Pandemic Fatigue

Student studying in the library with a superman sticker on his laptop and a tired look on his face
UNC undergraduate student Eli Grossman studies in Davis Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 19, 2020. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Life during a pandemic means making analyzing risks and benefits over and over again. It’s exhausting. We are constantly adapting to new policies and situations. Grocery shopping, going to class, chatting with your neighbors, traveling – they all require more thought and behavior monitoring than ever before. These mental efforts have costs. Plus as college students, we have a brief window to experience college life, a year of which has already been disrupted. Our ideas of how life at UNC should look are vastly different than the reality has been this past year.

There are plenty of systemic issues around the pandemic and life at UNC that should be addressed. Healthy Heels is one of the entities working amongst students, faculty, staff, and public health experts to improve the way UNC is navigating during the pandemic. You can help by advocating too!

In addition to those changes, we all have areas in our personal life that we can control that can help with pandemic fatigue.

Do things – just do them differently.

Students chat while sitting on the low stone walls of Polk Place on February 24, 2021, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Continue to follow preventative measures while still finding ways to live your lives. We are out of the “do not” phase of the pandemic at this point; now we are at “do differently.” Use the general COVID guidelines and creativity to find ways to make things fun and keep them safer. Mainly you want to reduce the amount of shared air between you and people outside your household. Key points are to:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth covered and/or keep your distance from other people
  • Find fresh air (ideally outdoors, otherwise well-ventilated indoor)
  • Limit the number of people
  • Reduce the length of time
  • Seek a vaccine when you’re eligible

We know that most of us recognize the considerations for COVID at this point of the pandemic. So the question becomes how to live life taking those into account. Anything you can do to move interactions outside and limit the number of people will help!

  • OUTDOOR SPACES: Consider ways to find or improve outdoor areas that are comfortable for socializing in varied weather. Think about porches, decks, parks, gardens, river/lakeshores, trails, or natural areas. Remember that masks are required outside on campus whenever you are closer than 6 feet to someone.
  • CREATIVE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Think of fun ways to enjoy your time outside together! Some ideas: hike, walk, disc golf, hang at a park, stargaze, bike, host a bonfire, boat, float, or go to an outdoor movie.
  • DATING: If you choose to date, be intentional! Find ways to get to know someone before meeting in person – including their COVID risks. When you start dating someone in real life, their risks will become your risks. If you don’t know if your date is seeing other people, assume they are. For the in-person dates, the same basic concepts apply – outdoors is better than indoors; masked is better than unmasked; fewer people is better than more people.
  • EATING/DRINKING: Eating or drinking around people you don’t live with adds risk because of the need to remove your mask to consume food and beverages. As above, the same basic concepts apply – outdoors is better than indoors; masked is better than unmasked; fewer people is better than more people. Find places to eat and drink where it’s just you and your friend(s) instead of being exposed to more of the community. Host a backyard picnic. Remember that alcohol or drugs consumed may impact your ability to make good choices for COVID prevention and otherwise, so opt out of substances or use them in a way or environment that ensures your and your community’s safety.
  • INDOOR EVENTS: Avoid them if you can! But if you do attend, wear a well-fitting, double-layered mask and do your best to ensure others will be masked as well. Keep your distance. Further guidance for indoor events available at the CDC.

Support your own mental health.

  • Find ways to stay connected with people who make you feel safe and supported.
  • Find hope. Remember that the decisions you make now will make you more resilient and stronger when the pandemic is over.
  • Practice positivity. We are doing the best we can under difficult circumstances. There are so many things to be grateful for! Try to find time each day to express that gratitude – whether over a meal with a roommate or in a gratitude journal.
  • Focus on what you can control. Determine what things add the most stress and set some healthy boundaries around them. Create a schedule or routine where you get 30 minutes just for you – every day. Focus on one or two things a day that you can accomplish for your wellbeing; these small things over time add up.
  • Cut yourself some slack. Be gentle with yourself; be gentle with your people. Pandemic life is hard, and hitting a wall is a very normal response to very abnormal circumstances.

A mental health professional can help support you in finding specific strategies that will work with your life. UNC students have free access to CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658.

You’re doing good things.

Know that every choice you make that helps reduce COVID-19 transmission risk helps our community stay safer and healthier. Most of us didn’t regularly wear facial coverings a year ago. Many of us didn’t understand the term “social distancing.” Once we understood these strategies reduced the likelihood of COVID-19 spread, many of us implemented them. We wear masks, keep our distance from each other and limit contact with people outside of our household. A big ol’ THANK YOU for all the ways you have shifted your daily life to support a healthier community.

How to support a roommate with mental health challenges

Many UNC students are struggling with stress, anxiety, and mental illness. Mental health concerns can make it even harder to manage the already significant challenges of being a Tar Heel.

As a roommate, you are in a unique position. You will likely have intimate knowledge of your roommate’s behavior and wellbeing, and you can be an important support system for this person you live with and care about. It is also important to take care of yourself and set boundaries while you support others. It’s a balancing act!

Together we can create a culture of care at UNC.

  1. Be considerate. Being a good roommate means being considerate of each other’s needs. This remains true when your roommate has anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, trauma history, or any type of mental illness.
  2. Communicate. Everyone’s experiences with mental health are unique – so step one is to communicate openly and kindly.
  3. Respect their privacy. Your living situation should feel like a safe place for you and your roommates to be authentic. The conversations and experiences that happen in your living situation should stay within your living situation. The only exception to this is when you’re worried about your roommate hurting themselves or others.
  4. Show you care. Ideas could include: make them dinner, pick up a shared living space, leave them a kind note, ask them to hang out, schedule time to do something they enjoy.
  5. Ask how to help. Find the right time to talk, one when they are well-rested, aren’t hangry, and generally seem like they are in a good place – and ask how you can support them when they are struggling. Some folks may have more trouble asking for what they need than others – so come to the conversation with ideas for suggestions.
  6. Encourage their wellbeing. Things that we know help wellbeing include a connection (that can be with you, and you can encourage them to reach out to more folks who care about them or a mental health pro), time outside, good sleep, nourishing food, body movement, activities that result in creativity and joy. Encourage them to do these activities. Even better, invite them to do them with you!
  7. Take care of yourself as well. Don’t take your roommate’s behavior personally – often their behavior will have little to do with you. Consider what you need to be successful and well. Sometimes it may mean being spending time away from your shared space. Sometimes it may mean meeting your needs first and then supporting your roommate. Take some time to check in with yourself on your capacity to help.
  8. Watch for worrisome changes. If you notice changes in mood, behavior, performance, appearance, or outlook that make you worried, talk about it. You can reach out to CAPS 24/7 to consult with professionals for the best way to support your friend by calling 919-966-3658. You can also talk to your roommate directly about what you’re noticing. Expressing your concern to them and encouraging them to seek help may be the first step in their healing. Focus on the specifics that are causing you concern. Listen and avoid judgment. If your roommate expresses a desire to hurt or kill themselves, seek help immediately.

If you are concerned about immediate safety

24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

Call   911

Come into CAPS or call  919-966-3658 

Contact the Dean of Students at   919-966-4042

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line Text START to 741-741

Thank you to our reader who suggested this blog topic! You can suggest blog topics as well – we love it when you do!

Pause. Reflect. Act.

Three simple words with a whole lot of power to make your wellness days – and time at UNC – more beneficial for you.

Pause. Take a moment. This could mean as small as stopping in the midst of something evoking strong feelings or as big as initiating a meditation practice. It could mean just taking a few deep breaths.

Pausing for a moment – or several – to separate ourselves a bit from what’s happening allows for us to regain sight of what’s important.

Reflect. This is the MOST IMPORTANT step to any growth or learning. You can read all the books, watch all the films, listen to all the podcasts, but without taking time to consider what you’ve learned afterwards, most lessons will be lost.

Reflect means to think deeply and carefully. Give yourself time to consider what you need and how you add value to your community. What motivates you? What brings you joy? How can you make space in your life for what’s important? What can you do to better meet your needs? How can you make space to have a positive impact on your community?

Act. Based on your reflection, take the first step to get what you need. Reach out to ask for help if you need it!

Happy Wellness Days Weekend!

Who’s got two thumbs and is excited for a long weekend?

Take time for YOU this weekend! This is a great time to give yourself a break, pace yourself, and manage your expectations. Take at least some time each day just for you. Some ideas based on the many activities available on and around campus are listed below that might meet your needs.

Thursday, February 11 

Friday, February 12 

Saturday, February 13 

Sunday, February 14 

Monday, February 15 

Tuesday’s February 16  

  • Reset and redesign your workspace
  • Volunteer with Carolina Community Garden. (3-5 p.m.) 
  • Carolina Basketball vs. Virginia Tech (6 p.m.) on ACC Network 
  • Celebrate Mardi Gras safely with takeout from Imbibe

ANYTIME during the weekend OR during Wellness Days 

Safer Game Watching

Hey team! Raise your giant foam finger if you love watching big sporting events with other fans.

It’s normal to feel a connection through collective cheering (or dislike of that team down the road). We love the energy that comes from spaces where lots of folks are hyped about what’s happening.

And we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Choose a safer way to enjoy big games.

As we all likely know, the safest way to watch big games is to gather virtually or just with the people in your household.

Make your virtual celebration fun

  • Wear your favorite team colors. Paint your face. Get out your team pom poms.
  • Go big when setting up your viewing space:
    • Overzealously decorate in your team’s colors.
    • Ask to use your roommates’ monitors so you can collectively see online chatter, multiple camera angles, and your video-chatting friends all at the same time.
    • Make themed snacks.
  • Start a group text with your friends who are also fans.
  • Challenge your friends to create the most fun team-oriented TikTok.
  • Engage on Twitter, Reddit, or another online community space while you watch.
Otis will be Rameses XXII as Rameses XXI goes into retirement at the Hogan's Magnolia View Farm in Chapel Hill, NC. November 3, 2020. The Hogan family has been caretakers of the rams that have served as UNC’s mascot since 1924. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Risk Reduction for Small Gatherings

We all know gathering with people outside your household adds risk. Avoid gatherings if you can. If you do get together with people who don’t live with you – here are ways to make it safer:

  • Talk about it. Have a conversation ahead of time to set expectations for the gathering.
  • Gather outdoors. It’s safer than gathering indoors. Use a projector to broadcast the game. If indoors, open windows and doors if possible.
  • Distance yourselves. Sit at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you. Avoid direct contact like hugs and high fives with those not from their household.
  • Wear masks with more than two layers over their nose and mouth that fits snugly against the sides of the face. Bring a spare mask (or a few) in case yours gets wet from moist breath or snow/rain, or if someone else forgets theirs.
  • Avoid shouting, cheering loudly or singing. We get mad at Coach K too! Hold in those hollers and instead clap, stomp your feet or use handheld noisemakers.
  • Remember that people without symptoms as well as those with a recent negative test can still spread COVID.
  • Wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds – especially after blowing nose, coughing, sneezing, and visiting with others, as well as before eating.
  • Avoid touching your face including mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • BYO food, drinks, and plates/cups/utensils (and mask!).
  • It’s ok to stay home. Do what’s best for you, and definitely stay home if you’re sick or have been near someone who thinks they may have been exposed.

And finally – we know rushing Franklin Street is a tradition after a win, but this is not the year to do it. Stay safe(r) and #GoHeels!

The Current Social Dilemma

This was supposed to be an exciting year. Many of us are students at the school of our dreams and are thrilled to live in Chapel Hill. Filled with allure, UNC is full of prospects: for new friendships and creating lifelong memories.

This fantasy was soon smashed by the pandemic. Classes were converted to online and the campus was shut down. We found ourselves in a new situation with few opportunities to meet new people. As the months of isolation dragged on, the feelings of loneliness lingered with limited hope of dissipating. Our ability to engage in school became stunted. The academic requirements that once ignited passion and captivation became daunting. The lack of social distractions, in theory, should have allotted more time to engage with academic responsibilities, however, it seemed to cause the opposite.

Many students have expressed feelings of extreme powerlessness, since the start of the pandemic. We feel displaced, lonely, angry, and sad. Many have given up the comfort and communities of their homes only to find themselves feeling distraught and distanced.

Data confirms these feelings – you’re not alone! A representative sample of UNC students completed a well-being survey in the fall and confirmed that many UNC students are having feelings of loneliness and low rates of self-esteem. This can have profound effects, especially when combined with the pressures of academia. Social isolation can deplete mental health, and can also have damaging effects on one’s physical health including higher blood pressure and increased rates of diabetes.

Within all of this hopelessness, where does one turn to for hope? Amongst the powerlessness, where do we turn to feel empowered? 

We know getting together while being apart is hard, but it’s worth it. Social connections are an important key to happiness and well-being. Although socializing during a pandemic may not look the same, there are a number of low-risk activities to increase overall wellbeing and help to create stronger connections in your community.

Building positive social connections – National Psychology Week 2018 | APS
  •  Move your body with a friend, ideally outside. Local hiking spots abound! Check out:
    • Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough
    • Eno River in Durham
    • Bolin Creek in Carrboro
  • Reach out to new Tar Heels who express similar outlooks and interests in your classes and school groups. To some, this may provoke fear and anxiety. Putting yourself out there and reaching out to new people is not necessarily easy. But we are all struggling in one way or another. Send someone a direct message over zoom after you enjoyed what they shared in class, reach out to someone privately in your GroupMe chats and ask to schedule a zoom coffee date or socially distanced walk.
  •  Engage in student groups. Finding a group may help promote a feeling of community within the university. Loads of student organizations are available that have the potential to create a sense of community around similar interests and identities.

We must view our mental health as an essential part to a constantly moving vehicle. When one part fails to function, the rest are also compromised. In order to reach our academic potential, we must allow ourselves the space to be present and mindful of our social well being. 

Campus Resources

Upcoming Social Events

  • Small Fest: Re-imagine the start of the spring semester with a variety of events and opportunities to connect on Heel Life |Monday Jan 25th – Friday Jan 29th at 5pm-6pm
  • Mental Wellbeing Series: Lovin’ Da Crew: Join Healthy Heels and Wellness experts on Instagram live to chat about challenges, barriers and strategies to increase social connections| January 28th at 12pm
  • Virtual Paint Nights: Sign up to paint, relax, have fun, be creative, and social| January 27th at 6pm
  • Virtual Game Nights: Celebrate FWOC with your favorite virtual games | Jan 28th at 7pm
  • SOLR (Student Organization Leadership Retreat): The theme of the retreat is “2020 in Review” – this half-day retreat includes social opportunities and roundtable discussions | Jan 30th at 9am-1pm

Support Groups

CAPS offers a variety of groups that connect students to supportive, nurturing, and safe environments including Dancing Mindfulness, Brother to Brother, and many more.

Wellness offers community-building programs designed to increase a sense of belonging and provide space for voices and stories to be shared.

Health and Wellness services

Moving Towards an Anti-Racist World at UNC

It’s not enough to be against racism – we need people to be actively anti-racist. Don’t be a bystander in the fight to dismantle white supremacy. We deserve to live in world where every person is treated like a human being. Here are some ways to move towards anti-racism:

Look in the mirror. Look at yourself and your communities. Consider how people of color are treated – on the sidewalks, when socializing, in classes. Racism manifests itself in a variety of ways, some obvious, but more often subtler. Identify – to then dismantle – the ways behaviors uphold and perpetuate white supremacy.

Listen, learn, and empathize. Become a student of racism historically and today. You can attend webinars and workshops, read works written by BIPOC, watch documentaries that highlight social issues, listen to podcasts – whatever learning style works for you. You can start with this robust compilation of Anti-Racism Resources from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

Make the commitment. Be a person of action. Plan how you’ll respond when issues of discrimination arise, and then follow through. Consider how to amplify and elevate diverse voices in your community and into leadership opportunities. Become an influencer in big ways and small to help create a new normal and inspire those in our circles to become anti-racist.

UNC Services Centering BIPOC Students

CAPS

The CAPS Multicultural Health Program serves Black, Indigenous and Students of Color with brief therapy, group therapy, outreach events, and liaison relationships between students and CAPS. The program includes 4 mental health clinicians and 2 co-facilitators who all identify as people of color and are dedicated to meeting the needs of communities of color on campus.

CAPS Groups including:

Dancing Mindfulness Open to BIPOC students, fusing small group discussion and self-reflection with dance and mindfulness.

Brother 2 Brother: A Support Group for Black Men This group gives a space for Black men to support each other through the journey of navigating higher education and life.

Empowering Black Women This group provides a safe space for Black women to openly and honestly discuss their experiences to facilitate empowerment and encouragement.

Intersections: A QTPOC Support Group This group welcomes all Black, Indigenous and POC students on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and those who are questioning. The purpose is to value, nurture, respect and celebrate QTPOC students at UNC.

We Gon’ Be Alright A space for Black students to gather, share experiences and gain support from one another.

Feeling Seen Podcast

A person of color, half in shadow, with Feeling Seen, A UNC CAPS Podcast overlaying the image

Feeling Seen is hosted by Dr. Erinn Scott, Psy.D. and Dr. Anthony Teasdale, Ph.D., staff psychologists at CAPS to discuss and demystify mental health, therapy, and help seeking, and have some fun in the process. This podcast speaks directly to UNC and its students, giving listeners a more personal side of CAPS and its staff. There’ll be insights, laughs, and mistakes, but always with the intention of reducing stigma and helping people “feel seen.”

Find it on all the places you listen: Spotify | YouTube | Anchor | Google Podcasts | Apple Podcasts

Identity-based Support Outside of CAPS

How to stay balanced during troubling news events

Person looks at phone

The news may feel troubling, traumatic, angering, frustrating, or scary. We all have instances where we find it both difficult to engage with current events and also find it difficult to ignore them.

It is important to be aware of what’s happening. It’s also vital to take care of yourself and your mental health.

Notice when there’s a conflict between what the news offers you and what is best for your individual mental wellbeing. Instead of ruminating on what is happening, you can focus on what is within your control.

Think about how the news makes you feel when you consume it.

  • Find content that is fact-based, reputable or uses primary sources rather than viewing memes or personal opinions on social media.
  • If you notice increased stress, limit your news intake for a bit.
  • If you’re feeling paralyzed or anxious, act. Do something constructive for a cause you believe in to help you feel better.

Engage in meaningful activities.

  • Find an activity you enjoy and do it, rather than fixating on news or social media coverage,
  • Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you.
  • Stay socially connected and lean on your friends when you’re feeling stressed.
  • Stay active – moving your body helps release stressful energy.
  • If you have a therapist, talk to them about your feelings to help you manage.

Be mindful of your surroundings when sharing opinions.

  • Avoid assumptions about other people and how they think.
  • Anticipating differences in opinions can help prepare you for difficult conversations.
  • Even with like-minded people, remember that someone might be trying to limit news exposure.

Be open to learning about other points of view. There are always reasons why people feel the way they do about certain issues or people. Consider using this cycle for conversations:

  • Ask open ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
  • Listen to what people you disagree with say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
  • Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
  • Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
  • Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience. People tend to best process stories, rather than logic.

Stay close to people with whom you disagree if you can safely do so. Some worry that differences in how we digest the same events will further divide our communities. Counteract this in your life by maintaining close relationships – even with those who don’t see eye to eye with you. Test out how it feels to stay friendly with acquaintances who support opposing viewpoints.

Plan an enjoyable event. Life will go on after this news cycle, so planning an event can help reinforce that notion.

Mental Health Support Options for UNC Students

It can be hard to know which support options might work best for your needs. There are a range of resources offered to UNC students to support you through difficult times. 

“I want to talk to professional support.”

  • MENTAL HEALTH: Counseling and Psychological Services offers mental health support 24/7 at 919-966-3658. You can also initiate therapy, medication management or find a referral for a therapist or psychiatrist in the community by calling M-F between 9-12 or 1-4. 
  • WELLNESS: Wellbeing Coaching offers individual appointments with Student Wellness coaches to support holistic wellness issues including mood, substance use and stress.
  • ACADEMICS: Academic Coaching helps you balance academic demands with life demands. 

“I want to connect with other students to find support and talk.”

  • Peer 2 Peer program  offers online one-to-one sessions with peer responders. Students can sign up to meet with a person with similar lived experience or relevant training. The option to remain anonymous is also available. 
  • UNC Wellness Network offers support groups with trained student facilitators.
  • CAPS groups over Zoom are opportunities to connect with people to feel less alone and less isolated while navigating challenges together. Led by CAPS staff.
  • Student organizations provide connection with students who have similar interests.
  • Learning Center Workshops provide academic assistance among students who need similar supports. Led by Learning Center staff.

“I want to connect with supportive people with my background or identity.”

Wellbeing Strategies for UNC Students in Quarantine or Isolation

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


Stay active with Campus Recreation

Live Virtual Trivia and Art Programming

Among Us Mondays @ 6PM

Hop into UNC’s Discord every Monday at 6pm (or join whenever you can after that time) to play this murder mystery style game with your fellow students! No registration required, simply join an Among Us voice chat on discord and click on the voice channel for the specific game you wish to play https://discord.gg/Yx8RF9bjGT

Yoga: Tuesdays 7:00- 7:45PM (register for Tuesday Yoga in order to receive access to the class via Zoom)

Paint Night (alternating every Wednesday 6- 7PM): Jan 27, Feb 10, Feb 24, Mar 10, Mar 24, Apr 7, Apr 21, May 5

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

Register for Paint Night

Trivia (alternating every Wednesday 6- 7PM); Feb 3, Feb 17, Mar 3, Mar 17, Mar 31, Apr 14, Apr 28

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

Register for Trivia

Fortn Friday @ 6PM beginning January 29

Join other Fortnite lovers at UNC for Fortnite Fridays, on the Intramural Sports discord server (https://discord.com/invite/aRC5hBAEKR ).  This community is open for everyone – whether you are just a regular player or ultra-competitive. We will use the IM Sports discord server to communicate with each other, set up duos, squads, and other scrimmages, and make the gaming experience more fun and interactive. How to play video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GGFfbCwda8

Virtual Fitness Classes

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

Intramural sports

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


Mind your mind with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

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

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

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

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

Discuss wellbeing with Student Wellness

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


Listen to a good book from University Libraries  

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

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


Connect with other students virtually 

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

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


Join the Mental Health Email Course for UNC Students

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

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Daily Self-Care Activities

Person doing the hurdler stretch

Take a Stretch Break

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

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

🎬Try this guided stretch sequence

Person with headphones on who appears to be dancing and singing

Just Dance!

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

Here are some options to get you grooving!

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

Meditate.

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

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

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

woman wearing exercise clothing squats

Build Strength.

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

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

bottle of water sits on a desk

Hydrate.

Benefits of water:

  • good
  • for
  • you

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

Learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

Activity book cover shows various UNC and wellness related icons

Color inside (or outside) the lines.

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

Person in mountains sits crosslegged.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Practice this breathing sequence to help clear the mind:

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

Learn more about how to fight stress with intentional breathing.

Graphic heart over heartbeat-like line

Boost Your Energy!

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

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

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

Find Flow.

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

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

heart charm says "i am grateful"

Give Gratitude.

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

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

Learn more about how and why to practice gratitude.

Laptop, sweater and plant sit on a window balcony

Open a Window.

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

Learn more about why fresh air is good for you.

Cairn of rocks sits by the ocean

Center your Core.

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

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

11 Ideas to Take Care of YOU

Written and compiled by CAPS staff members Kyle Alexander, LCSW and Kadeisha Bonsu, LCSWA

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been coping with the mental strain of Covid-19 for 10+ months now. Many of us have spent a good amount of that time stuck inside, missing family and friends, so it’s totally normal if you feel more down or isolated than usual this winter. You are not alone.

We at UNC CAPS want to be here for you and wanted to share some ideas for self-care ideas during these last few weeks before the semester begins. CAPS staff is here for you so please don’t hesitate to call us to speak with a therapist anytime 24/7 for support (919) 966-3658.

Get Creative!

A person in socks over a bedspread lays next to a book, pencil, mug, and guitar

Many of us don’t identify as artists, but all of us have creative abilities. Let out your inner child. Dance around, color, draw, paint, make up a song, host a zoom talent show…it doesn’t need to be perfect; you just need to have fun.

Take Baths

A bath with bubbles, candles, soap, and a book

Take a moment to disengage from the world with your favorite music, some candles, and a hot bath. Baths can help relieve muscle tension and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, some studies indicate that going from a hot bath to a cold bedroom can help your body fall asleep faster.

Play Video Games

Two people with gaming consoles play a video game together

Distanced from your friends who may be living far away from you right now? Plug in your favorite multi-player video game and instantly connect. Distraction is helpful in moderation and can be a heathy way to escape for a moment. There are a ton of fun video games out there both on your mobile phone and console to explore. If it’s too cold to go outside into nature, check-out some of these nature inspired games that are fun to play with friends and bring nature indoors.

Read

Library long view

With more time inside, put down the phone, turn off the electronics and pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Escape into that science fiction series, or start that book that’s been on your shelf forever.  

Books feeling too long to commit to right now? How about exploring shorter poems that are speaking to you right now.

Don’t know what book to choose?  the book you’re looking for?, check-out GoodReads.com for book recommendations. For those in the Chapel Hill area already, you can request books from UNC libraries, or through inter-library loan.

Choose a Theme

Graphic of astronauts on various devices lounging around on a couch

Pick a theme for each day or each week depending on the length of your staycation. Include things that address various areas of wellness i.e., emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, etc. Themes you might consider are Zoom-Free Wednesday, Financially-Fit Friday, Self-Care Saturday… doesn’t matter the day, just have fun and get creative!

Listen to Podcasts

Feeling isolated or lonely while socially distancing? We all are. You are not alone. Community and human interaction are important for the psyche, and when coronavirus makes that hard, tune into your favorite podcast to immerse yourself in a digital community.

Next time you are folding laundry or on a walk, play your favorite podcast and instantly you can feel like you are not alone. There are thousands of different types of podcasts (comedy, history, news, etc.), pick which one is right for you and click play.

Person of color with their eyes closed and half in shadow with the words Feeling Seen A UNC CAPS Podcast overlay



A great Podcast option to check out is Feeling Seen, hosted by Dr. Erinn Scott, Psy.D. and Dr. Anthony Teasdale, Ph.D., staff psychologists at CAPS. These colleagues and friends come together to discuss and demystify mental health, therapy, and help seeking, and have some fun in the process. This podcast speaks directly to UNC and its students, giving listeners a more personal side of CAPS and its staff. There’ll be insights, laughs, and mistakes, but always with the intention of reducing stigma and helping people “feel seen.” Find it on all the places you listen: Spotify | YouTube | Anchor | Google Podcasts | Apple Podcasts

Go for a Hike

Fish eye view of the Botanical Garden

Those of us who are privileged to live in the Triangle are able to access numerous hiking trails in the area.

Wherever you are, the best way to find a trail that works for you is to ask friends for recommendation or go online for lists of best hikes in the areaThe All Trails application is a great free tool to download to search and filter the top-rated hikes based on your location.

Winter break is a great time to explore parts of Chapel Hill you haven’t yet. Try walking across the street from campus and check-out the free North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Camp

Glowing tent and fire at night by a lake

Camping is a great activity to escape into nature and be socially distanced with friends. North Carolina has a ton of nature and camp sites for you to explore this season.

Bike

Rameses bikes on a Tar Heel Bike in the Pit while students look on behind him

We know it’s cold out there, but regular exercise can act like an anti-depressant in itself. This Winter continue to challenge yourself to keep moving and get outside as much as possible. Biking is a great way to get some cardio in, but also explore. Check out these bike rental resources on-campus: 

Eat

Image of Heavenly Buffaloes

Outdoor dining under a heat lamp, takeout, or curbside pickup could be a nice treat for you and your friends. Maybe it’s time to pick a new type of food or restaurant you’ve been wanting to explore on Franklin! Or it’s about time you checked out all the cool stuff Carrboro has to offer if you haven’t had the time to explore Carrboro during the school year.

Check-out this resource for most updated list of food option in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In the mood for chicken or vegan wings? Heavenly Buffaloes is open on Franklin and has (outdoor dining, takeout and delivery). We haven’t been paid for this recommendation – it’s just that good.

Women has head on computer desk and is raising a flag with a sad face on it
Nadia_Snopek/Adobe Stock

Set Virtual Boundaries

Give yourself permission to say no to Zoom/video meetings, hangouts, etc. that are not necessary or can be rescheduled. It’s okay to honor yourself, recognize your zoom fatigue, and take some space from it. Be okay with saying no and cancelling/rescheduling anything that gets in the way of your well-being.

Transitioning back to the semester can be rough on mental health – take some time for you over the next few weeks!