“Responsible” Drinking: What it Really Means

To avoid being “that person” at a party and help keep everyone safe, use strategies to limit or pace your drinking, as well as ones to prevent driving after having consumed too much alcohol. 

  • Eat before or during drinking. Having food in your stomach helps slow the absorption of alcohol through the stomach lining. Eating can also help you avoid a hangover.
  • Decide on a set number of drinks ahead of time and stick to it. The recommended limits are based on gender identity – which we don’t love but it’s what we have: for men, drink less than 4 servings of alcohol in a day and no more than 14 in a week. For women, drink less than 3 servings of alcohol per day and no more than 7 drinks in a week. Limits above are based on serving sizes –
    • 1.5 ounces of liquor (such as whisky, rum, or tequila) – a shot glass worth.
    • 5 ounces of wine – about half of a typical wine glass.
    • 12 ounces of beer – a can.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Some people say they feel weird if they don’t have a drink in their hand at a party or at the bar. If that’s the case for you, try alternating between alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. Soda, juice, seltzer, or non-alcoholic beers are good alternate options that also happen to look like alcohol.
  • Dilute your drink. If you’re drinking liquor, use more mixer or add extra ice. Not only will you consume less alcohol, your drink may also taste better.
  • Pace yourself. Drinking more slowly can also help you drink less and maintain a healthier buzz for a longer duration.
  • Enlist a buddy to help you know how much you’ve had and when to stop. If you think you’ll have trouble managing your drinking on your own, seek support from a friend. You can ask them to tell you to stop after a specific number of drinks or after a certain time of night. Just make sure it’s a friend who will remain sober enough to pay attention.
  • Avoid drinking games and shots. Drinking games can be a way to drink a lot in a short period of time, often more than you first intended. Shots can feel deceptive because they’re generally very high in alcohol content, even though they are a small amount of liquid.
  • Spend time with friends who consume less. Being around heavy drinkers normalizes heavy drinking. Consider participating in some social situations that involve little or no drinking or attending social events with a crew that tends to drink less.

Not drinking and driving during the pandemic is especially difficult since taking cabs, rideshares or public transit isn’t recommended. Here are some other ideas that people have used successfully to avoid driving while impaired that you could use for yourself or a friend:

  • Drink somewhere that you don’t need to drive. Drinking at home or somewhere nearby means you can get to your bed after drinking without having to worry about driving.
  • Appoint a sober designated driver. If you’re going out with a group, choose a designated driver or someone who is sober for the night. Rotate different friends as the sober driver on different nights.
  • Decide on alternate sleeping arrangements ahead of time. If driving home isn’t an option, can you ask around to see if you can crash with a friend who lives nearby? 
  • Decide to stop drinking two hours before you leave an event. For example, if you think you’ll want to leave an event at around two a.m., stop drinking at midnight. This won’t guarantee that you’re sober enough to drive by two a.m., but it may result in you becoming sober enough to decide not to drive. It’s also good hangover prevention to switch to hydrating fluids for a couple of hours before you go to sleep after a night of heavy drinking. Two hours of drinking water is likely to make the morning less painful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with being able to consume alcohol in a safe manner as a college student, check out Student Wellness’ health coaching and alcohol prevention services.

Article based on Go Ask Alice! response to “How can I be responsible while drinking?”

College Students and the Flu: COVID edition

I’m young and healthy. Do I need a flu shot?

Being strong and healthy does not mean an individual will not get the flu. Plus, the flu vaccine not only protects you, but also others you come in contact with including those who are more at-risk (such as young children, elderly adults, and people with a suppressed immune system).  It is also important to help protect people who may not be able to receive the flu shot due to severe allergies or being younger than 6 months of age.

Fall campus scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. December 3, 2019. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

I’m strict about COVID precautions. Won’t that also protect me from the flu? 

The same precautions will protect you from COVID-19 and influenza, but the fact that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in the United States means that not everyone is wearing masks, distancing, and taking the other precautions necessary. Unfortunately, even those who do everything they can may still be at risk for COVID and the flu. 

Getting the flu shot is more important than ever this year. Flu vaccination can help prevent the dreaded “twindemic” of both flu and COVID-19 spreading at the same time. Reducing the risk of flu will help reduce the risk of overwhelming medical resources or catching both at the same time.

Another reason to get your flu shot is that influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms including fever, body aches, dry cough, and fatigue. We hope you don’t, but if you do come down with the shared symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza, wouldn’t you rather know that you’ve had your flu vaccine? Wouldn’t your doctor want to know?

So even if you are doing everything you can to protect yourself from COVID-19, get your flu shot to help reduce the system-wide risk that we’ll face a dual epidemic. And do it for your own peace of mind, in case you’re unlucky enough to come down with a fever and body aches sometime this season.

Does the flu shot cause the flu? 

Nope. Think of it this way: if I show you a few doors, radiator, some tires, wheels, leather bucket seats, windshield and tail lights – you will recognize this as a car, but that car is nonfunctional. It doesn’t possess all of its parts, it’s not put together and will not be able to run you over; this is the same way the flu vaccine works. The vaccine presents your immune system non-functional pieces of a flu virus so that your body can recognize it and help plan a defense against it should an infection with the full-functioning, attacking virus occur.

Some people may feel ill after getting the flu shot. Mild side effects are common after the flu shot – low grade fever, sore arm, headaches, and muscle aches. The flu vaccine also takes some time to be effective (up to 2 weeks). If you were exposed to the flu before the vaccine kicked in or you encountered another virus, you can get the ill. Flu vaccines only protect against the specific strains of influenza included in the vaccine.

Does getting the flu shot completely protect me from getting the flu?

Flu vaccines are about 40-60% effective, depending on the year and how well the vaccine matches the strains of influenza circulating in a community. Even though it’s not perfect, it is still really important to get the flu vaccine because even if you do happen to get the flu after getting the flu shot, your illness should be milder and for a shorter duration than if you neglected to receive the flu shot at all.

If I’m allergic to eggs, can I still get the flu shot? 

Yup! Even if you have a severe egg allergy, you can get a flu vaccine. However – most available flu vaccines are made by propagating the virus in eggs and may contain very small amounts of egg proteins. People who have mild symptoms (like hives) when they eat eggs can get any flu vaccine appropriate for their age and health. People who have severe symptoms of egg allergy can get a vaccine made without eggs or they can get a vaccine in a medical setting where the healthcare team monitors for symptoms of allergy and be ready to treat if there is a reaction.

When and where can I get vaccinated?

The best time to get your flu shot is right now: late September to early October.

Flu shots are available outside of Campus Health at the loading dock from 1-5pm Mon-Friday and during open hours at Student Stores Pharmacy (M-F 9-5, Sat 11-3). No appointment needed! Living elsewhere? Find vaccines near you.

Count it!

Wherever you get vaccinated, count it for UNC to win a three-peat national championship in flu vaccines at go.unc.edu/flushot.  

Poems Speaking to CAPS Staff During Quarantine


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.

Langston Hughes
Credit: NPG Winold Reiss c. 1925
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of W. Tjark Reiss, in memory of his father, Winold Reis

Poems Speaking to Staff Members

Leslie Montana

“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.”

What if…?

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
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?

© Poems of Earth and Spirit by Kai Siedenburg

Joe Murray

“The visual is powerful. Sometimes we feels small but our place in this world is no more & no less than any other. To quote Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” For me it is a call to simple acts of kindness, selflessness, & compassion.”

Song of Myself

By Walt Whitman

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars

© Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass (: Norton, 1973)

Mirella Flores

“There is something about short poetry that I really like. I think Rupi Kaur does a wonderful job saying so much with little words. I also love her use of images to add to the poem. I love this poem so much that I often include it in my bio at counseling centers (its on my UNC bio). What I love about this poem is how it captures pain and validates it while simultaneously allowing flowers to grow up it. It also reminds me how to hurt is beautiful because it means we have loved, and that is a gift.”

but what is stronger
than the human heart
which shatters over and over
and lives

- rupi kaur

© Kaur, Rupi (2017), the sun and her flowers

Dave DeVito

“This is one of my favorite Dylan tunes (I know, technically not a poem, but he’s my poet.) I was surprised to see that Joan Baez actually wrote it (I guess she’s my poet too.) Anyway, for me the poem defies the typical youth-worshiping sentiments that consumerism projects and recruits us into. Instead, the words suggest that youth is about energy and commitment, something we can demonstrate and access for years beyond our teens and 20’s.”

Forever Young

By Bob Dylan

May God bless and keep you always.
May your wishes all come true.
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay
Forever young.

May you grow up to be rightous.
May you grow up to be true.
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you.

May you always be courageous,
Stand upright, and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young.

May your hands always be busy.
May your feet always be swift.
May you have a strong foundation
When the winter changes shift.

May your heart always be joyful.
May your song always be sung
And may you stay
Forever young.

© Bob Dylan (1974)

Sara Stahlman

“Nikita Gill’s Fierce Fairy Tales twists traditional fairy tales with feminist ideology. Upon the cover are the words: “Await no princes to save you through their lips touching yours whilst you are in unwilling slumber. Wake each other up instead.” The book touches on the stories that many of us watched on Disney movies and heard at bedtime. Gill gives them new moral imperatives, gleaned from the lessons we all learn as we move through the patriarchal world. I loved every poem in this book! I share with you the one below for both its brevity and wisdom.”

Four Spells to Keep Inside Your Mouth

by Nikita Gill

‘I respect myself’ – the most powerful incantation that will change your whole life if you believe it when you say it.

‘My heart is too valuable for you’ – the spell that will set you free from any destructive soul.

‘I believe in you.’ – the best gift you can ever give anyone else.

‘No’—a single, commanding, two-letter spell with the ability to liberate you if only you learn to use it unapologetically and cast it without fear.

© Gill, Nikita (2018) Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul

Ché Wells

“I love this poem because it is titled Don’t Quit! which is an important stance to carry through all life experiences. The title Don’t Quit can be used through life experiences and said as a mental reminder for yourself or shared aloud as a mental reminder for others. This poem talks about the beauty in trails that seem like failure but reminds us all Don’t Quit. This poem reminds us its ok not to be 100% just as long as we remember Don’t Quit. 

My second submission is a just cause I wanted to be extra and thrive. I love this because I think its important that we always try to thrive when we do things in life. We also have better outcomes if we do it with passion, compassion, humor, and our own unique tailor made style. Through these times of uncertainty we should thrive by depending on and what we all have inside of us.” 

“Don’t Quit.”

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

– Author Unknown

Wendy Kadens

One of my clear favorites is The Guest House, by Rumi. Especially during the Pandemic and isolation, the need to make space for, even welcome, the full range of emotions and experiences speaks to me. Rumi captures so much of what real mental health is, tolerating, leaning into, welcoming everything with the knowledge that nothing is permanent. When he speaks to these phenomena as “a guide from beyond” I also see it as “a guide from within.”

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

©Rumi (2004), The Essential Rumi HarperOne 

Elizabeth McIntyre

I like this poem because I really enjoy the connection to nature; the reflection on grief as an evolving process, as it sometimes feels never ending; and the sentiment that we are forever changed by those we love and lose.”

When Great Trees Fall

By Maya Angelou 

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

© 2015 by The Estate of Maya Angelou
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. 

1877 Winslow Homer “The New Novel”

Allen O’Barr

“I like this one because it reminds me that we are beings of the earth and the sky. That we are physical form and spirit together.  Like a fortune I once got in a cookie:  you are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

Dirt and stars

Is it reasonable at this time in the universe to blend the dirt with the stars?

If it is, what does it take?

In what seems to be a chaotic and unsafe world,

A time of dichotomous reality that pulls us into factions

A reality of scarcity where peaceful coexistence seems less probable

A reality forged in many ways by what we are told is and is not possible

A reality in which, until recently, silence seems to be less frequent

How do we even think about the dirt and the stars?

Its fast but its not all fast

This is a choice

Its loud but its not all loud

This is a choice

Its scary…but its exquisitely beautiful and painful

And alive

It’s a choice to be alive

So dig deep and look up and let it flow.

But I am so anxious

Because I am so afraid

Because I am so tired

And they tell me, 

I tell myself

That its not possible

That its not even real

And I am so tired

And scared

So I go under the covers, sealing the edges with the flat surfaces of my body

And I hide

And its dark

And stagnant 

And hot

So I throw off the covers and breathe in the fresh cool air

See myself as I am, knowing that “the covers” is not a lasting choice

Restless I get up and choose to stand

Choose to walk outside

Choose to put my hands in the dirt

Choose to look up and try to believe

That magic is real and that I am part of it

And that even if I am delusional

That I choose love over fear

And blend

– Author unknown

Malini Basdeo

I love this poem because fostering self-love and acceptance can be difficult and tiring at times, but putting in the hard work can lead to beautiful results.”

i went for my words
the i can'ts. the i won'ts. the i'm not good enoughs. i lined them up and shot them dead
and then i went for my thoughts
invisible and everywhere
there was no time to gather them one by one
I had to wash them out
I wove a linen cloth out of my hair
soaked it in a bowl of mint and lemon water
carried it in my mouth as i climbed
up my braid to the back of my head
down on my knees i began to wipe my mind clean
it took twenty-one days
my knees bruised buth
i did not care
i was not given the breath
in my lungs to choke it out
i would scrub the self-hate off the bone
till it exposed love

self-love - rupi kaur

women on her hands and knees with a cloth appears to be washing a floor of tacks

© Kaur, Rupi (2017), the sun and her flowers

Anthony Teasdale

“I love it because I have always read it as being about the choices we have in life, that we often make the best decision we can in a moment with the information (including our instinct/gut) available to us at the time, and that both roads hold possibilities and we give up something making a choice, but we also gain something.   It is hard to know what that something (or somethings) will be until time passes.  It is best to make the choice and move forward along the road to experience life in that choice instead of staying stuck at the fork/divergence in the road because of fear of making the wrong choice.  This means more to me now as a therapist. People often stay stuck because of fear, because they want to know EXACTLY what is on the path and want a guaranteed outcome.  But we often can only know that in life by living it, and we often get beautiful things we didn’t expect from the choice, and we get NOTHING out of staying stuck at the fork in the road.”

The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Kyle Alexander

“Month after month of quarantining during this pandemic make the past and the future feel entrancing. It’s easy to live in these spaces and ruminate, especially as our orientation to time during COVID-19 feels unstable. This poem by Ross Gay reminded me of the importance of trying to anchor yourself to the present, and the beauty and peace that brings.”

Sorrow Is Not My Name


—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No

matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.

There is a time for everything. Look,

just this morning a vulture

nodded his red, grizzled head at me,

and I looked at him, admiring

the sickle of his beak.

Then the wind kicked up, and,

after arranging that good suit of feathers

he up and took off.

Just like that. And to boot,

there are, on this planet alone, something like two

million naturally occurring sweet things,

some with names so generous as to kick

the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,

stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks

at the market. Think of that. The long night,

the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me

on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.

But look; my niece is running through a field

calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel

and at the end of my block is a basketball court.

I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

      —for Walter Aikens

Ross Gay, “Sorrow Is Not My Name” from Bringing the Shovel Down.  Copyright © 2011 by Ross Gay. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. 

Other Staff Submissions

“My favorite poem is Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. It’s my favorite poem because it is super inspirational! This poem was an English project when I was in middle school, and throughout the years, it has still stuck with me. It has always been motivation for me to stay persistent even through difficult situations.”

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

©Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son” from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

Dance, when you’re broken open

by Rumi

Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance in your blood.

Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

©Rumi (2004), The Essential Rumi HarperOne 


by Pauli Murray

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

© Dark Testament and Other Poems Pauli Murray, 1970


Written and compiled by Kyle Alexander, B.S., M.S.W., L.C.S.W., (He/Him) a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at UNC CAPS.

I’m a UNC student and I’m struggling. Where can I find support at UNC?

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

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

“I need support with food, housing, or internet.”

Searching for Self- Compassion?

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.

How to Be Kinder to Yourself - Mindful

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:

Meditation: Self Compassion Break

Healing Music to Enhance Self Love

Self- Compassion 101

Ted Talk “The space between self-esteem and self-compassion”:

3 Minute Stress Resets

We are in the midst of a marathon of emotions.

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.

Cool Off

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.

Anchor Yourself

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.

Music Medicine

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).

Intense Exercise

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.

This blog was based on the NY Times article 5 Minute Coronavirus Stress Resets

How to Live with Roommates…and COVID-19

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. If you can’t wash your mask after each use, use a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide to mist it and let it dry before reusing.


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.

When someone in your home gets sick

Students should contact Campus Health if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 that cannot be attributed to other causes such as allergies. Campus Health can be reached through the healthyheels.unc.edu Patient Portal or by calling 919-966-2281.

People with symptoms should…

  • 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 covidcareforstudents@unc.edu 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.

Biking Safely around UNC

Gaby Behailu, a Healthy Heels communication intern, shows off Tar Heel Bikes in SASB Plaza.
Gaby Behailu, a Healthy Heels communication intern, shows off Tar Heel Bikes in SASB Plaza.

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.

Plan ahead.

Seek local maps of bike lanes or paths. Plan a route with as much time in bike lanes or traffic calmed roads.

Stay aware.

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.

Use alerts.

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.

A message from UNC CAPS

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.

With love and solidarity.

Media Literacy & Wellbeing

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!