How is your sleep these days?

Sleep can be elusive on campus. We are all still adjusting after winter break, but whether you have 8 am’s or all afternoon classes, improving your sleep gives you the energy to better perform in most aspects of your life.

Take control of your sleep with these simple (but sometimes difficult!) strategies:

  1. Plan your schedule around your internal body clock. There are those who are early risers and those who are night owls. Learn when your body and brain are most energized and reserve that time for your highest priority tasks.  
  2. Try starting a consistent sleep routine. Maintain the same sleep schedule every night. Eventually your body will earn to become tired and wake up at specific times. You make it harder for your body to adjust and when to get energy by switching up your schedule. Make the time when you get up for the day as consistent as possible.
  3. Be active in the morning. A quick stretch or morning walk will give you a boost of energy to get started with the day. Studies also show that you will tend stay more alert. Heart-pumping exercise right before you try to sleep can get in the way of relaxation.
  4. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. For most college students this is the range of time you need. Daytime napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night, so avoid naps if you can. If you just can’t keep your eyes open, set an alarm for a 20 minute nap – short enough to recharge you but not long enough to disrupt evening sleep.
  5. Unplug before bed. Try putting away electronics and do something that relaxes you during the hour before bed, such as listening to music, doing gentle yoga or meditation, or reading a book. 
  6. Recognize your patterns. If you are sleeping through your lecture it may be time for a change! It is a sure sign you are not getting enough sleep in class. Find a way to switch up your routine.  

If you’re still struggling to sleep, consider connecting to mental health supports via care.unc.edu or your primary care provider (remember – Campus Health appointments can be made online).

Change is Hard!

Starting is easy; continuing is much more difficult. 

Late afternoon scene at the Old Well on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Change does get easier as you keep going. Remember there are no magic pills for change and that the science of habits shows that change is possible:

Reflect on your routine. Reflect on tasks you need to accomplish, your feelings towards them, what you need to accomplish them, and how you feel when you’re done. Consider how your routine is working so far and what habits have begun. Write out hurdles and find ways to overcome them.

Adjust as needed. Be thoughtful, analytic and strategic in adjusting your routine. Consider the results you seek. Structure healthy habits like meals, sleep, exercise, showers, nutrition and study times into your daily schedule.

Turn routines into habits.  Routines can eventually becomes habits, tasks that you’ve done so often, that you brain finds them rewarding in themselves. Habits are set into motion by triggers, context clues that signal your brain to start. Outsourcing repeated tasks to habits allows you brain to more easily manage your daily life and more complex challenges. 

Create a habit. Start by convincing yourself that the change isn’t a big deal. Break down big tasks (get through the semester, for example) into smaller and specific actions (a daily study time). Create triggers – like visual cues or certain times of day. Then stick with it! Remember most behaviors you want to turn into habits aren’t as gratifying as activities like mindless scrolling, so try to make the behavior more pleasurable. Not through rewards afterwards, but while doing the thing. Studying with friends, perhaps? Moving your body while listening to your favorite music or podcast? Find what’s going to motivate you.

Ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Start a conversation now with classmates, your TA or professors, a tutor, learning center advisor, or writing coach to help you with your classroom success.Share your goals with someone in your life and ask them to help you be accountable. Check in with them regularly. 

Make time for self-care. Take time each day to relax and care for yourself. Do something every day for something you enjoy. Take a day off when your body or mind needs it. Use your weekends to recharge!

Even if you only end up doing a few more healthy behaviors, or making your academics a bit easier for yourself this semester – that’s still success. Being a little bit more healthy or knowledgeable is a million times better than being frustrated and changing nothing. Change is a direction – not a destination! 

Pace Yourself.

Everyone’s journey looks a little different. Explore yours. 

Congratulations on surviving week one, whether you are a new transfer student, a first year who survived their first semester at Carolina, or a senior who just made it through their last first week of classes. Remember that your path may not look like your peers’. Look below for strategies to make your personal experience at Carolina your best experience.  

Find Your Network!

Find groups of peers who are going the same direction that you are. Find people that you want to be associated with in terms of your field of study, organizations, and networks. These people will often influence path in terms of your goals. 

Find people to match your pace.

Once you find your network, find individuals or groups within that network who match your pace. Carolina is an ambitious environment to be surrounded by. Competitive or not, it may pay off to find a group of peers or individuals around you that match your pace! Whether as study friends, accountability partners or for social vibes, it will pay off to be around other. Collaborate Network. Brainstorm. Support each other. 

Take the Long View!

You have already fought half the battle by choosing to your own path. Now it’s up to you to maintain it. It is very easy to fall into the clutches of imposter syndrome and comparison. However, looking forward and focusing on your own goals (whether that is joining a certain organization, finding an internship, achieving high honors, or securing a job), your plan to get there and your own pace will give you much more peace in the long run. Reassess as needed.

Adjusting Back to Campus

Rameses with sunglasses. Welcome back Tar Heels.

Thrilled to see some of your favorite people again.
Annoyed by the lines of students everywhere you turn.
Worried about classes.
Excited about the semester ahead.
Transitions almost always mean complicated emotions, daily challenges, and usually some sense of excitement for the potential ahead. No matter what you’re felling about being here, we want you to make the most of your spring semester. Some ideas to help you get started:

Accept your feelings. You feel what you feel! Adapting to any change takes energy. Be compassionate with yourself.

Look ahead. Focus on the future. Visualize who you want to be, what you want to learn, and where you want to end up by the end of this semester. The bigger picture can help when the daily slog is tough.

Remember the “yet.” All change takes time and practice to get used to it all. Add “yet” to the end of critical self-talk. “I don’t know anything about this material….yet.”  And then take it one step at a time to work towards the end result that you seek.

Build relationships. People are – heels down – the best part of being at UNC Chapel Hill. And the best marker for happiness is having warm relationships. Everyone you encounter on campus can become a relationship that offers warmth, support, humor, or joy. Be intentional this semester about building connection. Be curious, listen to understand, and make time for the people you adore. Connection can help you navigate these challenges with people who are facing similar circumstances.

Attend a Week of Welcome event, a campus effort to celebrate and support students at the beginning of each semester with fun events, informational fairs, and late-night programs. A full listing of WOW events are available on Heel Life.

Start organized, stay organized. Time is finite; activities are seemingly infinite. Prioritize as best you can! Schedule time for the activities that are important to you and needed to meet your goals. The Learning Center has a great semester planning tool that might help linked from their “Calendars and College” page.

Ask for help. It’s easy to feel a bit lost at the beginning of the semester. You haven’t quite found your routine yet and everything feels new. Ask your friends, your professor, anyone you trust when you have questions or need help. And remember, if you can’t find the support you need around you, use the filters on the Heels Care Network website to find supportive resources that best fit your needs including a Peer Chat staffed by LSN