Imagine the best case scenario and believe it’s possible.
Keep a gratitude journal (write down three things you’re thankful for, daily).
Give to yourself and forgive yourself.
Give others the benefit of the doubt (don’t assume, ask).
Focus on food flexibility. Remember that all foods (yes, all foods!) have nutrition to offer. Savor the holiday flavors!
Get plenty of sleep.
Include regular movement in your daily routine.
Practice deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
Adjust the time you spend reading the news and engaging with social media.
Take a break.
Take some time to relax and be still to reset for the day or wind down at night. It also can be part of the midday recalibration. Use an app for a 5-minute meditation, or just sit quietly with or without soft music. During your quiet time, it’s also nice to replay moments of gratitude.
Seek professional help if you need it.
Caring for your health means both daily personal choices and support from professionals. Some people benefit from regular check-ins with a medical or mental health provider. Others reach out when problems persist. If you’re finding yourself experiencing physical pain, unable to sleep, unable to face routine chores, feeling sad, irritable, or hopeless – and especially if these feelings last for 2 weeks or more – talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
Plan for and manage holiday time instead of allowing the season to manage you. Take steps to minimize the stress, anxiousness, and depression that can be amplified during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can reduce their impact. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned.
Remember to prioritize your financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own finances. How much do you have to spend? How much do you need to save? What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?
Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!
Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
Try DIY or repurposed gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are some DIY gift ideas.
Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less.
Be careful with credit card purchases. Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.
The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!
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.
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.
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 to 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 or having a difficult conversation at last), 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.
Imagine 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:
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 evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help your 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!
Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t have to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates 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.
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 that 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.
Connection. 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.
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
It’s normal to feel awkward, lost, confused, homesick, lonely (along with so many other emotions!) when you’re in college. This fall semester especially is a huge adjustment. We have been living in isolation so long it may be even harder than usual to start or re-start a social life. Lots of students are struggling to feel connected on campus this semester – whether they admit it to you or not. Here are some tips from students like you that helped them adjust and make students feel a bit more connected to campus.
You aren’t alone. Lots of people feel the same way as you, even if they aren’t talking about it. You are not the only one who is having a difficult time. This is a transition for everyone and it can be overwhelming.
Keep your door open. Whether your residence hall room door, your office door, your carrel – the “window” to the rest of the world leaves space for some interactions that might not otherwise happen.
Find a space on campus that you enjoy. This could be a tree to study under, a favorite spot in the library, the Union, or an office on campus, such as the LGBTQ Center or Women’s Center.
Talk to people in your classes. Did someone ask a thought-provoking question in the discussion? Tell them so—it can lead to a great conversation that you can continue over lunch or coffee. Also, forming study groups is a great way to get to know people while also helping each other.
Join a club or organization. Getting involved is one of the best ways to meet people. In addition to being a place of higher education, college is also an ideal time to try something new or connect with people who have similar interests. Check out a sport, service or political organization, or a religious or cultural group on campus. Joining a club or organization gives you an opportunity to meet friends who have similar interests, and for many clubs you can join at any point throughout the year. HeelLife.unc.edu is one spot to explore.
Know your resources. There are lots of people on campus who want to help you adjust and who understand it can be rough. The Learning Center is a great place to visit to talk about adjusting to the college workload and college-level writing. CAPS can be a great resource to talk out how you are feeling, especially if these feelings persist. Several peer and affinity-based support organizations exist to help you feel less alone that you can look for in the Mental Health Hub. All of these resources are covered under student fees, so it costs you nothing but a bit of time to take advantage of them!
This has been such a difficult weekend, few weeks, semester, few years. Death in our community is tragic, and when connected with the many challenges being experienced this semester, it’s no wonder that things may feel a bit heavy or overwhelming.
Give yourself time and space to fully experience whatever feelings are coming up for you. Explore your own feelings without feeling pressure to perform them for others.
Connect with people – from neighbors to loved ones to mental health professionals. Lean on people around you to help work through the stages of grief however they show up for you.
Ease up on the demands you place on yourself this week.
Support others, if you can
Send that message / make that call. Start by reaching out to the people around you who may be struggling. Just a simple, “How are you doing, really?” is perfect.
Focus on asking open-ended questions.
Give time and space for the answers. “I’ve got lots of time and am fine talking with you about this,” is a great way to show you’re ready to listen if that’s true for you. Refer to resources when appropriate.
Engage in meaningful activities. There are many opportunities to provide support or process with fellow students, and we’ll do our best to share those in our Instagram stories and Twitter feed. There is healing in solidarity.
If you’re a TA, do what you can to support your students.
Be flexible. Excuse students from assignments if appropriate, give extensions, change class routines, etc. These are all not only permissible but encouraged to help all our students in these difficult times
Be explicit about your support. In an email or during class, make clear your concern for your students and your availability to talk or meet with them, e.g., “please feel free to contact me personally or by email or to respond to all if you have thoughts or feelings you would like to share. This is a hard time and we need to be there for each other.”
You are enough, just as you are.
The staff at UNC Healthy Heels are committed to systemic changes to support the health and wellbeing of UNC students and work collaboratively with stakeholders throughout UNC and the community towards that goal.There is much work to be done. Join us in our efforts by getting involved in ways that fit your needs.
Carolina Adventure Chronicles | Part One: SUP, Supper, & Sunset
I’m nearing the end of my time at Carolina, and as such, I have made it my personal mission to do and experience everything that UNC has to offer. This means saying “yes” to more invitations and jumping on all the events and opportunities I passed on in prior years.
After spending nearly 18 months cooped up inside my house, I felt particularly drawn to Campus Rec’s outdoor expedition programs through Carolina Adventures. These expeditions transport students to scenic locations around North Carolina and surrounding states to do activities like backpacking, climbing, and kayaking. I was lucky enough to attend the most recent trip and the first trip held since March 2020: SUP, Supper, & Sunset.
First things first, SUP is an abbreviation for Stand-Up Paddleboard. It’s like a surfboard, but larger, more buoyant, and generally more stable in waves. In other words, it’s one of these:
I grew up by the ocean, so water sports were definitely up there on the list of things I’d missed since coming to UNC. I’d only been paddle boarding a handful of times before, and while I’m generally more of a kayak person, any excuse to get out on the water sounded like a good time to me.
Details & Departure
A few days before the trip, I received an email with loads of details about what to expect, what to bring, and where to meet. I appreciated how clear and communicative the Carolina Adventures staff was, and they seemed more than happy to answer any questions I had.
The suggested items to bring were pretty standard: mask, bathing suit, water shoes, towel, water bottle, and snacks. The actual paddleboarding would take place Saturday evening on Jordan Lake (about 30 minutes south of campus), but we were set to depart from the Carolina Outdoor Education Center (OEC).
FYI: the OEC is a hidden gem, and if you haven’t been yet, you’re missing out! It’s only a 10-20 minute walk from campus and has hiking trails, a disc golf course, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a climbing wall, and even a ropes course with ziplines!
I arrived at the OEC around 5:00 PM on Saturday. The sun was just beginning to sink in the sky, but the heat from the day still lingered. I couldn’t wait to get in the water.
I walked down one of the steepest hills I’d ever seen and sat at a wooden picnic table overlooking some tennis courts. There, I met one of the trip leaders. To my surprise, she was the same year and major as me. It turns out that a lot of the employees at the OEC are undergraduate students, which made the experience feel all the more casual.
As more students began to filter in, our trip leader gave us some medical forms to fill out and water bottles to take with us on the trip. Once everyone had gathered — 10 students in total — we began introductions. The group was a mix of undergrad and grad students of all skill levels. Several people had never touched a paddleboard before; one person used to work as a paddleboard instructor. One thing I liked was that there was never any sense of judgment or expectation that you should know what you’re doing. We were all students, and at the end of the day, we were there to learn.
Another thing the Carolina Adventures staff encouraged was the idea of “Challenge by Choice”. We all have a comfort zone. There are activities and situations that fit within our comfort zone, those that push the boundaries of our comfort zone, and those that far exceed our comfort zone. Where these boundaries begin and end is highly variable and up to the individual to determine. “Challenge by Choice” means choosing to take steps outside your comfort zone at your own pace and by your own motivation. Doing so provides opportunities for growth and personal achievement.
We played a few icebreaker games as the trip leaders loaded the trailer. Then, we packed into the van and began driving to Jordan Lake — paddleboards in tow.
FYI: Jordan Lake is huge — 14,000-acres huge! This reservoir is surrounded by numerous access points with over 1,000 campsites, 14 miles of hiking trails, boat launches, beaches, and swimming areas!
Paddleboard Prep & Pizza
Thirty minutes on the road felt more like 10, as I had some fun conversations with my fellow paddleboarders. The excitement emanating from everyone on the bus was palpable.
Once we arrived at the Farrington Point boat launch at Jordan Lake, we filed out of the van and began to help the trip leaders prep the paddleboards. We untied the boards from the trailer and hoisted them down onto the ground. The trip leaders pumped air into them, and a few of the students volunteered to help secure the fins and ankle straps.
The intense heat from earlier in the day had abated, and the air felt pleasantly warm. We gathered in a circle under the tree canopy for the “supper” portion of the evening. The trip leaders unveiled two of THE LARGEST PIZZAS I had ever seen from none other than Benny Capella’s. Each slice was bigger than my head. It took two people to carry one box. If you’ve ever wondered what a 28” pizza looks like, let me put it into perspective for you:
After we finished up dinner, the trip leaders ran through some safety instructions and suited us up with paddles and personal flotation devices (PFDs, formerly known as life jackets). Then, we were ready to go.
Smooth Sailing & Sunset
The boards proved to be a bit cumbersome to carry, but the walk to the water’s edge was only about 25 yards. I slid the nose of my board into the water, attached my ankle strap, waded out a few feet, hopped on the board, and pushed off of the sandy bottom with my paddle.
My first “Challenge by Choice” was standing up. I set my paddle down on the board, placed my feet shoulder-width apart in the middle of the board to give myself more stability, and stood up. For a few moments, I was sure I would go flying into the water. I wobbled and teetered and tottered until I found my center of balance and came to a rest.
The group waited for everyone to get situated on their boards before paddling east toward a bridge. We chatted amongst ourselves as white egrets flew overhead and blue herons stood stoically by the shoreline.
We crossed under the bridge, and the lake opened up into another expansive section with an island at the center. We paddled past the island, gliding through gentle waves as the setting sun softened the sky to a pastel blue.
We paused at an outcropping of trees and several of the students (myself included) jumped into the water for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm — even warmer than the air at that point. After splashing around for a while, someone in the group challenged all of us to a race. Call it my second “Challenge by Choice” of the day.
We lined up. I lowered my stance on my paddleboard to increase my balance. At the word “Go!”, I surged forward, furiously paddling with two strokes on each side of my board. I charged ahead, and with no predetermined finish line in sight, I paddled until my arms begged me to stop. Behind me, I heard boisterous cheering and the occasional splash as someone from the group lost their balance and fell headlong into the water.
The group started back toward the shore just as the eastern sky turned a milky lavender color. The full moon, a vibrant pink and the largest I had ever seen, was just peeking above the trees on the horizon. I stared in awe and tried to follow the barely perceptible track of its upward movement. By the time we rounded the corner at the bridge, the moon had fully revealed itself from behind the horizon. It cast a wavering spotlight on the lake water down below. The western half of the sky was an artwork all its own. The sun, brushing up against the treeline, set the sky ablaze with color. The surface of the water was illuminated in a brilliant golden glow, while everything to my front was silhouetted black against it.
We reached the shore just as night fell and packed up the paddleboards. Before heading out, we did some reflecting on our experiences: the roses, the buds, and the thorns. The most common roses were the scenery, meeting new people, and learning something new. The most common thorn was the bugs (note to self: pack bug spray). We returned to the Outdoor Education Center around 9:30 PM and said our goodbyes.
Truthfully, I had an amazing time on this trip, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone at UNC. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for several more trips this semester (Carolina Aventures series???).
Signing up was easy at https://stayactive.unc.edu/ under Programs > Expeditions. Spots on each trip are limited, so only sign up if you are certain you will be able to go. Trips vary in their level of intensity and typically happen on weekends, although some trips happen over extended breaks. For example, Carolina Compass is a 4-day backpacking and rockclimbing expedition exclusive to first-year students that takes place over fall break. Be sure to read the details of each trip thoroughly before deciding, and don’t hesitate to reach out to staff with questions.
These trips can be a fun activity to do with friends, but don’t be afraid to sign up by yourself. In fact, most people on the SUP trip had signed up by themselves. If you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone and make new connections, I really recommend it. The casual environment and common interest (being outdoors!) make it really easy to get to know people.
Comfort – Remember, the best mask is the one you’ll wear. So find one that is comfortable.
Fit – the mask should fit tightly over your nose and chin with no gaps. A bendable nose bridge is important for ensuring a good fit.
Filtration – the mask should have 2 or more layers of material. Certain materials, such as those in surgical masks, are designed to remove small particles by making particles collide with and stick to the fibers of the material.
Amp up your mask game!
Any cloth or surgical mask is better than no mask.
Double mask with an ASTM-certified surgical mask and a tight-fitting cloth mask. A surgical mask is an excellent filter, but by itself fits poorly and leaks. The cloth mask or fitter is intended to improve the fit of the surgical mask.
Or use an ASTM-certified surgical mask with a fitter to seal the mask to the face.
A tight-fitting cloth mask with a high-quality filter.
Organize Yourself. Take better control of the way you’re spending your time and energy so you can handle stress more effectively. There are loads of tips and tricks online, or you can visit the Learning Center and talk with an academic coach to get tips especially for you.
Control Your Environment by controlling who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself. Consider the people and places around you that give you joy as well as those that are a vortex of negativity or a force for good. Choose your people wisely!
Extend compassion to yourself when things get hard or when you mess up. Know that you deserve compassion just like you would show a friend. Everyone goes through difficult times and challenges. You are not alone.
Reward yourself by planning leisure activities into your life. It really helps to have something to look forward to. What are the activities that make you feel refreshed? Plan one for your next break!
Move your body – your health and productivity depend upon its ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Exercise your heart and lungs regularly. Move your body a minimum of three days per week for 15-30 minutes. This includes such activities as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc. We have a whole article dedicated to ideas to incorporate more movement into your life.
Relax by taking your mind off your stress and concentrating on breathing and positive thoughts. Sleep, meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, listening to relaxing music, communicating with friends and loved ones, etc.
Rest as regularly as possible. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Take study breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time. It needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.
Be Aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders (i.e., ulcers, hypertension, heart disease), and at the very least are markers that you might be overdoing things.
Fuel yourself.Eat a balanced diet. Avoid depending on drugs and alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also often makes it harder to concentrate. Your body responds to what you put in it – so be mindful of how you feed yourself.
Enjoy yourself. It has been shown that happier people tend to live longer, have less physical problems, and are more productive. Look for the humor in life when things don’t make sense. Remember, you are unique and deserve the best treatment from yourself.
What ideas do you use to support your stress management? Leave us a comment below!
This article was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS. She uses nature and play to manage her stress – usually at the same time.