This was supposed to be an exciting year. Many of us are students at the school of our dreams and are thrilled to live in Chapel Hill. Filled with allure, UNC is full of prospects: for new friendships and creating lifelong memories.
This fantasy was soon smashed by the pandemic. Classes were converted to online and the campus was shut down. We found ourselves in a new situation with few opportunities to meet new people. As the months of isolation dragged on, the feelings of loneliness lingered with limited hope of dissipating. Our ability to engage in school became stunted. The academic requirements that once ignited passion and captivation became daunting. The lack of social distractions, in theory, should have allotted more time to engage with academic responsibilities, however, it seemed to cause the opposite.
Many students have expressed feelings of extreme powerlessness, since the start of the pandemic. We feel displaced, lonely, angry, and sad. Many have given up the comfort and communities of their homes only to find themselves feeling distraught and distanced.
Data confirms these feelings – you’re not alone! A representative sample of UNC students completed a well-being survey in the fall and confirmed that many UNC students are having feelings of loneliness and low rates of self-esteem. This can have profound effects, especially when combined with the pressures of academia. Social isolation can deplete mental health, and can also have damaging effects on one’s physical health including higher blood pressure and increased rates of diabetes.
Within all of this hopelessness, where does one turn to for hope? Amongst the powerlessness, where do we turn to feel empowered?
We know getting together while being apart is hard, but it’s worth it. Social connections are an important key to happiness and well-being. Although socializing during a pandemic may not look the same, there are a number of low-risk activities to increase overall wellbeing and help to create stronger connections in your community.
- Move your body with a friend, ideally outside. Local hiking spots abound! Check out:
- Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough
- Eno River in Durham
- Bolin Creek in Carrboro
- Reach out to new Tar Heels who express similar outlooks and interests in your classes and school groups. To some, this may provoke fear and anxiety. Putting yourself out there and reaching out to new people is not necessarily easy. But we are all struggling in one way or another. Send someone a direct message over zoom after you enjoyed what they shared in class, reach out to someone privately in your GroupMe chats and ask to schedule a zoom coffee date or socially distanced walk.
- Engage in student groups. Finding a group may help promote a feeling of community within the university. Loads of student organizations are available that have the potential to create a sense of community around similar interests and identities.
We must view our mental health as an essential part to a constantly moving vehicle. When one part fails to function, the rest are also compromised. In order to reach our academic potential, we must allow ourselves the space to be present and mindful of our social well being.
Upcoming Social Events
- Small Fest: Re-imagine the start of the spring semester with a variety of events and opportunities to connect on Heel Life |Monday Jan 25th – Friday Jan 29th at 5pm-6pm
- Mental Wellbeing Series: Lovin’ Da Crew: Join Healthy Heels and Wellness experts on Instagram live to chat about challenges, barriers and strategies to increase social connections| January 28th at 12pm
- Virtual Paint Nights: Sign up to paint, relax, have fun, be creative, and social| January 27th at 6pm
- Virtual Game Nights: Celebrate FWOC with your favorite virtual games | Jan 28th at 7pm
- SOLR (Student Organization Leadership Retreat): The theme of the retreat is “2020 in Review” – this half-day retreat includes social opportunities and roundtable discussions | Jan 30th at 9am-1pm
|CAPS offers a variety of groups that connect students to supportive, nurturing, and safe environments including Dancing Mindfulness, Brother to Brother, and many more. |
Wellness offers community-building programs designed to increase a sense of belonging and provide space for voices and stories to be shared.
Health and Wellness services
- Campus Rec offers in-person workout reservations at Rams Head and, on-demand and live fitness classes.
- Campus Health offers both in-person and telehealth visits every day (including weekends) 8am – 5pm. Scheduling an appointment is the most efficient way to be seen – call 919-966-2281 or visit healthyheels.unc.edu to request an appointment online.
- CAPS offers 24/7 phone support at 919/966-3658. Initial screenings offered by phone 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm M-F. Follow up appointments by Zoom. Group therapy during spring semester includes over 20 groups to help you connect with students like you via Zoom
- Student Wellness will continue to provide virtual support, program requests, appointments and wellbeing interventions. Learn more at studentwellness.unc.edu.