Roommate Conversation Guide for COVID

a guide to talking with your roommates about COVID expectations 

Your home should feel like a safe space. And yet, most of us have at least slightly different calculations about risk, so living with roommates means one roommate’s behavior sometimes results in another roommate feeling vulnerable to COVID.

Remember that good communication including active listening is the best strategy for navigating conflict. Problems arise when people feel scared or worried, but either don’t have conversations or feel unheard when they try to talk about things. So open up a dialogue about COVID today.

Opening question

What are your thoughts about COVID-19 right now? 

Understand current and anticipated behaviors

Such as risk reduction strategies, socializing, transportation 

  • What behaviors are you practicing to reduce the risk of COVID transmission? Specifically…
    • When/where do you practice physical distancing?  
    • When/where do you wear a mask? 
    • What are your handwashing tendencies? 
    • When do you interact with people without a mask and who are those people? What do you know about their precautionary behaviors? What is the setting for these encounters – indoor/outdoor? How long do you typically interact?
    • Have you attended any large gatherings during the pandemic, and will you this semester?  
    • How frequently do you tend to clean and disinfect your/our space? 
  • What risks do you anticipate this semester?
    • What are unavoidable risks in your life – such as work or classrooms?  
    • How will you transport yourself around town and campus?  
    • Do you have plans to travel this semester?  
    • As restaurants and bars reopen, what are your plans?   
    • How often do you plan to visit, stay with, or host family, significant other, or friends?  
    • How often do you plan to be home in our shared dwelling? 
  • What additional COVID safety precautions do you practice? 

Get a sense of health needs

  • Have you been diagnosed with COVID? If so, when and how does it impact your behavior now?  
  • Has someone you care about been diagnosed with COVID? If so, when and does it impact your behavior now? 
  • Are you in a vulnerable population as outlined by the CDC? 

Make a household plan

  • How will we adapt our space and behaviors to adjust for COVID? 
  • How will we adapt our food behaviors during the semester? 
  • How will we adapt our cleaning and chores?  
  • Who is allowed inside the residence? How will we handle friends or family who have interest in coming to or gathering at our residence? 
  • How will we transport ourselves around town and campus? 
  • If at least one roommate deems something unsafe, are we all willing to honor that?  
  • If one of us has symptoms or tests positive for COVID, what is our mutually agreed upon plan of action? 
  • Under what circumstances will we be willing to quarantine for the benefit of our room/household? 
  • If UNC becomes fully remote during the semester, what will we do? Return to a family home, stay in our shared dwelling, or something else? 
  • Are there other topics we should discuss (dating, mail pickup, mask disinfecting plan, remembering to take our masks, vaccination when it becomes available)? 


We, the residents of ___________________ agree to the following from ___(date)_____ to ____(date)____: 

Dwelling visitors – who is allowed into our home, when, in what circumstances, how long:  

Gatherings – hosting, attending, indoor/outdoor, common areas: 

Cleaning – sharing responsibilities, extra disinfection, dishes, laundry: 

Food – sharing, group meals, restaurants, grocery shopping: 

Transportation – how will we get around, car riding with non-roommates: 

Testing – who will be tested and when: details for UNC required and voluntary testing at 

If a roommate is a close contact to a known positive, we will… 

If a roommate tests positive, we will… 

If there is a conflict between these agreements and behavior, we will… 

We plan to revisit these agreements on ___(date)____ to review and revise as necessary. 

Signed: ______________

When Conflict Arises

Remember, that conflict is likely to occur even after going through a conversation like this. When conflict happens, stay calm and:

  • Express specific observations about a situation or concern rather than your judgments or evaluation. 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.”
  • Disclose your feelings about the situation or concern. Provide a genuine understanding of 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.”
  • Identify what you need or value. Ex. “I really value shared agreements about behavior – especially during a pandemic.”
  • Request specific actions that would start to meet your needs or support your values. Avoid demanding character changes or stating ultimatums. Ex. “Would you be willing to revisit our agreements together and update them as needed?”

How to stay balanced during troubling news events

Person looks at phone

The news may feel troubling, traumatic, angering, frustrating, or scary. We all have instances where we find it both difficult to engage with current events and also find it difficult to ignore them.

It is important to be aware of what’s happening. It’s also vital to take care of yourself and your mental health.

Notice when there’s a conflict between what the news offers you and what is best for your individual mental wellbeing. Instead of ruminating on what is happening, you can focus on what is within your control.

Think about how the news makes you feel when you consume it.

  • Find content that is fact-based, reputable or uses primary sources rather than viewing memes or personal opinions on social media.
  • If you notice increased stress, limit your news intake for a bit.
  • If you’re feeling paralyzed or anxious, act. Do something constructive for a cause you believe in to help you feel better.

Engage in meaningful activities.

  • Find an activity you enjoy and do it, rather than fixating on news or social media coverage,
  • Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you.
  • Stay socially connected and lean on your friends when you’re feeling stressed.
  • Stay active – moving your body helps release stressful energy.
  • If you have a therapist, talk to them about your feelings to help you manage.

Be mindful of your surroundings when sharing opinions.

  • Avoid assumptions about other people and how they think.
  • Anticipating differences in opinions can help prepare you for difficult conversations.
  • Even with like-minded people, remember that someone might be trying to limit news exposure.

Be open to learning about other points of view. There are always reasons why people feel the way they do about certain issues or people. Consider using this cycle for conversations:

  • Ask open ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
  • Listen to what people you disagree with say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
  • Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
  • Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
  • Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience. People tend to best process stories, rather than logic.

Stay close to people with whom you disagree if you can safely do so. Some worry that differences in how we digest the same events will further divide our communities. Counteract this in your life by maintaining close relationships – even with those who don’t see eye to eye with you. Test out how it feels to stay friendly with acquaintances who support opposing viewpoints.

Plan an enjoyable event. Life will go on after this news cycle, so planning an event can help reinforce that notion.

Mental Health Support Options for UNC Students

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 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 stress.
  • ACADEMICS: Academic Coaching helps you balance academic demands with life demands. 

“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. 
  • UNC Wellness Network offers support groups with trained student facilitators.
  • CAPS groups over Zoom are opportunities to connect with people to feel less alone and less isolated while navigating challenges together. Led by CAPS staff.
  • Student organizations provide connection with students who have similar interests.
  • Learning Center Workshops provide academic assistance among students who need similar supports. Led by Learning Center staff.

“I want to connect with supportive people with my background or identity.”

Wellbeing Strategies for UNC Students in Quarantine or Isolation

We know that being away from friends and activities is challenging. Maintaining your overall personal well-being while you are isolating or quarantining on campus is important and there are many resources available to help. UNC Healthy Heels is here to support you.

Stay active with Campus Recreation

Live Virtual Trivia and Art Programming

Paint Night: alternating every Wednesday 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Jan 27, Feb 10, Feb 24, Mar 10, Mar 24, Apr 7, Apr 21, May 5

Join us for a live virtual art therapy session! Painting can be a relaxing, fun, creative, and social experience. No experience is necessary, and we are not experts, but we can find our inner artists together! We will provide a balance of instructions and guidance and education to allow for maximum creativity and enjoyment. We will primarily be working with watercolor paints, but any medium is welcome to join in the fun as we create our own unique artwork.  Use the registration link to sign up for login details.

Trivia: alternating every Wednesday 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Feb 3, Feb 17, Mar 3, Mar 17, Mar 31, Apr 14, Apr 28

Game On! Virtual trivia night! Watch, play, and answer in real time with our live host in the show of exciting multimedia trivia that tests players’ knowledge in everything from movies, music, geography, pop culture, sports to mythology.  A smorgasbord of trivia, a mixed bag of fun – challenging but figureoutable questions! Use the registration link to sign up for login details.

Social Hour: Thursdays, 4:00 – 5:00 PM

Yoga: Tuesdays 7:00- 7:45 PM

All participants will need to register HERE in order to receive access to the class via Zoom.

Virtual Fitness Classes

Stay active anytime and anywhere with Group Fitness. New classes added weekly!

Intramural sports

Participate in E-sports leagues and trivia/game nights without ever leaving home.

Mind your mind with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

While in isolation or quarantine, you may experience additional stress such as loneliness, boredom, irritability or anxiety. CAPS is available to support you during this difficult time, 24/7 by phone at 919-966-3658.

Virtual zoom COVID support: Thursday 2:30- 3:30PM

Many support and wellness groups are available thru CAPS, as are self-help information and online self-assessments,

Use your device to connect with services that can help. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Discuss wellbeing with Student Wellness

Interested in more information about Mental Wellness and COVID? Want a 1:1 appointment to discuss your wellness journey? Student Wellness can help!  

Listen to a good book from University Libraries  

Give your eyes a rest and zone out with a good book, podcast or tunes. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Audio books are available for your listening pleasure, as are various music options.

Connect with other students virtually 

Class isn’t the only thing you can do on Zoom. Connect with other students in fun ways online using HeelLife, CUAB events, Netflix watch parties, virtual game nights or anything else you can dream up! (Photo by Megan May/UNC Research)

Being apart but still connecting is hard, but social interactions are critical to happiness and well-being. Take advantage of online programs – both asynchronous and real-time activities. The following are two of our favorite ways to find UNC events:

Join the Mental Health Email Course for UNC Students

Receive a daily email (only for 9 days!) – showcasing 8 mental health strategies that you can use right now. Each day provides you with a personal note, brief video skill, and UNC student testimonials about how they use the strategy in their life. The course was developed by therapists, health educators and students at UNC.

Success! You're on the list.

Daily Self-Care Activities

Person doing the hurdler stretch

Take a Stretch Break

Giving the body a break from sitting or staring at a computer screen is a great way to help relieve stress and restore energy back into the body. Try these 10 stretches on your own, or follow along with our guided stretch video. Try to hold each stretch for about 1 minute.

  • Seated Overhead Side Reaches
  • All 4’s Cat/Cow Stretch
  • Kneeling Runners Lunge to Hamstring Extension (right)
  • Kneeling Runners Lunge to Hamstring Extension (left)
  • Thread the Needle (right)
  • Thread the Needle (left)
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch (right)
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch (left)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (right)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (left)

🎬Try this guided stretch sequence

Person with headphones on who appears to be dancing and singing

Just Dance!

Taking a break to jam out to your favorite music can not only improve your mood and feelings of happiness, but also reduces stress and anxiety.

Here are some options to get you grooving!

  • Turn on your favorite song, close your eyes, and dance like no one is watching
Person sits cross legged by a computer


A few minutes a day of mindful meditation can help you reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and become more present. Becoming more mindful can help you find happiness and calm especially during difficult times.

Take a deep breath and get ready to relax with our 10 minute guided meditation practice specifically for UNC students in isolation or quarantine.

Learn more about meditation benefits and practice strategies or how to meditate.

woman wearing exercise clothing squats

Build Strength.

Helping to increase confidence, boost your immune system, and reduce stress; strength-based movement not only helps builds a strong body but mind too!

Find your strong with one of these strength routines. Try them both for a complete full-body strength workout.

bottle of water sits on a desk


Benefits of water:

  • good
  • for
  • you

Today, challenge yourself to keep track or simply notice the amount of water you drink today. Tomorrow, try to drink a little bit more, and notice any changes in how you feel.

Learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

Activity book cover shows various UNC and wellness related icons

Color inside (or outside) the lines.

Take a break from your daily routine and let your mind find its creative flow. Download this Be Well & Thrive activity book to give your mind a mental break.

Person in mountains sits crosslegged.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Practice this breathing sequence to help clear the mind:

  • Find a comfortable seated position
  • Place the right hand on the chest and the left on the belly
  • Breathe normally for 10 breaths
  • Breathe only into the right hand, focusing the rise and fall of the chest – continue for 10 – 20 breaths
  • Breathe only into the left hand, focusing on the rise and fall of the belly – continue for 10 -20 breaths
  • Return to full normal breaths, focusing on counting your inhales & exhales
  • Repeat as many times as needed

Learn more about how to fight stress with intentional breathing.

Graphic heart over heartbeat-like line

Boost Your Energy!

Increasing the heart rate and getting your body moving boosts energy, improves mental clarity and decreases feelings of stress.

Try this quick 10 minute circuit on your own, or follow along with our guided video. Perform each movement for 45 seconds, then rest 15 seconds before starting the next movement.

  • Alternating Side Lunges with Punches
  • Tap Back Lunges with Triceps Extensions
  • Squat Raise with Crunch
  • Stationary Slams
  • Star “Jump” with Lateral Leg and Arm Raises
  • Front to Back Lunges
  • Wide Leg Crab Walks with Hands at Head
  • March and Toe Touch Crunches
  • Step Outs with Lateral Arm Pulses
  • Curtsy Lunge with Front Kick
Woman does warrior pose in yoga in front of windows

Find Flow.

Feeling drained after a day full of Zoom classes and sitting at a desk? Yoga can boost your mood & energy, as well as increase your capacity to manage stressful feelings.

Try a gentle Yoga flow to reconnect with your body and mind.

heart charm says "i am grateful"

Give Gratitude.

Start a gratitude journal to help amplify the positive in your life.

  • Step 1: Reflect back on the day
  • Step 2: Write down 3 things that you are grateful for today
  • Step 3: Repeat this each day

Learn more about how and why to practice gratitude.

Laptop, sweater and plant sit on a window balcony

Open a Window.

There is more oxygen outside than inside, so it’s no wonder why fresh air energizes you, boosts mood, and can even improve your immune system.

Learn more about why fresh air is good for you.

Cairn of rocks sits by the ocean

Center your Core.

Balance looks different to everyone, physically or not. Center yourself with these core & balance focused movements either on your own or follow along with our guided 10-minute routine.

  • Standing Side to Side Toe Touch (30 sec)
  • Standing Side to Side Bend (30 sec)
  • Standing Balance Calf Raise (30 sec)
  • Step Back Lunge with Twist ( 30 sec)
  • Knee Plank to Downdog (30 sec)
  • Bird-Dog Extensions (30 sec)
  • Side Plank Balance Hold (30 sec)
  • All 4’s Hover Hold (30 sec)
  • Cat Cow Stretch ( 30 sec)

11 Ideas to Take Care of YOU

Written and compiled by CAPS staff members Kyle Alexander, LCSW and Kadeisha Bonsu, LCSWA

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been coping with the mental strain of Covid-19 for 10+ months now. Many of us have spent a good amount of that time stuck inside, missing family and friends, so it’s totally normal if you feel more down or isolated than usual this winter. You are not alone.

We at UNC CAPS want to be here for you and wanted to share some ideas for self-care ideas during these last few weeks before the semester begins. CAPS staff is here for you so please don’t hesitate to call us to speak with a therapist anytime 24/7 for support (919) 966-3658.

Get Creative!

A person in socks over a bedspread lays next to a book, pencil, mug, and guitar

Many of us don’t identify as artists, but all of us have creative abilities. Let out your inner child. Dance around, color, draw, paint, make up a song, host a zoom talent show…it doesn’t need to be perfect; you just need to have fun.

Take Baths

A bath with bubbles, candles, soap, and a book

Take a moment to disengage from the world with your favorite music, some candles, and a hot bath. Baths can help relieve muscle tension and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, some studies indicate that going from a hot bath to a cold bedroom can help your body fall asleep faster.

Play Video Games

Two people with gaming consoles play a video game together

Distanced from your friends who may be living far away from you right now? Plug in your favorite multi-player video game and instantly connect. Distraction is helpful in moderation and can be a heathy way to escape for a moment. There are a ton of fun video games out there both on your mobile phone and console to explore. If it’s too cold to go outside into nature, check-out some of these nature inspired games that are fun to play with friends and bring nature indoors.


Library long view

With more time inside, put down the phone, turn off the electronics and pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Escape into that science fiction series, or start that book that’s been on your shelf forever.  

Books feeling too long to commit to right now? How about exploring shorter poems that are speaking to you right now.

Don’t know what book to choose?  the book you’re looking for?, check-out for book recommendations. For those in the Chapel Hill area already, you can request books from UNC libraries, or through inter-library loan.

Choose a Theme

Graphic of astronauts on various devices lounging around on a couch

Pick a theme for each day or each week depending on the length of your staycation. Include things that address various areas of wellness i.e., emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, etc. Themes you might consider are Zoom-Free Wednesday, Financially-Fit Friday, Self-Care Saturday… doesn’t matter the day, just have fun and get creative!

Listen to Podcasts

Feeling isolated or lonely while socially distancing? We all are. You are not alone. Community and human interaction are important for the psyche, and when coronavirus makes that hard, tune into your favorite podcast to immerse yourself in a digital community.

Next time you are folding laundry or on a walk, play your favorite podcast and instantly you can feel like you are not alone. There are thousands of different types of podcasts (comedy, history, news, etc.), pick which one is right for you and click play.

Person of color with their eyes closed and half in shadow with the words Feeling Seen A UNC CAPS Podcast overlay

A great Podcast option to check out is Feeling Seen, hosted by Dr. Erinn Scott, Psy.D. and Dr. Anthony Teasdale, Ph.D., staff psychologists at CAPS. These colleagues and friends come together to discuss and demystify mental health, therapy, and help seeking, and have some fun in the process. This podcast speaks directly to UNC and its students, giving listeners a more personal side of CAPS and its staff. There’ll be insights, laughs, and mistakes, but always with the intention of reducing stigma and helping people “feel seen.” Find it on all the places you listen: Spotify | YouTube | Anchor | Google Podcasts | Apple Podcasts

Go for a Hike

Fish eye view of the Botanical Garden

Those of us who are privileged to live in the Triangle are able to access numerous hiking trails in the area.

Wherever you are, the best way to find a trail that works for you is to ask friends for recommendation or go online for lists of best hikes in the areaThe All Trails application is a great free tool to download to search and filter the top-rated hikes based on your location.

Winter break is a great time to explore parts of Chapel Hill you haven’t yet. Try walking across the street from campus and check-out the free North Carolina Botanical Garden.


Glowing tent and fire at night by a lake

Camping is a great activity to escape into nature and be socially distanced with friends. North Carolina has a ton of nature and camp sites for you to explore this season.


Rameses bikes on a Tar Heel Bike in the Pit while students look on behind him

We know it’s cold out there, but regular exercise can act like an anti-depressant in itself. This Winter continue to challenge yourself to keep moving and get outside as much as possible. Biking is a great way to get some cardio in, but also explore. Check out these bike rental resources on-campus: 


Image of Heavenly Buffaloes

Outdoor dining under a heat lamp, takeout, or curbside pickup could be a nice treat for you and your friends. Maybe it’s time to pick a new type of food or restaurant you’ve been wanting to explore on Franklin! Or it’s about time you checked out all the cool stuff Carrboro has to offer if you haven’t had the time to explore Carrboro during the school year.

Check-out this resource for most updated list of food option in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In the mood for chicken or vegan wings? Heavenly Buffaloes is open on Franklin and has (outdoor dining, takeout and delivery). We haven’t been paid for this recommendation – it’s just that good.

Women has head on computer desk and is raising a flag with a sad face on it
Nadia_Snopek/Adobe Stock

Set Virtual Boundaries

Give yourself permission to say no to Zoom/video meetings, hangouts, etc. that are not necessary or can be rescheduled. It’s okay to honor yourself, recognize your zoom fatigue, and take some space from it. Be okay with saying no and cancelling/rescheduling anything that gets in the way of your well-being.

Transitioning back to the semester can be rough on mental health – take some time for you over the next few weeks!

Have a Healthy and Happy Winter Break

After the stress of finals end, many students are excited for winter break. This year, winter break can look so many different ways! Some of you are headed to family after living near campus, some of you are staying in Chapel Hill for winter break, and some of you have been living with family this whole semester.

Whether you’re adjusting to living at home again, having less to do, or embarking on two more months of regular ol’ pandemic life, winter break can feel overwhelming.

Here are some common issues and ways to address them to help you stay healthy, protect yourself and those around you, and make the most of your break.

Mental Health Strategies

  • Manage your free time: We know that at the beginning, the extra time feels like a gift! But the adjustment to free time can be a struggle for some.
    • Start by taking time to relax.
    • Then consider making a plan or list of things you would like to do over break. Fill 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? Consider how COVID risk tolerance may play a role in conflict this year.
    • How do you want to respond?
    • Make a list of coping skills that work for you.
  • Plan for your mental wellbeing: Many people experience a worsening of mental health symptoms around this time of year. You aren’t alone!
    • If you are in treatment, work with your provider on how to best support yourself.
    • If you are not in treatment, 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.
    • Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible.
  • Take a screening: UNC offers a wide range of online mental health screening tools about anxiety, depression, substances, wellbeing and more.
Screengrab of online screening tool options including alcohol use, gambling, disordered eating, opiods, substances, general feelings, bipolar, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and wellbeing.

Ideas to protect yourself and others from illness

  • Follow general COVID precautions.
    • Wear a mask.
    • Stay physically distanced.
    • Avoid crowds and indoor crowded places.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Monitor for symptoms.
    • Minimize contact with people at high risk of COVID-19 complications.
  • If traveling:
  • If gathering:
    • Wear masks as much as possible.
    • Eat outside if safe and feasible.
    • Limit the number of guests.
    • Have guests bring their own food, drinks, and utensils.
  • If moving, quarantine for 2 weeks before interacting unmasked indoors with new roommates/family.

Even though classes are complete, most services available to students will remain open with virtual support through most of winter break. Reach out if you need help!

Prepare for the Holidays – Starting Now

In two weeks, many of us will be taking a well-deserved break to enjoy two months (!) without classes and with the benefits of holiday celebrations.

Winter break during a pandemic has some additional elements to think through. Some of us will likely be switching up or adding to the people with whom we closely and regularly interact. Many health precautions for those scenarios require at least two weeks. Act now to protect yourself and the ones you love this winter break.

  • Get a flu vaccine if you haven’t received one yet. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection for you. Flu shots are offered outside of Campus Health M – F1 – 5 pm, or at Student Stores Pharmacy during open hours (9 am – 5 pm, M – F, Sat 11 am – 3 pm). No appointment needed.
  • Reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID in the two weeks before you travel and while traveling: limit the number of individuals you interact with, limit the time and duration spent near other people, be thoughtful about the location of interactions (outdoor is better than indoors) and practice the 3Ws: wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask and wait six feet from other people. The CDC has further holiday gathering and travel guidance.
  • Take a COVID-19 test prior to departure. Free testing is offered at the Union for UNC students (but only if you don’t have symptoms and have not been in close contact with someone who is positive). Results are typically in 1-2 days, and hours are extended 11/16 – 11/20 to 11 am – 7 pm M – F. For those with symptoms or exposure, Campus Health offers diagnostic testing M – F 9 am – 12 pm, 1 pm – 4 pm. Remember that a negative test is not a free pass to skip other precautions. 

Why you need more than a negative test

Testing as a sole strategy for COVID risk reduction doesn’t work well because it can take 2-14 days for someone who is exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to develop symptoms of COVID-19. It is recommended that individuals wait until ~4-5 days after being exposed to a case of COVID-19 to get tested, since before this point, the false negative rate is high. 

There are many examples of folks getting tested a day or two before embarking on a trip or going to an event, only to have one of the attendees become positive during or just after the event, potentially infecting many people.  
You should still get tested before you travel or attend gatherings. A positive test should change holiday plans; a negative test, however, only gives you information for that point in time and doesn’t mean you will remain negative after that test. Even if you (and others!) have a negative test, still:

  • wear a mask
  • stay physically distanced
  • avoid crowds and indoor crowded places
  • wash your hands frequently
  • monitor for symptoms and
  • minimize contact with people at high risk of COVID-19 complications.

If you decide you want to be indoors for an extended time without masks

While higher risk, being inside without masks is sometimes what people choose for themselves. Roommates and family members often come to agreements about risk behaviors and then live together without masks in their home. With holidays coming, a traditional holiday dinner, where there will be extended time around a table with people from outside your home while eating and drinking, would also fit this category. You also may be moving for winter break and will be living with a new set of roommates.

The safest strategy for these scenarios is for all attendees/future roommates to quarantine for 14 days before coming together, consider how to eliminate risk of exposure during travel, and get tested early enough to get test results before traveling/moving in together. For many of us – that means starting to quarantine THIS WEEK.

Holiday Gathering Guidance

You can also help reduce risk at your holiday gathering itself.

  • Host outdoors if possible. If indoors, open the windows and doors if safe and feasible. 
  • Limit the number of people attending.
  • Have extra, new masks (in case someone forgets) and hand sanitizer available. 
  • Arrange tables and chairs for separation.
  • Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled.
  • Have one household approach the food serving area at a time to prevent congregating.
  • Consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people aren’t handling serving utensils.
  • Have high risk individuals attend virtually.

We want things to be normal again, and also know that everything is different right now. If you decide not to attend a holiday celebration – that’s perfectly understandable! Tell people clearly and firmly. Focus on your decision about what’s best for you. Avoid getting into the details about the reasons behind your decision. You don’t need to defend your position.

We realize that this holiday season will likely look different that in the past. There are lots of creative ideas for how to connect with people you love! Find a celebration strategy that feels safe and healthy for you and your loved ones.

Stress Continuum

Feeling stress throughout our day is normal. If we think of stress on a scale or continuum from 1 to 10, we typically move along that scale throughout our regular day. Daily stressors like school, work or relationships can activate different emotions, and those emotions can move us along the scale too.

– click for 1 min video about the stress continuum –

Imagine you wake up feeling sunny and optimistic. “I’m a 1 on the stress continuum.” Then something triggers you and it feels like a cloud rolls in and the next thing you know you’re feeling down – like a 6 on the continuum. This is part of life, and we can usually manage this stress with healthy coping tools.

Right now, we have the added stress of COVID-19 and current events that can be chronic stressors. These stressors are even higher for those of us in the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities who regularly face racism and discrimination, in addition to a disproportionate burden of COVID-19. Plus, we don’t have access to our regular healthy coping tools like going out with friends or heading to the gym.

These chronic stressors make our normal daily stress seem more intense. Suddenly, that sunny day might feel less bright. If a cloud rolls in, it feels even more gloomy – like an 8 – and it becomes harder to get back to feeling less stress – such as a 3.

It’s natural to feel more foggy or tired or bothered by things that didn’t bother us before. When we accumulate all that stress, we feel exhausted. It is important to be gentle with yourself and others.

Here are some ideas that may help you on that path. Name and acknowledge what you feel. Take a deep breath and decide what support or coping tool works for you in that moment. If you are struggling, stuck in one spot on the continuum where you don’t want to be, or need help finding healthy coping strategies – then reach out for professional help.

Ideas to Cope

  • Call a friend 
  • Practice “Three Good Things” daily 
  • Plan something to look forward to 
  • Take a walk outside 
  • Unplug from social media for one night a week 
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show 
  • Read a book 
  • Start a new project (ie, home project, creative project, etc.) 
  • Help someone else — volunteer virtually for something your passionate about (lots of virtual volunteer opportunities are available now) 
  • Meditate, do yoga, move your body 
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings 
  • Pay attention – notice what’s around you and what’s happening inside you 
  • Create – writing, playing music, making art or dancing 
  • Have a good laugh or cry 
  • Most of all, realize the “COVID Cloud” amplifies all the stress so give yourself some slack

More coping resources for UNC students

How to stay balanced during Election 2020

Many of us are struggling with election overload. It’s difficult to escape the negative advertisements and tense moments in conversations and social media.

Focus on What You Can Control

While it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in our country and world, you need to take care of yourself and your mental health too. Notice if there’s a conflict between what the election is asking of you and what is best for your individual mental health. Instead of ruminating on potential bad outcomes, you can focus on what is within your control.

  • Think about how political content makes you feel when you consume it.
    • Find political content that is fact-based, reputable or uses primary sources rather than viewing memes or personal opinions on social media.
    • If you have increased stress, limit your political content intake for a bit.
    • If you’re feeling paralyzed or anxious, act. Do something constructive for a cause you believe in to help you feel better.
  • Engage in meaningful activities.
    • Find an activity you enjoy and do it, rather than fixating on news or social media coverage,
    • Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you.
    • Stay socially connected and lean on your friends when you’re feeling stressed.
    • Stay active – moving your body helps release stressful energy.
    • If you have a therapist, talk to them about your election feelings to help you manage.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings when sharing opinions. Avoid assumptions about other people and how they think. Anticipating differences in opinions can help prepare you for difficult conversations. Even for like-minded, politically-engaged folks, be aware that the other person might be trying to limit political exposure.
  • Be open to learning about other points of view. There are always reasons why people feel the way they do about certain issues or people. Consider using this cycle for conversations:
    • Ask open ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
    • Listen to what people you disagree with say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
    • Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
    • Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
    • Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience. People tend to best process stories, rather than logic.
  • Stay close to people you disagree with. Some fear that this election will divide our country further. Counteract this in your life by maintaining close relationships – even with those who don’t see eye to eye with you. Test out how it feels to stay friendly with acquaintances who support opposing candidates.
  • Plan an enjoyable event for after election day. Whatever happens with the election outcomes, life will go on, so planning an event will help reinforce that notion.
The United States flag flies near the Morehead Patterson Bell Tower
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After Election Results

  • Be gracious in victory. If your candidate wins, be kind and compassionate to those who lose. It could have been you. We all have to live with each other a lot longer than the next 4 years.
  • Be mindful of media posts and consumption. Particularly if your candidate loses, consider a social media detox for a while. If your candidate wins, consider how your posts may affect people you care about that hoped for a different outcome.

Support Options for UNC Students

CAPS will host virtual support spaces for students who would like to discuss their feelings about the election results and connect with others experiencing similar situations. Dates and times for the virtual support services will be posted on the CAPS website.

As always, UNC students can connect with CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 or reach out to any of the services and organizations available.

How do I decide whether to attend an event during COVID? Holidays, birthdays, dinners…it’s constant and really hard.

Questions about the riskiness of specific situations are the most difficult to answer. These situations often include a lot of details… and a lot of unknowns. There are so many factors to think about all at once: individual health history, your behaviors related to COVID risks, everyone else’s behaviors related to COVID risks, the specific arrangement of the event, the expectations of people you care about, etc. It’s impossible to try to hold it all at once. We get it.

You cannot assess the risks of every single situation–no one can. But you can consider your comfort and how you can reduce your risk: ask yourself what the worst outcome is, and do what you can to guard against that–no matter how unlikely the worst outcome may be. Once you’ve made those assumptions, things may become much more clear. What can you do to reduce the risk of that worst case outcome? That’s the only variable in your control, so control it!

Strategies to reduce your risk include:

– Avoid events that aren’t essential
– Limit your interactions to a small group of people
– Wear a mask and insist those around you wear a mask too
– Keep your physical distance
– Stay outdoors or open a window
– Keep your interactions brief

Acknowledge ambivalence

Sometimes, we’re of two minds about something. We want things to be normal again, and also know that everything is different right now. You might feel sad about missing an event while also wishing so much that you could go safely. Recognizing those internal struggles before you begin a conversation will help you stand your ground once you make a decision. 

What to say if you choose not to attend

If you decide not to attend an event, tell people clearly and firmly. Focus on your decision about what’s best for you. Avoid getting into the details about the reasons behind your decision. You don’t need to defend your position.

“I can’t come to the event. Thank you for the invitation! I’m so sorry to miss it.” 

Disappointing people sucks. We get it. You don’t have to manage other people’s emotions to be a good person. People may be angry, unhappy or upset – you don’t need to make yourself uncomfortable to make other people happy.

“I understand you’re upset, and I care about you. I made this decision because it’s the right thing for me. I wish things were different this year too.” 

Heel-oween 2020

We need to change how we’ve celebrated Halloween in the past to make room for the pandemic. Here are some ideas how:

Have a Halloween Plan 

Decide what to do. 

Decide what you are comfortable with this Halloween before Saturday arrives. The gathering on Franklin Street is cancelled, so find another spot to be on the night of Halloween. Consider watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up to eat dinner with your roommates, or joining one of the activities listed below.

Jacob Bermeo from Chapel Hill sits outside of Wilson Library while dressed up as Spider-Man on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
(Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Reduce your risk for COVID

COVID risk increases with indoor exposure(s), length of time together, lack of masks and number of people encountered. Reduce your risk by choosing a small group to spend Halloween with, sticking with them (and only them) throughout, wearing COVID masks, and staying outside as much as possible if you’re gathering with people who don’t live with you. 

Pick or make your costume.

If you choose to wear a costume, pick one that allows you to easily wear a COVID mask. Also make sure your costume avoids cultural appropriation.

Reduce your risk of negative impacts of substance use

Substances also bring risk – especially in a pandemic because of how they affect judgment and decisions making. 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. 

Be an active bystander

Don’t be afraid to speak up or take action if you or your friends are made uncomfortable. Everyone is entitled to having a good time on Halloween, and that starts with feeling safe.  

UNC Halloween Activities

MONDAY 10/26




FRIDAY 10/30


Anytime this week

Granville Haunt Farm – Haunted Drive In Movie Theme
Haunted Hills Terror Drive
Phillips Haunted Farms