Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned.
Remember to prioritize your financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own finances. How much do you have to spend? How much do you need to save? What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?
Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!
Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
Try DIY or repurposed gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are some DIY gift ideas.
Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less.
Be careful with credit card purchases. Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.
The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!
You’ve been dealing with stress lately. It’s the end of the semester. Final exams, papers, grading, holidays, relationships – all of these are complicated and cause stress. Emotions are more than just a momentary feeling – they are a biological process with a beginning, middle, and end.
A complete stress cycle – that is from beginning, to middle, to end – would look something like this:
Your body senses danger, Let’s pretend you’re walking in the woods and come across an angry lion. It’s coming right for you.
Your body responds to help you survive. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate go up. Your immune system, reproductive system and digestive systems get suppressed to focus on survival. Let’s imagine you run and find a safe place where you close the door on this scary lion. The lion scratches a few times and then wanders away.
You survive. You feel grateful to be alive. Your systems come back online and your heart/breathing slow back to normal.
In order for your body to feel safe after stress, you have to complete the stress response cycle.
Today’s stressors usually aren’t lions. They are papers, exams, traffic, relationships, systems of oppression. Some of these we can’t run away from and aren’t going away anytime soon, making it difficult to complete the full stress response cycle. If you get stuck in the stress response cycle, where your body never realizes that you’ve survived the stressor and are safe, you may begin to start seeing the negative impacts of stress.
The behaviors that manage stress in our body and complete the stress response cycle are not the same as those that deal with the solutions to the stressors.
Which is good news because we don’t need to wait for stressors to be over in order to feel better.
And it’s bad news because even if you manage a stressor (like completing your last exam of the semester or having a difficult conversation at last), you haven’t necessarily dealt with the stress itself.
Deal with the stress.
Separate the stress from the stressor.
Take a break from whatever is causing you stress and focus on the stress – that is, the physical and emotional feelings that exist in your body.
Turn towards the stress with kindness and compassion.
Imagine the scene with Moana and Te Ka, the lava monster (spoiler alert!). Walk towards your stress – in this metaphor, stress is the lava monster and you are Moana – calmly, gently, possibly singing “This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Use the video if a visual helps.
Complete the stress cycle with any of the following evidence-based, self-care strategies:
Physical activity. Moving your body is the most efficient way to communicate to your body that you have moved out of an unsafe place to a safe place. You could take a walk off campus after you finish an exam to help your body realize it’s safe now. You could experience evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help your body relax at the end of the day. You could go for a bike ride in the countryside. Remember that the goal of physical activity as self-care is to help your body recognize that you’ve moved to a safe place. We realize that for some people physical activity can be a source of stress. If you’re the only person of color in your pilates class, going to that class can be stressful. If you’re gender fluid, going to a gym and daring to use a locker room can actually be dangerous. If you go outside and walk you might get harassed or cat-called. So “exercise reduces stress” doesn’t quite cover how complicated it is. Thankfully – there are 3 other strategies you can use!
Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t have to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates stress. Your imagination can also complete a stress response cycle. Visualize yourself as a B.A. monster crushing the place where you feel most stressed. Watch a movie or read a book that takes you through a hero’s journey and feel the complete cycle with the character. Use the power of your mind to feel that the danger has passed.
Creative self-expression. Take your feelings and put them into art. Make a physical object or story representing how you feel. Stream-of-consciousness writing can help get the feelings that you’re having on paper which helps move through them. Going dancing with friends uses 3 of the 4 self-care strategies listed here. Find ways to express yourself that work for you and help your body feel safe and connected.
Connection. Humans are built for connection and even positive superficial interactions help. Complimenting your server on their jewelry is all that it takes! These interactions clue your brain into knowing that it’s safe again. If you want to go deeper, try a 20-second hug with someone you really like and trust. When you can hold your body against someone else’s body for that long, eventually your chemistry switches. Your body remembers that you have someone who likes and trusts you enough to hold onto you for 20 whole seconds. And, we realize that people can cause stress. Other ways to connect include connecting with nature or the divine. Some people feel safe and held in nature. Some people experience their spirituality as a relationship with the divine and loving paternal, maternal or familial relationship where they can come home and feel safe. Find connection that makes you feel safe and held in whatever way works for you.
You deserve to feel safe and connected. Take the time to complete your stress cycle.
Adapted from https://youtu.be/BOaCn9nptN8, the research from Emily and Amelia Nagoski by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator.
Africa image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
Studying image by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Moana image screenshot from Disney
Jumprope, piano painting, cube painting and quad hangout images by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
It’s normal to feel awkward, lost, confused, homesick, lonely (along with so many other emotions!) when you’re in college. This fall semester especially is a huge adjustment. We have been living in isolation so long it may be even harder than usual to start or re-start a social life. Lots of students are struggling to feel connected on campus this semester – whether they admit it to you or not. Here are some tips from students like you that helped them adjust and make students feel a bit more connected to campus.
You aren’t alone. Lots of people feel the same way as you, even if they aren’t talking about it. You are not the only one who is having a difficult time. This is a transition for everyone and it can be overwhelming.
Keep your door open. Whether your residence hall room door, your office door, your carrel – the “window” to the rest of the world leaves space for some interactions that might not otherwise happen.
Find a space on campus that you enjoy. This could be a tree to study under, a favorite spot in the library, the Union, or an office on campus, such as the LGBTQ Center or Women’s Center.
Talk to people in your classes. Did someone ask a thought-provoking question in the discussion? Tell them so—it can lead to a great conversation that you can continue over lunch or coffee. Also, forming study groups is a great way to get to know people while also helping each other.
Join a club or organization. Getting involved is one of the best ways to meet people. In addition to being a place of higher education, college is also an ideal time to try something new or connect with people who have similar interests. Check out a sport, service or political organization, or a religious or cultural group on campus. Joining a club or organization gives you an opportunity to meet friends who have similar interests, and for many clubs you can join at any point throughout the year. HeelLife.unc.edu is one spot to explore.
Know your resources. There are lots of people on campus who want to help you adjust and who understand it can be rough. The Learning Center is a great place to visit to talk about adjusting to the college workload and college-level writing. CAPS can be a great resource to talk out how you are feeling, especially if these feelings persist. Several peer and affinity-based support organizations exist to help you feel less alone that you can look for in the Mental Health Hub. All of these resources are covered under student fees, so it costs you nothing but a bit of time to take advantage of them!
This has been such a difficult weekend, few weeks, semester, few years. Death in our community is tragic, and when connected with the many challenges being experienced this semester, it’s no wonder that things may feel a bit heavy or overwhelming.
Give yourself time and space to fully experience whatever feelings are coming up for you. Explore your own feelings without feeling pressure to perform them for others.
Connect with people – from neighbors to loved ones to mental health professionals. Lean on people around you to help work through the stages of grief however they show up for you.
Ease up on the demands you place on yourself this week.
Support others, if you can
Send that message / make that call. Start by reaching out to the people around you who may be struggling. Just a simple, “How are you doing, really?” is perfect.
Focus on asking open-ended questions.
Give time and space for the answers. “I’ve got lots of time and am fine talking with you about this,” is a great way to show you’re ready to listen if that’s true for you. Refer to resources when appropriate.
Engage in meaningful activities. There are many opportunities to provide support or process with fellow students, and we’ll do our best to share those in our Instagram stories and Twitter feed. There is healing in solidarity.
If you’re a TA, do what you can to support your students.
Be flexible. Excuse students from assignments if appropriate, give extensions, change class routines, etc. These are all not only permissible but encouraged to help all our students in these difficult times
Be explicit about your support. In an email or during class, make clear your concern for your students and your availability to talk or meet with them, e.g., “please feel free to contact me personally or by email or to respond to all if you have thoughts or feelings you would like to share. This is a hard time and we need to be there for each other.”
You are enough, just as you are.
The staff at UNC Healthy Heels are committed to systemic changes to support the health and wellbeing of UNC students and work collaboratively with stakeholders throughout UNC and the community towards that goal.There is much work to be done. Join us in our efforts by getting involved in ways that fit your needs.
Comfort – Remember, the best mask is the one you’ll wear. So find one that is comfortable.
Fit – the mask should fit tightly over your nose and chin with no gaps. A bendable nose bridge is important for ensuring a good fit.
Filtration – the mask should have 2 or more layers of material. Certain materials, such as those in surgical masks, are designed to remove small particles by making particles collide with and stick to the fibers of the material.
Amp up your mask game!
Any cloth or surgical mask is better than no mask.
Double mask with an ASTM-certified surgical mask and a tight-fitting cloth mask. A surgical mask is an excellent filter, but by itself fits poorly and leaks. The cloth mask or fitter is intended to improve the fit of the surgical mask.
Or use an ASTM-certified surgical mask with a fitter to seal the mask to the face.
A tight-fitting cloth mask with a high-quality filter.
Organize Yourself. Take better control of the way you’re spending your time and energy so you can handle stress more effectively. There are loads of tips and tricks online, or you can visit the Learning Center and talk with an academic coach to get tips especially for you.
Control Your Environment by controlling who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself. Consider the people and places around you that give you joy as well as those that are a vortex of negativity or a force for good. Choose your people wisely!
Extend compassion to yourself when things get hard or when you mess up. Know that you deserve compassion just like you would show a friend. Everyone goes through difficult times and challenges. You are not alone.
Reward yourself by planning leisure activities into your life. It really helps to have something to look forward to. What are the activities that make you feel refreshed? Plan one for your next break!
Move your body – your health and productivity depend upon its ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Exercise your heart and lungs regularly. Move your body a minimum of three days per week for 15-30 minutes. This includes such activities as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc. We have a whole article dedicated to ideas to incorporate more movement into your life.
Relax by taking your mind off your stress and concentrating on breathing and positive thoughts. Sleep, meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, listening to relaxing music, communicating with friends and loved ones, etc.
Rest as regularly as possible. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Take study breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time. It needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.
Be Aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders (i.e., ulcers, hypertension, heart disease), and at the very least are markers that you might be overdoing things.
Fuel yourself.Eat a balanced diet. Avoid depending on drugs and alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also often makes it harder to concentrate. Your body responds to what you put in it – so be mindful of how you feed yourself.
Enjoy yourself. It has been shown that happier people tend to live longer, have less physical problems, and are more productive. Look for the humor in life when things don’t make sense. Remember, you are unique and deserve the best treatment from yourself.
What ideas do you use to support your stress management? Leave us a comment below!
This article was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS. She uses nature and play to manage her stress – usually at the same time.
We know pandemic protocols have become complicated, and we also know y’all have a lot of questions. Here’s an overview of the Contact Tracing process, guidelines for close contacts, and links to the quarantine and isolation guidance.
Contact Tracing Process
POSITIVE TEST: It all starts when someone tests positive for COVID-19.
CONTACT TRACING INITIAL CONVERSATION: Contact tracers reach out to the person who tested positive to determine who in their circle was a potential close contact. The positive person’s name and information remains confidential.
WHO COUNTS AS A CLOSE CONTACT? A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes cumulative time, regardless of whether a face mask was worn by either party. If you are not contacted or if a positive case is not in your household, then you are not identified as a close contact. For example, people who are at least six feet apart in a classroom or group setting will typically not be considered a close contact.
OUTREACH TO CLOSE CONTACTS: The contact tracing team will reach out to individuals who are potential close contacts and advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation.
Next steps: General Guidelines for Close Contacts
Remember, contact tracers will advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation. Here is general guidance:
Aysmptomatic close contacts can be tested at the Carolina Together Testing Program based on the timing in the chart above.
Any symptomatic close contacts should be tested at Campus Health as soon as symptoms arise.
If you test positive, notify Campus Health and follow isolation instructions.
As a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community, you are required to comply with the COVID-19 Community Standards which include reporting a positive test, participating in COVID-19 contact tracing, and taking appropriate follow-up steps as directed by health officials such as entering quarantine or isolation or taking a COVID-19 test.
Exercise Is Medicine is a program at UNC Chapel Hill promoting physical activity as a vital sign of health. EIM encourages faculty, staff and students to work together toward improving the health and well-being of the campus community by:
Making movement a part of the daily campus culture
Assessing physical activity at every student health visit
Providing students the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime
Connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription
Sleep is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy body and mind. As a college student, you have lots of things that can work against you when it comes to getting the sleep you need (academic commitments, busy schedules, late night meetings, roommates and stress, just to name a few). The consequences of poor sleep can be major. Did you know people who have poor sleep have poor attention, decreased memory retention, increased likelihood of getting sick and increased likelihood of having an accident? Fortunately, we have some simple, easy to follow suggestions that will have you catching Zzz’s in no time.
You may have heard this term before. Sleep Hygiene are the basic strategies we should all be following to give ourselves the best chance at getting a good night’s sleep. Read through this list and see if there are any ways you could make some changes to improve these sleep promoting behaviors.
Limit Caffeine: No more than 3 cups per day. No caffeine in the late afternoon or evening hours (at least 4-6 hours before bed).
Limit Alcohol: May help you fall asleep at first but can lead to sleep disruption and make sleep less restful.
Exercise Regularly but not Close to Bedtime: Regular moderate exercise can improve quality of sleep.
Try a Light Bedtime Snack such as Milk, Peanut Butter, or Cheese: These foods contain chemicals your body uses to produce sleep and can make you drowsy. Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
Keep Your Bedroom Quiet and Dark: Noise and light can disrupt sleep; try white-noise machines or ear plugs to screen sounds if noise is unavoidable. Use eye masks if light is unavoidable.
Keep your Bedroom Cool: Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can disrupt sleep.
Other Sleep Improvement Guidelines
While Sleep Hygiene strategies are a necessary foundation for quality sleep, they are unfortunately not sufficient. Here are some additional tips for improving and maintaining good sleep habits.
Select a Standard Rising Time: Set the time and stick to it every day, regardless of how much sleep you get each night. This will create a stable sleep pattern.
Use the Bed Only for Sleep and Sex: Do not read, watch TV, eat, study, use the phone or computer, or do other things that require you to be awake. These activities unintentionally train your brain to be awake in bed.
Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep: Never stay in bed for extended periods of time without being asleep; this will increased frustration and worry about not sleeping and make it harder to sleep. It also creates a negative association with your bed/sleep time. If you are awake for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed no matter the time of night. Leave your room if you are able. Engage in relaxing, non-stimulating activities and don’t return to bed until you are ready to sleep.
Don’t Worry, Plan or Problem-Solve in Bed: If your mind is racing, get out of bed and go to another room until you are able to return to bed without the worry. Consider setting aside time earlier in the night to worry so it’s less likely to follow you to bed.
Avoid Daytime Napping: Napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
Avoid Excessive Time in Bed: Go to bed when you are sleepy but don’t go to bed so early that you spend more time in bed than you need; this can make sleep worse. Determine how much time you “need” for sleep and stick to it.
Pretty much every movie about college plays on the stereotypical party scenes. Do those kinds of parties happen sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of college students choose not to drink or be high most of the time.
Don’t believe us? Here are some selected stats from UNC’s National College Health Assessment. This is a survey done by campuses throughout the country to learn about health trends. These numbers are from UNC only.
38% of students report NO use of alcohol in the past two weeks.
89% of students report no use of marijuana in the past two weeks.
96% of students report no use of other drugs in the past 3 months.
But numbers are numbers. Experiences matter too – and in my experience (I got my undergrad degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, a top party school then and now), I knew no person who was drunk or high all the time. We all were sober at least sometimes – some of us more than others.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Own your choices (and it’s ok to keep a drink in your hand).
Most advice on staying sober at parties begins with how to hide that you are sober. “Keep a drink in your hand,” or “drink club soda with a twist and say it’s a vodka tonic,” are advice often given to those who aren’t drinking. Adhering to these suggestions lets you exist among less-than-discerning drunks without them noticing your lack of intoxication. But it also facilitates the false narrative that everyone is drinking – and the only way to have fun is to drink.
Pretending to drink can be an easier entry into the world of partying sober, so if you are feeling uncomfortable without something in your hand, by all means, get yourself a non-alcoholic beverage.
But, if the folks you’re hanging out with are uncomfortable with you being sober, that’s on them. Show the world that you can still have fun sober! Talk about why you are making the decision – whether it’s for tonight or forever. “I’m training for a marathon,” “I don’t like losing control,” “I find that I enjoy myself more when I’m sober,” “I am in recovery,” or “I just don’t drink/use” – whatever your reason is, own it. There’s no shame in that choice – again, EVERYONE chooses to be sober sometimes.
2. Find your people.
My friends are the kind of people who (regardless of sobriety) wear costumes, storm empty dance floors and sing while biking home. I have self-conscious friends too, but I always gravitated towards those folks who could be publicly silly. Those are my kind of people – who are yours?
I promise there are people at UNC who have ideas similar to yours about what makes for fun and connection. Notice the students who don’t participate in the all-night beer pong or those who avoid getting high – befriend them. Make some friends through mutual interests like sports or student orgs. People dedicated to training or pursuing an interest likely have less interest in partying.
3. Have fun!
Some of my favorite memories of partying from college came from the anticipation of a party – hanging out in our dorm room, getting dressed, listening to music, and eating dinner together. Get excited for going out even when you’re not using drugs and alcohol. And once you’re at the party, enjoy yourself! The parties I went to sober often included plenty of folks who were not sober, which meant that the main thing holding me back from being my outgoing, silly self was me. I soon realized I could be sober and have a great time. Really.
4. Do things besides party.
When I do party, I usually play games or dance. Standing around and chatting never held much interest for me. So finding fun ways to interact while sober came naturally to me. Here are some things I did in college besides party:
Concerts. I saw some great bands live – many for free! – while in college.
Break bread. Eating together is the ultimate community-builder. Host a potluck or visit a favorite local restaurant.
Enjoy a live sports game. My friends and I became the loud fans at every home volleyball game. By the end of my time as an undergrad, we knew most of the players and had spent hours of enjoyment cheering on our team (and gently heckling the other teams). We liked volleyball because one voice could be heard throughout the gym – but any sport will do. UNC has an amazing men’s basketball team (duh) AND loads of other amazing D1 and club sports teams who would love for you to become their biggest fans.
Play! I had friends who kept a running tally of their card game scores on the walls in their dining room. We loved playing games together – intramural and pickup sports, board games, cards, charades, sardines (it’s like reverse hide and seek! And super fun to play in public spaces). Create or find opportunities for the activities you find fun without substances and encourage others to do them with you!
Host parties that revolve around doing something besides drinking or getting high. Schedule a mystery night, plan party games that require skill and critical thinking, show movies, run a book club, hold a cooking competition, etc. When people are focused on an actual activity rather than simply gathering, there is often a lot less pressure to drink and a lot more pressure to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Remember, we all came to college with a goal in mind. Keep your eyes on the prize! For more information around alcohol decisions visit alcohol.unc.edu.