Four Emotions Of Winter Break

You have arrived home, with friends, or wherever you are spending Winter Break. The post-exam slump is over. You are in the groove of spending time with loved ones, relaxing, and trying to work on whatever it is you plan to fit into the holidays.  

The truth is, this time can be special, but it can also be extremely hard. You will face many emotions in the next few weeks. This may be frustrating when all you want to do is take a break.  

It is important to process these emotions so you can experience the break in a healthy way. Here are our thoughts on how to deal with four emotions you may encounter this Winter Break:  

  1. Excitement 

You have not spent time with your loved ones for a while – enjoy it! Perhaps you have plans you are looking forward to – live in the moment. Treasure the joy of the memories you are making. Stay present. As the excitement may taper off, it will be easy to seclude yourself to whatever makes you most comfortable. It is important to spend time in safe spaces but remember that healthy in-person connection is vital to your well-being.  

  1. Exhaustion 

You have worked hard! Rest – you deserve it. Take time to breathe and remember that seclusion and virtual isolation is not the best form of relaxation. Consider taking a hiatus from the digital world, for whatever length of time seems best to you. Spend time in places, doing activities, with people that make you feel whole.  

  1. Hesitation 

One of the worst feelings moving into winter break is the hesitation that stems from change. You have been away for months, and change is inevitable. This change – whether in places, or people, can bring up confusing emotions: sadness, grief, anger, hurt. Face the raw emotions. Then, approach each moment with gratitude. Gratitude has been found both experientially and scientifically to be a powerful tool. Focus on the wonderful moments you can have, even if it is not the way it was.  

  1. Grief 

Similarly, returning home or to loved ones can cause grief. Loved ones may be gone, or people may have moved away. You may miss being with your people on campus. Loss is excruciating, whether it involves death or not. Be kind to yourself. Take time to grieve. Be patient, and do not expect your emotions to be linear. Spend time with loved ones – soak up the love around you. 

Permission to Love Yourself

Permission slip: We grant you permission to love yourself just as you are. no waiting periods. no exceptions.

You’re allowed to love yourself exactly as you are – right now. 

You have permission to love yourself without exception. You didn’t need it from us, but we’re giving it to you anyway. 

You’re brilliant and uniquely you. You’re not a project that needs to be fixed. 

During this time of year, you might hear resolutions from people that want to change everything about themselves and their lives. No one needs to be reinvented to be loved! 

You might have resolutions that you’re planning, and that’s fine (we do have some tips for setting resolutions that stick).

Remember that you will be you every single day until you meet those goals, and then you will still be you once you reach them. You have permission to love yourself right now and during that whole journey. Don’t put it off until you reach a goal.

Friend, you’re worthy of being loved right now. 

Wrapping Up the Semester

It’s (Almost) Time to Take a Break

By the end of this week, many folks on campus will feel lighter with fewer responsibilities. It feels good to wrap up the loose ends of the semester – final projects and exams, saying goodbye to friends, packing up your things, preparing for travel and holidays. 

Even with that lightening of our loads, anytime the rhythm of our day shifts, it can feel difficult. Here are some strategies to help you stay healthy and well as you shift from all-out academic mode to your winter break. 

  • Manage your free time: At the beginning, the extra time can feel like a gift! But the adjustment to free time can be a struggle after a while or, for some, right away.
    • Start by taking time to relax.
    • Consider making a plan or list of things you would like to do over break.
    • Schedule some of your time with things that make you feel good!
  • Prep for family & friends: Plan ahead for family and friend encounters.
    • What questions or conflicts typically arise?
    • How do you want to respond?
    • Make a list of coping skills that work for you.
  • Focus on you: 
    • This break can provide you time to focus on how you’re feeling, what you might need, and how to make a plan moving forward.
    • Support your holiday wellbeing with strategies from Student Wellness.
  • Take care of your mental health: Many people experience a worsening of mental health symptoms around this time of year. If this happens to you, you aren’t alone!

Healthy Haps this Week

Monday 12/5

Tuesday 12/6

Wednesday 12/7

Thursday 12/8

Friday 12/9

Saturday 12/10

Wrapping up the Fall Semester 2022

The student a cappella group, UNC Clef Hangers, perform at The Old Well at dusk on the last day of classes (LODOC) for the fall semester on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, December 1, 2021. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Every semester during the week before finals, UNC-CH collaborates on a wellness initiative to support students. The goal is to raise awareness, provide new information, prompt reflection, and highlight services, resources, and events around campus by focusing on the importance of:

  • Sleep is all about patterns. Can you work to keep healthy sleep patterns consistent during finals? 
  • Nutrition means listening to your body. Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full. You might plan ahead and make some meals and snacks in bulk so you can eat nourishing food without needing a lot of time.
  • Activity – Movement can help you retain material better than if you study while sitting still. So ride a stationary bike while you review your notes. Go for a walk on Battle Park trails to take a movement and nature break.
  • Connecting with people you adore is essential to finals success, improving your executive function, learning, and memory. Support each other during finals! Check in on a genuine level, talk about topics outside of academics, study and take fun breaks together, and avoid stress competition or comparing grades.
  • Knowledge – This time of year is all about gaining and retaining knowledge. How you study can make a difference! Use active study techniques like creating flashcards, using a study group, or scheduling breaks after short bursts of learning.
  • Self-Care means checking in with yourself about what you need and then making that happen when you can. Keep it simple! Pause and unplug from tech for a few minutes. Get outside. Take a few deep breaths. Hydrate. Play a favorite song. Make sure you take some moments just for you during finals.

Supportive Events

This calendar will be updated throughout finals – check back often for more events and email healthyheels@unc.edu if you have an event to add!

Monday 12/5

Tuesday 12/6

Wednesday 12/7

Friday 12/9

Saturday 12/10

Winter Break Hours for Campus Health, CAPS, and Campus Rec are listed. Rec is open thru Friday at 9 pm and reopens 1/2 from 6 am -12 pm. Campus Health and CAPS are open through 12/23 and reopen 1/3 from 8 am - 5 pm.
The Carolina Union Activities Board holds an event where students and staff can create gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and icing in the Great Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The event is held in conjunction with LDOC (Last Day Of Class) festivities. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Gratitude, Culture, and Food

Thanksgiving can be a time that brings up a lot of feelings for people. Be kind to yourself and the people around you!

Gratitude

Thanksgiving often brings up thoughts about gratitude. While just noticing your gratitude makes a difference, you can add benefit to the people around you by expressing gratitude to them. Encourage people around the dinner table to share a story of when they were grateful for someone at the meal. 

You can also write about gratitude, and jot down the little moments of your day that make you feel grateful. If you want to bring this idea to Thanksgiving, create a gratitude tree or jar for everyone to use, or write gratitude postcards to people who are far away. You could also make a collage, Reel, or TikTok to visually express gratitude

However you notice and/or share – take time this holiday to experience gratitude. 

Culture

Your family may have traditions that you invoke for Thanksgiving. Cherish the ones that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to suggest new ways of doing things this holiday to move away from activities that no longer serve you.

Remember that the history around Thanksgiving is complex. Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the genocide and violence that Native communities experienced and continue to experience. Decolonize your Thanksgiving by learning about, listening to, and celebrating Native people.

Food

For many of us, food is central to our holiday. Try to make food a positive experience for everyone this holiday. If you talk about food, focus on the wonderful flavors of the season and gratitude for the land, workers, and chef who helped bring the food to the table. Use mindful eating strategies: 

  • Stick to normal eating habits, eating consistently and mindfully throughout the day. 
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.
  • Be present during meals. Slow down and notice how the food tastes. Feel the pleasure and satisfaction in the eating experience.
  • Add foods, don’t subtract. All foods fit into healthy eating! Consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your body.

May your Thanksgiving be full of experiences for which to be grateful. 

Practicing Gratitude

Hello I Am Grateful words on a name tag sticker telling others you are thankful and appreciative for the valuable things in your life such as health, friends and family

Benefits of being thankful are nearly endless. Research suggests that taking time to reflect and notice the things we are thankful for means we experience more positive feelings, sleep better, express more kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Some ideas to inspire and refresh your gratitude practice:

Keep a gratitude journal: Regularly write about the moment for which you’re thankful, ideally noticing new things each day. Be specific. Instead of “I’m grateful for my roommates,” write “Today, my roommate cooked me dinner because they knew I was stressed.”

Recognize and plan for obstacles: Yes, gratitude will help you, and yes, reflecting on it each day will be difficult. What might get in your way? If you tend to be exhausted by the end of the day, do your gratitude practice in the a.m.

Mix it up: Bored with journaling? Make a gratitude jar instead. Write gratitude postcards. Share your gratitude around the dinner table. Go on a gratitude walk, observing things around you as you walk. Make a gratitude collage – take pictures of things you’re grateful for and create a collage with them.

Planning for Finals and Holiday Stress

Hand hold wooden cubes spelling PLAN.

The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and so are the holidays! There will be more to do these next few weeks. Help yourself by creating a plan. 

  • Look ahead and evaluate. Take a look at your upcoming calendar, your class assignments, your holiday plans, and ideal gift recipients. Evaluate and clarify priorities. 
  • Make a To-Do List. Based on those priorities, write down what you need to do. Focus on one task at a time – as you are only ONE person.  
  • Practice Financial Wellness. Consider your budget for November and December. The end of the year is often one of the most challenging times to stay financially well with the strain of travel costs, winter break plans, celebrations with friends, and celebratory gifts. Be realistic with what you can afford to spend. What are your personal short term and long term financial goals? How does your spending fit into this?  Learn more about tips for financial wellness through UNC’s Student Wellness office. 
  • Monitor your emotions. Upcoming deadlines and planning for the end of year can serve as a recipe for an emotional storm. Managing and planning for assignments, events, and job schedules may prove useful to prevent this from happening. Try giving yourself grace during this time frame. If things get too hard, take a deep breath, step back and then try again. Managing your emotions can help you stay on track with the plan you created.  

This can be a busy time of the year as you grind to wrap up the semester and prepare to spend time with family and friends. Make it easier for yourself by planning out what you can. 

Finding Delight

Detail photo made at Bowman Gray Memorial Pool on September 14, 2020, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

No matter how stressful or distracted things may get, delights are all around us. Simple joys are what make life worth living! And as we practice noticing those moments, we might start to see them everywhere. Things like…

  • Laughing until you cry
  • Riding the bus, thinking about all the people around you
  •  An old, comfy chair
  • When someone remembers what you told them and asks you about it later
  • Catching a falling leaf
  • A tight, love-filled hug
  • Fixing something for someone
  • Putting a picture of family into a frame and setting it up where you can see it
  • A great workout
  • Eating your favorite food
  • Clean sheets
  • Finding something you thought you lost
  • When the Tar Heels win a big game
  • A haircut that transforms you a little bit
  • Setting up your camping gear after many months of not camping
  • Peeling the foil lid off of a container – so satisfying!
  • Coming home to pets
  • Watching someone learn something new
  • Listening to a song you forgot you love, and then listening to it again
  • Stretching and moving around – feeling good in your body
  • Putting on a cozy sweatshirt
  • Organizing a cluttered space
  • Finding the perfect word to say exactly what you want to say
  • Sitting on a porch

Noticing and reflecting on moments that bring you joy and the good feelings they elicit can make a difference in the texture of your day. For more on delight, check out The Book of Delights by Ross Gay or the Happiness Spells podcast. 

Happy HalloWeek!

Our campus and community love celebrating Halloween, so consider getting in on the fun by watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up in a punny costume, or joining one of the activities listed below.

Remember that some Halloween traditions can include risk. Here are some strategies to have a safe and fun Halloween! 

  • WEAR THE RIGHT COSTUME: Pick something that is easy to move and see in, and keeps you comfortable. Avoid cultural appropriation. The general rule of thumb is if your costume is disrespectful towards a culture or ethnic group, or pokes fun at those groups in any way, it’s not a costume you — or anyone — should wear. Never carry fake weapons or items that could appear to be a weapon. 

  • IF YOU DRINK OR USE, BE SMART ABOUT IT: If you choose to use substances, have a plan. Set a limit for yourself ahead of time since it’s hard to know when to stop once you’ve started. Use the buddy system to hold each other accountable. Know how much you consume. Consider bringing your own or making your own so you can better understand how much you’re using. If you drink alcohol, eat a good meal beforehand and drink water throughout. Don’t drive under the influence, and don’t ride with someone who has been drinking or using.

  • PLAN AHEAD: Be sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for the night and make sure the volume is turned on in case a friend is trying to reach you. Don’t let your phone out of your sight—it could save you in case of an emergency. Decide in advance when you are heading home, and have plans to get home safely.

  • TRUST YOUR GUT:  On Halloween or any other night if something “just doesn’t feel right” trust your instinct. Say something if you feel safe doing so, or take your buddy and leave the situation.

  • HAVE FUN: Find ways to have an enjoyable, healthy, and safe Halloween week! We have the halloween-y activities noted below with a pumpkin emoji – join some and enjoy!

Halfway through the semester!

Congrats. You are halfway there!

You’ve navigated all the exams, papers, and other obstacles in your way to arrive at the mid-point of the semester. Take a moment. Reflect on where you are. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now is the time to start thinking about your game plan to finish the semester strong. 

Make a schedule or routine.  

The last couple of months in the semester can seem like a lot with assignments, projects, and extracurricular activities. Take a minute to consider your priorities, and schedule time for the things that matter the most. 

Don’t skip classes.

It can be tempting to skip a class to catch up on something else, or to multitask during virtual classes. Try not to fall into this trap. You will eventually fall behind. Instead take a breath. Examine your schedule. Remember that you are paying for your classes! You can’t “make up” a class. Find time elsewhere if at all possible. 

Give yourself a comfortable work space.

You’ve most likely found what works for you in terms of study spaces. If you haven’t or you want to switch up, consider creating a comfortable space that puts you in a good mood. Good Mood = Productivity 

Prioritize time and energy.  

You are in the phase of the semester where everything demands your attention. You may have competing assignments – like a homework assignment due tomorrow and a paper due the day after that. Although the homework assignment is due first, it may beneficial to spend more time on the paper which is a greater percentage of your grade. Prioritize! 

Enjoy the Break 

Find ways to inspire joy and rejuvenation during your time off of classes later this week. Taking some time for you will help set yourself up for success the rest of the semester.