Benefits of being thankful are nearly endless. Research suggests that taking time to reflect and notice the things we are thankful for means we experience more positive feelings, sleep better, express more kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Some ideas to inspire and refresh your gratitude practice:
Keep a gratitude journal: Regularly write about the moment for which you’re thankful, ideally noticing new things each day. Be specific. Instead of “I’m grateful for my roommates,” write “Today, my roommate cooked me dinner because they knew I was stressed.”
Recognize and plan for obstacles: Yes, gratitude will help you, and yes, reflecting on it each day will be difficult. What might get in your way? If you tend to be exhausted by the end of the day, do your gratitude practice in the a.m.
Mix it up: Bored with journaling? Make a gratitude jar instead. Write gratitude postcards. Share your gratitude around the dinner table. Go on a gratitude walk, observing things around you as you walk. Make a gratitude collage – take pictures of things you’re grateful for and create a collage with them.
The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and so are the holidays! There will be more to do these next few weeks. Help yourself by creating a plan.
Look ahead and evaluate. Take a look at your upcoming calendar, your class assignments, your holiday plans, and ideal gift recipients. Evaluate and clarify priorities.
Make a To-Do List. Based on those priorities, write down what you need to do. Focus on one task at a time – as you are only ONE person.
Practice Financial Wellness. Consider your budget for November and December.The end of the year is often one of the most challenging times to stay financially well with the strain of travel costs, winter break plans, celebrations with friends, and celebratory gifts. Be realistic with what you can afford to spend. What are your personal short term and long term financial goals? How does your spending fit into this? Learn more about tips for financial wellness through UNC’s Student Wellness office.
Monitor your emotions. Upcoming deadlines and planning for the end of year can serve as a recipe for an emotional storm. Managing and planning for assignments, events, and job schedules may prove useful to prevent this from happening. Try giving yourself grace during this time frame. If things get too hard, take a deep breath, step back and then try again. Managing your emotions can help you stay on track with the plan you created.
This can be a busy time of the year as you grind to wrap up the semester and prepare to spend time with family and friends. Make it easier for yourself by planning out what you can.
No matter how stressful or distracted things may get, delights are all around us. Simple joys are what make life worth living! And as we practice noticing those moments, we might start to see them everywhere. Things like…
Laughing until you cry
Riding the bus, thinking about all the people around you
An old, comfy chair
When someone remembers what you told them and asks you about it later
Catching a falling leaf
A tight, love-filled hug
Fixing something for someone
Putting a picture of family into a frame and setting it up where you can see it
A great workout
Eating your favorite food
Finding something you thought you lost
When the Tar Heels win a big game
A haircut that transforms you a little bit
Setting up your camping gear after many months of not camping
Peeling the foil lid off of a container – so satisfying!
Coming home to pets
Watching someone learn something new
Listening to a song you forgot you love, and then listening to it again
Stretching and moving around – feeling good in your body
Putting on a cozy sweatshirt
Organizing a cluttered space
Finding the perfect word to say exactly what you want to say
Sitting on a porch
Noticing and reflecting on moments that bring you joy and the good feelings they elicit can make a difference in the texture of your day. For more on delight, check out The Book of Delights by Ross Gay or the Happiness Spells podcast.
Our campus and community love celebrating Halloween, so consider getting in on the fun by watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up in a punny costume, or joining one of the activities listed below.
Remember that some Halloween traditions can include risk. Here are some strategies to have a safe and fun Halloween!
WEAR THE RIGHT COSTUME: Pick something that is easy to move and see in, and keeps you comfortable. Avoid cultural appropriation. The general rule of thumb is if your costume is disrespectful towards a culture or ethnic group, or pokes fun at those groups in any way, it’s not a costume you — or anyone — should wear. Never carry fake weapons or items that could appear to be a weapon.
IF YOU DRINK OR USE, BE SMART ABOUT IT: If you choose to use substances, have a plan. Set a limit for yourself ahead of time since it’s hard to know when to stop once you’ve started. Use the buddy system to hold each other accountable. Know how much you consume. Consider bringing your own or making your own so you can better understand how much you’re using. If you drink alcohol, eat a good meal beforehand and drink water throughout. Don’t drive under the influence, and don’t ride with someone who has been drinking or using.
PLAN AHEAD: Be sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for the night and make sure the volume is turned on in case a friend is trying to reach you. Don’t let your phone out of your sight—it could save you in case of an emergency. Decide in advance when you are heading home, and have plans to get home safely.
TRUST YOUR GUT: On Halloween or any other night if something “just doesn’t feel right” trust your instinct. Say something if you feel safe doing so, or take your buddy and leave the situation.
HAVE FUN: Find ways to have an enjoyable, healthy, and safe Halloween week! We have the halloween-y activities noted below with a pumpkin emoji – join some and enjoy!
You’ve navigated all the exams, papers, and other obstacles in your way to arrive at the mid-point of the semester. Take a moment. Reflect on where you are. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now is the time to start thinking about your game plan to finish the semester strong.
Make a schedule or routine.
The last couple of months in the semester can seem like a lot with assignments, projects, and extracurricular activities. Take a minute to consider your priorities, and schedule time for the things that matter the most.
Don’t skip classes.
It can be tempting to skip a class to catch up on something else, or to multitask during virtual classes. Try not to fall into this trap. You will eventually fall behind. Instead take a breath. Examine your schedule. Remember that you are paying for your classes! You can’t “make up” a class. Find time elsewhere if at all possible.
Give yourself a comfortable work space.
You’ve most likely found what works for you in terms of study spaces. If you haven’t or you want to switch up, consider creating a comfortable space that puts you in a good mood. Good Mood = Productivity
Prioritize time and energy.
You are in the phase of the semester where everything demands your attention. You may have competing assignments – like a homework assignment due tomorrow and a paper due the day after that. Although the homework assignment is due first, it may beneficial to spend more time on the paper which is a greater percentage of your grade. Prioritize!
Enjoy the Break
Find ways to inspire joy and rejuvenation during your time off of classes later this week. Taking some time for you will help set yourself up for success the rest of the semester.
Today – 10/10/22 – is World Mental Health Day. There are so many issues that affect our mental health. Many members of campus are collaborating to address environmental and systemic issues that may affect our community’s well-being. One strategy is removing barriers to accessing supportive resources.
Remember there are places to get help if you or a friend need it. The Heels Care Network is your gateway to find that support and get connected.
UNC-Chapel Hill Resources: There are many supports for your mental health and wellbeing – from CAPS to peer support to spaces centering cultural needs or specific mental health issues. Visit the Mental Health Resource Hub to find a resource to support you. If the site feels overwhelming and you want help navigating campus resources, chat into the LSN Peer Support live chat.
Stepping into or returning to campus can be difficult at first. You may often hear about resources to manage your academic life, and navigating coursework is vital to your success. But we often forget about managing our emotions in our day-to-day lives. Some reminders to help yourself:
Connect with others
Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends or family. Your emotional state is less likely to improve or change if you stay isolated and keep thinking about the feelings. Find and lean on your people!
Feel what you feel
Emotions cannot be directly controlled. What you can control is your response and actions to your emotions. What you do – like moving your body and engaging in mindfulness – can improve your emotional state.
Develop empathy for others and yourself
Give yourself a break. College is a time to develop and grow into a better version of yourself. You are going to run into challenges. By learning to recognize the emotions that you and others are feeling, you’ll find yourself more emotionally balanced and your relationships with others will improve.
Strive for transparency in your relationships with others and yourself. The more you try to minimize your emotions, the more challenging in the long run it becomes to deal with them. Make a choice to accept how you and others feel.
Emotions are temporary
Understand that how you feel in the moment will not last forever. Emotions are like clouds – constantly moving and shifting. But if a negative feeling lasts a long time, recognize that you likely need help to resolve it—and that help is available. Learn more about supportive resources at the Heels Care Network.
Humans are creatures of habit, following similar rhythms each day. But changing our rhythms towards health can be difficult! Here are strategies, backed by research, for forming new healthy habits:
Stack Your Habits
Look for patterns in your day and connect new habits with existing ones. For example, while you brush your teeth, you might stand on one foot to practice your balance. Or every day when you get back to your residence after class, start with a healthy snack and mindful moment before you succumb to your work or couch.
Big behavior changes require high motivation that is difficult to sustain. Instead, consider tiny changes to make the new habit as easy as possible.
Do it Every Day
Habits take a long time to create but they form faster when we do them more often. You’re more likely to stick with a habit if you do a small version of it every day rather than big, deep versions of it a few times a week.
Make it Easy
Set yourself up for success by removing friction to your success, or adding friction to the habits you want to avoid. Sleep in your workout clothes to make it easier to wake up and move. Choose a mini-habit that requires minimal equipment. Make the healthy choice the easy choice!
Make it Fun
Try adding habits with fun built in – listen to a good audiobook or podcast while doing your new habit. Do your new activity with someone you adore. Create reward systems that will motivate you.
The recurring well-being days offers UNC-CH’s campus breaks from classes to focus on mental health and overall wellness. For some, these days may add more stress – the typical rhythm of your week is disrupted, you may fear that you’re missing out on fun activities, or you might just not know what to do with the extra time. Use this time for YOU! Some ideas:
Take some time to calm your mind, draw inward, and think deeply about your health and wellbeing. Be honest with yourself – it’s not about how you should feel. Consider what currently is feeding you, creating stress, pushing you past your comfort zone, getting you where you want to go, and connecting you with warm relationships. You could meditate, journal, go for a reflective walk or run – just take time to slow down and focus on your needs.
Do Self Care
Sleep. Go to sleep a bit earlier and wake up when your body is ready.
Eat. Use your extra time today to focus on eating yummy, nutrient-dense foods. Cook yourself (and your friends?) an amazing meal or gather people you adore at a favorite place to eat.
Move Your Body. Spend time doing an activity that you like. Choose something that feels just right for today – you don’t have to push yourself hard, but take the time to do something active that you love.
Relax. Read something for fun. Watch a show you enjoy. Snuggle under a blanket. Do something that lets your body and mind rest and recharge.
Set Up Your Environment for Success
How can you improve the environment of your space today to better support your health and well-being for the rest of the semester?
Bring in more sunlight. Move your workspace as close to the window as possible, strategically place mirrors, pull open curtains during the day.
Remove clutter. Get rid of what no longer serves you and keep things that bring you joy. Start small – pick one drawer to clean out today.
Incorporate your senses. Plants, art, photos of people or places you love, good smells, calming sounds – all of these can help you feel grounded, connected, and less stressed.
Help Someone Else
If you have the capacity for it, a well-being day is also a great time to support the people around you and strategize for broader impact.
Support a friend. Do you know someone who has had a tough time recently? Reach out to them today to check in. Invite them to do something you both enjoy.
Serve others. Choosing to help others also benefits the helper! Volunteering is an act of self-care and offers many benefits for your health including finding a sense of purpose and passion. And of course it also helps an organization or another individual! Seek out service opportunities on your well-being day if you can.
Learn and advocate. Use some of your day learning to be a better mental health supporter and advocate. Visit the Heels Care Network and explore to better understand the mental health resources available and how you can help. Consider connecting with an organization or training to be a better advocate.
The wellbeing day is for YOU to help yourself meet your needs, and if you have the capacity – a great time to help address the well-being of all community members. We are in this together here at Carolina. Thank you for being a part of our community of care!
The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced.
Be calm in the storm
Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind.
6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind
Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
Meditate. You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness.
Give yourself time to worry. Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.
Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.