Anxiety Support during COVID-19

Relentless news updates have a way of inspiring near-constant dread. As distressing news continually shows up on our devices, it is common to feel more than a little nervous about the state of the world.

When a large-scale news event happens, people want to discuss it more widely and frequently. This constant conversation can create an avalanche of negative thoughts.

Why we catastrophize

Catastrophizing, or a pattern of thinking that jumps to the worst-case scenario, is an evolutionary response to a threat. The ability to consider how bad things could get and plan ahead has helped humans survive. However, it’s an ineffective way of trying to regain control. Jumping to worst-case scenarios breeds poor decision-making and can lead to a “who cares” attitude, which can contribute to hopelessness and despair.  Sometimes catastrophic thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g. fear of a toilet paper shortage caused one). Even when a problem isn’t based in reality, we think we need to fix it.

What we can do to help ourselves:

Accept uncertainty and trust people

We live in relatively safe times, despite recent tumultuousness. Because of our general feeling of security, we are less used to dealing with uncertainty. Accepting the unknown requires relinquishing control and trusting that most of the people in charge are working to solve the problems beyond our capacity. We use this strategy when we use public transit and airplanes, for example. We can also use it during the pandemic.

Stick to the facts

Anxiety makes us feel powerless. Powerlessness becomes fear that we won’t be able to handle the consequences of a terrible event. However, we tend to exaggerate the severity of the threat and underestimate our ability to cope. We almost always cope better than we think we will!

Instead of feeling powerless, evaluate what you know to be true in this moment — and don’t exaggerate — to help ground you. Think: I have people I love, I can still eat food that nourishes me, the sun still rises and sets.

Consider your responsibilities (to yourself, your loved ones, your community, your academics) and get started on the reality-based problems that you can solve today.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking

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Remember that this situation is nuanced. When news and facts are constantly changing, it can be easy to jump to conclusions and fill in unknowns. Avoid processing current events with black-and-white thinking. Events being canceled, for example, doesn’t mean we will never see our community again — it means our leaders care about our safety and are taking precautions. Give your anxiety a name – for example, “Dook.” If Dook says the world is going to end, Dook probably doesn’t know what they are talking about. A little rivalry humor can’t hurt, right?

Take care of yourself

Research has shown anxiety impacts our decision-making skills, and in times like these, you want to make the most informed decisions for yourself and those you love. Practice self-care to diminish stress and anxiety: physical movement, deep sleep and social interactions — even if it’s just a phone call or video chat — have all been shown to help.  You may also want to step back from social media or have some technology-free times in your day.

Get involved

Helping helps decrease despair and stress, while also giving a sense of purpose. Donate to or volunteer with an organization making positive contributions, whether locally, nationally or internationally. Anything you do to be proactive will help ward off powerlessness.

Perhaps most importantly, give yourself some grace.

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You are doing the best you can in a situation that you did not want. We are all figuring out how to cope in this pandemic – you are not alone! Use strategies that have worked for you during difficult times in the past. Reach out to people you adore. Extend yourself some loving kindness. Remember, you have survived every hard thing the world has thrown your direction.

If you try these strategies and find you’re still struggling, CAPS 24/7 is available for UNC students at 919-966-3658. CAPS is also offering 2 digital support groups: a support group for UNC undergraduate seniors during COVID and a support group for any UNC student during COVID.

 

This article is based on Coping Tips provided in New York Times Smarter Living and adapted for UNC students.

When Home Isn’t Safe: COVID-19 and Interpersonal Violence

This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Uncertainty is rampant and public health officials are all recommending we engage in social distancing. For some folks, social distancing might not look much different than their normal weekend routine: pajamas all day, netflix, and lots of chill time. But for some of the most vulnerable, social distancing can be challenging and even dangerous.

Folks who are experiencing or have experienced gender-based violence (sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking) might be feeling increased isolation and loss of control during this time where answers are limited and the advice to stay home is unanimous. When power and control are the root causes of violence, and isolation is a key tactic of abuse, this time can be triggering for folks who already have experienced these things at the hands of an abuser. Even more, some folks who are being encouraged to stay home might currently be in an abusive relationship with a domestic partner, roommate, family member, or other person at their home.

For this reason, home might not be the safest place for all of our community members.

While this is our reality and is important to name, advocates and staff at UNC-CH are working tirelessly to make sure that our community has the resources and support that it needs during this pandemic.

You are not alone.

From university resources to state and national resources, we are here to support our most vulnerable and to specifically address the unique challenges that survivors of Gender-based violence will be facing during the era of COVID-19.

Let’s start with University resources. While classes have been moved to virtual platforms, campus staff are also hard at work to find creative ways to make our unique services and resources available for our community.

University Resources:

  • The Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSC):  meeting with folks via phone or secure video chat. To schedule a time to connect with Holly or Kayla you can email them at gvsc@unc.edu (Confidential Resource)
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): you can connect with CAPS via their 24/7 hotline at 919-966-3658 (Confidential Resource)
  • Campus Health: open for students and specifically still providing care for SANE exams – call 919-966-2281 (Confidential Resource)
  • Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office: our Report and Response Coordinators, who are the intake specialists for our Title IX office are still meeting with individuals remotely. To schedule a time to connect with Rebecca, Ew, or Kathryn email: reportandresponse@unc.edu  (Private Resource)

Local Resources:

National Resources:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free: 1-800-799-7233 and through chat.
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free: 800.656.HOPE (4673) and through chat.
  • The StrongHearts Native Helpline for domestic/sexual violence is available 7am-10pm CT, confidential, and specifically for Native communities: 1−844-762-8483
  • The Trans LifeLine for peer support for trans folks 9am-3am CT: 1-877-565-8860 This hotline is staffed exclusively by trans operators is the only crisis line with a policy against non-consensual active rescue.
  • National Parent Helpline Monday -Friday 12pm-9am CT emotional support and advocacy for parents: 1-855-427-2736

 

Beyond resources, we want to also provide some guidance for folks who are feeling like their home is not the safest place for them right now. As some states and cities move to require folks to shelter in place, we are aware that this might create additional difficulties and risks for survivors. Here are some things to think through if we receive “shelter in place” guidance from State or local authorities.

If home is not a safe place for you, are there other friends or family you could stay with during this time? Consider reaching out to these people to make a plan:

  • Consider reaching out to a trusted friend, co-worker, or family member who could check in with you about your safety and support needs. If you need help identifying support people in your life, take a look at the pod mapping worksheet from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective.
  • Are you connected with close friends or family members of the person who is hurting you? Are they aware of what is happening or are they a safe person to reach out to? Consider connecting with them now in case you need someone to help you in an emergency.

We’ve pulled this list from Futures Without Violence. Check out their page to learn more.

The Gender Violence Services Coordinators offer safety planning as part of their support, so this might be an option for folks who are concerned about their safety in their place of residence.

Overall, know that you are not alone in this. Our community is rallying in amazing ways and coming together to support the most vulnerable among us. If you have needs yourself or are looking out for a friend, please take the proactive step of reaching out to any of these resources!

As activist and amazing human Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Living at Home as a College Student during Coronavirus

As UNC students shift to living at their permanent addresses due to COVID-19, stress is likely high. You’re bringing home all the challenges you faced on campus – keeping up with your academics, staying social, thinking about summer plans – but with the addition of a global pandemic, navigating most interactions online, and living with your family.

Reach out for support.

Engage online with fellow UNC students, professors, and support services. UNC offers the Writing and Learning Centers, Career Center, Dean of Students, CAPS, Advising and more. All of these entities are offering distance support by phone or online – and bonus – you’ve already paid for their services in tuition and fees. Take advantage of them!

Create a balanced rhythm for your days.

With classes beginning this week, consider making a calendar of yourself – either on your device or on paper. Use colors to visually represent different categories, making it less likely to forget important things you need to do and more likely to maintain accountability, perspective and balance. Include fun things in your calendar – video chats with friends, time outside, movement, creativity. If you like specificity – be specific! Schedule things to the hour or half hour. Include the elements of your day that are important to you.

If you like a more relaxed way of being – focus on the rhythm of your day. For example: I start with a grounding activity like yoga, meditation or a run. Then I eat some food and shower, spend a few hours doing work. After lunch, I go outside for a few hours – hike, bike, read a good book in a hammock. I work on school projects again before dinner and then help cook. After dinner is time for me – making art, video chats, watching shows. Just ensure your rhythm makes time for the things that are important to you.

Be mindful of others.

Your family may need time to adjust to you being home again, and of course you’ll need time to adjust to not being on campus. When you live in tight quarters, it’s critical to pause and reflect on how you feel and how others might be feeling. Stay open-minded and compassionate.

It can be easy to revert back to the old parent-child roles and a time when someone else always cooked and did your laundry. But as an adult, help out around the house. Offer to cook a few times a week, do the dishes, help with house cleaning and yard work. Ask about household finances. Having a conversation about these topics can help clarify for everyone how to navigate living together again.

 

Coronavirus is changing what college life looks like for now. Reach out for support, create a balanced rhythm, and think about others. These are challenging and unique times for everyone. You are not alone!

Distance Learning Tips during COVID-19

Online learning for UNC students starts today. You are not alone if you’re feeling anxious or ambivalent or annoyed or any other feeling that starts with “a” (or any other letter) about this shift. This is a new context for most of us. We believe you can be successful learning online. We also understand that not all students have access to a computer or high-speed internet. Here are some tips that might help you with your academic life over the next few months:

Practice time management.

  • Mark major assignment and exams on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. In a traditional classroom setting, you often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. Now you will need to make sure that you have allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it is due.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check in periodically with yourself, and look at how you’re spending your time. How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

Eliminate distractions.

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A UNC student uses the studying area at Kenan Science Library on August 27, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)
  • Turn off cell phone notifications or put your phone in another room if you are working from a computer.
  • Find good internet. Many libraries are closed, but their internet access extends beyond their building walls. The same is likely with government buildings. Sitting in your car in the parking lot while working online is allowed during social distancing. Finding a spot outside on a nice day is as well. Some cell phone companies are allowing unlimited data during this period – so you may also be able to turn your phone into a hotspot for a larger device if you have one.

Working from Phone

Don’t have a larger device than your cell? We have some tips for you:

  • Use voice to text for your written submissions. (Make sure you review before submitting any thing you write in this way – these tools sometimes get it wrong).
  • Configure your phone best for you. You can turn off notifications or set your phone to stop notifying you of things at a certain time. Disable or uninstall apps that you don’t use.
  • Become familiar with your phone’s split screen capabilities. Using a split screen can help you connect your work with online research or your assignment’s requirements.

Remember How You Learn Best

  • When and how do you accomplish your best work? If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer.
  • What types of information help you understand new concepts? If you’re a visual learner, for example, read transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

Actively participate.

  • Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification.
  • Set a participation goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.
  • If you feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.

Leverage your network.

Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

  • Create a virtual study group. 
  • Pair up with a fellow classmate or enlist the help of a friend to check in as an accountability partner.
  • Keep open communication with your professors.
  • Connect to support that will lead you to success.

In this unique circumstance, it’s important to keep open communication with your professors and ensure you are connected to the support that will lead you to success.

This is a new scenario for all of us – be patient with yourself and your community as we all transition to online teaching and learning.

More resources to support your online learning:

Designing Your Online Academic Life
Academic Coaching
Writing Coaching 
Peer Tutors 
Coaching Groups
STEM Support Groups on Sakai
Students with ADHD: Tips for Online and Remote Learning 

Social Distancing FAQs for College Students

Social distancing is the idea of actively avoiding crowds to slow the spread of illness. Specifically, the CDC asks us to cancel any activity of more than 50 people and only hold a gathering of smaller size if you can ensure hand hygiene practices and that people keep at least 6 feet away from others. They want us to do this for at least the next 8 weeks.

The CDC is asking you – yup, you (and me too!) – to stay away from folks. We realize that is easier said than done, and still likely leaves some questions.

Please don’t. If you ignore the guidance on social distancing, you will essentially put yourself and everyone else at much higher risk.

You still have a risk from Coronavirus, even as a young person.

Plus the community needs your help in slowing the virus. People who show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all can pass the virus to many, many others before they even realize they are sick. So you could infect your older or high-risk loved ones or community members with chronic illness, as well as contribute to the number of overall people infected, causing the pandemic to grow rapidly and overwhelm the healthcare system.

We know social distancing is tough, especially for college students who are used to gathering in groups. But even cutting down the number of gatherings, and the number of people in any group, will help.

Yes.

It’s O.K. to go outdoors for fresh air and exercise — to walk your dog, go for a hike or ride your bicycle, for example. The goal is not to remain indoors, but to avoid being close to people.

You may need to leave the house – for medicines or other essential resources.

There are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe during and after these excursions.

When you do leave home:

  • Wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with
  • Disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer and avoid touching your face.
  • Frequently wash your hands — especially whenever you come in from outside, before you eat or before you’re in contact with the very old or very young.

Yes. Stock up to minimize the number of trips, and pick a time when the store is least likely to be crowded.

When you do go, remember that any surface inside the store may be contaminated. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of the grocery cart, for example.

Wearing gloves is not as effective as washing your hands.

Put your phone somewhere in accessible so that you don’t absent-mindedly reach for it while shopping to avoid getting more germs on your phone.

Put hand sanitizer in your vehicle and sanitize when you leave the store.

When you get home, wash your hands right away. Re-wash after putting away your items.

Those at high risk may want to avoid the store if they can help it, especially if they live in densely populated areas. Ask for someone at lower risk to help you by picking up groceries when they go to the store.

Some places have closed down restaurants and bars for the next few weeks, but if you’re not in one of those places, there are not rules about this yet.

In general, avoid going out to restaurants.

If you’re going to go – choose somewhere that has a lot of space and staff you trust who likely practice good hygiene.

Better yet, opt for takeout.

If you’re concerned for the restaurant’s financial future, purchase a gift certificate that you can redeem later.

That depends on how healthy they are.

People who are sick or returning from recent travel should not visit. If you have vulnerable people in your home, limit visitors.

But if everyone in your home is young and healthy, then some careful interaction in small groups is probably OK. The smaller the gathering of healthy people, the lower the risk will be.

Keep checking in with loved ones by phone or plan activities to do with them on video.

We do encourage you to keep active during this time. Bike rides, hikes, walks, outdoor workouts on your own or with only the people who live in the same home as you are all encouraged.

Playing sports or yard games adds risk. You can minimize that risk by:

  • Ensuring that everyone who plans to play is young and healthy
  • There will be less than 10 people
  • Avoid high fives and huddles
  • Wipe down any shared objects (balls, discs, bats) during breaks
  • Have hand sanitizer nearby for everyone’s use
  • Wash your hands immediately afterwards

As of this writing, Campus Rec facilities are open with limited hours. Remember to stay 6 feet away from other people as best you can, wipe down equipment after use, avoid high traffic times and wash your hands afterwards.

Staying in touch with family and friends is more important than ever – just use technology instead of face-to-face interactions. Even imagining a warm embrace from a loved one can calm the body’s fight-or-flight response.

For more tips, see Managing Mental Health During Coronavirus. You can also call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for mental health support.

We don’t know and it depends on how well we collectively succeed at social distancing now. Again, current CDC guidelines ask us to do this for 8 weeks.

Social distancing will help “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak, thus keeping the number of cases at a level that health care providers can manage and ensuring better care for any infected people. By complying with social distancing guidelines, college students — as well as the rest of the population — can do their part in slowing the spread of the pandemic.

For more details:

UNC’s guidelines to COVID-19 

CDC guidance 

 

Updated 3/17 to reflect clearer guidance on physical activity and restaurant visits

Managing Mental Health During Coronavirus

People like certainty. We want to know what is happening and when it’s happening. We are hard wired to notice things that feel threatening to us.  When situations feel uncertain or we generally feel unsafe, it is normal to feel stressed. That reaction is there to protect us, and there are strategies you can use to help yourself.

Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19, “Coronavirus.”

A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but cannot. We may feel helpless about what will happen. We may not know what we should do to prevent the spread of Coronavirus or prevent further anxiety. The uncertainty might also connect to similar feelings about other aspects of our lives, or remind us of past times when we felt unsafe or we faced an unknown future.

In times like these, our mental health can suffer, which could show up as periods of:

  • Anxiety, worry, panic
  • Feeling helpless
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Anger
  • Hypervigilance to your health and body

Coronavirus is a health issue that is being taken seriously at UNC Chapel Hill and around the world. It makes sense to be anxious but don’t let your worry about the virus control your life. We can choose our response to situations. There are effective ways to manage fear and anxiety; many of them are essential to a healthy life and adopting them can improve overall emotional and physical well-being.

  1. Get the facts. Stay informed with the latest health and campus information at unc.edu/coronavirus. For further information see the CDC Coronavirus website.
  2. Separate what is in your control from what is not. Focus on the things you can do:
    • Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs.
    • Eat a variety of nutrient dense foods.
    • Move your body every day.
    • Get outside.
    • Although you will want to keep informed, take a break from the news to focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.
  3. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because of depression. Stay mindful of your assumptions about others – someone who has a cough or fever does not necessarily have coronavirus. Self-awareness is important in not stigmatizing others in our community.
  4. Get outside, ideally in nature – even if you are trying to avoid crowds. I took a walk in my neighborhood with my roommate. We saw a bit of sun, enjoyed fresh air, moved our bodies and spent quality time together.  Exercise in nature helps both your physical and mental health.
  5. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  6. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. Maintain your social networks using technology. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

We are in this together, and help is always available.  If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can reach out to CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658.

The content for this blog was heavily influenced by UC-Berkeley and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

It’s That Time of the Year Again…Allergy Season!

Allergy season is quickly approaching which means we, along with our cars, will be covered in all that yucky pollen. OH! We can’t forget about all of the sneezing, red and itchy eyes, and sinus drainage that can happen either!

Instead of letting allergies take over your life, follow the tips listed below to help control or prevent allergy symptoms in the first place!

ALLERGY PREVENTION TIPS

  1. Neti Pot or Nasal Wash – Rinse your nose and sinuses of pollen daily with a Neti Pot or nasal wash spray to decrease allergen exposure.
  2. Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a naturally occurring water-soluble vitamin that boosts the immune system, and at higher doses it may act as a natural antihistamine. As vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it may act as an alternative treatment for allergies. Vitamin C is also found in many foods such as strawberries, kiwi, mango, citrus fruits (oranges and grapefruit), bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  3. Dust Mite Covers – Dust mites are insects that live in our bedding, crawl on our skin and eat our dead skin cells. The average bed as 1,000,000 dust mites. Use dust mite covers on your pillows, mattress and box spring to decrease contact with dust mites and keep them from aggravating allergies at night. This material is so tightly bound that dust mites cannot get through.
  4. Reduce Exposure to Allergens – Try to stay indoors as much as possible, wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, keep pets out of bedrooms, wash your hands after petting animals, and close windows and doors in your home.
  5. Cleanse Yourself of Pollen – If you have been outside, change your clothes and take off your shoes when you walk through the door so you don’t bring allergens into your home. Also take showers at night and wash your hair to help remove excess pollen.

OVER-THE-COUNTER (OTC) REMEDIES

When purchasing OTC medications, be sure to talk with your pharmacist to help you decide which product(s) would work best for your symptoms. They can also provide you with proper education and administration instructions.

  1. Nasal Corticosteroid Sprays such as Fluticasone (Flonase), Budesonide (Rhinocort), and Triamcinolone (Nasacort) – Help to reduce swelling and congestion in nose and sinuses.
  • They work best when you use them everyday
  • It may take 2 or more weeks of steady use for symptoms to improve
  • Side effects: dryness, burning, stinging, and nose bleeds
  1. Oral Antihistamines such as Fexofenadine (Allegra), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec) – Help to relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes.
  • Can be bought as a pill, capsule, or liquid
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) causes the most drowsiness
  • Side effects: dry mouth, constipation, and drowsiness
  1. Decongestants such as Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), Oxymetazoline (Afrin Nasal Spray) – Help to relieve stuffiness and pressure caused by swollen nasal tissue.
  • Use over a short period, no longer than 3 days
  • Sudafed products are found behind-the-counter at pharmacies and you must be 18 years or older to purchase with a valid ID (driver’s license or passport)
  • Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE) is another OTC decongestant product, BUT it is no more effective than placebo for nasal congestion, so it is not recommended
  • Side effects: insomnia, increased heart rate or blood pressure, nervousness
  1. Eye Drops such as Artificial Tears, Ketotifen Fumarate (Zaditor, Alaway) – Help to relieve itchiness, redness, burning, and swelling associated with eye allergies.
  • There are many types of OTC eye drops including artificial tears, decongestants, antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, and anti-inflammatory drops
  • Artificial tears are lubricants that help wash allergens out of the eyes.
  • Only antihistamine eye drops are available at The Healthy Heels Shoppe and Student Stores Pharmacy that mainly work to relieve itchy eyes.

It is important to talk to your doctor before starting a new medication. Make sure that a new allergy medication won’t interfere with other medications or medical conditions. Additionally, if avoiding allergens and taking OTC medications is not enough to ease symptoms, make sure to contact your doctor to receive further medical care.

 

References:

 

 

 

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 a Jingle Bell Jog.
  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.
  7. Give back. Brighten someone else’s day with a bit of holiday cheer in whatever way works for you.