Wellbeing Strategies for UNC Students in Quarantine or Isolation

We know that being away from friends and activities is challenging. Maintaining your overall personal well-being while you are isolating or quarantining on campus is important and there are many resources available to help. UNC Healthy Heels is here to support you.


Stay active with Campus Recreation

Live Virtual Trivia and Art Programming

Paint Night: alternating every Wednesday 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Jan 27, Feb 10, Feb 24, Mar 10, Mar 24, Apr 7, Apr 21, May 5

Join us for a live virtual art therapy session! Painting can be a relaxing, fun, creative, and social experience. No experience is necessary, and we are not experts, but we can find our inner artists together! We will provide a balance of instructions and guidance and education to allow for maximum creativity and enjoyment. We will primarily be working with watercolor paints, but any medium is welcome to join in the fun as we create our own unique artwork.  Use the registration link to sign up for login details.

Trivia: alternating every Wednesday 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Feb 3, Feb 17, Mar 3, Mar 17, Mar 31, Apr 14, Apr 28

Game On! Virtual trivia night! Watch, play, and answer in real time with our live host in the show of exciting multimedia trivia that tests players’ knowledge in everything from movies, music, geography, pop culture, sports to mythology.  A smorgasbord of trivia, a mixed bag of fun – challenging but figureoutable questions! Use the registration link to sign up for login details.

Social Hour: Thursdays, 4:00 – 5:00 PM

Yoga: Tuesdays 7:00- 7:45 PM

All participants will need to register HERE in order to receive access to the class via Zoom.

Virtual Fitness Classes

Stay active anytime and anywhere with Group Fitness. New classes added weekly!

Intramural sports

Participate in E-sports leagues and trivia/game nights without ever leaving home.


Mind your mind with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

While in isolation or quarantine, you may experience additional stress such as loneliness, boredom, irritability or anxiety. CAPS is available to support you during this difficult time, 24/7 by phone at 919-966-3658.

Virtual zoom COVID support: Thursday 2:30- 3:30PM

Many support and wellness groups are available thru CAPS, as are self-help information and online self-assessments,

Use your device to connect with services that can help. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Discuss wellbeing with Student Wellness

Interested in more information about Mental Wellness and COVID? Want a 1:1 appointment to discuss your wellness journey? Student Wellness can help!  


Listen to a good book from University Libraries  

Give your eyes a rest and zone out with a good book, podcast or tunes. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Audio books are available for your listening pleasure, as are various music options.


Connect with other students virtually 

Class isn’t the only thing you can do on Zoom. Connect with other students in fun ways online using HeelLife, CUAB events, Netflix watch parties, virtual game nights or anything else you can dream up! (Photo by Megan May/UNC Research)

Being apart but still connecting is hard, but social interactions are critical to happiness and well-being. Take advantage of online programs – both asynchronous and real-time activities. The following are two of our favorite ways to find UNC events:


Join the Mental Health Email Course for UNC Students

Receive a daily email (only for 9 days!) – showcasing 8 mental health strategies that you can use right now. Each day provides you with a personal note, brief video skill, and UNC student testimonials about how they use the strategy in their life. The course was developed by therapists, health educators and students at UNC.

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Daily Self-Care Activities

Person doing the hurdler stretch

Take a Stretch Break

Giving the body a break from sitting or staring at a computer screen is a great way to help relieve stress and restore energy back into the body. Try these 10 stretches on your own, or follow along with our guided stretch video. Try to hold each stretch for about 1 minute.

  • Seated Overhead Side Reaches
  • All 4’s Cat/Cow Stretch
  • Kneeling Runners Lunge to Hamstring Extension (right)
  • Kneeling Runners Lunge to Hamstring Extension (left)
  • Thread the Needle (right)
  • Thread the Needle (left)
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch (right)
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch (left)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (right)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (left)

🎬Try this guided stretch sequence

Person with headphones on who appears to be dancing and singing

Just Dance!

Taking a break to jam out to your favorite music can not only improve your mood and feelings of happiness, but also reduces stress and anxiety.

Here are some options to get you grooving!

  • Turn on your favorite song, close your eyes, and dance like no one is watching
Person sits cross legged by a computer

Meditate.

A few minutes a day of mindful meditation can help you reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and become more present. Becoming more mindful can help you find happiness and calm especially during difficult times.

Take a deep breath and get ready to relax with our 10 minute guided meditation practice specifically for UNC students in isolation or quarantine.

Learn more about meditation benefits and practice strategies or how to meditate.

woman wearing exercise clothing squats

Build Strength.

Helping to increase confidence, boost your immune system, and reduce stress; strength-based movement not only helps builds a strong body but mind too!

Find your strong with one of these strength routines. Try them both for a complete full-body strength workout.

bottle of water sits on a desk

Hydrate.

Benefits of water:

  • good
  • for
  • you

Today, challenge yourself to keep track or simply notice the amount of water you drink today. Tomorrow, try to drink a little bit more, and notice any changes in how you feel.

Learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

Activity book cover shows various UNC and wellness related icons

Color inside (or outside) the lines.

Take a break from your daily routine and let your mind find its creative flow. Download this Be Well & Thrive activity book to give your mind a mental break.

Person in mountains sits crosslegged.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Practice this breathing sequence to help clear the mind:

  • Find a comfortable seated position
  • Place the right hand on the chest and the left on the belly
  • Breathe normally for 10 breaths
  • Breathe only into the right hand, focusing the rise and fall of the chest – continue for 10 – 20 breaths
  • Breathe only into the left hand, focusing on the rise and fall of the belly – continue for 10 -20 breaths
  • Return to full normal breaths, focusing on counting your inhales & exhales
  • Repeat as many times as needed

Learn more about how to fight stress with intentional breathing.

Graphic heart over heartbeat-like line

Boost Your Energy!

Increasing the heart rate and getting your body moving boosts energy, improves mental clarity and decreases feelings of stress.

Try this quick 10 minute circuit on your own, or follow along with our guided video. Perform each movement for 45 seconds, then rest 15 seconds before starting the next movement.

  • Alternating Side Lunges with Punches
  • Tap Back Lunges with Triceps Extensions
  • Squat Raise with Crunch
  • Stationary Slams
  • Star “Jump” with Lateral Leg and Arm Raises
  • Front to Back Lunges
  • Wide Leg Crab Walks with Hands at Head
  • March and Toe Touch Crunches
  • Step Outs with Lateral Arm Pulses
  • Curtsy Lunge with Front Kick
Woman does warrior pose in yoga in front of windows

Find Flow.

Feeling drained after a day full of Zoom classes and sitting at a desk? Yoga can boost your mood & energy, as well as increase your capacity to manage stressful feelings.

Try a gentle Yoga flow to reconnect with your body and mind.

heart charm says "i am grateful"

Give Gratitude.

Start a gratitude journal to help amplify the positive in your life.

  • Step 1: Reflect back on the day
  • Step 2: Write down 3 things that you are grateful for today
  • Step 3: Repeat this each day

Learn more about how and why to practice gratitude.

Laptop, sweater and plant sit on a window balcony

Open a Window.

There is more oxygen outside than inside, so it’s no wonder why fresh air energizes you, boosts mood, and can even improve your immune system.

Learn more about why fresh air is good for you.

Cairn of rocks sits by the ocean

Center your Core.

Balance looks different to everyone, physically or not. Center yourself with these core & balance focused movements either on your own or follow along with our guided 10-minute routine.

  • Standing Side to Side Toe Touch (30 sec)
  • Standing Side to Side Bend (30 sec)
  • Standing Balance Calf Raise (30 sec)
  • Step Back Lunge with Twist ( 30 sec)
  • Knee Plank to Downdog (30 sec)
  • Bird-Dog Extensions (30 sec)
  • Side Plank Balance Hold (30 sec)
  • All 4’s Hover Hold (30 sec)
  • Cat Cow Stretch ( 30 sec)

Heel-oween 2020

We need to change how we’ve celebrated Halloween in the past to make room for the pandemic. Here are some ideas how:

Have a Halloween Plan 

Decide what to do. 

Decide what you are comfortable with this Halloween before Saturday arrives. The gathering on Franklin Street is cancelled, so find another spot to be on the night of Halloween. Consider watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up to eat dinner with your roommates, or joining one of the activities listed below.

Jacob Bermeo from Chapel Hill sits outside of Wilson Library while dressed up as Spider-Man on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
(Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Reduce your risk for COVID

COVID risk increases with indoor exposure(s), length of time together, lack of masks and number of people encountered. Reduce your risk by choosing a small group to spend Halloween with, sticking with them (and only them) throughout, wearing COVID masks, and staying outside as much as possible if you’re gathering with people who don’t live with you. 

Pick or make your costume.

If you choose to wear a costume, pick one that allows you to easily wear a COVID mask. Also make sure your costume avoids cultural appropriation.

Reduce your risk of negative impacts of substance use

Substances also bring risk – especially in a pandemic because of how they affect judgment and decisions making. 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. 

Be an active bystander

Don’t be afraid to speak up or take action if you or your friends are made uncomfortable. Everyone is entitled to having a good time on Halloween, and that starts with feeling safe.  

UNC Halloween Activities

MONDAY 10/26

TUESDAY 10/27

WEDNESDAY 10/28

THURSDAY 10/29

FRIDAY 10/30

SATURDAY 10/31

Anytime this week

Granville Haunt Farm – Haunted Drive In Movie Theme
Haunted Hills Terror Drive
Phillips Haunted Farms

Conversation Starts with Listening

by Will McInerney

All too often, we tend to mistake hearing for listening.

Hearing is a physiological process by which sound waves are processed and passed along from our ears to our brains. Listening is a more complicated psychological process by which we comprehend, create meaning, and apply understanding. (2) Listening engages empathy and connection. This process asks us to be introspective and to challenge ourselves. Listening looks like putting your phone away during a conversation. Listening means you are not formulating a rebuttal or counterpoint while the other is talking, rather you are thinking deeply about what they are saying and taking time to process the information.

Listen
“Listen” by Ky. Flikr Creative Commons.

As a community, we need to deepen our commitment to whole-heartedly listening to survivors and to the professionals who work and advocate on these issues.

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). During this month (as well as every other month) it is important that we work to hone our listening skills, foster conversations, and catalyze action.

Relationship violence takes many forms (including but not limited to physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, economic, and verbal) and affects a significant percentage of college-aged individuals. (1) RVAM is a time of year when we seek to shine light on this issue and work to create a safer, more accountable, and inclusive campus for all faculty, staff, and students.

One way we can do this is by having more open and honest conversations. Through conversation, we seek to elicit action, foster change, and create impact. But when having conversations it’s also important that we take special note to truly listen, especially to those directly affected.

This year during RVAM, Student Wellness and the Compass Center is focusing on consent, communication, and healthy relationships. Throughout this October, members of the Carolina community are encouraged to show support by participating in any number of the following RVAM events.

Every Monday a live stream consent playlist is available.  Tune in while you are working, out for a walk, or driving for an RVAM crafted playlist between 9am -4pm via Twitch.tv. (search RVAM consent playlist)

On October 21st, students can participate in 3 rounds of virtual trivia covering, the Spectrum of Violence and Pop Culture, Maintaining Healthy [Virtual] Relationships through Love Languages,  Who, What, When, Where, and Why–UNC [Virtual] Campus Resources.

On October 28th, a collection of UNC organizations will be hosting a virtual panel to explore the intersection of Relationship Violence, Race, and Economic Justice. The event will be held @ 2:00pm via zoom.

A panel of professionals from Student Wellness, Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office, Carolina Women’s Center, Compass Center for Women and Children,  will speak and help facilitate group discussions. This is an opportunity for us to engage, to speak, and to challenge our community and ourselves to take tangible steps to reduce violence and listen to survivors.

For more information, check out the  RVAM schedule below.  (all 2020 events will be hosted virtually)

RVAM calendar 2020

Sources

  1. http://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Dating_Abuse_Statistics.pdf
  2. http://study.com/academy/lesson/hearing-vs-listening-importance-of-listening-skills-for-speakers.html
  3. http://speakoutunc.blogspot.com/
  4. http://rvam.web.unc.edu/rvam-event-schedule/

Will McInerney has worked with the campus wide initiative to increase men’s involvement in gender equity efforts and violence prevention since its inception. He partners with students, faculty, and staff to promote positive, inclusive, and non-violent masculinities.

Will is also a writer, performer, and consultant specializing in Middle East and North Africa-based conflict zones. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, American Public Media, and recently at the International Storytelling Center. Will earned his Bachelor of Arts in Peace, War, and Defense from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Social Distancing FAQs for College Students

Social distancing is the idea of actively avoiding crowds to slow the spread of illness. Specifically, the CDC asks us to cancel any activity of more than 50 people and only hold a gathering of smaller size if you can ensure hand hygiene practices and that people keep at least 6 feet away from others. They want us to do this for at least the next 8 weeks.

The CDC is asking you – yup, you (and me too!) – to stay away from folks. We realize that is easier said than done, and still likely leaves some questions.

Please don’t. If you ignore the guidance on social distancing, you will essentially put yourself and everyone else at much higher risk.

You still have a risk from Coronavirus, even as a young person.

Plus the community needs your help in slowing the virus. People who show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all can pass the virus to many, many others before they even realize they are sick. So you could infect your older or high-risk loved ones or community members with chronic illness, as well as contribute to the number of overall people infected, causing the pandemic to grow rapidly and overwhelm the healthcare system.

We know social distancing is tough, especially for college students who are used to gathering in groups. But even cutting down the number of gatherings, and the number of people in any group, will help.

Yes.

It’s O.K. to go outdoors for fresh air and exercise — to walk your dog, go for a hike or ride your bicycle, for example. The goal is not to remain indoors, but to avoid being close to people.

You may need to leave the house – for medicines or other essential resources.

There are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe during and after these excursions.

When you do leave home:

  • Wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with
  • Disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer and avoid touching your face.
  • Frequently wash your hands — especially whenever you come in from outside, before you eat or before you’re in contact with the very old or very young.

Yes. Stock up to minimize the number of trips, and pick a time when the store is least likely to be crowded.

When you do go, remember that any surface inside the store may be contaminated. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of the grocery cart, for example.

Wearing gloves is not as effective as washing your hands.

Put your phone somewhere in accessible so that you don’t absent-mindedly reach for it while shopping to avoid getting more germs on your phone.

Put hand sanitizer in your vehicle and sanitize when you leave the store.

When you get home, wash your hands right away. Re-wash after putting away your items.

Those at high risk may want to avoid the store if they can help it, especially if they live in densely populated areas. Ask for someone at lower risk to help you by picking up groceries when they go to the store.

Some places have closed down restaurants and bars for the next few weeks, but if you’re not in one of those places, there are not rules about this yet.

In general, avoid going out to restaurants.

If you’re going to go – choose somewhere that has a lot of space and staff you trust who likely practice good hygiene.

Better yet, opt for takeout.

If you’re concerned for the restaurant’s financial future, purchase a gift certificate that you can redeem later.

That depends on how healthy they are.

People who are sick or returning from recent travel should not visit. If you have vulnerable people in your home, limit visitors.

But if everyone in your home is young and healthy, then some careful interaction in small groups is probably OK. The smaller the gathering of healthy people, the lower the risk will be.

Keep checking in with loved ones by phone or plan activities to do with them on video.

We do encourage you to keep active during this time. Bike rides, hikes, walks, outdoor workouts on your own or with only the people who live in the same home as you are all encouraged.

Playing sports or yard games adds risk. You can minimize that risk by:

  • Ensuring that everyone who plans to play is young and healthy
  • There will be less than 10 people
  • Avoid high fives and huddles
  • Wipe down any shared objects (balls, discs, bats) during breaks
  • Have hand sanitizer nearby for everyone’s use
  • Wash your hands immediately afterwards

I’m worried about isolation. What can I do to make this easier?

Staying in touch with family and friends is more important than ever – just use technology instead of face-to-face interactions. Even imagining a warm embrace from a loved one can calm the body’s fight-or-flight response.

For more tips, see Managing Mental Health During Coronavirus. You can also call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for mental health support.

We don’t know and it depends on how well we collectively succeed at social distancing now. Again, current CDC guidelines ask us to do this for 8 weeks.

Social distancing will help “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak, thus keeping the number of cases at a level that health care providers can manage and ensuring better care for any infected people. By complying with social distancing guidelines, college students — as well as the rest of the population — can do their part in slowing the spread of the pandemic.

For more details:

UNC’s guidelines to COVID-19 

CDC guidance 

Fall 2019 Finals Events

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Finals period is often a time of survival. All of UNC wants to see you be successful – which is why there are so many initiatives to support your health and wellbeing.

We have compiled all the finals support events and last week of class activities we can find on the UNC Finals Support Google Calendar also in agenda form below.

Plus, you’ll find ongoing stress-busting opportunities at the following libraries:

  • Davis Library– coloring and origami therapy with snacks
  • Health Sciences Library– making festive cards for kids in UNC Hospitals
  • Kenan Science Library– design and modeling center with coloring, Lego, board games, Play-Doh, knitting, and crocheting
  • Music Library– coloring and jigsaw puzzles
  • Park Library– friendship bracelets, giant crossword, inspirational messages, coloring pages, origami, extended hours
  • Sloane Art Library– coloring therapy
  • Stone Center Library – coloring sheets (starting Monday, December 9th)
  • Undergraduate Library– Origami, coloring pages, LEGO, puzzles, knitting and crochet supplies, Lego contest with theme of “space adventure”
  • Wilson Library– jigsaw puzzles

And finals support ideas through the Writing and Learning Centers:

  • Final Exam Planning Tools help you prepare with confidence.
  • Ace Your Essay Exams Find strategies for analyzing the prompt, planning your answer, and drafting efficiently in this handout on Essay Exams.
  • Doh!! How Did I Miss That? Ever spotted mistakes AFTER you’ve turned your paper in? We can help with these well-tested proofreading strategies. Try them all!

Let us know if we’ve missed something!

 

Wellness Checklist for Incoming UNC Students

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngEstablish healthy habits.

  • Schedule physical activity, healthy eating and stress reduction like you schedule your classes. If you schedule it into your day now, you’re less likely to skip it later. Bonus points for adding in social support – like by joining an intramural or club team, or scheduling fun fitness activities with friends.DSC_2340

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind and explore spaces to help you stay healthy at UNC.

  • Campus Rec offers 10 facilities that host all kinds of fitness classes, outdoor adventures, team sports and aquatics. You have already paid to access these facilities in your tuition and fees so take full advantage!
  • Dining Services alone has 14 locations across campus, plus there are many options nearby in the community. Look for diverse options and nutrient-dense, yummy food!
  • Campus Health hosts a wide range of services including Sports Medicine, International Travel Clinic, Nutrition Services and more. Counseling and Psychological Services is located in the same facility.

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noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind local health care. Connect to a primary care provider and pharmacy.

  • You have already paid for services at Campus Health through tuition and fees, so you can come see a provider during the week at no further cost to you! See a full list of services covered by the health fee at campushealth.unc.edu/healthfee.
  • You can also schedule Campus Health appointments when it’s convenient for you online.
  • Campus Health offers same day care visits for urgent needs 7 days a week during the semester (weekend visits have a service charge associated with them that is not covered by the health fee or insurance – but all other days are already paid for with your student fees!).
  • Visit one of the two on-campus pharmacies – Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy to get the prescription and over the counter items you need.

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noun_Checkbox_798260.pngMake your mental health a priority.

  • Start making friends! You are now in community with more than 5000 UNC students also new to campus. Some of your soon-to-be lifelong friends are among them.
  • Get involved in campus organizations that interest you. This is one easy way to find people with similar interests.
  • Seek professional help before things get awful – ideally as soon as you start to feel overwhelmed. Initial visits to Counseling and Psychological Services are available Monday – Thursday from 9-12, and 1-4 and Fridays 9:30-12 and 1-4. These have already been paid for in tuition and fees!

Bakari CAPS.jpg

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngGet involved for a better UNC and a better you.

  • Grow your leadership skills, your intellect and your circle of friends by getting involved in something larger than yourself.
  • You can also get involved in health through Student Wellness!
    • Attend a health-related event on campus.
    • Connect with Student Wellness or CAPS to provide education and outreach to your student group.
    • Join a Peer Health Organization.
    • Register for a workshop or training.
    • Visit Student Wellness for resources, a piece of fruit, or cup of coffee. On us!

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind a system that works for you.

  • Use a planner or an app to stay organized and proactive about your health and well-being.
  • The Learning Center offers amazing resources including test prep, academic coaching, peer tutoring, workshops and a website full of resources (all at no cost!). Learn more at learningcenter.unc.edu.
  • The Writing Center helps students become stronger, more flexible writers. Work with coaches face-to-face or online at any stage of the writing process, for any kind of writing project. And check out their online resources for tips about many common writing challenges.

We know you want to stay healthy at Carolina, and we are here to help! Reach out if you have questions @UNCHealthyHeels or unchealthyheels@gmail.com.

 

 

Adapted from The Ohio State University

Photos 2 and 3 by UNC Chapel Hill

We’ve got jobs, yes we do! We’ve got jobs, how ’bout you?

We’re hiring! That’s right – YOU. Could work. For us!

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So if you’re into health and wellness  – check out the paid, part-time, temporary paraprofessional staff gigs for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Current open positions (and number available) include:.

For folks with an undergraduate degree:

Program Assistant (7 positions open)

Program Assistant- UNC Men’s Project (1 position open)

Program Assistant- Bystander Education (1 position open)

These positions are ideal for current graduate students in Public Health, Social Work, Psychology, Higher Education, Health Communication, or related fields.  Positions are 15-20 hours per week unless otherwise listed, and anticipated start date is August 7, 2017. To apply please see positions descriptions for links to postings on UNC’s HR website.  Please note that you may need to create an account on this system in order to apply, as it is does not use onyen or PID log in.  Open opportunities require a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences degree from a nationally accredited institution. Graduate degree in progress is preferred, not required.

For folks who will be a UNC undergrad in 2017-2018:

Photography / Videography Intern

This position is ideal for a current or incoming undergraduate student with experience in photography and videography, along with an interest in supporting health and wellness at UNC. This is a shared position between Campus Health Services and Student Wellness. To apply, submit a single pdf with your cover letter, resume, 3 references, and a few links and/or images that showcase your photography/videography work.

 

Other than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex?

sexual communicationOther than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex? Turns out the answer is YES for Carolina students!  91% of UNC-Chapel Hill first years say they’d communicate with a partner about what they want in a sexual situation.  Now, we know that all first- years are not the same; different groups of students have different attitudes and beliefs. However, interestingly enough this statistic doesn’t change a whole lot across different gender identities, races, and sexual orientations (ranges from 88%-93%).

 

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Alicia Keys Photo by Intel Free Press, Flickr Creative Commons

Not convinced?  Famous musical artists across the decades would agree with 91% of UNC first-years, and have rather good advice and examples of how to communicate about sex. Salt-n-pepa kicks us off with the obvious, “let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me”. Coldplay chimes in about getting it on with, “Turn your magic on, to me she’d say ,…  ‘Oh you make me feel like I’m alive again’”  John Legend and Marvin Gaye (respectively) ask for affirmative verbal consent singing, “I just need permission, so give me the green light” and “I’m asking you baby to get it on with me, I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push, won’t push you baby”.  Lauryn Hill talks about what she likes singing, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever known is your kiss upon my collar bone.” And then there’s Alicia Keys showing us how to set some boundaries, “There’s an attraction we can’t just ignore, but before we go too far across the line I gotta really make sure that I’m really sure.”

 

 

 

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Coldplay Photo by pinero.beatriz, Flickr Creative Commons

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John Legend Photo by Fantasy Springs, Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of talking about sex… what does “sex” refer to anyways?  Study after study after study has shown that everyone defines sex very differently.  So, for the remainder of this blog, we’re going to focus on “sexual behavior/ activity”, which can include wide a range of behaviors done with ourselves or others including hugging, kissing, vaginal sex, holding hands, oral sex, abstinence, (mutual ) masturbation, different forms of physical intimacy, anal sex, the list goes on.  Some people have oral/ anal/ vaginal sex, other people are sexual in other ways, and some other people choose to abstain from some/ all of these things! Side note: it turns out lots of UNC students are abstaining in lots of different ways as well; click here to learn more! Moral of the story is, no matter what kinds of sexual behaviors you are or aren’t engaging in with other people, learning to talk about wants/needs and boundaries is important, and practice can help. 

Back to the point. If someone is interested in being sexually active, or is sexually active, why does everyone think talking about it with the people involved is such a good idea?  The long and short: talking means everyone is on the same page and everyone will have a better experience if there is clear communication. Loveisrespect.org would say that you’re the only person who knows what’s on your mind, so your partner won’t know unless you say it!  Along the same lines, you can’t know what your partner is thinking or wanting until you ask them and talk about it. We don’t always know how to talk about sexual activity, especially since we don’t always see representations of this in the media, and because we don’t often learn about how to communicate on this topic in school or from our families. However, it’s important for everybody to talk about what they like, don’t like, and what their boundaries are.  It’s also super important to listen to your partner, and respect the things they say and the boundaries they set.  Even if they have previously consented to intimacy, but do not desire to this time. This will show the person that what they say matters to you, and they’re more likely to trust you and listen to you as a result.

Some people think talking about being sexual is for folks in serious, long-term, committed relationships, however, this is just as, if not more, important for people who choose to have casual/ short-term sexual interactions! Why’s that?  Casual/ short-term sexual interactions often occur between people who don’t know each other well, and/or are interacting sexually for the first time.  Therefore, talking about expectations, limits and boundaries for sex (in ways that are comfortable, clear, and sexy) is even more important to make sure everybody is on the same page and having an equally positive experience. There are also people who choose to abstain from some or all sexual behaviors.  Do they need to talk about being sexual?  Absolutely!  Making sure there are clear lines of communication about what everyone wants in these situations is more important than ever so that everyone’s boundaries are understood and respected.

Sound hard/ challenging/ uncomfortable?  It’s easier (and sexier) than it sounds!  And, if someone knows what you like (and you know what they like), and everyone knows what’s on and off the table, it’ll be a lot more safe and satisfying, too. Here are some phrases our sexual wellness counselors recommend to get you started!

  • Do you want to…?
  • How would you feel about…?
  • How far do you see things going?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Would you like it if I…?
  • I want to…
  • I don’t want to…
  • That sounds amazing
  • Nope, not for me
  • I’m down to do… but I’m not into …

Still perplexed? Click here to take a free online course about creating and sustaining healthy relationships, INCLUDING skills around how to communicate and talk about sex in healthy ways. While the information is applicable to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, these modules are centered on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans*, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, and Same Gender Loving communities. Whether you are looking to strengthen your own relationship skills or support others in their relationships—this course is for you!

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Have additional specific questions?  Make a free private SHARE appointment to talk about talking about sex.SHARE

We encourage you to think about one way you or a friend could communicate about healthy relationships and sex in an open and positive way.  If you or your friend feels uncomfortable talking about this, remember that 91% of your peers and several pop stars have your back and support talking it out! Continue reading