Distance Learning Tips during COVID-19

Online learning for UNC students starts today. You are not alone if you’re feeling anxious or ambivalent or annoyed or any other feeling that starts with “a” (or any other letter) about this shift. This is a new context for most of us. We believe you can be successful learning online. We also understand that not all students have access to a computer or high-speed internet. Here are some tips that might help you with your academic life over the next few months:

Practice time management.

  • Mark major assignment and exams on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. In a traditional classroom setting, you often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. Now you will need to make sure that you have allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it is due.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check in periodically with yourself, and look at how you’re spending your time. How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

Eliminate distractions.

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A UNC student uses the studying area at Kenan Science Library on August 27, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)
  • Turn off cell phone notifications or put your phone in another room if you are working from a computer.
  • Find good internet. Many libraries are closed, but their internet access extends beyond their building walls. The same is likely with government buildings. Sitting in your car in the parking lot while working online is allowed during social distancing. Finding a spot outside on a nice day is as well. Some cell phone companies are allowing unlimited data during this period – so you may also be able to turn your phone into a hotspot for a larger device if you have one.

Working from Phone

Don’t have a larger device than your cell? We have some tips for you:

  • Use voice to text for your written submissions. (Make sure you review before submitting any thing you write in this way – these tools sometimes get it wrong).
  • Configure your phone best for you. You can turn off notifications or set your phone to stop notifying you of things at a certain time. Disable or uninstall apps that you don’t use.
  • Become familiar with your phone’s split screen capabilities. Using a split screen can help you connect your work with online research or your assignment’s requirements.

Remember How You Learn Best

  • When and how do you accomplish your best work? If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer.
  • What types of information help you understand new concepts? If you’re a visual learner, for example, read transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

Actively participate.

  • Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification.
  • Set a participation goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.
  • If you feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.

Leverage your network.

Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

  • Create a virtual study group. 
  • Pair up with a fellow classmate or enlist the help of a friend to check in as an accountability partner.
  • Keep open communication with your professors.
  • Connect to support that will lead you to success.

In this unique circumstance, it’s important to keep open communication with your professors and ensure you are connected to the support that will lead you to success.

This is a new scenario for all of us – be patient with yourself and your community as we all transition to online teaching and learning.

More resources to support your online learning:

Designing Your Online Academic Life
Academic Coaching
Writing Coaching 
Peer Tutors 
Coaching Groups
STEM Support Groups on Sakai
Students with ADHD: Tips for Online and Remote Learning 

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!

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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

Resilience is How You Recharge (not How You Endure)

Resilience is often misunderstood. A lot of people think of football players when they think of resilience – able to take a hit, pick themselves up off the turf, and go for another play.  Well-meaning students trying to celebrate resilience might support each other staying up until 3am trying to finish a paper.

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Jumping over an official to make a left-handed grab likely requires some resilience.          But there are better examples.

A resilient person is a well-rested one. When an exhausted student goes to class, he lacks cognitive resources to do well academically, he has lower self-control, and he’s often moody AF (not sure we can use that abbreviation here, but we’re going to because moodiness from not sleeping is for real).

Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience.

Resilience is the adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. It means rebounding from difficult experiences.

A resilient person tries really hard, then stops to rest, then tries again.

The more time a person spends in their performance zone, they more time they need in the recovery zone. So the more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more value there is in activities that allow us to return to a state of balance. In other words, the value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us.

Most people assume that if you stop doing a task, like working on your Bio Chem homework, that your brain will naturally recover. When you start again the next morning, you’ll have your energy back. But we are confident that most of us reading this has had times where we lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because our brain is thinking about all the things we need to do. If we lie in bed for eight hours, we certainly have have rested, but we can still feel exhausted the next day. Rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping does not equal recovering.

What is recovery?

Internal recovery is the short periods of relaxation that take place throughout our day – via short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, shifting our attention, or changing to other tasks when the mental or physical resources required for task completion are depleted.

External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of scheduled work – so evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations. If after your day you lie around and get riled up by news you read on your phone or stress about the paper you have due on Monday, your brain hasn’t received a break from high mental arousal. Our brains need rest as much as our bodies.

In other words – it’s taking time to do things that are fun and enjoyable. It’s doing different things like going outside and moving your body. It’s letting your brain take a rest by unplugging and getting good sleep.

If you really want to build resilience, you can start by strategically stopping to rest.

Ideas to help:

  • Have tech free time. Apps like Offtime or Unplugged to create tech free zones by strategically scheduling automatic airplane modes.
  • Set a timer to take a cognitive break every 90 minutes when you’re studying to recharge your batteries.
  • Don’t do work over lunch. Instead spend time outside or with your friends — not talking about school.
  • Get good sleep!
  • Balance your class schedule so that no one day is overfilled.
  • Take day trips or mini-vacations, preferably outdoors.
  • Find things that make you laugh.
  • Give yourself permission to get distracted. Sometimes those distractions can be brain breaks.

But when all’s said and done, the best person to tell you how to recharge is YOU. You know what makes you feel refreshed – do those things! At least one of them every day.

This article was adapted from Resilience is About How You Recharge Not How You Endure to make it more relevant to UNC students by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health Services and CAPS. 

6 Tips for Finals Success

Finals makes many students feel anxious, intimidated, and stressed. Feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of making through final exams is a common theme for UNC students. Exam success can still be in your future! Here are 6 tips from the UNC Learning Center that might help you or your friends:

Photo:
Photo: “Finals Week Sping 2012-005” by Penn State. Flickr Creative Commons.

1. Prioritize to help make decisions about how much time to allot to prep for each exam.

  • Which exams will be hardest?
  • What portion of my grade is each exam worth?
  • How much time should I spend on each exam based on how I answered those questions?

2. Find out what you know. 

Use your syllabi to make a list of key concepts you need to know for the test.

Hide all notes and books and test your understanding on each key concept. Ask yourself how well you can summarize main ideas, do sample problems, recall facts from memory, and apply concepts in a new way.

Finally, rate yourself. How did you do? Rate your skill and understanding on each bit of content from your list using this sample scale: 3= I know this well | 2= I know this some | 1= don’t know this at all

3. Make a smart study plan.

Make a study guide, merging main ideas from class notes and readings.

Find ways to actively engage with the material and stay accountable to learning. Reviewing lecture notes and assigned readings can often be too passive.  Use active study strategies to practice the content you rated with a 1 or 2:

  • Make mind maps, time-lines, or flashcards.
  • Study with a partner.
  • Teach concepts to someone else.
  • Write or speak aloud the main ideas.
  • Generate higher-level thinking questions to test yourself with.

4. Make a smart study plan (part deux).

Once you’ve selected study tasks for the concepts you rated 1 and 2, estimate how much time you will need to complete them. Look over your calendar and lay out a plan, noting exactly what you will be doing and for how long. Break down studying into specific, discrete tasks. “Study Chem” is too vague.  “Complete practice problems from chapter 3” is specific. Estimate how long each task might take and compare it to available time.  Create an “appointment” to complete practice problems.

5. Test yourself.

When you’ve completed your Study Plan, it’s time to test yourself again. Hide all your materials and test your understanding on concepts you rated 1 and 2 the same way you did in Step 1.

  • Can you do a problem from memory?
  • Can you restate or rewrite what you learned?
  • Can you teach these concepts to a friend?
  • Can you answer questions you generated (not simple recall!)

Still stuck on a particular concept? Keep practicing!

6. Come to the Learning Center!

In addition to the strategies above, you can come to the Learning Center for our Study Boot Camps. Find out more about our Boot Camps and other services such as Academic Coaching and Peer Tutoring at http://learningcenter.unc.edu/.

This blog article was written by Bob Pleasants, Assistant Director of the UNC Learning Center. It has been edited for clarity and reposted. 

Friends with (Grade-Improving) Benefits: Finals Edition

Connecting with others during college, and especially stressful study season, has often been viewed as a distraction from success. But recent research is showing the clear benefits of friends to both your personal well-being and academic success. Bonus: both you and your buddies reap the rewards of friendship!

Here are ways you can help each other succeed during Finals Season:

Support each other’s work.

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Even pets can help!

You can help your friends in so many ways – and doing so will help you too!

  • Use study groups to amplify your learning.
  • Teach each other the information you’ve learned.
  • Quiz each other on information you’ll need to know.
  • Proofread each other’s essays.
  • Hold each other accountable to study goals.

Affirm each other.

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A high five while jumping in the snow is one of the best affirmations.

Celebrate efforts together. After y’all have been studying for a while, find something healthy and fun to do together to celebrate being done studying. As a reminder: focus on the effort rather than the outcome. An A on a test is great, but everyone will feel more supported when others notice the time put into studying instead of the grade received.

Support healthy behaviors.

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Generally doing anything that makes you feel like a kid again counts as health-supportive.

When you celebrate study sessions or the end of finals, do it in a healthy way. Move your body together – go for bike rides, walk and talk, play a round of golf – whatever sounds fun to everyone. Be body positive and food positive – no body- or food-shaming allowed! Encourage sleep and find ways to help your friends sleep well. Earplugs, white noise machines, and light-blocking window shades or eye masks are helpful gifts to friends or roommates during finals and always!

Avoid stress competition.

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Stress is not a competition.

We know the typical answer to “how are you doing?” – especially during finals – is “stressed” or “busy.” But this perpetuates the idea that to survive at UNC means being constantly stressed. A better answer? “I have been working hard.” Or tell your friend something fun you recently did and asking them what they’ve been doing to take a break.

Listen.

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Even the walls recognize the importance of listening.

Feeling genuinely heard and accepted is one of our most important needs, and it doesn’t go away during finals.  Providing empathy and acceptance is one of the most soothing things one can do for another.

As the listener:

  • Try to give your full attention.
  • Show that you are listening by maintaining eye contact.
  • Use body language to show you’re paying attention. Nodding your head and mirroring your friend’s feelings with your facial expressions can make people feel heard.
  • Listen non-judgmentally – meaning resist the impulse to judge who is right or wrong, good or bad, should or should not have done something.
  • Try not to make assumptions.
  • Reflect back what you hear and ask the person with, “did I get it?”
  • Ask, “What would help?”
  • Don’t be too quick to “fix” the problem or give advice.  Make sure you show you understand what the other person’s needs and feelings are first.

Be like family.

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Hugs for the win!

What did your family do to support you during high-stress times? Some ideas:

  • Cook each other dinner.
  • Ask if your friend needs anything when you head to the store.
  • Invite your friend to join you on study breaks.
  • Walk together to get to study locations.
  • Make your shared living spaces environments that are great for studying and connecting.
  • Find healthy ways to celebrate when classes or a big final are over.
  • Be authentic with each other.

Ultimately, you help create the vibe on campus during finals and the community you need to be successful. We guarantee that supporting your friends and the benefits you’ll reap in return will be worth it.

This blog was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator and revised for finals. 

Finals Nutrition: Fuel your Brain

For many people, the nutrition facts found on the back of food packages are confusing. They are meant for the general population, and thus cannot provide the information necessary for individual dietary needs. Your individual needs are based on your gender, age, size, physical activity level, and many other factors.

According to UNC Campus Health’s registered dietitian, most students only need to follow one simple rule to get nutritional needs met during finals and otherwise: MyPlate.

 Image courtesy of ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Image courtesy of ChooseMyPlate.gov.

MyPlate is an easy nutrition guide. It reminds us to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, with the other half split equally with grains and protein. Following MyPlate means you’re more likely to eat balanced meals and snacks that meet your nutritional needs.

Think about a “typical” American breakfast. 1/2 of it as fruits and veggies? That’s not going to happen with a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, or a plate of bacon and eggs. Eating the nutrient-dense colorful fruits and veggies takes a bit of effort and creativity!

Some examples of a well-balanced meal:

  • Spaghetti with heavy-on-the-veggies sauce and fruit
  • Pizza with veggies on top and a salad on the side
  • Eggs and bacon with roasted root veggies
  • Quinoa salad

A well-balanced snack can use the Plate method as well, or think about making sure each snack has fat, fiber and protein.

  • Yogurt and granola with berries on top
  • Fresh veggies and hummus
  • Almonds and kale chips
  • Good ol’ raisins and peanuts
  • Apple and nut butter

These can be tough to find on campus – so plan ahead and bring them with you!

Finals is a tough time, but will be even tougher if you don’t nourish your body and brain.

If you are interested in receiving more information about nutrition, make an appointment with Nutrition Services at Campus Health.

This post was adapted from one by Justin Chu, a former nutrition graduate student and program assistant at Student Wellness. 

Friends with (success-inducing) Benefits: How to Help You and Your Friends Succeed in College

Connecting with others in college has often been viewed as a distraction from the ultimate goals of your education. But recent research is showing the clear benefits of a social network of friends to personal well-being and academic success. Bonus: all parties reap the rewards of friendship!

Here are ways you can help each other succeed:

Support each other’s work.

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Even pets can help!

Any of your friends can proofread your papers or remind you of due dates. And you can build friendships from your academic interactions.

  • Talk to your classmates and set up study groups.
  • Create a reading group where you share the reading load and write up summaries for group members.
  • Schedule opportunities to engage with your classmates outside of class.

These types of friendships have been shown to have the most positive academic impact on everyone’s academic success.

Affirm each other.

33409493042_c860d3d87f
A high five while jumping in the snow is one of the best affirmations.

Celebrate efforts together. After your friend has been studying non-stop for an exam, go to a soccer game together to celebrate being done studying. As a reminder: focus on the effort rather than the outcome. An A on a test is great, but your friend will feel more supported when you notice the time she put into studying instead of the grade received.

Support healthy behaviors.

4677568734_f81eabb41a
Generally doing anything that makes you feel like a kid again counts as health-supportive.

Hang out while moving your body – go for bike rides, walk and talk, play a round of golf – whatever sounds fun. Be body positive and food positive – no body- or food-shaming allowed! Encourage sleep and find ways to help your friends sleep well. Earplugs, white noise machines, and light-blocking window shades or eye masks are helpful gifts to friends or roommates.

Avoid stress competition.

6273248505_c47f7c76d1
Stress is not a competition.

We know the typical answer to “how are you doing?” is “stressed” or “busy.” But this perpetuates the idea that to be a UNC student means you’re constantly stressed. A better answer? “Life is full right now.” Or telling your friend something fun you recently did and asking them what they’ve been doing to take a break.

Listen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Even the walls recognize the importance of listening.

Feeling genuinely heard and accepted is one of our most important needs.  Providing empathy and acceptance is one of the most soothing things one can do for another.

As the listener:

  • Try to give your full attention.
  • Show that you are listening by maintaining eye contact.
  • Use body language to show you’re paying attention. Nodding your head and mirroring your friend’s feelings with your facial expressions can make people feel heard.
  • Listen non-judgmentally – meaning resist the impulse to judge who is right or wrong, good or bad, should or should not have done something.
  • Try not to make assumptions.
  • Reflect back what you hear and ask the person with, “did I get it?”
  • Ask, “What would help?”
  • Don’t be too quick to “fix” the problem or give advice.  Make sure you show you understand what the other person’s needs and feelings are first.

Be like family.

5103100920_7f7e7faeee
Hugs for the win!

What did your family do to support you that you loved? Some ideas:

  • Cook each other dinner.
  • Ask if your friend needs anything when you head to the store.
  • Invite your friend to join you on outings.
  • Celebrate milestones together.
  • Be authentic with each other.

Ultimately, you have an opportunity at UNC to create the community you need to be successful here. Sometimes that takes a bit of vulnerability to put yourself out there or to be honest with someone about your current challenges, but we guarantee it’s worth the effort.

Having trouble getting connected? If you’re in the residence hall, check in with your RA or Community Director staff. If you’re not living on campus, look into student organizations that fit your interests.

This blog was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator. 

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season

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Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, 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. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year. Back-to-school shopping and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to prioritize 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.

Take some time to think about your 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!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. 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.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY 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 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. 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!

This blog was updated from November 2015 and written by Kaitlyn Brodar. Kaitlyn was the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Don’t Overdo It! – Preventing Burn-Out at the End of the Semester

Although we know that self-care is an important part of maintaining holistic wellness, oftentimes it is difficult to truly engage in this practice. Being a college student is not always easy. Many times, competing interests are at work including courses, clubs, organizations, and other activities. It is extremely easy to look at peers and think, “They are doing so much! I’m not doing enough! I need to do more!” This thinking can be destructive for a number of reasons. We are all unique individuals with different aspirations and talents. My talents and interests may not align with my peers, but that does not necessarily mean that I am not doing enough. This means that I am strengthening and utilizing my skill sets in areas that interest me. Each activity and organization that you involve yourself with should be something that you are passionate about. Aside from thinking about what you can add to the organization, as a participant/member, it is perfectly okay to consider what the organization can add to your life as well. For example, will you gain the necessary skills and expertise which will help to guide you along your path?

Being over-involved can lead to fatigue and burnout.

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Burnout image by dskley at Flickr Creative Commons

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/preventing-burnout.htm). The dangerous truth about burnout is that it is a gradual process which manifests differently in everyone. It also directly impacts holistic wellness. Symptoms of burnout include but are not limited to the following:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time,
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits, sense of failure and self-doubt,
  • Loss of motivation,
  • Isolating yourself from others, and
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities

One of the primary ways to avoid and manage burnout is engaging in self-care on a regular basis. Below are some tips:

  1. Set aside at least 15-20 minutes per day after classes or other responsibilities in which you can sit alone and process the day. Alone time is essential for recharging!
  2. Find a hobby unrelated to school and schedule that time weekly (weekends usually work really well).
  3. Make friends! Don’t underestimate the power of these bonds!
  4. Be kind to yourself and others. Adjusting to the college is a process and everyone’s experience is going to be different. I know it is difficult, but avoid comparing your experience and journey to the next person’s.
  5. Embrace your individuality!

If you are having difficulty with any of the topics discussed in this blog, please feel free to stop by UNC Student Wellness or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) https://campushealth.unc.edu/services/counseling-and-psychological-services or call 919-962-WELL.

 

Millicent Robinson is a 2nd year MSW/MPH dual degree program student and Program Assistant with Student Wellness. Millicent went to UNC as an undergrad, earning a B.A. in Psychology with two minors in Spanish for the Professions as well as African and Afro-American Studies. Millicent is interested in holistic health and academic wellbeing, particularly in minority students. She has worked with the Upward Bound program at UNC for three years, and approaches health disparities and inequities using an interdisciplinary approach. 

Crisis Plans or “Mad Maps”: Creating Your Own Path Through Mental Health Crisis

In 2015, 18% of UNC students surveyed reported that anxiety had interfered with their school performance in the past year and 13% said depression had affected school in the same period. People with depression and anxiety are at an increased risk for experiencing mental health crisis, which is “any situation in which a person is not able to resolve the situation with the skills and resources available” (source). Crisis can feel like being so overwhelmed that it seems impossible to accomplish daily tasks, being suicidal, or being out-of-touch with reality, in the case of psychosis. Because UNC students experience depression and anxiety, we need to take care of our own and our friends’ mental health so that we all stay healthy, safe, and out of crisis. This post will help you learn about crisis-planning, which is one tool you can use to keep you and your community safe.

What is a Crisis Plan?

A crisis plan is a plan you create that guides you and the people around you to prevent mental health crisis, and respond to crisis effectively if it happens. Think of a crisis plan as a letter from your calm, reflective self to your future, struggling self, and the people who will support you then. Crisis plans are often documents that include information about what triggers you to feel emotional distress, what helps you feel better, and who to reach out to for support.  Your crisis plan uses your wisdom and knowledge of your own needs to guide your future self through hard times and back to stability.

How do I Make a Crisis Plan?

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“Subway Style Mind Map,” by Sharon Brogan. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Your crisis plan can be as simple or complex as you like, and it can include any information you think would be relevant to your future self and your support people–everything from when your friends should feed your cats to what metal songs you like to cry to.

This is one great crisis plan template you can use.

The Icarus Project, the radical mental health collective, refers to its crisis planning tool, available here, as Mad Maps. The Icarus Project’s mission is to “advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation,” so its Mad Maps guide includes questions like “what does oppression feel like to you?”

Crisis plans can also be in the form of:

  • A psychiatric advanced directive, a legal document you can complete that will inform healthcare professionals how to best support you in the event that you are hospitalized for mental health reasons. Advance directives are intended for healthcare providers to read, so they include information like what medications you should and shouldn’t be given, and which of your support people doctors should communicate with about your care.
  • self-care boxes with actual stuff in them that helps you feel better
  • lists of activities you can do to perk up
  • this website , which is an interactive guide to navigating hard times . Bookmark it for exam week!
  • Safety Plan, a crisis plan app (available for free on Android and Iphone) that keeps your personalized crisis plan in your back pocket.

Why Make A Crisis Plan?

Here are some reasons folks create their own crisis plans, if you’re still not convinced.

  • Crisis planning keeps you in control of what happens to you. Crisis can be a time that other folks step in and take control to make sure you’re safe. By documenting your wishes for when you’re in crisis, you can stay both empowered AND safe during hard times.
  • Crisis planning helps you learn more about yourself. The questions you need to ask yourself in the process of developing a crisis plan prompt you to develop a richer understanding of yourself, your mind, and your unique strengths.
  • Crisis planning is tool to communicate with your  support people. Emailing your crisis plan to your friends and family can start (or continue) a conversation about mental illness–a difficult topic–on your own terms. Crisis planning also demonstrates to those around you that you are taking care of yourself, and so it could help your mom worry less about you. (But no promises on that one!)
  • Crisis planning builds more self-reliant communities. Communities with disproportionately high rates of mental health crisis, like LGBTQ  folks, also have too many negative experiences with mental health professionals and histories of oppression in mental health fields. Crisis plans encourage conversation and collaboration about mental health support within marginalized communities, so that when folks from these communities reach out to professionals, they are also grounded in networks of  friends who understand their struggles and can advocate for them.
  • Finally, a crisis plan prepares you for scary times, and that makes them less scary! Knowing that you are ready for the worst times reminds you of your inner strength. A crisis plan serves as a reminder that you always have a path out of even the darkest spots.

If you’d like help planning for–or navigating–crisis, contact the Counseling Center.  If you’re having trouble keeping up with school work because of mental health issues, contact the office of the Dean of Students for support.  If you are  experiencing mental health crisis after-hours, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Textline at 741741.

Anole Halper is a graduate intern with Student Wellness. They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health. Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.