Around finals time, all of UNC rallies around students to support your well-being. Here are the events happening on campus. Know of more? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Around finals time, all of UNC rallies around students to support your well-being. Here are the events happening on campus. Know of more? Email us at email@example.com.
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:
Any of your friends can proofread your papers or remind you of due dates. And you can build friendships from your academic interactions.
These types of friendships have been shown to have the most positive academic impact on everyone’s academic success.
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.
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.
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.
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:
What did your family do to support you that you loved? Some ideas:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
One of the primary ways to avoid and manage burnout is engaging in self-care on a regular basis. Below are some tips:
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.
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?
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.
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:
Why Make A Crisis Plan?
Here are some reasons folks create their own crisis plans, if you’re still not convinced.
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.
I wish someone had told me when I started undergrad that the adjustment can be really tough and that it can take awhile. I was also far from home, missing my friends from high school, and trying to get used to college life.
Instead, everyone told me that college would be the best four years of my life, that I would make amazing new friends, and enjoy the freedom of being on my own.
I later realized that it’s normal to feel awkward, lost, confused, homesick, and lonely (and so many other things!) when you start college. The first semester is especially hard for many people. It’s a huge adjustment, and even though everyone might not always be open about it, lots of people struggle when they start college. It’s still totally normal to not feel ready to call UNC home yet—sometimes it takes a semester or two (and sometimes more) to feel at home.
Here are some tips that I found helpful when I was struggling to adjust and that might help you find ways to make the campus feel a bit more like home.
Welcome to UNC, y’all!
Amee Wurzburg is the Sexual Violence Prevention Program Manager at Student Wellness. She is currently earning her Masters in Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. Amee received her BA in History from Barnard College of Columbia University. Before moving to North Carolina, Amee worked at an organization in India focused on HIV, where she worked on projects related to rights-violations, LGBTQ health, and domestic violence.
This post was originally published November 2014. It has been edited for clarity.
Here are 10 alcohol-free ways to have fun in the Triangle.
(TIP: Always ask about a student discount!)
Have you ever been out trying to have some alcohol-free fun, and people won’t stop bugging you? Here are some ideas of things to say, but they are dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns!
Not a talker? No worries! There are other ways to ward off peer pressure, again – dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns. For example, some people have suggested holding a drink in their hand and not actually drinking, drinking alcohol-free drinks (like a rum and coke….minus the rum), or attending a party as a sober attendee and playing the games either with water or an alcohol-free drink!
Trigger warnings in academia have become a hot topic. The University of Chicago released a controversial letter to the Class of 2020 stating that they did not support “so-called ‘trigger warnings’…or the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” The latter, in theory, makes sense – higher education is supposed to challenge you, to make you question your ideas and open your mind to a variety of perspectives, and the ways in which trigger warnings have been exploding in use lately can inhibit that. But for someone who navigates higher education with a specific set of mental health needs, finding a balance between triggers, intellectual curiosity, and self compassion can be a challenge.
On one hand, the traditional use of trigger warnings are a great tool for those in early stages of recovery from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. When a person who has experienced trauma gets triggered, symptoms of distress that result can range from physical (such as headaches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing) to emotional (like fear and dramatic mood swings, among others) to psychosocial (for example, difficulty connecting with others or an inability to manage stress). In these cases, a trigger warning can be crucial. It allows the person who has experienced trauma to prepare themselves for what they are going to experience. It gives them the agency to choose whether or not they feel capable at that moment to deal with something that could have serious consequences on their wellbeing. And more often than not, it allows for someone to come back to this potentially triggering content at a time and in a place in which they feel safe and ready to deal with it.
The other side of the argument makes some important points, too. It notes that trigger warnings seem to have been co-opted by those who think they should not have to experience information that they may disagree with or can be uncomfortable at all. Professors have reported students requesting trigger warnings for everything from famine and religious intolerance to spiders. By using trigger warnings to refer to things that can be uncomfortable, but not necessarily retraumatizing, their true meaning and utility is being put at risk. Yes, talking about topics like religious beliefs, race, and gender can be incredibly uncomfortable sometimes, but facing that level of discomfort and engaging with the topic can be rewarding and beneficial. This level of discomfort can be a catalyst to help us think more critically and can hopefully spark intellectual growth, and college is a place where growth and curiosity should be encouraged and explored.
So for people who have experienced trauma, what are some ways in which they can navigate these classroom experiences in a manner that is useful for them? There’s no cut and dry answer for that, since everyone experiences triggers in different ways, but here are a few tips that anyone could use:
UNC Chapel Hill is full of exciting opportunities, classes, clubs, organizations, and events. The sheer number of activities is one of the reasons this school is so great. You’ll find offerings for a range of interests: clubs focusing on academics and future professions, music and theater, Greek life, politics, sports, and so much more.
But before you sign up for all 15 activities that have interest you, make sure you have enough time to devote to everything. Getting good grades, trying to stay involved on campus, and maintaining a social life can put students at risk for becoming overwhelmed. And being overwhelmed puts students at risk for using stimulants, or “study drugs” to help them keep up with it all.
Drugs including Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Off label use for these drugs has grown on college campuses in recent years, including at UNC. Some students turn to study drugs under the mistaken belief that they will magically fix their problems – helping them stay focused, improve efficiency, and improve grades during periods of high stress.
Photo by Joshua Brown, Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
While it may feel like you constantly hear stories about friends and classmates using study drugs, the rates of misuse are not as high as they may seem. According to a study conducted by The Coalition to Prevent ADHD Medication Misuse, 75% of students believe that some of their peers have illegally used ADHD prescription stimulant medication. However, a recent survey conducted at the University of Texas found that 87% of students do not use study drugs.
Clearly most students aren’t misusing these drugs, but a problem does exist. In 2011, the National Institute for Drug Abuse found the 9.8% of college students had illegally used Adderall and the rates have continued to increase, especially at universities with competitive academics and admissions processes.
Stimulant medications such as amphetamines (e.g., Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin) are prescribed to treat ADD and ADHD. People with ADHD have difficulty paying attention and staying focused and are more hyperactive or impulsive than their peers. These stimulants increase dopamine in the brain, which creates calming and focusing effects on individuals with ADHD.
People who take these drugs when they do not have ADD or ADHD can suffer from dangerous medical side effects, such as restlessness, hallucinations, and irregular heartbeat, among others. Long term misuse of study drugs can even cause addiction and withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, depression, and disturbed sleep.
Beyond dangerous physical side effects, there may be academic and legal consequences of the misuse of study drugs as well. Misusing study drugs violates UNC’s drug and alcoho policy, as well as the law. Those who are caught misusing study drugs can be subjected to suspension, fines, or even jail time.
While study drugs can improve focus and motivation to study, a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t abuse stimulants.
What can I do to increase concentration and focus without using study drugs?
This blog originally posted in 2016. It was updated in April 2018 for clarity and content by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator at Campus Health Services.
This blog post was originally published on April 7, 2015.
You’ve made your grocery list, or you swing by the store to get some staples for the week ahead. Like many of us, you’re on a budget, so you’ve got an eye for deals and saving money. As you scan your food options, you notice that in addition to the many eye-catching (and slogan-worthy) brands offered for your favorite foods, there are also those more plain, but much cheaper options. And you ask yourself: Is saving the money worth it? Is that food going to be as good?
I’ve often wondered this myself, and took some time to learn about the differences between generic and name brand foods. Continue reading