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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Campus Health offers both in-person and telehealth visits every day (including weekends) 8am – 5pm. Scheduling an appointment is the most efficient way to be seen – call 919-966-2281 or visit healthyheels.unc.edu to request an appointment online.
CAPS offers 24/7 phone support at 919/966-3658. Initial screenings offered by phone 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm M-F. Follow up appointments by Zoom. Group therapy during spring semester includes over 20 groups to help you connect with students like you via Zoom
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
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Daily Self-Care Activities
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)
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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 area. The 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.
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.
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:
Move.unc.edu offers reduced price U-Locks and free bike registration.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.