Healthy Relationships

No, I’m not just talking about relationships with your partner. I’m talking about relationships with your family.

First let’s define family. Family, as defined by Palo Alto Medical Foundation, is a domestic group of people with some degree of kinship – whether through blood, marriage, or adoption.

Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my family. Speed dials 1, 2, and 3 were my family members, we shared passwords to Facebook accounts, and we had sleepovers in the living room during school breaks. Together, we shared my thoughts and worries. I guess you could say my family members were like my best friends. It is nice to know that my family can trust one another and share these sorts of thoughts comfortably, without fear. However, like most families we aren’t perfect. We argue about the smallest things. Everyone’s family is different and unique, and has their own way of cooperating and communicating with each another.dreamstime_xs_28444106_family_hands_inline

Generally, starting college means moving out of the home you share with family, and your relationship with your family changes. As college students, we can become caught up in our own lives; we often don’t have the same amount or quality of contact with the people who were there in the beginning. Some people may grow distant from their family because they have less in common or you have a hard time communicating constructively. Or, relationships with family members may strengthen because everyone has their own space and can keep in touch more intentionally rather than by proximity. Whatever the case may be, I hope you consider some of these tips for a healthy relationship with your family. With summer coming up and many students returning to live with family, now is a great time to focus a bit on the important relationships in your life outside of school.

  • Speak Up. In a healthy family relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in. Verbal communication is one way love and other emotions are expressed. When you use “I” statements, you can express your own feelings, desires, thoughts, and attitudes.
  • Listen. There are ways to communicate that we are listening to the other person. Using very brief statements or nodding our heads can effectively signal that we are actively listening. Another key aspect of effectively listening is to not interrupt when listening to others. Also, keep an open mind and be non-judgmental.
  • Reach out. Give family members a call (or Skype) once in awhile, or schedule a visit for a family activity. Some good conversation starters are how successful you feel after finishing a paper or tell them Marcus Paige confirmed to stay at UNC for the next year (Woohoo Tar Heels!). If you can’t call or are not geographically close enough for an activity, send them a sweet text and a picture of you walking to class.
  • Balance. Balance is important to your mental health and to your relationships. Even if you’re busy during the year (or like now, with finals!), don’t shut out your family because of school work. It only take a seconds to let them know you’re busy and will be in contact soon.

If you’re interested in learning more about healthy family relationships or strengthening family relationships, check out Advocates for Youth for more information on what makes a family strong and successful. You can also talk with CAPS on campus about issues you may be having with family or home life.

Will you be my Valentine?

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, where chocolates are shared and love is in the air. Take a visit to Walmart or the Dollar store and you’ll find yourself surrounded by heart shaped gifts, balloons, and chocolate.

February is also the American Heart Month, which the United States observes to raise more awareness about the nationwide issues of heart related diseases. While February is American Heart Month, every month should be spent taking care of your heart. Even now, while you’re in school in, there are some steps you should be taking in order to prevent issues in the future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “715,000 American have a heart attack and about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease doesn’t single out the heart! Heart disease is a term to refer other types of heart conditions related to the arteries and veins that ultimately affect the heart.

So you may ask, “What can I do?” Nothing happens overnight but one night could be all it takes to get you started. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind, which coincidentally prevent many other diseases too:

Eat healthy. It’s the obvious yet hardest to maintain. There are many resources on the internet such as information provided on American Heart Association site and under Nutrition Health Topics on Campus Health.

Stress Management. Begin building healthy habits and ways to manage stress. Talk to family and friends, get organized, and try to identify what is causing your stress. If you are worrying about something try an activity you enjoy to take your mind off of it or take action steps to counter the issue. If you need assistance talking through your stress Counseling and Psychological Services are here for you.

Exercise regularly. Go on a walk with a friend or join a UNC intermural sport team. There are many ways to stay active! Being physically healthy is another method of stress management. You can find ways to stay active and even how much physical activity is healthy to engage in on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site or check out the special events at Campus Rec!

Don’t smoke. This is the hardest of all and yet the easiest single action to curb heart disease. Consult with a Quit Smoking Support Group or head to the Healthy Heels Shoppe in Campus Health for cessation aids.