The psychological effects of systemic racism, police brutality, and unequal access to healthcare, coupled with the impact of quarantine and increased isolation negatively impacts our mental health.
With all that stress it is totally normal if you are more anxious or depressed recently or have witnessed more increased fluctuations in your mood and quality of sleep. You are doing the best you can during stressful time.
To help regulate the emotions that feel ineffective at this time, first we must articulate and locate the wound- before we know where to focus our healing.
Easier said than done for sure, but the good news is that poetry and the arts help with this labeling process.
In hopes that the readers will get a chance to connect and know us a little better, CAPS staff members shared some poetry that is speaking to them right now. We hope that you find strength and joy in these poems and know that CAPS is here for you this school year so please call us to be connected to mental health resources.
Poems Speaking to Staff Members
“I don’t really have a favorite poem but this one has made an impression on me. Though we are not really accustomed to listening, the poem describes ways nature is always trying to communicate with us and imagines a world in which our relationship is more reciprocal. It feels so much more comforting and real. I hope this poem will inspire others to take a minute to notice and appreciate what nature offers us each day.”
by Kai Siedenburg
What if the leaves, stirred to singing by the breeze, sing with even more joy when they notice you are listening?
What if the small white flower quivers with delight when you notice her tiny yet honorable contribution to the beauty of this world?
And what if that brief moment is all she needs to know that her life is worth living, all her efforts not in vain?
What if the trees feel the depth of your pain, and are quietly reaching toward you, offering solace with everything they have to give?
It can be hard to know which support options might work best for your needs. There are a range of resources offered to UNC students to support you through difficult times.
“I want to connect with other students to find support and talk.”
Peer 2 Peer program offers online one-to-one sessions with peer responders. Students can sign up to meet with a person with similar lived experience or relevant training. The option to remain anonymous is also available.
Learning Center Workshops provide academic assistance among students who need similar supports. Led by Learning Center staff.
“I want to talk to professional support.”
MENTAL HEALTH: Counseling and Psychological Services offers mental health support 24/7 at 919-966-3658. You can also initiate therapy, medication management or find a referral for a therapist or psychiatrist in the community by calling M-F between 9-12 or 1-4.
WELLNESS: Wellbeing Coaching offers individual appointments with Student Wellness coaches to support holistic wellness issues including mood, substance use and sexual health.
FITNESS: 1 on 1 fitness training offers individual movement plans from certified personal trainers with Campus Rec to help you reach your fitness goals.
As we all do our best to navigate a global pandemic, we must find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also assist us in extending these same virtues to others during this time. The uncertainty and stress is difficult for everyone, but especially challenging for some due to their specific identities.
Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:
How am I feeling right now?
What does my self-talk sound like?
Is this self-talk something that I would say to support a small child or friend?
Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:
I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
This is a difficult time. It is natural to feel stressed. I am here for you.
I am safe and supported.
Remember that self-compassion is about radical self-acceptance. It does not mean that pain and suffering does not occur, it means that we care and support ourselves through these tough experiences. Like all things self-compassion takes practice including checking-in with yourself regularly and reframing as needed. Soon you will be ready to spread kindness and compassion everywhere.
Time to practice! Enhance your self-compassion skills by trying one of these:
These strategies aren’t a cure – instead, they can help decrease how intensely you may feel overwhelmed, allowing you to more effectively deal with the challenges you face.
Each only takes a few minutes but can make a big difference in the moment to help you reset your emotions.
You can regulate intense emotions by lowering your body temperature. For example, you could create a mini-plunge pool for your face by filling a bowl with ice water and submerging your face for 15-30 seconds (or as long as you can hold your breath!). Other techniques include walking outside and focusing on the breeze across your face, splashing your face with cold water, sticking your head or hand in the freezer, or holding an ice pack to your face. The coolness will slow your heart rate and help blood flow more easily to your brain. This turns off the fight, flight, or freeze response of your sympathetic nervous system which is activated when you’re intensely distressed. So cooling off your temp brings down the intensity of your emotional arousal and jars you out of being overwhelmed.
Pace Your Breathing
Adjusting your breath is something you can do whenever you’re feeling stressed out to reduce that stress. Paced breathing helps communicate to your amygdala and your nervous system that you’re not in any current danger, so it flips off the fight, flight or freeze response and activates rest and digest. It’s physiologically impossible to panic if you’re doing this correctly. Two parts to do this correctly – slow your breathing pace and initiate breath from your belly. Square breathing is one example to do this.
It’s normal that when you’re in a crisis to spend a lot of time ruminating and experiencing distressing thoughts. So instead, stop. Step back. Take a deep breath. Physically center yourself by digging your heels into the floor to ground you in reality. Then take a moment to observe – what am I thinking? What am I feeling in my body? What am I doing? Then ask yourself if your response is helpful, aligns with your values now or if it’s stuck in the future or past. Taking that moment to step back to decide if our thoughts are helpful can get us out of rumination.
Focusing on relaxing sounds reduces stress. One study compared a group who listened to Weightless or prescribed a benzodiazepine. The music was nearly as effective in easing patient anxiety as the medication, with no side effects. Explore your music options and tastes. Make a playlist of songs that you find comforting when you need a break, and aim for the songs that lift you up (rather than those that mirror your feelings of stress or loneliness).
Run in place, do jumping jacks, climb several flights of stairs, or put on music and dance. This can burn off nervous energy, help clear your brain and can be especially helpful when you’re experiencing emotions that are overwhelming and you feel numb. Movement can help you start feeling sensation in your body again.
Take some time to reset when you’re overwhelmed.
For further mental health support, call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658.
Living with roommates in college has benefits of social connection and shared costs. But everyone you encounter – roommates included – will have a varying risk tolerance for behaviors related to COVID-19. Some may have a condition that puts them at serious risk of illness or be close to someone who does. When out and about, you can help protect you and your community by wearing your mask, waiting at a distance, and washing your hands often.
When home with roommates, things get a bit more complicated. There are ways to stay healthy and share your living space. Remember these suggested guidelines help everyone exist more safely around one another.
Before you move in
Have a conversation with your roommates. Discuss house rules.
Who is allowed in the residence?
What will social distancing look like outside of the home for each roommate (indoor/outdoor, with masks/without masks, distanced/close, strangers/people you’ve spoken with about risk)? How will you transport yourselves around campus and town? What do household members have as unavoidable risks such as workspaces and classrooms?
How frequently will you clean and disinfect your space?
What will your house guidelines be? See below for example guidelines to get you started.
Suggested house guidelines
Limit visitors and guests inside your residence.
Wash your hands often. Consider agreeing to wash your hands each time you enter your residence, after blowing your nose/coughing/sneezing, after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food, after cleaning.
Don’t host or attend parties or large gatherings. (Remember – it won’t be like this forever!)
Clean and disinfect regularly, especially those often touched surfaces and objects such as tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, faucet and cabinet handles, devices, remote controls.
Setting up your space
Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after cleaning.
Use separate serving dishes – so instead of sticking everyone’s hands into a bag of chips, pour a portion into a bowl.
Use a dishwasher if possible to sanitize dishes.
Arrange furniture to facilitate social distancing. Create reminders about bringing a mask when you or your roommates leave home.
Move beds in shared bedrooms so heads of sleepers are as far from each other as possible. Avoid bunk beds if possible.
Bring a caddy for your personal items so these items don’t touch the bathroom countertop. Bring your tote back to your personal space rather than leaving it in a shared bathroom.
Bring your own towels and make sure each person has separate hand/face towels.
Do your own laundry. If you (generously) help a roommate with their laundry, wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Remember, masks should be washed after each use and can be washed with your regular laundry. Use the warmest setting appropriate for the fabric in your load and regular detergent. Dry masks in a dryer on the highest heat or air dry in the sunshine.
Some complexes include shared spaces such as laundry facilities, stairwells, elevators, pools, workout spaces, game rooms, etc. Maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and everyone that you do not live with. In areas that are small – like stairwells and elevators – consider going one at a time.
These are the best spots for hanging out with friends at a distance. Invest in a lawn chair. Wear a hat or bring a shade umbrella.
When Conflict Arises
Home should feel like a safe space, but there may still be times when a roommate’s behavior make you feel at risk.
Remember to start with agreements about behavior before problems arise. When conflict happens, the first step is still a conversation. Stay calm and..
Express specific observations about a situation or concern, not your judgments or evaluations. Ex. “I saw that you were hanging out with friends without masks and were closer than 6 feet from each other. We agreed that we wouldn’t do that during the pandemic.”
Disclosing your feelings about the situation or concern, i.e., genuine statements about your emotions and sensations, not your beliefs about what you think others have done to you. Ex. “I felt scared and exposed when I saw you.”
Identifying what you need or value. Ex. “I really value shared agreements about behavior – especially during a pandemic.”
Requesting specific actions that would start to meet your needs or support your values, not demanding character changes or making ultimatums. Ex. “Would you be willing to revisit our agreements together and update them as needed?”
If your conversation does not go well, you can consult with your RA (if living in a residence hall) or other supportive students or adults for guidance and support.
Ultimately you cannot control others’ behavior. If your roommate is not behaving in a way that you deem safe, take steps to help yourself by limiting contact as much as possible, avoiding shared spaces, wearing a mask and asking your roommate to wear a mask in shared spaces.
Stay home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Only leave home to get necessary medical care. Before going to Campus Health or any medical facility, please call the facility first for instructions.
Separate themselves from others in the residence by staying alone in their specified bedroom, even to eat.
Use a separate bathroom.
Not prepare or serve food to others.
Not handle pets or other animals.
Not allow visitors.
Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
Clean and disinfect your residence. Monitor everyone for symptoms. Once a roommate has a confirmed positive test result, all members of the household should quarantine as close contacts.
If your roommate is told to quarantine
If your roommate was a close contact of a person known to have COVID-19 or if they have recently traveled internationally, they may be asked to quarantine. That does not mean that everyone in the residence must also, but it does mean those sharing living spaces with the person in quarantine should stay at least 6 feet apart, wear a mask and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
If it is not possible for the person who is sick or under quarantine to safely stay away from others in your residence, Campus Health or the Dean of Students can help.
UNC support for those in Quarantine and Isolation
Being cut off from the world is hard, let alone with the rigor of Quarantine and Isolation protocols and the stress/fear of sickness. We can help if this happens to you, your roommate, or a friend outside your home. Campus Health is available to assist with UNC student health care needs by calling 919-966-2281. Students asked to quarantine or isolate for COVID-19 should connect with Campus Health if they are on or off campus. Campus Health will regularly communicate with students and can help coordinate testing, contact tracing, and on-campus services coordination (food, housing, classes) as needed. For emergency health needs – call 911.
Being an attentive student while ill with COVID-19, or when someone you live with is ill with COVID-19, is virtually impossible. We understand! Please take the time you need to care for yourself and your housemates. Contact instructors sharing that you are experiencing a personal COVID-related matter and may need accomodation with current assignment or rescheduling an exam.
If you or your roommate still needs support after contacting your instructors and Campus Health, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know. Use “Personal COVID Matter” in the subject line and include full name and PID, as well as any relevant course details. We will partner with students to resolve situations and can connect students with an advisor in their respective college or school, assist with housing concerns, and support students in the ways they need.
How to help a friend who is under quarantine or isolation orders
If you know or are living with someone struggling with COVID-related illness or quarantine, you can show kindness to them by:
Calling, texting or video chatting with them to let them know you are there to support them. Seeing or hearing from a friend can show them kindness while still practicing physical distancing.
Drop off food or drinks at their door. Ask if they need any items the next time you go to the store. Offer to run to the pharmacy for them. Drop off or digitally send items you know they enjoy (magazines, comic books, craft supplies, music, etc).
Offer to do their yard work, take out their trash, or bring in their mail.
Offer to help with their pets.
Keep them informed with reliable news.
Ask about finances to see if they need support.
Help them create or maintain daily routine.
Get creative and come up with ideas among mutual friends. Consider sending snail mail, playing online games together, watch a Netflix series together, or listen to the same audiobooks.
Take care of yourself and your own mental health too.
While it is inevitable that many people will experience negative impacts of coronavirus, there are steps you can take to support a loved one who has been impacted. In its most basic sense, listen with compassion, be present, and take cues about what you can do to best offer your support and care.
Bike riding is a fun and healthy way to travel during the pandemic. With capacity restrictions on busses and more students using off-campus housing, bike riding will help you move around the community. Safer bike commuting is possible!
If you haven’t biked in a while, start in your driveway, on a greenway or a calm side street. Practice skills – signaling (riding one handed), checking over your shoulder, stopping quickly and standing up to pedal.
Check your bike.
Clean the chain, put air in the tires, make sure the breaks are working properly – or take it for a tune up at a local bike shop. Find a more experienced bike rider and join them on a trip around town. Let them lead the way so you can focus on comfort.
Seek local maps of bike lanes or paths. Plan a route with as much time in bike lanes or traffic calmed roads.
Stay aware of other cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles around you. Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, shoulder check before turning, and mind the turn signals of cars in front of you as you approach intersections. Remember, vehicles have blind spots.
When you pass on the left, use a bell or “passing on the left” to alert other cyclists and pedestrians that you are about to pass them. Bike in a predictable manner and use signals to let folks know what you’re going to do. A bent left elbow, fingers raised skywards, means turning right, while pointing your arm straight out to the left indicates a lefthand turn. Pointing your fingers down with a bent left elbow signals that you plan to stop.
Follow the rules of the road.
Bike in the direction of traffic and obey traffic lights. Avoid biking on sidewalks unless you are moving at the speed of pedestrians (as in biking up a big hill or biking very slowly).
Make yourself visible.
Use bike lights and reflectors. Consider wearing bright colors.
Wear a helmet.
The riding conditions of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham mean you will often be near traffic as you come to and from campus and other errands. Protect your brain!
Use your resources.
Local organizations can help make your biking easier.
Counseling and Psychological Services (“CAPS”) at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill condemns the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other deaths that have occurred in this unjust and inequitable system, and the forces of racism and white supremacy continuing to rise in this country. We see the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black people, the racialized violence against their communities, and the increasingly militarized response to peaceful protest. We join our colleagues in UNC Diversity & Inclusion in expressing our grief, sorrow and compassion to all those who have and continue to be impacted by the race-based tragedies occurring across our nation.
These tragedies reflect a longstanding and entrenched history of structural and systemic injustice that we reject and dedicate ourselves to addressing. While these tragedies can be traumatizing for all of us, we recognize that they may be especially injurious to members of our Black community. As mental health providers, we acknowledge the very real harm racism causes to the emotional and physical health of black people. We see the higher rates of trauma, depression, anxiety and suicide caused by racism. As clinicians in a college counseling center, we witness the additional burdens carried by black students and the many barriers they must overcome.
Experiencing or witnessing trauma often results in a range of feelings and emotions, such as shock, fear, sadness, anger, helplessness or guilt. CAPS is committed to affirming and providing care for all of our students who have been directly or vicariously impacted by trauma caused by racism, bigotry, prejudice and indifference.
We know now that it is not enough to make statements of support. It is becoming clear that there is no true mental health when there is inequity and hatred.
For the sake of our survival as culture and as a species, each of us needs to find a way to cooperate for a sustainable future. For those of us in the majority, each of us need to muster the courage to imagine ourselves as Black people in this country. We need to ask ourselves how we would react and feel if we were continually under threat from the local community, state, and country that we call home. How we would it feel if we have, throughout the history of our nation, been told through words and deeds that we are less than, inferior, and hated by the place that we are supposed to call home? How we would feel to continually have to explain ourselves in a nation that says it values freedom but has codified and legalized slavery and oppression of Black people for most of its history, and that continues to ask us to explain why we are hurt, why we are furious, why we are terrified? How would it feel?
CAPS is dedicated to building a clinical staff that reflects the needs of underrepresented individuals in our community. We are making progress in this area but recognize that it is not enough and dedicate ourselves to creating an inclusive place to feel safe. CAPS recognizes the additional financial burden for students during this pandemic, and therefore waives the CAPS summer access charge for those who are specifically accessing CAPS due to racial and/or COVID-related stresses. We are here to support our UNC students and campus community and to work to make our country and world more compassionate, thoughtful, and inclusive. We encourage you to contact our office if you (or someone you know) would like support with coping and healing.
CAPS support is available 24/7. Call 919-966-3658 to connect with us.
How have you been feeling? Pretty overwhelmed and inundated with information, images, news, and thoughts lately, huh? That is natural given the rare nature of our living context right now—a worldwide pandemic! COVID-19 has us tethered to our devices and screens due to social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and basically avoiding physical contact with others which is resulting in us consuming more media than ever.
If there is a screen…we are on it! This is necessary to find information about the things we value and are important to us, like our families, friends, faith, community, politics, and pleasure. But what does this increase in media consumption and screen time mean for our mental health and wellbeing? In order to prevent harm and protect wellbeing, we encourage you to become an expert in media literacy!
What is media literacy and why is it important?
The Media Literacy Project says media literacy “is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media… [and] takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power.”
Media can be anything that conveys or communicates messages, ideas, or data—including the television, radio, printed materials, social media, even your family and friends. This means people with media literacy skills learn to:
Develop critical thinking skills
Understand how media messages shape our culture and society
Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do
Name the techniques of persuasion used
Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies
Discover the parts of the story that are not being told
Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values
Create and distribute our own media messages
Advocate for a changed media systems
Overall, these skills are important to help protect your mental wellbeing from unsolicited messages that may be harmful to you and harmful to others. This does not mean you can no longer enjoy the consumption of media for entertainment (who doesn’t love a little ‘bad TV’ here and there?). It simply means you are less likely to incur and potentially perpetuate negative impacts of media, thus appreciating it more.
How do I do media literacy?
Not so fast—this is not a one-step process! Media Literacy is an on-going process that takes time to achieve because media is ever-changing and we are, too. Every day (since we have been born), our brain has been learning hundreds of different messages, which will take time to unlearn. To be media literate is to have an ongoing informed inquiry and critical thinking skills. Center for Media Literacy work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, called the Empowerment Spiral model, which outlines how to break complex topics or concepts into four short-term learning steps that stimulate different aspects of the brain and enhance our ability to evolve new knowledge from experience. These steps are:
Awareness: What observations and personal connections for potential insight can be taken from the media? This includes any “ah-ha” moments that could prompt more questions or ways of thinking and exploration; it can include qualitative and quantitative information or the need to find out more.
Analysis: Thinking about “how” an issue came to be, which goes deeper than just trying to identify some exact meaning/definition, like in an ad, song or an episode of a sitcom. Try avoiding “why” and ask more “what/how” questions to increase the critical process of inquiry, exploration and discovery.
Reflection: This step looks deeper to ask “So what does this mean for me or others?” Depending on who you are, this is where biases and lived experiences come up. Things like philosophical or religious traditions, ethical values, social justice, or political implications may come up here. This is where values for individual and collective decision-making become apparent.
Action: This step is the opportunity to formulate constructive action ideas, usually ones that result in some kind of change. This change can include behaviors, attitudes, motivation, point-of-view, etc. In this context, action can be anything as a result of thinking through this process, including not doing anything at all.
“The power of media literacy lies in figuring out how the construction of any media product influences and contributes to the meaning we make of it.” –medialit.org
Generally speaking, the model helps the brain deconstruct any form of media, helping to decipher what is bringing on feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, or stress. Commonsensemedia.org offers more questions to ask yourself to increase your media literacy skills:
What am I actually looking at/hearing?
How is it making me feel? Why?
How does this message make other people feel? Why?
Who created this media? What influence do they have?
What techniques are being used to make this message credible or believable? Were there any details left out, and why?
Why did they make this media or what messages are they trying to send? Who did they make it for?
How is this helping me or hurting me?
Who is benefiting from this media?
What attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors is this condoning?
Who has power/influence in this picture?
Start engaging in media literacy and let us know how it goes! It is exciting to see folx ask critical questions about messages that no longer support positive wellbeing outcomes for all and challenging them, which speaks to the power of media literacy! Just as there are negative messages in media, there are also very positive ones, so do not be afraid to create and curate your own!
We’ve made the Soundtrack to Your Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Make It Consensual.
This Sexual Assault Awareness month at UNC is a bit different from years past. Let’s face it– everything feels a little different this April. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is music’s ability to accompany us through life’s joys, difficulties, and, yes, moments of intimacy.
It only takes a quick scan through the radio or a new music playlist to discover that most songs about love or attraction don’t do a stellar job of modeling consent, to say the least. So we have made a playlist of some of our favorite consensual songs for you to enjoy this Sexual Assault Awareness month, wherever you are! These songs are creating a culture of consent– and so are we.
Have a favorite song that models consent in some way? Share it with us! Maybe your favorite song isn’t very consensual, now that you think about it? Don’t worry– we have a chance for you to make it a consent anthem!
Consent Lyric Competition***SAAM Moment
We can’t wait to see and hear what you create!
Send us your lyrical rewrite to email@example.com. Your entry will count for 1 stamp on your SAAM Loyalty Card.Collect 5 stamps by attending virtual SAAM events for your chance to win an Amazon Fire Stick.
How are you listening to your playlist?***SAAM Moment
In order to talk about consent, we first have to talk about sex. The way we talk about sex is what sets the tone for not only how it affects our relationships, but also how it affects are communities and society as a whole. Shifting away from baseball, Al Vernacchio challenges us to analyze the way we refer to sex with a healthier mindset.
“We aren’t looking for a challenge, we are looking for an experience.”
Take this moment to video chat your friends, and have a socially-distant, pizza night. Send us photos of your best creations, or a snip of your own recipe for consent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your entry will count for 1 stamp on your SAAM Loyalty Card. Collect 5 stamps by attending virtual SAAM events for your chance to win an Amazon Fire Stick.