Managing Wellbeing during the Holidays

The holiday season often provides an opportunity to be with family and other loved ones, while ushering us towards parties, gift-giving, eating out, and other celebratory events. This seasonal whirlwind can also bring up challenges such as unwelcome guests, financial strain, stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. A 2021 CDC report found that the anxiety and depression levels for adults aged 18-29 have doubled compared to 2020. This is most likely due to the long-lasting effects of the pandemic. The virus is still present and active, and the Omicron variant adds extra concerns as we enter the season.

With some slight shifts in your behavior, you may be able to minimize your stress, while creating a supportive environment that centers on wellbeing.

Students decorated gingerbread houses at the Carolina Union Great Hall on the last day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Be realistic.

The holidays are rarely “perfect” and that means being flexible and realistic with our time, energy, and expectations. At times, family members and/or holiday time can be trigger memories of past unpleasant experiences or trauma. Communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries with family and friends, especially around COVID-19 risk mitigation. Virtual gatherings can be different, but they can also provide an opportunity for creativity as well as connections across distance. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.

Acknowledge your feelings.

Many of us have experienced loss over the last two years and many more of us are grieving a loss from some time ago. It’s ok to feel sad, and crying or expressing that sadness is normal, especially during the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and do not hesitate to ask those you’re closest to for support. 

Reach out.

As previously stated, reach out to your friends, family, and community. Human connection matters and isolation can cause us to forget the power of sharing time with others. Utilize social media, meet-ups, and other social events (safely) to make new friends or be reacquainted with friends from your past.

Set aside differences.

It can be easy to politicize current events. Try to practice a pause. Listen with empathy and pause before commenting while thinking to yourself, “Is this statement based on fact or opinion, and do I have the energy to discuss it with compassion?”. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and need some grace or space to pause and process. Also, if it’s best for you to limit interactions with specific individuals around this time, know that it is acceptable to prioritize your care during a challenging time.

Stick to a budget.

Before you do your gift-giving and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget! Look for ways to share costs with family and friends. Remember that time together or sharing experiences is the best gift we can give.

Plan ahead.

Plan, plan, plan! Having a plan minimizes stress and allows you to share work with others. This is not the time to “do everything.” Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Schedule downtime so you are able to rest, relax, and restore. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Do not be afraid to ask for support. Asking for support is a continuous and integral theme to holiday self-care.

Practice self-compassion.

As we all do our best to continue navigating a global pandemic while engaging with each other during this season it is imperative that we find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also help extend these same virtues to others during this time. Uncertainty and stress are difficult for everyone.

Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What does my self-talk sound like?
  • Is this self-talk something that I would say to support a small child or good friend?

Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:

  • I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
  • This is a difficult time. It is natural to feel stressed. I am here for you.
  • I am safe and supported.

Say NO.

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends, family, and co-workers will understand if you can’t participate in every activity or project. Saying no is a complete sentence and requires practice in self-compassion, self-preservation, and self-love.

Don’t disregard healthy habits.

In our current climate, wellbeing may or may not be top of mind. Center your wellbeing and engage in activities that boost your mood and enhance your health. These strategies make us more resilient and may improve our outlook.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have gratitude and share it, let others know you’re grateful for them.
  • Imagine the best case scenario and believe it’s possible.
  • Keep a gratitude journal (write down three things your thankful for, daily).
  • Give to yourself and forgive yourself.
  • Volunteer.
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt (don’t assume, ask).
  • Choose positivity.
  • Focus on food flexibility. Remember that all foods (yes, all foods!) have nutrition to offer. Savor the holiday flavors!
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Include regular movement in your daily routine.
  • Practice deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
  • Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
  • Adjust the time you spend reading the news and engaging with social media.

Take a break.

Take some time to relax and be still to reset for the day or wind down at night. It also can be part of the midday recalibration. Use an app for a 5-minute meditation, or just sit quietly with or without soft music. During your quiet time, it’s also nice to replay moments of gratitude.

Seek professional help if you need it.

Caring for your health means both daily personal choices and support from professionals. Some people benefit from regular check-ins with a medical or mental health provider. Others reach out when problems persist. If you’re finding yourself experiencing physical pain, unable to sleep, unable to face routine chores, feeling sad, irritable, or hopeless – and especially if these feelings last for 2 weeks or more – talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

Take control!

Plan for and manage holiday time instead of allowing the season to manage you. Take steps to minimize the stress, anxiousness, and depression that can be amplified during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can reduce their impact. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Other Resources:

Written by Charla Blumell, Assistant Director of UNC Student Wellness leaning on content from the Mayo Clinic, CDC and UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Student Wellness.

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season


Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and 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. 

Remember to prioritize your 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. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own 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 or repurposed 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 some 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. 
  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!

Self-Care to Complete your Stress Response Cycle

You’ve been dealing with stress lately. It’s the end of the semester. Final exams, papers, grading, holidays, relationships – all of these are complicated and cause stress. Emotions are more than just a momentary feeling – they are a biological process with a beginning, middle, and end.

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A complete stress cycle – that is from beginning, to middle, to end – would look something like this:

  • Your body senses danger, Let’s pretend you’re walking in the woods and come across an angry lion. It’s coming right for you.
  • Your body responds to help you survive. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate go up. Your immune system, reproductive system and digestive systems get suppressed to focus on survival. Let’s imagine you run and find a safe place where you close the door on this scary lion. The lion scratches a few times and then wanders away.
  • You survive. You feel grateful to be alive. Your systems come back online and your heart/breathing slow back to normal.

In order for your body to feel safe after stress, you have to complete the stress response cycle.

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Today’s stressors usually aren’t lions. They are papers, exams, traffic, relationships, systems of oppression. Some of these we can’t run away from and aren’t going away anytime soon, making it difficult to complete the full stress response cycle. If you get stuck in the stress response cycle, where your body never realizes that you’ve survived the stressor and are safe, you may begin to start seeing the negative impacts of stress.

The behaviors that manage stress in our body and complete the stress response cycle are not the same as those that deal with the solutions to the stressors. 

Which is good news because we don’t need to wait for stressors to be over in order to feel better. 

And it’s bad news because even if you manage a stressor (like completing your last exam of the semester or having a difficult conversation at last), you haven’t necessarily dealt with the stress itself. 

Deal with the stress.

Separate the stress from the stressor.

Take a break from whatever is causing you stress and focus on the stress – that is, the physical and emotional feelings that exist in your body.

Turn towards the stress with kindness and compassion.

TeKaImagine the scene with Moana and Te Ka, the lava monster (spoiler alert!). Walk towards your stress – in this metaphor, stress is the lava monster and you are Moana – calmly, gently, possibly singing “This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Use the video if a visual helps.

Complete the stress cycle with any of the following evidence-based, self-care strategies:

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Physical activity. Moving your body is the most efficient way to communicate to your body that you have moved out of an unsafe place to a safe place. You could take a walk off campus after you finish an exam to help your body realize it’s safe now. You could experience evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help your body relax at the end of the day.  You could go for a bike ride in the countryside. Remember that the goal of physical activity as self-care is to help your body recognize that you’ve moved to a safe place. We realize that for some people physical activity can be a source of stress. If you’re the only person of color in your pilates class, going to that class can be stressful. If you’re gender fluid, going to a gym and daring to use a locker room can actually be dangerous. If you go outside and walk you might get harassed or cat-called. So “exercise reduces stress” doesn’t quite cover how complicated it is. Thankfully – there are 3 other strategies you can use! 

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Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t have to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates stress. Your imagination can also complete a stress response cycle. Visualize yourself as a B.A. monster crushing the place where you feel most stressed. Watch a movie or read a book that takes you through a hero’s journey and feel the complete cycle with the character. Use the power of your mind to feel that the danger has passed.

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Creative self-expression. Take your feelings and put them into art. Make a physical object or story representing how you feel. Stream-of-consciousness writing can help get the feelings that you’re having on paper which helps move through them. Going dancing with friends uses 3 of the 4 self-care strategies listed here. Find ways to express yourself that work for you and help your body feel safe and connected.

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Connection. Humans are built for connection and even positive superficial interactions help. Complimenting your server on their jewelry is all that it takes! These interactions clue your brain into knowing that it’s safe again. If you want to go deeper, try a 20-second hug with someone you really like and trust. When you can hold your body against someone else’s body for that long, eventually your chemistry switches. Your body remembers that you have someone who likes and trusts you enough to hold onto you for 20 whole seconds. And, we realize that people can cause stress. Other ways to connect include connecting with nature or the divine. Some people feel safe and held in nature. Some people experience their spirituality as a relationship with the divine and loving paternal, maternal or familial relationship where they can come home and feel safe. Find connection that makes you feel safe and held in whatever way works for you.

You deserve to feel safe and connected. Take the time to complete your stress cycle.

Adapted from https://youtu.be/BOaCn9nptN8, the research from Emily and Amelia Nagoski by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator. 

Photo credits:

  • Africa image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
  • Studying image by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Moana image screenshot from Disney
  • Jumprope, piano painting, cube painting and quad hangout images by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Still adjusting to college life? No worries. It’s normal.

It’s normal to feel awkward, lost, confused, homesick, lonely (along with so many other emotions!) when you’re in college. This fall semester especially is a huge adjustment. We have been living in isolation so long it may be even harder than usual to start or re-start a social life. Lots of students are struggling to feel connected on campus this semester – whether they admit it to you or not. 
Here are some tips from students like you that helped them adjust and make students feel a bit more connected to campus. 

  • You aren’t alone. Lots of people feel the same way as you, even if they aren’t talking about it. You are not the only one who is having a difficult time. This is a transition for everyone and it can be overwhelming.
  • Keep your door open. Whether your residence hall room door, your office door, your carrel – the “window” to the rest of the world leaves space for some interactions that might not otherwise happen. 
  • Find a space on campus that you enjoy. This could be a tree to study under, a favorite spot in the library, the Union, or an office on campus, such as the LGBTQ Center or Women’s Center
  • Talk to people in your classes. Did someone ask a thought-provoking question in the discussion? Tell them so—it can lead to a great conversation that you can continue over lunch or coffee. Also, forming study groups is a great way to get to know people while also helping each other.
  • Join a club or organization. Getting involved is one of the best ways to meet people. In addition to being a place of higher education, college is also an ideal time to try something new or connect with people who have similar interests. Check out a sport, service or political organization, or a religious or cultural group on campus. Joining a club or organization gives you an opportunity to meet friends who have similar interests, and for many clubs you can join at any point throughout the year. HeelLife.unc.edu is one spot to explore.
  • Know your resources. There are lots of people on campus who want to help you adjust and who understand it can be rough. The Learning Center is a great place to visit to talk about adjusting to the college workload and college-level writing.  CAPS can be a great resource to talk out how you are feeling, especially if these feelings persist. Several peer and affinity-based support organizations exist to help you feel less alone that you can look for in the Mental Health Hub. All of these resources are covered under student fees, so it costs you nothing but a bit of time to take advantage of them!
A UNC student bikes across campus with fall leaves on the trees.

On Grief and Healing

This has been such a difficult weekend, few weeks, semester, few years. Death in our community is tragic, and when connected with the many challenges being experienced this semester, it’s no wonder that things may feel a bit heavy or overwhelming.

Support yourself

  • Give yourself time and space to fully experience whatever feelings are coming up for you. Explore your own feelings without feeling pressure to perform them for others.
  • Connect with people – from neighbors to loved ones to mental health professionals. Lean on people around you to help work through the stages of grief however they show up for you. 
  • Ease up on the demands you place on yourself this week.

Support others, if you can

  • Send that message / make that call. Start by reaching out to the people around you who may be struggling. Just a simple, “How are you doing, really?” is perfect.
  • Focus on asking open-ended questions. 
  • Give time and space for the answers. “I’ve got lots of time and am fine talking with you about this,” is a great way to show you’re ready to listen if that’s true for you. Refer to resources when appropriate.
  • Engage in meaningful activities. There are many opportunities to provide support or process with fellow students, and we’ll do our best to share those in our Instagram stories and Twitter feed. There is healing in solidarity. 
  • If you’re a TA, do what you can to support your students.
    • Be flexible. Excuse students from assignments if appropriate, give extensions, change class routines, etc. These are all not only permissible but encouraged to help all our students in these difficult times 
    • Be explicit about your support. In an email or during class, make clear your concern for your students and your availability to talk or meet with them, e.g., “please feel free to contact me personally or by email or to respond to all if you have thoughts or feelings you would like to share. This is a hard time and we need to be there for each other.”
You are enough, just as you are.
The staff at UNC Healthy Heels are committed to systemic changes to support the health and wellbeing of UNC students and work collaboratively with stakeholders throughout UNC and the community towards that goal. There is much work to be done. Join us in our efforts by getting involved in ways that fit your needs.

Amp Your Mask

Masks work to help prevent COVID-19 infections.

  • Comfort – Remember, the best mask is the one you’ll wear. So find one that is comfortable.
  • Fit – the mask should fit tightly over your nose and chin with no gaps. A bendable nose bridge is important for ensuring a good fit.
  • Filtration – the mask should have 2 or more layers of material. Certain materials, such as those in surgical masks, are designed to remove small particles by making particles collide with and stick to the fibers of the material.

Amp up your mask game! 

⭐⭐⭐Good:

  • Any cloth or surgical mask is better than no mask.

⭐⭐⭐⭐Better:

  •  Double mask with an ASTM-certified surgical mask and a tight-fitting cloth mask. A surgical mask is an excellent filter, but by itself fits poorly and leaks. The cloth mask or fitter is intended to improve the fit of the surgical mask.
  • Or use an ASTM-certified surgical mask with a fitter to seal the mask to the face.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Best:

  • A KN95.
  • A tight-fitting cloth mask with a high-quality filter.

More mask tips – including masks for beards, how to wear gaiters/buffs to be more effective, and how to wash and remove masks – can be found at the CDC website.

10 Quick and Easy Ways to Manage Stress

Organize Yourself. Take better control of the way you’re spending your time and energy so you can handle stress more effectively. There are loads of tips and tricks online, or you can visit the Learning Center and talk with an academic coach to get tips especially for you.

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The port-a-john folks can do it and so can you!

Control Your Environment by controlling who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself. Consider the people and places around you that give you joy as well as those that are a vortex of negativity or a force for good. Choose your people wisely!

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You choose. Just like the playground equipment says.

Extend compassion to yourself when things get hard or when you mess up. Know that you deserve compassion just like you would show a friend.  Everyone goes through difficult times and challenges. You are not alone.

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Sending yourself love notes and leaving them in the rain is optional.

Reward yourself by planning leisure activities into your life. It really helps to have something to look forward to. What are the activities that make you feel refreshed? Plan one for your next break!

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Sunsets in the mountains count as a reward.

Move your body – your health and productivity depend upon its ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Exercise your heart and lungs regularly. Move your body a minimum of three days per week for 15-30 minutes. This includes such activities as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc. We have a whole article dedicated to ideas to incorporate more movement into your life.

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Olympic speed not required.

Relax by taking your mind off your stress and concentrating on breathing and positive thoughts. Sleep, meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, listening to relaxing music, communicating with friends and loved ones, etc.

Rest as regularly as possible. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Take study breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time. It needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.

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Cats can be your guide here.

Be Aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders (i.e., ulcers, hypertension, heart disease), and at the very least are markers that you might be overdoing things.

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Pay attention to your body! (drivers do not have access to the muffins).

Fuel yourself. Eat a balanced diet. Avoid depending on drugs and alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also often makes it harder to concentrate. Your body responds to what you put in it – so be mindful of how you feed yourself.

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Balanced diet is great – bonus if you can actually balance plates.

Enjoy yourself. It has been shown that happier people tend to live longer, have less physical problems, and are more productive. Look for the humor in life when things don’t make sense. Remember, you are unique and deserve the best treatment from yourself.

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What ideas do you use to support your stress management? Leave us a comment below!

This article was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS. She uses nature and play to manage her stress – usually at the same time. 

  1. Image credits:Organized by saird, Flickr Creative Commons

    Choose by Tony Webster, Flickr Creative CommonsLove yourself by Quinn Dombrowski Flickr Creative CommonsSunset by Sara StahlmanSprinting by Adi Probowo, Flickr Creative CommonsRelaxed cat by Robin Zebrowski, Flickr Creative CommonsCinderella by DirkJan Ranzin, Flickr Creative CommonsHappy by Franklin Hunting, Flickr Creative Commons

Answering students’ questions about close contacts, quarantine, and isolation at UNC

We know pandemic protocols have become complicated, and we also know y’all have a lot of questions. Here’s an overview of the Contact Tracing process, guidelines for close contacts, and links to the quarantine and isolation guidance.

Contact Tracing Process

  1. POSITIVE TEST: It all starts when someone tests positive for COVID-19.
  2. CONTACT TRACING INITIAL CONVERSATION: Contact tracers reach out to the person who tested positive to determine who in their circle was a potential close contact. The positive person’s name and information remains confidential.
    • WHO COUNTS AS A CLOSE CONTACT? A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes cumulative time, regardless of whether a face mask was worn by either party. If you are not contacted or if a positive case is not in your household, then you are not identified as a close contact. For example, people who are at least six feet apart in a classroom or group setting will typically not be considered a close contact. 
  3. OUTREACH TO CLOSE CONTACTS: The contact tracing team will reach out to individuals who are potential close contacts and advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation.

Next steps: General Guidelines for Close Contacts

Remember, contact tracers will advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation. Here is general guidance:

Aysmptomatic close contacts can be tested at the Carolina Together Testing Program based on the timing in the chart above.

Any symptomatic close contacts should be tested at Campus Health as soon as symptoms arise.

If you test positive, notify Campus Health and follow isolation instructions.

As a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community, you are required to comply with the COVID-19 Community Standards which include reporting a positive test, participating in COVID-19 contact tracing, and taking appropriate follow-up steps as directed by health officials such as entering quarantine or isolation or taking a COVID-19 test.

Tips for Physical Activity this Fall

Keep yourself active on campus this fall with these tips from Exercise Is Medicine at UNC:

  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity – walking, running, cycling or swimming would all qualify.
  • Perform resistance training twice a week. Work on all large muscle groups with compound movements.
  • Spend time outside. Research shows that exercise performed outside is more enjoyable and has mental health benefits.
  • Take advantage of UNC fitness and recreation resources such as group fitness classes, workout reservations, and outdoor adventures.

Exercise Is Medicine is a program at UNC Chapel Hill promoting physical activity as a vital sign of health.  EIM encourages faculty, staff and students to work together toward improving the health and well-being of the campus community by:

  • Making movement a part of the daily campus culture
  • Assessing physical activity at every student health visit
  • Providing students the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime
  • Connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription

To learn more visit https://exss.unc.edu/exercise-is-medicine/eim-at-unc-chapel-hill/

Tips for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy body and mind. As a college student, you have lots of things that can work against you when it comes to getting the sleep you need (academic commitments, busy schedules, late night meetings, roommates and stress, just to name a few). The consequences of poor sleep can be major. Did you know people who have poor sleep have poor attention, decreased memory retention, increased likelihood of getting sick and increased likelihood of having an accident? Fortunately, we have some simple, easy to follow suggestions that will have you catching Zzz’s in no time.

Woman with eyes closed laying on a pillow

Sleep Hygiene

You may have heard this term before. Sleep Hygiene are the basic strategies we should all be following to give ourselves the best chance at getting a good night’s sleep. Read through this list and see if there are any ways you could make some changes to improve these sleep promoting behaviors.

  1. Limit Caffeine: No more than 3 cups per day. No caffeine in the late afternoon or evening hours (at least 4-6 hours before bed).
  • Limit Alcohol: May help you fall asleep at first but can lead to sleep disruption and make sleep less restful.
  • Exercise Regularly but not Close to Bedtime: Regular moderate exercise can improve quality of sleep.
  • Try a Light Bedtime Snack such as Milk, Peanut Butter, or Cheese: These foods contain chemicals your body uses to produce sleep and can make you drowsy. Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
  • Keep Your Bedroom Quiet and Dark: Noise and light can disrupt sleep; try white-noise machines or ear plugs to screen sounds if noise is unavoidable. Use eye masks if light is unavoidable.
  • Keep your Bedroom Cool: Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can disrupt sleep.

Other Sleep Improvement Guidelines

While Sleep Hygiene strategies are a necessary foundation for quality sleep, they are unfortunately not sufficient. Here are some additional tips for improving and maintaining good sleep habits.

  1. Select a Standard Rising Time:  Set the time and stick to it every day, regardless of how much sleep you get each night. This will create a stable sleep pattern.
  • Use the Bed Only for Sleep and Sex: Do not read, watch TV, eat, study, use the phone or computer, or do other things that require you to be awake. These activities unintentionally train your brain to be awake in bed.
  • Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep: Never stay in bed for extended periods of time without being asleep; this will increased frustration and worry about not sleeping and make it harder to sleep. It also creates a negative association with your bed/sleep time. If you are awake for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed no matter the time of night. Leave your room if you are able. Engage in relaxing, non-stimulating activities and don’t return to bed until you are ready to sleep.
  • Don’t Worry, Plan or Problem-Solve in Bed:  If your mind is racing, get out of bed and go to another room until you are able to return to bed without the worry. Consider setting aside time earlier in the night to worry so it’s less likely to follow you to bed.
  • Avoid Daytime Napping: Napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid Excessive Time in Bed:  Go to bed when you are sleepy but don’t go to bed so early that you spend more time in bed than you need; this can make sleep worse. Determine how much time you “need” for sleep and stick to it.

Adapted from Edinger & Carney, 2015 by Anna Lock, PsyD and Coordinator of the Integrative Health Program