Bouncing Back From Vacation

It’s been a couple of days since classes started back after Spring Break and I’m having a tough time getting back into the swing of things. This past Sunday night, I stared at my calendar, trying to will time to rewind, to go back to the beginning of Spring Break so I could have another week off.  I’m fighting off a case of the post-vacation blues. I know, I know, complaining about being able to take a vacation is a bit ridiculous. But, it’s tough getting back to my regular schedule and my motivation is low.Image

Some mental health professionals have actually put a name to this—Post Vacation Syndrome (PVS). For the first few weeks after returning to school or work, feelings of anxiety, difficulties with concentration, and lack of motivation are common.  It’s kind of like a severe case of the Mondays.  While an extended break can be fabulous, a 2010 study found that health and well-being of workers returned to pre-vacation levels within just one week of work.  Even if you did not actually go anywhere over Spring Break, readjusting your schedule can be tough and that relaxed mindset you had during break can quickly go out the window.

So, since we don’t yet have a time machine to do a vacation re-do, what can you do to shrug of the blues and make the most of the rest of the semester? Here are some tips to make the transition smooth:

  • Take care of your body. Break can sometimes mean a departure from your regular diet and exercise routine. As you return to campus, eat a healthy and balanced diet and increase your physical activity. It’ll help you feel better physically and get you back on track more quickly.
  • Keep reminders of your break around. Maybe its pictures of a trip or just a song you listened to a lot as you hung around the house. Take time to remind yourself about the great things about your break.  
  • Set some manageable goals for the week after break. Having specific goals you want to accomplish can make it easier to get motivated. But, make sure that you can actually get them done. There may be a lot of work piling up, but if you set smaller steps, you can chip away at it one piece at time and can feel more accomplished.
  • Take time each day to do something you enjoy. Connect with friends you did not see over the break. Talk on the phone to those you are missing from vacation. Spend 15 minutes reading for fun.  It can be easy to get pulled into the business of classes- but make sure you are able to do things that you enjoy for at least a portion of the day so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • It may be a little late for this one—but if you can, reserve a day between when you return from a trip and when you have to go back to class or work. Having one day to get errands done, send emails, pack your book bag, or just sleep can be really helpful.
  • Plan your next break! Whether it is a full out, week-long vacation during the summer or just a plan to connect with a friend over dinner Saturday night, plan something that you can look forward to. The anticipation is part of what make vacations great, so even if it is just a mini break from homework, having something on the books can lift your spirits.

Image from: Positive Sharing


Beck, M. (2011). The post Labor Day let-down. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

You’ve got a sexually transmitted infection. Now what?

Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be scary. You may be worried about the physical effects of the infection and what a diagnosis means for you, your relationships, and your future sex life.  Regardless of the specific STI you are diagnosed with, here are a few important things to consider.

Take care of your physical health.Image

  • Find out as much as you can about the STI that you have been diagnosed with. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or your friendly Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS).  Get information from books or reputable websites.  The more you know, the better prepared you will be to deal with this diagnosis.
  • Get treated.  Not all STIs are curable, but all of them are treatable. One of your first steps is to talk to a doctor about treatment.  STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can be treated (and cured) by taking antibiotics. HPV-infected tissue (warts and precancerous tissue) can be removed using various treatments. For herpes and HIV, there is no cure, but there are various treatments available to help manage symptoms.
  • Talk to your provider about what other STI tests you may need and when you should get tested.  Having one STI can put you at higher risk for getting other STIs.

Recognize and deal with emotions that can come with diagnosis.

  • Being diagnosed with an STI does not mean that you are dirty, a bad person, promiscuous, or unworthy of love.  Anyone can get an STI. At least half of all sexually active people will have an STI at some point in their lives.
  • Understand that people with STIs can have healthy, fulfilling sex lives in the future.  As always, it will be important to take precautions, such as using condoms or dental dams, to protect yourself and your partner.  Talk to a provider or Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) to learn more about specific precautions for different kinds of STIs.


  • One thing to consider is how you will tell current, past, or future sexual partners about your diagnosis. Even though it may be hard, if you are or have been sexually active with someone, it is important to tell them so that they can get tested and into treatment.  It’s best to be direct and honest. While it is hard to predict how your partner will react, it is likely that they will respect and appreciate your honesty.
  • Current Partners:  Until both you and your partner can be tested, it is important to abstain from sex or use safer sex measures such as condoms and dental dams so that you can prevent re-infection or becoming infected with another STI.
  • Past Partners: For some STIs, it may be difficult to tell exactly how long you have had it. So, you may have to think about telling some past sexual partners about your diagnosis, so that they can also get tested. If you are unsure about how far back you need to go, talk to a clinician. They may be able to give you information about how long you’ve likely had the STI and which partners to inform.
  • Future Partners: If you have had an STI (like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis) that has been treated and cured, there may be no need to tell your future partners about your diagnosis. However, for STIs like HIV and herpes, you have a responsibility to tell future sexual partners before you have sex, even if you are on treatment or are planning to use condoms. You don’t have to tell a partner right away, but you should let a partner know before having sex so that you can both make informed decisions about sex.

For more specifics about how to talk to a partner, check out this past post.

There is no right way to feel after being diagnosed with an STI. Try to keep things in perspective: an STI is a medical condition. You are still the same person that you were before the diagnosis and you are still worthy of love and respect.

If you have specific questions about safer sex or how to deal with an STI diagnosis, check out these resources:

Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS)

UNC Campus Health Counseling and Psychological Services

A New HIV Testing Option

This summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first at home rapid HIV test. The test, produced by OraQuick, can be purchased for about $40 over-the-counter, and used without medical supervision at home. Results are ready in about 20 minutes.  The test uses a swab to collect oral fluid that is tested for antibodies that the body produces in response to HIV infection.

Pros and Cons

Many experts herald the approval of the test as a breakthrough in HIV prevention, believing that the at-home HIV test provides more people the option of learning their HIV status, particularly those who may not otherwise elect to get tested in a clinical environment.

With an estimated one in five HIV-infected individuals unaware of their status, reducing barriers to HIV testing is extremely important. When people know their HIV status, they are able to get life-saving treatment and take measures to prevent transmission to others.

However, some HIV/AIDS advocates do not agree that at-home HIV tests are an effective way of expanding HIV testing. Some worry that by testing at home, people won’t have access to information, support, or additional care – especially those who test positive. There is also concern that people could be pressured or coerced into taking the test or use it as a substitute for practicing safer sex.  In response to some of these criticisms, OraQuick has launched a toll-free phone line where testers can call 24/7 to get information and support.

Accuracy and Use

Clinical trials of the at home test have shown that it is not as accurate when administered at home by consumers as it is when administered by professionals. In trials, the self-administered test correctly detected HIV in those with the virus 93% of the time, while it correctly identified HIV-negative users 99% of the time.  Those who test positive with the take home rapid test must get a follow up confirmatory test with a medical professional.

Like the OraQuick test used in doctors’ offices, the take-home test has a window period of three months. That means that there is a three month period of time during which HIV may not be detected by the test even if someone has been infected. So, if someone has a potential exposure to HIV in the three months prior to the test, they should get tested again.

If you choose to use the OraQuick take-home test, be sure to completely read the package instructions. OraQuick also has a video about the correct testing procedure and explanation of possible results.

Get yourself tested, and talking!

No matter which testing option you choose, the CHECS (Carolina Health Education Counselors of Sexuality) are a great resource to talk about HIV testing, ways to reduce your risk for HIV, and your HIV status.

In honor of World AIDS Day, UNC Counseling and Wellness Services will be hosting a FREE, Walk-in HIV testing event on campus from 11AM-5PM on November 30th! Please see our event page for more information. Additionally, at UNC Campus Health Services, we offer a rapid oral test (results available in about 20 minutes!), and a blood test. The latter is provided free of charge to students when you get tested with the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS). More information about HIV testing at UNC is available on the Campus Health webpage; for more information about making an HIV appointment with the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) by calling 919.966.3658.

Check out these websites for more information about HIV/AIDS, why you should get tested, and help for those who are newly diagnosed.

National HIV and STD Testing Resources

The Body

AIDS.GOV Website with Information for Newly Diagnosed


OraSure Website:


Positively Aware:

Huffington Post:

Only On Weekends?

I have a friend who labels herself a “sort of” cigarette smoker. She hardly ever buys cigarettes and never smokes by herself. She only lights up when she’s out with other people.

About 25% of smokers in the United States don’t smoke every day.1   They’re often referred to as “light” smokers.  For daily smokers trying to quit, cutting down to smoking occasionally may be a step towards quitting completely.1   For others, a pattern of light smoking may be the beginning of a bigger habit. 1

Some light smokers may be identified as “social” smokers, which is common among college students in the US,especially when alcohol is involved. 2,3 Social smoking refers to patterns of smoking only around others in a social situation, like at parties or bars. 3

What could happen by lighting up a few times per week?

Most people could tell you about the health risks associated with smoking regularly.  But what about “social smoking?” Doctors say that there is no safe level of tobacco use. Smoking only a few times per week is not as bad for you as smoking every day. 1,4  But, it is not good for you by any means. People who smoke occasionally are still at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and certain cancers compared to those who do not smoke.  They are also at higher risk for respiratory infections, slower recovery from injuries, delayed contraception in women, and poorer sperm function in men.1 Social smokers may also be exposed to high levels of second hand smoke, which can lead to the same negative health outcomes and health conditions that any smoker faces.

People taking birth control pills should be extra cautious about cigarettes. Smoking on the pill leads to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke.5  Some researchers believe that smoking can decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and may even lead to more breakthrough bleeding. 5

Are social smokers addicted?

There is conflicting research about whether occasional smokers are addicted to nicotine. Some studies have shown that social smokers can go long periods of time without any withdrawal symptoms, while other researchers suggest that even occasional smoking may lead to changes in the body and the brain that could lead to chemical dependence. 3 Some research has documented urges and cravings in light smokers.3 What we do know is that nicotine and smoking have the potential to be powerfully addicting—physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.

Is it hard to stop social smoking?

All long-term smokers started somewhere; in some cases, smoking socially is just the beginning of a more regular pattern of cigarette use that will continue for a lifetime.  There is evidence to support that theory: one study found that about half of social smokers studied were smoking more regularly within a year.6 On the other hand, many social smokers will either eventually quit or maintain their occasional smoking behavior. Most social smokers may believe that they can quit at any time they want. But don’t take that for granted –doctors warn that even for social smokers, quitting may not be easy. 4

Do you want to stop smoking?

If you’re a regular or social smoker and you want to quit,  there are places to get help and support as you become tobacco free:

QuitlineNC:  QuitlineNC provides free cessation services to any North Carolina resident who needs help quitting tobacco use. Quit Coaching is available in different forms, which can be used separately or together, to help any tobacco user give up tobacco.

UNC Campus Health: Physicians in the medical clinic and counselors at Counseling and Wellness are available to help you make a plan to quit.

You can also check out a personal story about quitting smoking here.


  1. Harvard Heart Letter. (2010). Light and Social Smoking. Retrieved from
  2. Moran, S., Wechsler, H., Rigotti, N.A. (2004). Social smoking among US college students. Pediatrics, 114:4, 1028-1034.
  3. Schane,R.,Glantz, S.A.,   Ling, P.M. (2009). Nondaily and social smoking: An increasingly regular pattern. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(19):1742-1744. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.315.
  4. DeNoon, D. Can You Get Away with Social Smoking? WebMD. Retrieved from
  5. Columbia University Go Ask Alice. (2005). The birth control pill and smoking. Retrieved from
  6. Columbia University Go Ask Alice. (2004). Is Social smoking really all that bad for me? Retrieved from

Celebrating Coming Out!

This Thursday is National Coming Out Day.  The Human Rights Campaign describes the intent of the day as promoting “a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly.”  Discovering and accepting your own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and telling others about that identity is a very personal, lifelong process. For many people, being open about who they are can bring a sense of relief and freedom. While there is no right way or time to do it, here are some things to consider when making the decision to come out. 

Who should I tell?

Think about all of the different relationships in your life: friends, family, partners, acquaintances, co-workers, classmates, and professors. The process of disclosing your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression may look different for each of these relationships.  As you meet new people throughout your life, you will have to think about how and if you want to come out to them.

It can be helpful to first come out to those who you think will be supportive. Think about people who will listen to you, respect you, and who won’t violate your confidentiality. Having a crew of supportive people in your corner can make it easier to tell the other people in your life.

Coming out to parents and family members can be a hard decision. Many parents react with love and support. However, some families must go through a long emotional process before coming to a place of acceptance. Think about which family members you may want to tell first.  It can also be important to think about how financial support or housing may be affected when you make your decision to come out.

When should I tell?

It is important that you come out according to your own timeline. Don’t do it because you are feeling pressure from others.  Avoid having the conversation when you (or others) have been drinking alcohol or using other substances.

When it comes to the actual conversation, pick a time that both you and the other person are relaxed and have plenty of time for a discussion. Avoid times when you or the other person are feeling stress or pressure. Right before Thanksgiving dinner is put on the table may not be the best time to have the conversation!

How should I tell?

Some people like to prepare what they want to say in advance. This could mean writing a letter and having the person read it prior to the discussion, or using the letter as a conversation starter during a face to face conversation. Some people find that role playing the conversation with a friend, counselor, or other professional helps them to think about what they want to say.  It can be helpful to have these conversations privately, with one or two people at a time, instead of with large groups of people.

Remember, your safety and well-being is the most important thing during this process. While I have hope that we will one day live in a world in which all sexual orientations, gender expressions, and gender identities are celebrated and accepted, the current reality is that many people who are LGBTQ are confronted with bullying and violence.  Consider your own safety and well-being before talking to people about your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These resources can also provide support:

Where can I get support?

UNC’s LGBTQ Center is a great place to go for more information and support. They also have support and discussion groups.

UNC Counseling and Wellness offers a wide range of services and programs to support students with personal, academic, career, health-related issues and crisis concerns.

There are several events in honor of Coming Out Week where you can get more information about coming out and talk with others.

Look for Safe Zone stickers and signs on office doors of faculty and staff. Safe Zone allies have completed training aimed at making the UNC community a safer and more supportive place for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.

How I can be supportive of someone who is coming out?

We are all a part of making UNC’s campus (and the world) a place where people can be open and safe in their own sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. The UNC LGBTQ Center has a great list of ways to be supportive to someone who is coming out. Check it out here.


References (and resources!)

GLSEN. Coming Out: A Guide for Youth and Their Allies.

Planned Parenthood. Coming Out.

George Mason University.

Men’s Sexual Health Mysteries

Here at Campus Health, we are busy preparing for Orgasm? Yes Please! which will be held on September 21 in the Union’s Great Hall from 7-9pm. Free tickets are available at the Union Box Office!

This year, we are making some changes to the program, including adding more information about men’s sexual health.  Please keep in mind that when I say “men’s” health, I mean folks with a male sex organ – a penis, not necessarily those who strictly identify as male.  We strive to be gender inclusive and provide the best information possible for folks of all gender identities, sexual orientations, and gender expressions.  Be on the lookout for a blog specific to trans sexual health soon!


In this post, we’ll talk about one organ that faces a lot of pressure when it comes to sex: the penis. Specifically—what happens when the penis does not follow orders?


For starters, some men get worried about not being able to get hard in the first place. There are many reasons why it may be difficult for the penis to become erect. Being depressed, stressed, anxious, tired, or drunk can make it difficult for a man to get hard. Sometimes, there may be no identifiable reason. Although we stereotypically think that this works the other way, men can also experience simply not “being in the mood”.

If a male experiences trouble keeping an erection it is important not to panic. More pressure and worry usually only make matters worse. The fact is that most men have at one time or another experienced not being able to maintain an erection.  And partners—try not to get defensive. It usually has nothing to do with you. Instead, be reassuring and try to suggest other bedroom activities that you could do that are still fun, enjoyable, and take away some of the pressure.

If a person faces regular problems with getting hard, it may be important to check in with a doctor to see if there is a medical reason. Some medications and serious medical conditions can change the way men are aroused. A doctor may be able to help identify the culprit and help men identify possible treatments.

Premature Ejaculation

Many men also worry about ejaculating too soon when they are with their partners. There is no exact cut off to determine if ejaculation is premature. It is really up to a male and his partner to determine if ejaculation is happening too soon.

It is estimated that between 30-40% of males have had issues with premature ejaculation. It can be helpful for men to concentrate on sensations they are feeling in other parts of their body and to relax to help prevent premature ejaculation.  For guys with consistent problems with ejaculating too soon, there are some exercises that can help erections last longer.

Remember: the penis is not the only thing that can make a sexual experience enjoyable for male-bodied people or their partners. Switch the focus to your fingers or tongue or whatever else helps get the job done.

What are some other things that men worry about when it comes to sex? Leave your comments below AND check out Orgasm? Yes Please!. on September 21, 2012 to get your questions answered.). Tickets are FREE and available to pick up at the Union Box Office.



Solot, D. & Miller, M. (2007). I Heart Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press.

Joannides, P. (2003). Guide to Getting It On! 3rd Edition. Oregon: Goofy Foot Press.

Mayo Clinic. (2011). Premature Ejaculation. Retrieved from: