Have a Healthy and Happy Winter Break

After the stress of finals end, many students are excited for winter break. This year, winter break can look so many different ways! Some of you are headed to family after living near campus, some of you are staying in Chapel Hill for winter break, and some of you have been living with family this whole semester.

Whether you’re adjusting to living at home again, having less to do, or embarking on two more months of regular ol’ pandemic life, winter break can feel overwhelming.

Here are some common issues and ways to address them to help you stay healthy, protect yourself and those around you, and make the most of your break.

Mental Health Strategies

  • Manage your free time: We know that at the beginning, the extra time feels like a gift! But the adjustment to free time can be a struggle for some.
    • Start by taking time to relax.
    • Then consider making a plan or list of things you would like to do over break. Fill your time with things that make you feel good!
  • Prep for family & friends: Plan ahead for family and friend encounters.
    • What questions or conflicts typically arise? Consider how COVID risk tolerance may play a role in conflict this year.
    • How do you want to respond?
    • Make a list of coping skills that work for you.
  • Plan for your mental wellbeing: Many people experience a worsening of mental health symptoms around this time of year. You aren’t alone!
    • If you are in treatment, work with your provider on how to best support yourself.
    • If you are not in treatment, this break can provide you time to focus on how you’re feeling, what you might need, and how to make a plan moving forward.
    • Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible.
  • Take a screening: UNC offers a wide range of online mental health screening tools about anxiety, depression, substances, wellbeing and more.
Screengrab of online screening tool options including alcohol use, gambling, disordered eating, opiods, substances, general feelings, bipolar, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and wellbeing.

Ideas to protect yourself and others from illness

  • Follow general COVID precautions.
    • Wear a mask.
    • Stay physically distanced.
    • Avoid crowds and indoor crowded places.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Monitor for symptoms.
    • Minimize contact with people at high risk of COVID-19 complications.
  • If traveling:
  • If gathering:
    • Wear masks as much as possible.
    • Eat outside if safe and feasible.
    • Limit the number of guests.
    • Have guests bring their own food, drinks, and utensils.
  • If moving, quarantine for 2 weeks before interacting unmasked indoors with new roommates/family.

Even though classes are complete, most services available to students will remain open with virtual support through most of winter break. Reach out if you need help!

Prepare for the Holidays – Starting Now

In two weeks, many of us will be taking a well-deserved break to enjoy two months (!) without classes and with the benefits of holiday celebrations.

Winter break during a pandemic has some additional elements to think through. Some of us will likely be switching up or adding to the people with whom we closely and regularly interact. Many health precautions for those scenarios require at least two weeks. Act now to protect yourself and the ones you love this winter break.

  • Get a flu vaccine if you haven’t received one yet. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection for you. Flu shots are offered outside of Campus Health M – F1 – 5 pm, or at Student Stores Pharmacy during open hours (9 am – 5 pm, M – F, Sat 11 am – 3 pm). No appointment needed.
  • Reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID in the two weeks before you travel and while traveling: limit the number of individuals you interact with, limit the time and duration spent near other people, be thoughtful about the location of interactions (outdoor is better than indoors) and practice the 3Ws: wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask and wait six feet from other people. The CDC has further holiday gathering and travel guidance.
  • Take a COVID-19 test prior to departure. Free testing is offered at the Union for UNC students (but only if you don’t have symptoms and have not been in close contact with someone who is positive). Results are typically in 1-2 days, and hours are extended 11/16 – 11/20 to 11 am – 7 pm M – F. For those with symptoms or exposure, Campus Health offers diagnostic testing M – F 9 am – 12 pm, 1 pm – 4 pm. Remember that a negative test is not a free pass to skip other precautions. 

Why you need more than a negative test

Testing as a sole strategy for COVID risk reduction doesn’t work well because it can take 2-14 days for someone who is exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to develop symptoms of COVID-19. It is recommended that individuals wait until ~4-5 days after being exposed to a case of COVID-19 to get tested, since before this point, the false negative rate is high. 

There are many examples of folks getting tested a day or two before embarking on a trip or going to an event, only to have one of the attendees become positive during or just after the event, potentially infecting many people.  
You should still get tested before you travel or attend gatherings. A positive test should change holiday plans; a negative test, however, only gives you information for that point in time and doesn’t mean you will remain negative after that test. Even if you (and others!) have a negative test, still:

  • wear a mask
  • stay physically distanced
  • avoid crowds and indoor crowded places
  • wash your hands frequently
  • monitor for symptoms and
  • minimize contact with people at high risk of COVID-19 complications.

If you decide you want to be indoors for an extended time without masks

While higher risk, being inside without masks is sometimes what people choose for themselves. Roommates and family members often come to agreements about risk behaviors and then live together without masks in their home. With holidays coming, a traditional holiday dinner, where there will be extended time around a table with people from outside your home while eating and drinking, would also fit this category. You also may be moving for winter break and will be living with a new set of roommates.

The safest strategy for these scenarios is for all attendees/future roommates to quarantine for 14 days before coming together, consider how to eliminate risk of exposure during travel, and get tested early enough to get test results before traveling/moving in together. For many of us – that means starting to quarantine THIS WEEK.

Holiday Gathering Guidance

You can also help reduce risk at your holiday gathering itself.

  • Host outdoors if possible. If indoors, open the windows and doors if safe and feasible. 
  • Limit the number of people attending.
  • Have extra, new masks (in case someone forgets) and hand sanitizer available. 
  • Arrange tables and chairs for separation.
  • Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled.
  • Have one household approach the food serving area at a time to prevent congregating.
  • Consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people aren’t handling serving utensils.
  • Have high risk individuals attend virtually.

We want things to be normal again, and also know that everything is different right now. If you decide not to attend a holiday celebration – that’s perfectly understandable! Tell people clearly and firmly. Focus on your decision about what’s best for you. Avoid getting into the details about the reasons behind your decision. You don’t need to defend your position.

We realize that this holiday season will likely look different that in the past. There are lots of creative ideas for how to connect with people you love! Find a celebration strategy that feels safe and healthy for you and your loved ones.

Stress Continuum

Feeling stress throughout our day is normal. If we think of stress on a scale or continuum from 1 to 10, we typically move along that scale throughout our regular day. Daily stressors like school, work or relationships can activate different emotions, and those emotions can move us along the scale too.

– click for 1 min video about the stress continuum –

Imagine you wake up feeling sunny and optimistic. “I’m a 1 on the stress continuum.” Then something triggers you and it feels like a cloud rolls in and the next thing you know you’re feeling down – like a 6 on the continuum. This is part of life, and we can usually manage this stress with healthy coping tools.

Right now, we have the added stress of COVID-19 and current events that can be chronic stressors. These stressors are even higher for those of us in the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities who regularly face racism and discrimination, in addition to a disproportionate burden of COVID-19. Plus, we don’t have access to our regular healthy coping tools like going out with friends or heading to the gym.

These chronic stressors make our normal daily stress seem more intense. Suddenly, that sunny day might feel less bright. If a cloud rolls in, it feels even more gloomy – like an 8 – and it becomes harder to get back to feeling less stress – such as a 3.

It’s natural to feel more foggy or tired or bothered by things that didn’t bother us before. When we accumulate all that stress, we feel exhausted. It is important to be gentle with yourself and others.

Here are some ideas that may help you on that path. Name and acknowledge what you feel. Take a deep breath and decide what support or coping tool works for you in that moment. If you are struggling, stuck in one spot on the continuum where you don’t want to be, or need help finding healthy coping strategies – then reach out for professional help.

Ideas to Cope

  • Call a friend 
  • Practice “Three Good Things” daily 
  • Plan something to look forward to 
  • Take a walk outside 
  • Unplug from social media for one night a week 
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show 
  • Read a book 
  • Start a new project (ie, home project, creative project, etc.) 
  • Help someone else — volunteer virtually for something your passionate about (lots of virtual volunteer opportunities are available now) 
  • Meditate, do yoga, move your body 
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings 
  • Pay attention – notice what’s around you and what’s happening inside you 
  • Create – writing, playing music, making art or dancing 
  • Have a good laugh or cry 
  • Most of all, realize the “COVID Cloud” amplifies all the stress so give yourself some slack

More coping resources for UNC students

How to stay balanced during Election 2020

Many of us are struggling with election overload. It’s difficult to escape the negative advertisements and tense moments in conversations and social media.

Focus on What You Can Control

While it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in our country and world, you need to take care of yourself and your mental health too. Notice if there’s a conflict between what the election is asking of you and what is best for your individual mental health. Instead of ruminating on potential bad outcomes, you can focus on what is within your control.

  • Think about how political content makes you feel when you consume it.
    • Find political content that is fact-based, reputable or uses primary sources rather than viewing memes or personal opinions on social media.
    • If you have increased stress, limit your political content 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 election 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 for like-minded, politically-engaged folks, be aware that the other person might be trying to limit political 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 you disagree with. Some fear that this election will divide our country further. 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 candidates.
  • Plan an enjoyable event for after election day. Whatever happens with the election outcomes, life will go on, so planning an event will help reinforce that notion.
The United States flag flies near the Morehead Patterson Bell Tower
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After Election Results

  • Be gracious in victory. If your candidate wins, be kind and compassionate to those who lose. It could have been you. We all have to live with each other a lot longer than the next 4 years.
  • Be mindful of media posts and consumption. Particularly if your candidate loses, consider a social media detox for a while. If your candidate wins, consider how your posts may affect people you care about that hoped for a different outcome.

Support Options for UNC Students

CAPS will host virtual support spaces for students who would like to discuss their feelings about the election results and connect with others experiencing similar situations. Dates and times for the virtual support services will be posted on the CAPS website.

As always, UNC students can connect with CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 or reach out to any of the services and organizations available.

How do I decide whether to attend an event during COVID? Holidays, birthdays, dinners…it’s constant and really hard.

Questions about the riskiness of specific situations are the most difficult to answer. These situations often include a lot of details… and a lot of unknowns. There are so many factors to think about all at once: individual health history, your behaviors related to COVID risks, everyone else’s behaviors related to COVID risks, the specific arrangement of the event, the expectations of people you care about, etc. It’s impossible to try to hold it all at once. We get it.

You cannot assess the risks of every single situation–no one can. But you can consider your comfort and how you can reduce your risk: ask yourself what the worst outcome is, and do what you can to guard against that–no matter how unlikely the worst outcome may be. Once you’ve made those assumptions, things may become much more clear. What can you do to reduce the risk of that worst case outcome? That’s the only variable in your control, so control it!

Strategies to reduce your risk include:

– Avoid events that aren’t essential
– Limit your interactions to a small group of people
– Wear a mask and insist those around you wear a mask too
– Keep your physical distance
– Stay outdoors or open a window
– Keep your interactions brief

Acknowledge ambivalence

Sometimes, we’re of two minds about something. We want things to be normal again, and also know that everything is different right now. You might feel sad about missing an event while also wishing so much that you could go safely. Recognizing those internal struggles before you begin a conversation will help you stand your ground once you make a decision. 

What to say if you choose not to attend

If you decide not to attend an event, tell people clearly and firmly. Focus on your decision about what’s best for you. Avoid getting into the details about the reasons behind your decision. You don’t need to defend your position.

“I can’t come to the event. Thank you for the invitation! I’m so sorry to miss it.” 

Disappointing people sucks. We get it. You don’t have to manage other people’s emotions to be a good person. People may be angry, unhappy or upset – you don’t need to make yourself uncomfortable to make other people happy.

“I understand you’re upset, and I care about you. I made this decision because it’s the right thing for me. I wish things were different this year too.” 

“Responsible” Drinking: What it Really Means

To avoid being “that person” at a party and help keep everyone safe, use strategies to limit or pace your drinking, as well as ones to prevent driving after having consumed too much alcohol. 

  • Eat before or during drinking. Having food in your stomach helps slow the absorption of alcohol through the stomach lining. Eating can also help you avoid a hangover.
  • Decide on a set number of drinks ahead of time and stick to it. The recommended limits are based on gender identity – which we don’t love but it’s what we have: for men, drink less than 4 servings of alcohol in a day and no more than 14 in a week. For women, drink less than 3 servings of alcohol per day and no more than 7 drinks in a week. Limits above are based on serving sizes –
    • 1.5 ounces of liquor (such as whisky, rum, or tequila) – a shot glass worth.
    • 5 ounces of wine – about half of a typical wine glass.
    • 12 ounces of beer – a can.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Some people say they feel weird if they don’t have a drink in their hand at a party or at the bar. If that’s the case for you, try alternating between alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. Soda, juice, seltzer, or non-alcoholic beers are good alternate options that also happen to look like alcohol.
  • Dilute your drink. If you’re drinking liquor, use more mixer or add extra ice. Not only will you consume less alcohol, your drink may also taste better.
  • Pace yourself. Drinking more slowly can also help you drink less and maintain a healthier buzz for a longer duration.
  • Enlist a buddy to help you know how much you’ve had and when to stop. If you think you’ll have trouble managing your drinking on your own, seek support from a friend. You can ask them to tell you to stop after a specific number of drinks or after a certain time of night. Just make sure it’s a friend who will remain sober enough to pay attention.
  • Avoid drinking games and shots. Drinking games can be a way to drink a lot in a short period of time, often more than you first intended. Shots can feel deceptive because they’re generally very high in alcohol content, even though they are a small amount of liquid.
  • Spend time with friends who consume less. Being around heavy drinkers normalizes heavy drinking. Consider participating in some social situations that involve little or no drinking or attending social events with a crew that tends to drink less.

Not drinking and driving during the pandemic is especially difficult since taking cabs, rideshares or public transit isn’t recommended. Here are some other ideas that people have used successfully to avoid driving while impaired that you could use for yourself or a friend:

  • Drink somewhere that you don’t need to drive. Drinking at home or somewhere nearby means you can get to your bed after drinking without having to worry about driving.
  • Appoint a sober designated driver. If you’re going out with a group, choose a designated driver or someone who is sober for the night. Rotate different friends as the sober driver on different nights.
  • Decide on alternate sleeping arrangements ahead of time. If driving home isn’t an option, can you ask around to see if you can crash with a friend who lives nearby? 
  • Decide to stop drinking two hours before you leave an event. For example, if you think you’ll want to leave an event at around two a.m., stop drinking at midnight. This won’t guarantee that you’re sober enough to drive by two a.m., but it may result in you becoming sober enough to decide not to drive. It’s also good hangover prevention to switch to hydrating fluids for a couple of hours before you go to sleep after a night of heavy drinking. Two hours of drinking water is likely to make the morning less painful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with being able to consume alcohol in a safe manner as a college student, check out Student Wellness’ health coaching and alcohol prevention services.

Article based on Go Ask Alice! response to “How can I be responsible while drinking?”

College Students and the Flu: COVID edition

I’m young and healthy. Do I need a flu shot?

Being strong and healthy does not mean an individual will not get the flu. Plus, the flu vaccine not only protects you, but also others you come in contact with including those who are more at-risk (such as young children, elderly adults, and people with a suppressed immune system).  It is also important to help protect people who may not be able to receive the flu shot due to severe allergies or being younger than 6 months of age.

Fall campus scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. December 3, 2019. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

I’m strict about COVID precautions. Won’t that also protect me from the flu? 

The same precautions will protect you from COVID-19 and influenza, but the fact that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in the United States means that not everyone is wearing masks, distancing, and taking the other precautions necessary. Unfortunately, even those who do everything they can may still be at risk for COVID and the flu. 

Getting the flu shot is more important than ever this year. Flu vaccination can help prevent the dreaded “twindemic” of both flu and COVID-19 spreading at the same time. Reducing the risk of flu will help reduce the risk of overwhelming medical resources or catching both at the same time.

Another reason to get your flu shot is that influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms including fever, body aches, dry cough, and fatigue. We hope you don’t, but if you do come down with the shared symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza, wouldn’t you rather know that you’ve had your flu vaccine? Wouldn’t your doctor want to know?

So even if you are doing everything you can to protect yourself from COVID-19, get your flu shot to help reduce the system-wide risk that we’ll face a dual epidemic. And do it for your own peace of mind, in case you’re unlucky enough to come down with a fever and body aches sometime this season.

Does the flu shot cause the flu? 

Nope. Think of it this way: if I show you a few doors, radiator, some tires, wheels, leather bucket seats, windshield and tail lights – you will recognize this as a car, but that car is nonfunctional. It doesn’t possess all of its parts, it’s not put together and will not be able to run you over; this is the same way the flu vaccine works. The vaccine presents your immune system non-functional pieces of a flu virus so that your body can recognize it and help plan a defense against it should an infection with the full-functioning, attacking virus occur.

Some people may feel ill after getting the flu shot. Mild side effects are common after the flu shot – low grade fever, sore arm, headaches, and muscle aches. The flu vaccine also takes some time to be effective (up to 2 weeks). If you were exposed to the flu before the vaccine kicked in or you encountered another virus, you can get the ill. Flu vaccines only protect against the specific strains of influenza included in the vaccine.

Does getting the flu shot completely protect me from getting the flu?

Flu vaccines are about 40-60% effective, depending on the year and how well the vaccine matches the strains of influenza circulating in a community. Even though it’s not perfect, it is still really important to get the flu vaccine because even if you do happen to get the flu after getting the flu shot, your illness should be milder and for a shorter duration than if you neglected to receive the flu shot at all.

If I’m allergic to eggs, can I still get the flu shot? 

Yup! Even if you have a severe egg allergy, you can get a flu vaccine. However – most available flu vaccines are made by propagating the virus in eggs and may contain very small amounts of egg proteins. People who have mild symptoms (like hives) when they eat eggs can get any flu vaccine appropriate for their age and health. People who have severe symptoms of egg allergy can get a vaccine made without eggs or they can get a vaccine in a medical setting where the healthcare team monitors for symptoms of allergy and be ready to treat if there is a reaction.

When and where can I get vaccinated?

The best time to get your flu shot is right now: late September to early October.

Flu shots are available outside of Campus Health at the loading dock from 1-5pm Mon-Friday and during open hours at Student Stores Pharmacy (M-F 9-5, Sat 11-3). No appointment needed! Living elsewhere? Find vaccines near you.

Count it!

Wherever you get vaccinated, count it for UNC to win a three-peat national championship in flu vaccines at go.unc.edu/flushot.  

Poems Speaking to CAPS Staff During Quarantine


The psychological effects of systemic racism, police brutality, and unequal access to healthcare, coupled with the impact of quarantine and increased isolation negatively impacts our mental health.

With all that stress it is totally normal if you are more anxious or depressed recently or have witnessed more increased fluctuations in your mood and quality of sleep. You are doing the best you can during stressful time.

To help regulate the emotions that feel ineffective at this time, first we must articulate and locate the wound- before we know where to focus our healing.

Easier said than done for sure, but the good news is that poetry and the arts help with this labeling process.

In hopes that the readers will get a chance to connect and know us a little better, CAPS staff members shared some poetry that is speaking to them right now. We hope that you find strength and joy in these poems and know that CAPS is here for you this school year so please call us to be connected to mental health resources.

Langston Hughes
Credit: NPG Winold Reiss c. 1925
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of W. Tjark Reiss, in memory of his father, Winold Reis

Poems Speaking to Staff Members

Leslie Montana

“I don’t really have a favorite poem but this one has made an impression on me.  Though we are not really accustomed to listening, the poem describes ways nature is always trying to communicate with us and imagines a world in which our relationship is more reciprocal.  It feels so much more comforting and real.  I hope this poem will inspire others to take a minute to notice and appreciate what nature offers us each day.”

What if…?

by Kai Siedenburg

What if the leaves,
stirred to singing
by the breeze,
sing with even more joy
when they notice
you are listening?

What if the small white flower
quivers with delight
when you notice
her tiny
yet honorable
to the beauty
of this world?

And what if
that brief moment
is all she needs
to know that her life
is worth living,
all her efforts
not in vain?

What if the trees
feel the depth
of your pain,
and are quietly
reaching toward you,
offering solace
with everything
they have to give?

© Poems of Earth and Spirit by Kai Siedenburg

Joe Murray

“The visual is powerful. Sometimes we feels small but our place in this world is no more & no less than any other. To quote Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” For me it is a call to simple acts of kindness, selflessness, & compassion.”

Song of Myself

By Walt Whitman

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars

© Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass (: Norton, 1973)

Mirella Flores

“There is something about short poetry that I really like. I think Rupi Kaur does a wonderful job saying so much with little words. I also love her use of images to add to the poem. I love this poem so much that I often include it in my bio at counseling centers (its on my UNC bio). What I love about this poem is how it captures pain and validates it while simultaneously allowing flowers to grow up it. It also reminds me how to hurt is beautiful because it means we have loved, and that is a gift.”

but what is stronger
than the human heart
which shatters over and over
and lives

- rupi kaur

© Kaur, Rupi (2017), the sun and her flowers

Dave DeVito

“This is one of my favorite Dylan tunes (I know, technically not a poem, but he’s my poet.) I was surprised to see that Joan Baez actually wrote it (I guess she’s my poet too.) Anyway, for me the poem defies the typical youth-worshiping sentiments that consumerism projects and recruits us into. Instead, the words suggest that youth is about energy and commitment, something we can demonstrate and access for years beyond our teens and 20’s.”

Forever Young

By Bob Dylan

May God bless and keep you always.
May your wishes all come true.
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay
Forever young.

May you grow up to be rightous.
May you grow up to be true.
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you.

May you always be courageous,
Stand upright, and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young.

May your hands always be busy.
May your feet always be swift.
May you have a strong foundation
When the winter changes shift.

May your heart always be joyful.
May your song always be sung
And may you stay
Forever young.

© Bob Dylan (1974)

Sara Stahlman

“Nikita Gill’s Fierce Fairy Tales twists traditional fairy tales with feminist ideology. Upon the cover are the words: “Await no princes to save you through their lips touching yours whilst you are in unwilling slumber. Wake each other up instead.” The book touches on the stories that many of us watched on Disney movies and heard at bedtime. Gill gives them new moral imperatives, gleaned from the lessons we all learn as we move through the patriarchal world. I loved every poem in this book! I share with you the one below for both its brevity and wisdom.”

Four Spells to Keep Inside Your Mouth

by Nikita Gill

‘I respect myself’ – the most powerful incantation that will change your whole life if you believe it when you say it.

‘My heart is too valuable for you’ – the spell that will set you free from any destructive soul.

‘I believe in you.’ – the best gift you can ever give anyone else.

‘No’—a single, commanding, two-letter spell with the ability to liberate you if only you learn to use it unapologetically and cast it without fear.

© Gill, Nikita (2018) Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul

Ché Wells

“I love this poem because it is titled Don’t Quit! which is an important stance to carry through all life experiences. The title Don’t Quit can be used through life experiences and said as a mental reminder for yourself or shared aloud as a mental reminder for others. This poem talks about the beauty in trails that seem like failure but reminds us all Don’t Quit. This poem reminds us its ok not to be 100% just as long as we remember Don’t Quit. 

My second submission is a just cause I wanted to be extra and thrive. I love this because I think its important that we always try to thrive when we do things in life. We also have better outcomes if we do it with passion, compassion, humor, and our own unique tailor made style. Through these times of uncertainty we should thrive by depending on and what we all have inside of us.” 

“Don’t Quit.”

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

– Author Unknown

Wendy Kadens

One of my clear favorites is The Guest House, by Rumi. Especially during the Pandemic and isolation, the need to make space for, even welcome, the full range of emotions and experiences speaks to me. Rumi captures so much of what real mental health is, tolerating, leaning into, welcoming everything with the knowledge that nothing is permanent. When he speaks to these phenomena as “a guide from beyond” I also see it as “a guide from within.”

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

©Rumi (2004), The Essential Rumi HarperOne 

Elizabeth McIntyre

I like this poem because I really enjoy the connection to nature; the reflection on grief as an evolving process, as it sometimes feels never ending; and the sentiment that we are forever changed by those we love and lose.”

When Great Trees Fall

By Maya Angelou 

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

© 2015 by The Estate of Maya Angelou
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. 

1877 Winslow Homer “The New Novel”

Allen O’Barr

“I like this one because it reminds me that we are beings of the earth and the sky. That we are physical form and spirit together.  Like a fortune I once got in a cookie:  you are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

Dirt and stars

Is it reasonable at this time in the universe to blend the dirt with the stars?

If it is, what does it take?

In what seems to be a chaotic and unsafe world,

A time of dichotomous reality that pulls us into factions

A reality of scarcity where peaceful coexistence seems less probable

A reality forged in many ways by what we are told is and is not possible

A reality in which, until recently, silence seems to be less frequent

How do we even think about the dirt and the stars?

Its fast but its not all fast

This is a choice

Its loud but its not all loud

This is a choice

Its scary…but its exquisitely beautiful and painful

And alive

It’s a choice to be alive

So dig deep and look up and let it flow.

But I am so anxious

Because I am so afraid

Because I am so tired

And they tell me, 

I tell myself

That its not possible

That its not even real

And I am so tired

And scared

So I go under the covers, sealing the edges with the flat surfaces of my body

And I hide

And its dark

And stagnant 

And hot

So I throw off the covers and breathe in the fresh cool air

See myself as I am, knowing that “the covers” is not a lasting choice

Restless I get up and choose to stand

Choose to walk outside

Choose to put my hands in the dirt

Choose to look up and try to believe

That magic is real and that I am part of it

And that even if I am delusional

That I choose love over fear

And blend

– Author unknown

Malini Basdeo

I love this poem because fostering self-love and acceptance can be difficult and tiring at times, but putting in the hard work can lead to beautiful results.”

i went for my words
the i can'ts. the i won'ts. the i'm not good enoughs. i lined them up and shot them dead
and then i went for my thoughts
invisible and everywhere
there was no time to gather them one by one
I had to wash them out
I wove a linen cloth out of my hair
soaked it in a bowl of mint and lemon water
carried it in my mouth as i climbed
up my braid to the back of my head
down on my knees i began to wipe my mind clean
it took twenty-one days
my knees bruised buth
i did not care
i was not given the breath
in my lungs to choke it out
i would scrub the self-hate off the bone
till it exposed love

self-love - rupi kaur

women on her hands and knees with a cloth appears to be washing a floor of tacks

© Kaur, Rupi (2017), the sun and her flowers

Anthony Teasdale

“I love it because I have always read it as being about the choices we have in life, that we often make the best decision we can in a moment with the information (including our instinct/gut) available to us at the time, and that both roads hold possibilities and we give up something making a choice, but we also gain something.   It is hard to know what that something (or somethings) will be until time passes.  It is best to make the choice and move forward along the road to experience life in that choice instead of staying stuck at the fork/divergence in the road because of fear of making the wrong choice.  This means more to me now as a therapist. People often stay stuck because of fear, because they want to know EXACTLY what is on the path and want a guaranteed outcome.  But we often can only know that in life by living it, and we often get beautiful things we didn’t expect from the choice, and we get NOTHING out of staying stuck at the fork in the road.”

The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Kyle Alexander

“Month after month of quarantining during this pandemic make the past and the future feel entrancing. It’s easy to live in these spaces and ruminate, especially as our orientation to time during COVID-19 feels unstable. This poem by Ross Gay reminded me of the importance of trying to anchor yourself to the present, and the beauty and peace that brings.”

Sorrow Is Not My Name


—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No

matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.

There is a time for everything. Look,

just this morning a vulture

nodded his red, grizzled head at me,

and I looked at him, admiring

the sickle of his beak.

Then the wind kicked up, and,

after arranging that good suit of feathers

he up and took off.

Just like that. And to boot,

there are, on this planet alone, something like two

million naturally occurring sweet things,

some with names so generous as to kick

the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,

stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks

at the market. Think of that. The long night,

the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me

on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.

But look; my niece is running through a field

calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel

and at the end of my block is a basketball court.

I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

      —for Walter Aikens

Ross Gay, “Sorrow Is Not My Name” from Bringing the Shovel Down.  Copyright © 2011 by Ross Gay. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. 

Other Staff Submissions

“My favorite poem is Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. It’s my favorite poem because it is super inspirational! This poem was an English project when I was in middle school, and throughout the years, it has still stuck with me. It has always been motivation for me to stay persistent even through difficult situations.”

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

©Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son” from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

Dance, when you’re broken open

by Rumi

Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance in your blood.

Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

©Rumi (2004), The Essential Rumi HarperOne 


by Pauli Murray

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

© Dark Testament and Other Poems Pauli Murray, 1970


Written and compiled by Kyle Alexander, B.S., M.S.W., L.C.S.W., (He/Him) a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at UNC CAPS.

I’m a UNC student and I’m struggling. Where can I find support at UNC?

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 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 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 sexual health.
  • FITNESS: 1 on 1 fitness training offers individual movement plans from certified personal trainers with Campus Rec to help you reach your fitness goals.
  • ACADEMICS: Academic Coaching helps you balance academic demands with life demands. 

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

“I need support with food, housing, or internet.”

Searching for Self- Compassion?

As we all do our best to navigate a global pandemic, we must find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also assist us in extending these same virtues to others during this time. The uncertainty and stress is difficult for everyone, but especially challenging for some due to their specific identities.

How to Be Kinder to Yourself - Mindful

Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:

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

Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:

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

Remember that self-compassion is about radical self-acceptance. It does not mean that pain and suffering does not occur, it means that we care and support ourselves through these tough experiences. Like all things self-compassion takes practice including checking-in with yourself regularly and reframing as needed. Soon you will be ready to spread kindness and compassion everywhere.

Time to practice!
Enhance your self-compassion skills by trying one of these:

Meditation: Self Compassion Break

Healing Music to Enhance Self Love

Self- Compassion 101

Ted Talk “The space between self-esteem and self-compassion”: