“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey
The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience -and you don’t have to go far to find them.
The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.
Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Explore them! We start with those closest to campus and swirl outward across the state.
Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside! (pro tip: Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Carolina Adventures Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some of these fantastic adventures.) Continue reading →
Campus life comes with so many benefits! You can interact with such a vibrant, energetic learning community. You can be in spaces that invigorate you. And yet, for many of us, returning to campus comes with a whole lot of stress and anxiety.
When on-campus life was taken away from us at the beginning of the pandemic, many started to see their home as one place where we could feel safe. Some of us might be struggling with the idea of leaving the safety of home to return to such an uncertain environment.
We all are likely thinking in unique ways about returning to campus. We may feel eager to return, ready to socialize, grief for a slower pace, or longing for more time alone.
No matter what you’re feeling, be patient with yourself and others. It’s going to take time to settle in together.
Here are some tips to help make the transition back to campus less stressful.
Where is the stress coming from?
It’s normal to be apprehensive about returning to campus. Re-entry anxiety tends to stem from 2 areas:
Safety: People are anxious about unknowingly contracting or spreading COVID-19.
Socializing: Over the past year we’ve minimized social interactions which means we may feel a little awkward now when we look people in the eye or need to make small talk.
Start mentally preparing
Imagine scenarios you might encounter on campus. This helps you emotionally prepare.
Transition slowly if possible. Campus faculty and staff, for example, might go to their office before the official start date. Returning students might visit their primary classroom building or walk down Franklin Street.
Prepare your space. Whether it’s your office or your residence – find ways to refresh, clean, organize or otherwise get your space ready for your return.
Improve your sleep habits. Start establishing a routine bedtime and to have a healthy sleep schedule in place before returning to campus. Getting enough sleep can buffer you against stress.
Dealing with Safety Concerns
When you have people sharing your space that you know have different commitments to pandemic safety, communication and boundaries can help.
Set the stage by talking to the person about their values around shared spaces and how they propose you work together to create safety for everyone. Listen and ask questions. Use policies or rules to help in the conversation.
During interactions, speak up to clarify your boundaries such as “I’m still social distancing.”
Set yourself up for success by creating physical distance with whatever spaces you can control.
And ultimately – do what you can control to keep yourself safe. You can determine what helps you feel safe – we suggest getting vaccinated, regularly washing / hand sanitizing, and wearing a mask.
Sometimes you won’t have much control over whether you can slowly transition back to campus or whether you just need to arrive one day. You also may or may not have control of a space of your own on campus. Regardless, taking time to reflect can be helpful.
What are you struggling with – is it leaving home, feeling safe, or having a schedule again? Determine the crux of your concerns.
What have you learned during the pandemic that you want to maintain? It might be spending more time outside regularly or moving your body more.
What drew you to join UNC Chapel Hill? What did you love about pre-pandemic times?
What about returning to campus will be helpful to you?
Reach Out for Help
When we feel stressed or anxious, we often start behaving differently. For some people, it may be feeling more irritable and quickly losing patience with those around us. Others may physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, jaw clenching, neck or back pain, or other symptoms.
Know and look for your own warning signs, and take care of yourself first.
If you need help managing your stress or anxiety – they are causing problems in your life – talk to a mental health professional.
LDOC programming will be reimagined offering both in-person and virtual programs to help you stay safe and well This years 90’s theme includes games, giveaways, yoga, stress relief exercises, free food and so much more! Festivities will be offered during the last week of class by CUAB, Hha!s , Campus Rec and other Student Organizations. Check out some of the offerings below!
LDOC S.N.A.C.K.S. is a wellness messaging campaign highlighting the importance of Sleep, Nutrition, Activity, Connectivity, Knowledge, and Self-care to support students for finals! Get a “LDOC S.N.A.C.K.S Pack”, filled w/items for each category–including tea, sleep masks, fruit snacks + more. Register w/ CUAB on Heellife to get one! (while supplies last).
Drag Queen Bingo – RSVP to attend, and a chance to win prizes, watch performances, and even ask the Drag Queen questions.
LDOC Outdoor Yoga– The class will be held on the outdoor practice field across the street from the baseball stadium. There will be free water, snacks and Purple Bowl vouchers (sponsored by Panhellenic) for all participants!
Tasty LDOC – free food for LDOC with CUAB’s Tasty Meals series. Spots are limited so we encourage you to signup for a meal from ONE restaurant.
With the pandemic fog starting to rise and more regulations lifting state and country-wide, practicing a safe LDOC is an essential piece of celebrating the tradition this year
Make a plan:
Before LDOC, talk with your friends about getting to and from events safely, how you will get around and how you will get home, and how you will keep tabs on each other throughout the night so no one gets left behind.
Account for all people in your group of friends when you go out and when you head home. Staying with friends throughout the night will help ensure that everyone is safe and having a good time!
Offer to watch your friends’ drinks (alcoholic or not) when they leave the table.
Make it a night to remember:
Consider your comfort and risk level based on NC Governor’s and CDC guidelines. Fully vaccinated folks should still wear a mask when gathering indoors and avoid medium and large gatherings.
Activities like pre-gaming raise BAC (blood alcohol content, a measure of the amount of alcohol in your body) and make it more likely for a person to pass out or black out. Talk to your friends about risk reduction strategies if they are planning to drink. Some common strategies among UNC students are: eating before drinking, avoiding shots, alternating alcoholic drinks with water, setting a pacing limit (e.g. 1 drink per hour), or an overall drink limit for the night. For more ideas, check out this blog post.
Ask for Help:
Familiarize yourself with LDOC- specific resources and guidelines like the Town of Chapel Hill Guidelines, Parking Information from Public Safety
If you see a potentially violent (physical or sexual) situation, call 911 for help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, find one of the many uniformed police officers that will be on hand for the event. Their main goal is to keep everyone safe. If you can’t find someone in person, call 911.
Keep in mind NC’s new Good Samaritan Law: If you seek medical help on behalf of someone with alcohol poisoning, you will be exempt from certain underage alcohol possession charges. In other words, they cannot ticket you with underage possession or consumption of alcohol if you are seeking medical attention on behalf of someone who may have alcohol poisoning.
When things don’t go as planned, contact other resources that night or the next day for support for yourself or your friends.
No matter how you celebrate your accomplishments, the end of the academic year, and LDOC take time to reflect on the year, center your wellbeing and support your fellow Tar Heels
Whew, what a semester it has been! Virtual hangouts, online classes, and a global pandemic. There are plenty of things to be proud of after this year and celebrating the end of the semester is no different.With excitement in seeing the light at the end of this COVID tunnel and the end of the semester, it’s important to assess your level of comfort and risk to keep yourself and community safe and well.
Keep in mind low risk strategies to manage stress:
Take care of yourself, first! What is most helpful to you in this moment? You could study, or take a walk outside, or enjoy some social time with a friend.
Take care of your friends and your family. Helping others cope with their stress can help with your own anxiety and will make your community stronger.
Take intentional breaks from your screens. Being on your phone or computer for extended periods of time can be draining. Schedule breaks to get outside or call a friend.
Connect with others. If you want to get together, hang with small groups who you know well and trust. Assess your risk with the updated CDC guidelines and recommendations.
Support your friends, family and your community. Send encouraging text messages with jokes, memes, funny pictures and/or inspiration.
Take care of your body and brain by:
Eating well and balanced
Drinking plenty of water
Getting plenty of sleep
Making time to unwind
Do some activities you enjoy
While it might be tempting to turn to alcohol to cope with this stressful time, keep in mind that alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and negatively impact your ability to regulate your emotions. It can also affect academic performance and brain function. If you’re considering using substances, understand what you are putting into your body and the potential risk involved.
We applaud the many ways our local business community has adapted to the virus – and many locations are doing everything right.
What to seek in a safer venue:
Mask wearing – When people aren’t actively eating or drinking, are they wearing masks? Are people’s masks covering their nose and mouth? Better mask wearing means less risk.
Distance – are people keeping distance from each other, and putting their mask on when they need to be in close proximity? How crowded is the space overall? More space means lower risk.
Time – how long will you be in the space? Less time spend means lower risk.
Airflow – this can be difficult to discern without knowledge of the HVAC and filtration systems. Some visible things you can notice include open doors or windows, a large room, high ceilings, and/or a visible and working air purifier. Better airflow means less risk.
Vaccinated people – you will have less risk being vaccinated yourself and being around vaccinated employees and guests, if there’s a way to discern that information. With most bars and restaurants, you won’t know vaccine status of the crowd.
When choosing activities, you can still opt for the safest options available.
Outdoor venues or indoor spaces enforcing reduced capacity are preferred to crowded, indoor places.
Small and spaced out meetups are preferred to big groups.
Keep wearing your mask, and if you’re in a space where people aren’t masking appropriately, especially indoors – leave when you are able.
Get vaccinated when you can. Remember it takes 2 weeks after your final vaccine dose to be “fully vaccinated.” Walk-ins and appointments for the Moderna vaccine are being offered today (Monday, 4/19) and Thursday from 9am – 5pm at the Carolin Union.
There are oh-so-many reasons why some people might not be jumping to be vaccinated. To name a few: Fear of the government or the medical community. Indifference to the pandemic’s impacts. Misunderstandings about the vaccines. Lack of vaccine availability in their community.
All of these are understandable responses to a complex, politicized situation.
When you embark on a conversation with someone you think may not be excited to be vaccinated, remember that the goal isn’t to coerce – it’s to connect by creating a good conversational environment. Do the things we know help people feel heard and respected, which at its core means active listening. Dedicate the majority of your time to listening and understanding the other person’s perspective.
Start with asking questions to understand.
“What are you considering regarding getting vaccinated?”
“What information is important to you for making your decision about the vaccine?”
“What would need to change for you to be willing to get the vaccine?”
Listen and then listen some more.
Offer support and encouragement. Reflect feelings.
“I appreciate your honesty.”
“I can tell you are being thoughtful about this decision.”
“I see how strongly you feel about this.”
Highlight areas of agreement.
“I am looking forward to things being more normal too.”
“We both care about our community.”
“I agree – the pandemic has been divisive.”
“I too like to deeply understand decisions about my health.”
Ask more questions. Listen some more. Find more areas of agreement.
When you do these things, usually the other person will eventually get to a place where they are ready to listen to your perspective. It may not happen during the first conversation, and that’s ok too!
When it’s your turn, tell your story in a way that avoids making anyone feel defensive. In this case, perhaps how you first felt fear or hesitancy about the vaccine development or rollout, and then how you overcame those feelings to come to your current understanding. When you share your story, end it by turning the conversation back to the other person and their process. Seek to learn more about what they need and how you can support them.
“What about you? Have you had any experiences like that?”
“What does my story bring up for you?”
Often you won’t even have to ask a question because the other person will naturally launch into statements or stories of their own after hearing your story. That’s a great sign! Return to active listening, asking questions, reflecting, and connecting from there.
Before you part ways, connect and strengthen the relationship.
“I’m so glad we talked.”
“Can we check in again in a few weeks?”
“I really care about you.”
Remember, the best decision-making happens when someone is rational, open-minded and feels supported. Strategies like those mentioned above help to facilitate the kind of environment that could allow someone reconsider their ideas.
We want everyone to be vaccinated when it’s your turn! And we know many of us are navigating the ethics of when to be vaccinated.
In an ideal world, the systems would be set up to create equity in vaccine order.
Our role as individuals is to:
Tell the truth, about
Work and volunteer requirements
Residence location, and
Avoid taking a dose that is clearly intended for others.
All of the vaccine requirements are self-reported. And many of us live in gray zones of the vaccine groupings. Draw on your best self when you answer the questions of eligibility. How would the most ethical person you can imagine respond to the questions?
If doses are truly going to waste and a vaccination provider is looking for arms, it’s okay to take a dose. You get some extra karma points if you instead try to connect those vaccines with someone who is higher priority.
This is a challenging time of scarce vaccines, variation between locations’ systems and rules, challenges to equitable access, and the emotions of our own and our loved ones’ safety. We trust you to do what’s right and are here to help if you have questions.
We anticipate that vaccine scarcity will diminish over the next few months, so if you can, be patient! Those who haven’t been vaccinated yet will have their spot coming soon.
As North Carolina’s numbers have continued to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases, the state has eased some restrictions. The latest North Carolina guidance allows larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5000 people to open at 15% capacity, as long as additional safety protocols are in place. These protocols include mask-wearing, assigned distanced seating, and a guest flow plan.
This shift means that students are eligible for in-person tickets to the UNC versus Duke home game on Saturday. Check your email for details from UNC Athletics.
Or you can set up your own virtual or in-person watch plan! The state still restricts indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 when not at a business or arena. While what you can do has changed, what you should do remains the same: outdoors is better than indoors, mask-wearing is better than unmasked, fewer people is better than more people. You need to find your own tolerance of risk, but the least risky option is to watch with your roommates and connect with others online.
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.
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 your 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 when we #BeatDuke, also #BeatCOVID by not rushing Franklin Street. Might we suggest instead going onto your porch or driveway, banging pots and pans, and yelling “Tar” and “Heel” back and forth with all of 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.
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 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
Most of us recognize the considerations for COVID at this point of the pandemic. So the question becomes how to live life while 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.
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.
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.
Communicate. Everyone’s experiences with mental health are unique – so step one is to communicate openly and kindly.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.