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

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

 

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Alicia Keys Photo by Intel Free Press, Flickr Creative Commons

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

 

 

 

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Coldplay Photo by pinero.beatriz, Flickr Creative Commons
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John Legend Photo by Fantasy Springs, Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting Healthy Bodies at UNC: Navigating Obesity, Eating Disorders, and Weight Bias

When discussing health, you’ll notice a trend between two approaches – weight normative and weight inclusive.

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Screenshot from American Heart Association, 1/25/2015

The weight-normative approach includes the many principles and practices that emphasize achieving a “normal” weight when defining health and well-being. This approach rests on the assumption that weight and disease are related in a linear fashion, with disease and weight increasing in tandem. Under the weight-normative approach, personal responsibility to make “healthy lifestyle choices” and maintain “healthy weights” are emphasized.  The approach prioritizes weight as a main determinant of health and as such, weight management (calories in/calories out) as a central component of health improvement and health care recommendations.

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Photo Credit: Prevention Magazine

Instead of imagining that well-being is only possible at a specific weight, a weight-inclusive approach includes research-informed practices that enhance people’s health regardless of where they fall on the weight spectrum. Under this paradigm, weight is not a focal point of treatment or intervention. Instead the weight-inclusive approach focuses on health behaviors that can be made more accessible to all people. These are behaviors such as exercising for pleasure, eating when hungry and stopping when full.

So is one better than the other? We’ll look at three questions to figure that out:

  1. What happens when people believe that everyone should reside within a certain body size / weight range?’
  2. What happens when people try to reach that certain body size / weight range?
  3. Does higher body weight / larger body size cause poorer health?

What are the effects of the belief that all people should reside in a “healthy” body size / weight range?

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Photo credit: Words over Pixels

Bad things happen – weight bias, weight stigma, microaggressions and more.

The emphasis on achieving a “healthy” weight implies that there is a healthy or normal weight that each of us should be striving to attain and maintain, which gives credibility to cultural messages prizing leanness and weight loss. These socially prescribed ideals can become internalized – and when that happens, it’s connected to body shame, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and potentially harmful muscle-enhancing behaviors.

Emphasizing “good weights” and “bad weights” produces the opportunity for weight bias.

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An image from Georgia’s problematic anti-obesity campaign, Stop Sugar-Coating It

Weight bias and weight stigma refer to negative weight-related attitudes and beliefs that manifest as discrimination, stereotypes, rejection and prejudice toward individuals of any size. Common negative stereotypes about higher-weight people include ideas that they are lazy, stupid or worthless – and this results in behaviors targeting them including bullying, harrassment, pressure to lose weight, and weight related microaggressions.

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Photo Credit: More Bad News About Weight Stigma in Health Professionals

Microaggressions are intentional or unintentional verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that communicate hostility or negativity toward people who hold less power in society. For example, a doctor recommending a diet for a patient who presented with an issue unrelated to weight would be a weight-related microaggression.

Complimentary weightism is another type of microagression. Some examples include an anorexic student hearing that she “looks healthy” after disclosing that she has an eating disorder. And really – anyone being told they are “looking good” puts the focus and importance on appearance. The compliment could unknowingly congratulate someone who is using problematic behaviors like vomiting or restricting calories to control their weight.

Another example of complimentary weightism is when thinner people are “hated” for their thinness –  “I hate you because you can eat whatever you want.”

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Photo Credit: Some eCards

Research shows that weight stigma is associated with increased calorie consumption, a pattern that challenges the common wisdom that pressure to lose weight will motivate overweight individuals to lose weight.

Instead…

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Photo credit: I Stand Against Weight Bullying

When people believe that folks of all sizes and weights can be healthy, it results in less shame, increase trust and rapport, improved outcomes such as pro-health lifestyle changes and improved psychological well-being.

What happens when people attempt to reach a “healthy” or “normal” weight to improve their health?

Bad things – weight cycling, disordered eating and emotional distress.

The literature says that attempts to reach a healthy or normal weight rarely work. Research has repeatedly shown that dieting is not an effective means of weight management. No weight-loss initiatives have generated long-term results for the majority of participants. In fact, there are serious risks of dieting, including weight cycling, disordered eating, and emotional distress.

weightcyclingWeight cycling, or the repeated loss and gain of weight, is an almost inevitable result of dieting. Nutrition and fitness education interventions that focus on weight management are rarely effective long-term, as clients often lose weight and then gain it back.

Weight cycling alone may be enough of a reason not to recommend weight management because it is linked to adverse physical health and psychological well-being, including higher mortality, higher risk of osteoporotic fractures and gallstone attacks, loss of muscle tissue, hypertension, chronic inflammation, and various forms of cancer.

In order to maintain lost weight, formerly overweight dieters may need to consume fewer calories than their same-weight counterparts who were never overweight. During calorie restriction and weight loss, metabolic rate is often lowered, and folks may need to employ more rigid dietary habits or excessive exercise routines that may be deemed disordered.

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Photo Credit: Unite Virginia

“The best-known contributor to the development of eating disorders is body dissatisfaction.”- National Eating Disorders Association

Dieters are 12 times more likely to binge eat. A third of  “normal dieters” become pathological dieters, and of those, 1/5 – 1/4 develop eating disorders.

The weight-normative approach promotes the view that weight can be controlled easily through willpower and reduction of poor lifestyle habits. But there is ample scientific evidence that people have little choice about what they weigh due to the interplay between involuntary genetic and environmental factors. Recently, 97 regions of the human genome were identified as playing a role in the development of obesity, including the control of appetite and energy use.

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Photo Credit: American Nutrition Association

Plus, multiple uncontrollable external factors impact weight. Socioeconomic status influences weight in numerous, complex ways. America’s obesogenic environment leaves many Americans with little access to high quality fruits and vegetables and ample access to addictive, engineered, intensely marketed processed foods.

People who are focused on achieving a “healthy weight” may struggle to reach their weight-based goals, in large part due to the external factors mentioned above. This struggle often results in a sense of learned helplessness. Any adopted healthy behaviors like being more physically active, getting better sleep, or eating more mindfully may be seen as futile if attempts to reach and maintain a specific weight continually fail.

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Photo credit: I Stand Against Weight Bullying Tumblr

Weight loss promotion and achieving a “healthy weight” may instill a sense of learned helplessness in the majority of people who are unable to achieve weight-based goals. If attempts to reach and maintain a “healthy weight” continually fail or are seen as impossible given available resources, the practice of healthy behaviors may be seen as futile. If I go to the gym for a week or two regularly and see no change in my goal of reaching a desired weight, I will likely learn that nothing I do helps.

Finally, it’s important to remember that when we attribute weight-related stereotypes to each other, it affects the well-being of ALL OF US. It makes even students who are at a normal weight terrified of gaining weight. The negative effects reach across the weight spectrum.

Instead…

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Photo credit: I Stand Against Weight Bullying Tumblr

The weight-inclusive approach focuses on the PROCESS – being active because it’s fun, and eating when hungry / stopping when full. In doing so, it results in reduction of risk factors (like sedentary lifestyle) and improved physiological measures (like blood pressure or blood glucose) in lieu of pounds or BMI. There are four decades of research proving the positive impact of weight-inclusive interventions. One study looked at folks over a 2 year span and included a “diet group” and a health-at-every-size group. Over the 2 years, 41% of the diet group left the study versus only 8% of the weight inclusive group. In the same study, the researchers offered 6 months of weekly interventions and 6 months of aftercare group support to a diet group and a weigh-inclusive group. The health at every size group members maintained their weight, improved in all outcome variables, and sustained improvements. Diet group participants lost weight and showed initial improvement in many variables but by the end of the study, the lost weight was regained and little improvement was sustained.

Longitudinal studies repeatedly indicate that freedom from weight bias along with body satisfaction correlate with reduced risk for all of the following: unhealthy dieting behaviors, sedentary behaviors, eating disturbances, and weight gain. These findings hold regardless of the participant’s actual weight. 

Does higher body mass index cause poor health?

Nope.

The weight-normative approach rests on the assumption that weight and disease are related in a linear fashion with weight and disease increasing in tandem. The belief is that to be healthy and avoid disease means achieving or being in pursuit of a lower weight if overweight or obese. A weight-normative approach believes that recommending weight loss to these individuals is not a function of weight bias but of health imperative.

But data does not support that a higher BMI causes poor health. correlationA higher BMI is associated with various diseases, but causality is not well-established. Interestingly enough, when accounting for socioeconomic status, nutrition, physical activity levels, and weight bias, even the correlation between a higher BMI and disease is vastly reduced or disappears. The risk for all-cause mortality is lowest for people in the overweight category and highest in the underweight BMI range.

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Flegal’s U-shaped Curve

In 2013, Flegal’s very well-known and very-debated meta-analysis showed that the risk for all-cause mortality is lowest for people in the overweight category with the highest risk in the underweight BMI range. The U-shaped curve is a well-known image used to describe the obesity paradox.

Instead… fat-and-fitStudents can be fat and fit. A 2011 study found that metabolically healthy obese individuals had a lower risk of heart failure than normal-weight people who were insulin resistant. And what does “metabolically healthy” mean? Certain characteristics exist in people who were both obese and metabolically healthy: normal BP, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, normal insulin sensitivity and good physical fitness.

Many studies show that obesity and healthy are not mutually exclusive. And culture is starting to agree. Joni Edelman, a registered nurse and writer, recently blogged about her own experience of losing weight and truly becoming obsessed with the calorie counting and incessant exercise necessary for her to achieve a BMI in the normal/healthy range. She is an example of someone who feels healthier and happier at a higher weight.

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“There is a cultural belief that people have to be dissatisfied with their weight (or any aspect of their appearance) to be motivated to improve it. This belief has not found general support in the literature; in fact, the reverse is supported:  people are more likely to take care of their bodies when they appreciate and hold positive feelings toward their bodies.” Tylka et al, 2014

What should we do?

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Emphasize self-compassion

Help your loved ones shift away from habitual appearance monitoring, which is associated with lower self-care and ignoring physical health, to attending to their bodies in more positive ways that emphasize self-care. People are more likely to take care of their bodies when they appreciate and hold positive feelings toward their bodies.

Remind your friends that you’re perfect just the way you are! That unconditional positive regard goes a long way in helping people feel supported and confident in their ability to make changes when THEY are ready.

Reframe body blame and shame as internalized weight bias that has little to with someone’s actual weight or size.

“What does your body provide your life that you enjoy?”

“Be gentle with yourself! You’re amazing!”

“I love you just the way you are. No matter what.”

Appreciate all bodies – don’t compliment them, just appreciate them.

Placing a focus on appearances is problematic. Avoid: “You look great!” “Have you lost weight?” “I can tell you’ve been working out!” “You look really strong!” Again – you don’t know what behaviors your comment is supporting. And on the flip side, negative comments just make people feel bad about themselves.

Some alternatives? If you can’t stop talking about how people look – focus on how they did their hair that day or compliment their shoes. But even better? Tell them what you’re feeling – or ask about their self-care.

Instead:

“I’m really glad I ran into you.”

“What’s new with you?”

“I could use some new ideas. What do you do to take care of yourself?” and then, “how does it make you feel? Has it impacted your sleep?”

Focus on behaviors

Instead of encouraging a friend to work out more or eat differently, do it with them and make it fun and easy!

“Do you want to go for a run with me?”

“Wouldn’t it be fun to bike to the quarry and go swimming this weekend?”

“Can I make you dinner?”

“Let’s go to bed early tonight so we can play outside all day tomorrow!”

Make it sustainable

Sustainable change means that the behavior is supported, easy, and fun. One easy way to incorporate more physical activity is to move as a part of other activities. If you’re running errands, actually run them (or walk, or bike). If you have to drive, park a few blocks away so you get to move a bit more. Try to eat intuitively and encourage your friends to do the same.

“What if you and I walked to dinner instead of taking the bus?”

“Will you be my lunch buddy?”

“Hey, I got you this water bottle! I’ve noticed how much more water I drink when I carry it with me and fill it up at each water fountain I go by. I feel so much better when I’m hydrated!”

“How can I help you reach your health goals?”

Encourage quality of life as an end goal

Avoid focusing on how exercise makes bodies look, or exercise as a way to “make up for” food choices. And avoid focusing on calorie counting. Help your loved ones reconnect with their bodies –  focus on internal body awareness rather than engage in external appearance monitoring. Consider how healthy behaviors make you and your friends feel.

“It feels so good to be outside, doesn’t it?”

“Endorphins are amazing!”

“I love how good I feel after eating a meal like that.”

“Whoa, I’m full. I love this yummy food but I know if I eat more I’m going to be uncomfortable. Let’s save some leftovers to eat for lunch tomorrow.”

Critically evaluate the evidence for weight loss treatments and communicate them

Reading this blog is a good start. Question what you see and hear about health. You’re going to see body-focused health messages everywhere! Start talking about them and actively work to change the culture.

“Did you see that article about achieving a “spring break body”? What a crock! All bodies are beach bodies! And it’s not possible to do something that is healthy and sustainable but changes someone’s body over the next two weeks. I wrote a letter to the editor to ask them not to publish misleading and body-shaming articles like that anymore.”

Work to increase access, autonomy and justice for individuals of all sizes

There are several body-positive groups at UNC and lots of simple steps you can take to advocate for more weight-inclusive practices on campus.

“I’m taking the Embody: Carolina training next month. Want to do it with me?”

“I noticed that my department’s offices don’t have chairs that would fit people of all sizes, so I asked the office manager to add a wider chair to the room. The next time I went in, there was a new, larger chair!”

Trust that people move toward greater health when given access to stigma-free health opportunities

UNC is a great place for this. Campus Rec, Campus Health, and Student Wellness staff have all been trained on body-positive principles. And our community offers so many ways to stay healthy!

Want to learn more?

What do you think about this article? What ideas do you have to support health at every size on campus?

Sara Stahlman, MA, is a marketing and communication coordinator at the Campus Health Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a member of the ACHA Healthy Campus Coalition and the ACHA Health Promotion Section.

Toni Hartley, MPH, RD, LDN, is a clinical nutritionist with Lutz, Alexander Nutrition Therapy. Antonia specializes in medical nutrition therapy for people with disordered eating patterns. She promotes Health At Every Size® principles both in her office and in her speaking engagements and practices a non-diet approach.

References

Bacon, L., Stern, J. S., Van Loan, M. D., & Keim, N. L. (2005). Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female, female chronic dieters. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(6), 929-936, L., Stern, J. S., Van Loan, M. D., & Keim, N. L. (2005).

Bacon, L. (2010). Health at every size: The surprise truth about your weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella.Health at every size: The surprising truth about your weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella.

Flegal, K. M., Kit, B. K., Orpana, H., & Graubard, B. I. (2013). Association of allcause mortality with overweight and obesity using standard body mass index categories: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Journal of American Medical Association, 309(1), 71-82.

Leibel, R. L., & Hirsch, J. (1984). Diminished energy requirements in reduced-obese patients. Metabolism: Clinical and Experiential, 33(2), 164-170.

Locke, A. E. et al. (2015). Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology. Nature, 518(7538) 197-206.

Mann T., Tomiyama J., Westling E., et al. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychology, 62, 220-233.

Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). Can we simultaneously work toward the prevention of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 38(3), 220-227.

Puhl, R. M., & Brownell, K. D. (2006). Confronting and coping with weight stigma: an investigation of overweight and obese adults. Obesity, 14(10), 1802-1815.

Schvey, N. A., Puhl, R. M., & Brownell, K. D. (2011). The impact of weight stigma on caloric consumption. Obesity, 19(10), 1957-1962. impact of weight stigma on caloric consumption. Obesity, 19(10), 1957-1962.

Shisslak, C. M., Crago, M., & Estes, L. S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18(3), 209-219. 

Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R.W., Burgard, D., Danielsdottir, S., Shuman, E., Davis, C., & Calogero, R.M. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight-loss. Journal of Obesity, 2014(2014), 18 pages.

Setting up Patterns for Sleep Success

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Patterns. Sleep is all about patterns – we do it every single night, and our ability to sleep relies on the patterns we create with our daily lives. What else do you do every day that you could shift to help your sleep become a more regular pattern?

  • Exercise routine: A tired body usually means a tired mind. Make it a goal to move your body every single day.
  • Meditation: The main requirement of meditation? Focusing your thoughts – either on your breath or a mantra, something simple, like “I will be more mindful.” Beyond that – the where and the how long and pretty much everything else is up to you. Even a few minutes a day can help. Schedule it in – perhaps first thing when you wake up and right before you fall asleep. You can even meditate in your bed – that’s absolutely allowed.
  • Eat a variety of nutrient dense, processed-as-little-as-possible foods. These are less likely to have caffeine nor high amounts of sugar and are more likely to nourish your body the way it needs.
  • Create a routine of when you go to bed and wake up. College makes this difficult, but really – we all could use more regular sleep and wake times. Ideally this includes weekends as well. Is there a wake time you could imagine working for your weekdays and weekends? Try it out for a week and see how it goes.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary. What’s your bedroom like? Cool it down at night, try to keep it quiet (now’s a great time to try earplugs and white noise at night if you have loud roommates), keep it dark (a sleep mask or blackout curtains might help!). Do anything you can to make your bedroom a place of relaxation and relief from the stress of the outside world.

What do you do right before you try to fall asleep?

  • Screen use just before bed: consider installing a filter to add red to the visual. Research has shown that blue lights of screens can mess with our brains, where the red filter helps our brain think of sunsets and sleep.  Or consider keeping all screens out of your bedroom. Make your room a space reserved for sleep.
  • Exercise just before bed: consider doing more flow yoga or a chill walk just before bed and scheduling your hardcore cardio and lifting to earlier in the day or early evening. But – your bigger priority should be to get exercise at some time each day. Movement helps our bodies be tired and ready to sleep.
  • Good options before bedtime: book reading, meditation, writing down things from the day that are running through your brain so you don’t have to think about them anymore, really any sleep routine. A good example of a sleep routine? Take a warm shower, put on pajamas, brush your teeth, read a chapter of a good novel, earplugs in, sleep mask on, nightymcnightpants.

After you have put in some effort into sleep hygiene (that’s a real term describing steps like those above), and you’re still having trouble, come see a provider at Campus Health. Some providers may recommend further changes to sleep hygiene, medication, or the use of a phone app (CBT-i Coach on Play and iTunes), which can be used alone and in conjunction with a medical provider to improve your sleep. Make an appointment at CHS to learn more.

 

Photo credit: Gabriel Gonzalez, Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Be Good To Yourself

I love uplifting music with inspirational messages. Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite musical artists, Ledisi. She has a song called “Be Good To Yourself”, and the following lyrics from that song really resonated with me:

“Oh, when you’re traveling

Through the highs and the lows

Make sure you listen to your spirit

You gotta take care of your soul

Hold on, never give up

You can get through whatever

Always make time

For yourself, whoo”

 These lyrics resonated with me because they reminded me of wellness. wellness

Wellness integrates your mind, body and spirit. The dimensions of wellness is a concept used to express that integration. The model used by UNC Student Wellness integrates the following seven dimensions of wellness:

  1. Physical Wellness which includes the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows you to get through your daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress.
  2. Emotional Wellness which includes the ability to understand yourself and adequately cope with the challenges life brings.
  3. Social Wellness which includes the ability to successfully interact with people in our world, participating in and feeling connected to your community.
  4. Spiritual Wellness which includes your search for meaning and purpose in human existence.
  5. Academic Wellness which includes the ability to open your mind to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment.
  6. Financial Wellness which includes awareness of your current financial state.
  7. Environmental Wellness which includes the ability to recognize (1) your own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water and the land that surrounds you and (2) that your social, natural, and built environment affect your health.

(To learn more about any of these dimensions please click on the hyperlinks above)

As I reflect on my own journey as a UNC undergraduate and now graduate student, I realize that wellness is often neglected during this time of year. It’s getting close to the end of the semester so there are exams, presentations, and papers galore! Lots of attention is focused on the ‘academic dimension’ of wellness. However, even in the midst of academic craziness, it’s important to, as Ledisi said, “listen to your spirit”, “take care of your soul”, and “make time for yourself”.

In light of the connection between your mind, body and spirit, I encourage you to “Be Good To Yourself” during the end of the semester and think about the other dimensions of your wellness in addition to the ‘academic dimension’. Taking a short break to pay attention to your physical, emotional, social, spiritual, financial, or environmental wellness can help you feel more balanced. At first glance, this list of dimensions may seem overwhelming so here are some simple ideas to get you started.

strechEngage in Activity: Research shows that becoming more active can make you feel better.  Here’s some simple ways you be more active.

  • Take a walk.
  • Take the steps instead of the elevator.
  • Turn on some music and dance around.
  • Take a stretch break.

books

                                                                          

Connect with Others: Research shows a powerful connection between social connection and well-being. Here’s some simple ways you can build your social relationships.

  • Have lunch with a friend. For a list of on-campus dining options click here
  • Call someone from your hometown.
  • Watch a movie with your roommate. Tip: You can reserve movies for free at the Undergraduate Library- click here to learn more.
  • Need to talk to someone else? Consider talking with a UNC CAPS counselor. They’re open for walk-in first time counseling appointments on Monday – Friday from 9am-12 and 1pm-4. Check the events calendar on the home page for any closures for holidays and breaks.circle

Chill Out: There are many wellness-related benefits of relaxation. Here’s some simple ways you can relax.

Havmusice other simple ideas for how to “Be Good To Yourself”? Share them in the comments section below!

Sources:

Brock, R. (n.d.). Kids in Action: Stretches and Warm-Ups Clip Art 18 PNGs. Retrieved from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kids-in-Action-Stretches-and-Warm-Ups-Clip-Art-18-PNGs-869484

Fox, K. R. (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public health nutrition, 2(3a), 411-418.

Hicks, M. (n.d.). two friends. Retrieved from http://school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/clip/friends5-color.html

Klein, S. (2012, April 16). Stress Awareness Day: 10 Health Benefits Of Relaxation. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/stress-awareness-day-relaxation-benefits_n_1424820.html

Perry, P. (n.d.) Music Clipart Image: Teenager listening to mp3 music player. Retrieved from http://www.computerclipart.com/computer_clipart_images/teenager_listening_to_mp3_music_player_0515-1003-0104-3355.html

Seppala, E (2012, August 26). Connect To Thrive. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201208/connect-thrive

Terrigno, N. (n.d.). Friendship Globe Art + Border Graphics fro Multicultural Projects Retrieved from http://esl-multicultural-stuff-page2.blogspot.com/p/friendship-circle-clip-art-graphic.html

Originally posted December 2013 by Callie Womble

Callie Womble worked for Student Wellness as an undergraduate and graduate student at UNC. She now is a PhD student at NC State studying Educational Research and Policy Analysis, with a specialization in Higher Education Administration. Her doctoral research agenda focuses on critical race theory; grit and resiliency; and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? Have that little sore throat that shows up when you’re just about to get sick? Avoid the #uncplague this Cold and Flu season by using these annual reminders about what to do to not get sick.

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Wash your hands (and stop touching your face).

Illness is often spread by people getting the a virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but in a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

When should you wash ’em?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After riding on public transportation
  • After using the toilet
  • After using shared gym equipment
  • After handling money
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching or taking out garbage
  • After any other potentially gross things you do that I couldn’t think of

Sleep

We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep which are amazingRead them nowSeriously.

Hydrate.

Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.

Drinkmore

When you are really sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get a flu shot

According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health will agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

So each flu season, get yourself that flu shot. The vaccine is available on campus without appointment at either Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy, and will remain available through at least January.

Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.

This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It was updated and reposted November 4, 2016.

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.