Cuffing Season: Get cuffed on YOU!

"I Love me ... =P" by as_malih
“I Love me … =P” by as_malih

If you haven’t noticed, Fall is finally upon us and we are beginning to enter into the colder months of the year. During this time of year it is quite common to see people coupling up. Colder months equals people trying to get warm, physically and emotionally. Every year we are bombarded with messages through the media that implies that this is the time of year to spend with your partner in contrast to the summer months where being single is celebrated. This phenomenon is often referred to as “Cuffing Season”, a time of year in which people have the desire to be “cuffed” or “tied down” in a serious relationship.

*Use of the words “cuffed” or “tied down” in this context is problematic not only due to the aggressive undertones but also because it is suggestive of a lack of freedom and or loss of control…We’ll save that for another post.

SO what does this mean if you are not in a relationship?

The emphasis that is placed on intimate relationships during this time of year can often translate into loneliness for those that are not in relationships. For singles during this time of year numerous uncomfortable situations are bound to arise. Such as how to deal with plus one’s for holiday parties and nosey family members prodding into your love life when you finally get the gall to even go to   the holiday party and not to mention sitting through romantic movies where there is always a character that’s trying to make it home to their loved ones before Christmas. Instead of letting these scenarios or “cuffing season” get you down, there is no better time to cultivate self-love and warm your own soul during these colder months. Here are some tips:

Engage in self-reflection: Whether you just got out of a relationship or have been single for a while, now is a good time to reflect upon your feelings towards relationships. Think about what motivates you to want to be in a relationship as well as what keeps you from being in one.

 Learn how to self soothe: Enjoy a hot cup of tea or cocoa. Let your thoughts run wild in a new journal. Take a mindful walk. Discover a new relaxing scent.

Do things you love: Get lost in that novel you’ve been meaning to read, Take a chance on a new recipe. Start a new project…who doesn’t love Pinterest? Get out of your comfort zone and try a winter sport…ice-skating is sort of like roller skating right?

Being “cuffed” to yourself not only cultivates a deeper relationship with yourself but can also be satisfying and increase self-awareness, self-efficacy and confidence. How you choose to spend your time during the colder months is completely up to you, so choose wisely.

Kena Watson is a recent graduate of North Carolina Central University’s Master of Psychology program with a passion for promoting healthy body image and self-esteem in women. Kena’s main line of research interest includes the discourse surrounding the relationship between media consumption, beauty ideals and acculturation among African American women. With a background in mental health Kena also enjoys working with students on issues such as anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. While working in Student Wellness Kena serves as a BASICS facilitator; a program geared at providing a harm reduction approach to alcohol consumption among college students. She enjoys cooking, natural hair care, and yoga during her free time.

Sunscreen. Who needs it anyway?: Sun safety for people of color

(“Splash” by The Eye of Vox, Flickr, Creative Commons)
(“Splash” by The Eye of Vox, Flickr, Creative Commons)

The summer is finally upon us. The closer we get to the end of the summer, the hotter it feels outside. No longer is it in-between jacket weather; it is undeniably sunny summer weather. During this time of year, it is very common to hear phrases like, “Don’t forget your sunscreen.” But what does that sentence mean for a person of color? Growing up as a Black woman, this bit of sun advice was almost always met with skepticism and regarded as sometimes irrelevant due to my beliefs about sun safety and the Black community.

During this time of year it is also common to hear statements like “You’ll be okay” if you don’t remember your sunscreen, or there simply isn’t even a conversation about buying or using sunscreen. Statements like the former or lack thereof are partially due to the myths surrounding this topic, such as the myth that people of color don’t need to use sunscreen or that people of color don’t get sunburned. Actually, the amount of melanin or dark pigmentation in skin serves as an inherent protector against the sun’s rays. However, instead of turning red, darker skinned people tend to turn darker brown.

Below are some fast facts about sun safety and people of color:

                                                                 Risk of Skin Cancer

• African American skin has been found to have an inherent sun protective factor (SPF) of about 13.4 in comparison to 3.4 in white skin. This factor contributes to the fact that skin cancer is diagnosed less often in African Americans, as well as in Asians and Latinos, than in whites. However, when skin cancer is diagnosed in people of color it tends to be within the later stages of skin cancer, which makes mortality rates disproportionately higher.

• Melanoma is often found in places of the skin that are less often exposed and have less pigmentation. For African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians, 60-75 percent of tumors related to melanoma have been found on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.

Risk factors in minorities for melanoma other than the sun include: burn scars, albinism, trauma, preexisting moles, radiation therapy and immunosuppression.

                                                             SPF Recommendations

• The FDA has suggested that brands that promise very high SPF levels such as 50+ have been found to be misleading and the high level of SPF is not necessary.

Vitamin A in sunscreen can lead to development of tumors when in the sun. Instead, look for sunscreens that contain zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl S.

• Choosing an SPF level can be difficult. Darker skin does not require the highest level of SPF. Regardless of skin tone, an SPF of 15 at minimum is suggested, reapplying every 2 hours when in direct sun.

• Be sure to check out the 2015 Guide to Sunscreens for info about different sunscreen brands and sunscreen recommendations for people of color.

So before basking in the sun’s glory, be sure to grab your sunscreen — regardless of your skin tone!

To Post or Not to Post?: Social Media Literacy

(By: Chris Smith, social-media1_ME Flickr: Creative Commons)
(By: Chris Smith, social-media1_ME Flickr: Creative Commons)

Scrolling down social media timelines has become an everyday ritual for most. From photos on Pinterest to posts from friends on Facebook, using social media has become a common way to share our ideas and viewpoints on various topics of interest. However, along with reading life updates from your long distance buddies online, often comes unintended emotional reactions to posts that you see online. Ever find yourself engaging in making body comparisons to a friend or celebrity’s selfie on Instagram, or become so agitated from a Twitter comment that you engage in a back-and-forth only to find yourself even more upset than you were before you read it? These reactions can come with using social media platforms. People are entitled to their opinions and use their social media pages to express them, often– if unintentionally– offending others. Let’s be honest, when’s the last time you seriously critically considered how people would react to your posts? However, it is important to remember that your posts could affect others negatively or positively without your knowledge or intention.

Before the rise of social media, most of us were primarily consumers of commercial and entertainment media, being constantly bombarded by powerful images in magazines, television, and marketing ads. In these cases, media literacy has been successfully used to address and prevent the negative impact that media can have on body image and general sense of self. Becoming media literate is cultivating an ability to critically analyze media and understand how it affects how we think, feel, and behave.

Now we are no longer mere consumers of media — we are also frequent producers of media through social media platforms. With this in mind, it is important to uphold this same critical eye to our own social media platforms and be mindful of how they could be affecting us and others.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when critically analyzing how social media posts impact us:

  • What is the underlying message of the post?
  • Do I like/agree with the post?
  • How is it affecting me emotionally?

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when critically analyzing how our personal social media posts impact others:

  •  What point am I trying to get across with this post?
  • Does my post acknowledge my perspective without putting others down?

Critically analyzing social media posts doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to un-friend or un-follow users because you don’t agree with their messages. Media literacy is aimed at developing your critical thinking skills and empowering you to view media outlets on your own terms. Becoming a critical consumer of social media allows you to effectively foster your social wellness while protecting your emotional wellness.

If you’re interested in learning more about media literacy, be sure to check out Student Wellness’s upcoming workshop, Critical Consumption: Media Literacy and Body Image on Wednesday, March 25th from 4-5:30pm, Room 3411, Union.

Forbidden Fruit: Black Women and Eating Disorders

(“Black Ana on Scale-1969” by Tiffany Gholar, Flickr, Creative Commons)
(“Black Ana on Scale-1969” by Tiffany Gholar, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Typically, when we think about those that suffer from eating disorders the image of young, privileged, white females clouds our minds. This stereotype prevails due to the vast amount of literature and media that reflects Western mainstream thin ideals that are often portrayed by White women. Narratives of how young women of color are supposedly not affected by White beauty ideals and the lack of diversity on informational resources and eating disorder treatment facility web pages help paint the picture that eating disorders for black and brown women simply do not exist.

Many assume that women of color, specifically Black women are immune to developing eating disorders which can lead to these women being overlooked by friends and family and/or misdiagnosed by physicians. Ultimately, this means not getting the help they need, which increases their mortality and morbidity rates.

Biases within the Black community also contribute to the lack of awareness. With the high rate of obesity in the Black community, worried Black parents often communicate with their daughters about the importance of watching their weight, which unfortunately can lead to an obsession with weight for a young Black girl. However, a common assumption is that black women are more accepting of having a larger body type, especially with the rise of hit songs like Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda.

But what happens when a young Black woman does not fit this voluptuous mold?

Body dissatisfaction and using eating as a coping mechanism can develop in response to not fitting into this mold. Women of color that are highly acculturated, or have adopted the beliefs and values of Western culture, have been found to have a greater risk of developing an eating disorder.

For Black women on a predominately White campus, identifying with White standards of beauty may lead to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

Black women are often underrepresented in eating disorder research and often times the signs and symptoms of eating disorders are unknown within the Black community. So, it may seem like Black women affected by the disease aren’t a significant problem when compared to White women. However, Black women have been found to suffer just as much from Binge Eating Disorder as White and Latina women.

Eating disorders are so often suffered in secrecy, so this February while observing National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, let’s keep in mind that one of the biggest kept secrets of this disease is that it does not discriminate against anyone.

If you or someone you know struggles with food and/or body image concerns be sure to check out Nutrition Services, Campus Health and/or CAPS.

Food for your Brain: Finals Edition

(Raskol Mihin, “Always tea makes me feel relax and happy #studying” from Flicker Creative Commons)
(Raskol Mihin, “Always tea makes me feel relax and happy #studying” from Flicker Creative Commons)

Give yourself a pat on the back; you’ve made it to the last week of the semester! But don’t get too cozy, now it’s time to kick it into full gear! With LDOC (last day of classes) approaching, it’s time to start figuring out what your study schedule will look like. Will you be studying with others? By yourself? In your room? The library? There are so many factors to consider, but regardless of where or with whom you choose to study with, be sure to stock up on all of those goodies that will help keep your brain churning!

7 Top Brain foods

  • Avocados- This super food is filled with vitamin B and potassium and is also known to reduce stress levels.
  • Tea- Looking for a way to relax after a long day of studying? Curl up with a hot cup of tea and let it warm your soul!
  • Fatty Fish- The versatility of fish is amazing; it can be eaten with any of your three main meals of the day. It’s high in omega 3’s and also is a known stress reliever.
  • Milk- Remember when you were a little one and milk was your best friend? A warm glass of milk helps reduce stress. There’s no shame in tapping into your little kid side for much needed stress relief!
  • Yogurt- Not only is yogurt yummy with all of the many ways you can dress it up, like with fresh fruits, honey and granola, it’s also high in vitamin D and great for studying on the go.
  • Nuts- Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts…. all of these and more are great for relieving stress during finals. Try throwing some into your yogurt and get the maximum benefit!
  • Dark Chocolate- Who doesn’t like chocolate? Not only is it high in antioxidants but it also improves your mood.

Be sweet to your brain and try incorporating these brain foods into your snack stash while studying for finals, it’ll thank you later! Questions about brain health? Feel free to stop by Nutrition Services at Campus Health.

Read more at Huffington Post here


Cat-calling: It’s NOT a compliment

"20140404-123815"Paul Weaver. Flickr Creative Commons
“20140404-123815″Paul Weaver. Flickr Creative Commons

Ever spent countless hours going from store to store in search of that perfect piece to complete your vision for tonight’s special event? For me, there’s no better feeling than getting all dressed up and seeing the masterpiece in the mirror you’ve hunted high and low for. However, getting all dressed up can be a double-edged sword: the end goal is to feel good about yourself in your attire, however it can also come with seeking validation from others. We typically want someone to notice all of the effort we put into our ensemble, like a simple “You look nice.” We don’t, however, wish to hear something crass, like the sexualized comments we might hear from passersby on the street, otherwise known as cat-calling, or unwanted provocative verbal comments, whistles or gestures usually from men directed towards women.

Oftentimes, beauty ads for products that are meant for women, such as handbags and makeup, are not actually geared towards women. Instead, they are geared towards what heterosexual men find attractive with the assumption that heterosexual women will want to buy these items to attract men. We all subconsciously gain our social cues from ads like these, including men, who may take cues on how men relate to women. Unfortunately, mass media often portrays women as sexualized objects for viewing pleasure, negatively affecting how men may choose to communicate with women in their daily lives. Ironically the term “cat-calling” is blatantly reflective of women being viewed as sex objects; a kitten or cat in this case. Using this perspective, it becomes possible to see how cat-calls can become a part of our social interactions. Not only do unwanted comments about one’s body have an impact on how you view others, it also can shape how you view yourself. These types of comments can impact your emotional wellbeing in terms of developing a negative sense of self or deflated body-image.

So what can we do?

  • Become a critical consumer of media. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the viral video of a woman’s perspective on being cat-called, and even more responses to this video. It is so important to actively engage in analyzing how media affects us emotionally and socially to start a dialogue and raise awareness. Click here for more info on becoming a critical media consumer.
  • “KIC and KIM”: “Keep it Cordial and Keep it Moving.” Like the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” And if you feel like what you have to say may make someone feel threatened or unsafe—or if you wouldn’t want someone saying that thing to your friend/partner/relative—don’t say it either.
  • Sometimes cat-calling can lead to seriously unwanted attention that can become dangerous—for example, stalking, harassment and/or sexual violence. If you or someone you know has experienced this, the Women’s Center and CAPS can offer support.

Stop the Stigma: Mental Health Depictions in the Movies

scary hand
photo Scary Movie 5 – in theaters next spring! by M Rasoulov from flickrcreativecommons

Fall is my favorite time of year; the leaves begin to fall, the weather gets a little cooler, and the aroma of spiced coffees and teas fills the air. And you can’t forget about all of the scary suspense-filled movies that start to take over your television screen. In light of mental health awareness week, as well as practicing being a more critical consumer of media, I think it’s worth exploring the stigma surrounding mental illness that is often carried out in some of our favorite movies.

Oftentimes in suspense or horror movies the villain is seen as an antagonist, a violent, evil genius with mental illness that is rampant beyond the help of doctors. In contrast, protagonists are seldom portrayed as having some sort of mental illness. A great example of this is demonstrated in the movie American Psycho. The main character, Patrick Bateman, is glamorously portrayed as a wealthy, standoffish killer suspected to have antisocial personality disorder and possibly dissociative identity disorder, while all of the other characters are depicted as “normal” friends and coworkers. This discrepancy between Bateman’s character and the other characters within the movie highlights the “them vs. us” mentality that is often associated with persons with mental illnesses.

In order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, education and awareness must be raised. When something is unknown it is easy to be fearful of it and project that fear onto the unknown entity. While movies that depict characters living with mental illness may be entertaining to watch, it is important to understand how this can have unintended effects on those who deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

With this in mind, here some things to keep in mind to reduce stigma:

  • Treat someone as a person, not a label

Treat people as individuals rather than the labels that society places on everyone. Continuing to utilize labels further repeats the cycle of stigma.

  • Use “person first” language

Instead of saying “that bipolar guy in class”, when referring to someone, use wording such as “the guy in class who has bipolar disorder”. People are not their diagnoses. They just happen to have a diagnosis.

  • Avoid using harmful words

Words such as “crazy” and “psycho” are not only hurtful, but also disrespectful.

  • Be sure to check out Stigma Free Carolina for more information about how you can get involved in reducing stigma on campus!

Find more information on how to reduce stigma here:

A Body in Motion

Photo from Flickr
Photo from Flickr

A body in motion tends to stay in motion.  This is a quote which I have often heard when people try to encourage others to get active. Essentially, when you get your body moving, a habit forms, and eventually your body will keep up the momentum for the days to come. However, too much of a good thing is not always best.


In today’s society, our appearance is often heavily tied to our perceptions of self-worth, and exercise tends to couple with this way of thinking.  Often times, the media glamorizes exercise, as can be evidenced by the tons of workout and exercise clothing commercials. Even our own family and friends have been known to play into the idea of using the gym to get fit for numerous reasons such as, for that bikini you’ve been eyeing for spring break or to fight against the dreaded “Freshman 15”.


Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking fabulous; however, when your life and emotions begin to revolve around your workout schedule, the impact that this has on your physical and emotional wellness should be examined.


So how do you know when you’re exercising too much? :


  • Emotional strain (increased anxiety, depression)
  • Fatigue
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation in women due to lack of body fat)
  • Reproductive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Dehydration
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stress fractures and sprains
  • Kidney failure
  • More info here


If you are an avid gym warrior and also experience any of these symptoms, consider stopping by UNC Campus Health Services to set up an appointment. If you notice or are told about a friend who is experiencing these symptoms who also engages in exercise which might be considered excessive, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Often times over-exercising is a means to sustaining an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.


With all of this in mind, exercise is not inherently a bad thing; it’s quit the contrary.  As with anything, doing things in moderation is key!