Anxiety Support during COVID-19

Relentless news updates have a way of inspiring near-constant dread. As distressing news continually shows up on our devices, it is common to feel more than a little nervous about the state of the world.

When a large-scale news event happens, people want to discuss it more widely and frequently. This constant conversation can create an avalanche of negative thoughts.

Why we catastrophize

Catastrophizing, or a pattern of thinking that jumps to the worst-case scenario, is an evolutionary response to a threat. The ability to consider how bad things could get and plan ahead has helped humans survive. However, it’s an ineffective way of trying to regain control. Jumping to worst-case scenarios breeds poor decision-making and can lead to a “who cares” attitude, which can contribute to hopelessness and despair.  Sometimes catastrophic thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g. fear of a toilet paper shortage caused one). Even when a problem isn’t based in reality, we think we need to fix it.

What we can do to help ourselves:

Accept uncertainty and trust people

We live in relatively safe times, despite recent tumultuousness. Because of our general feeling of security, we are less used to dealing with uncertainty. Accepting the unknown requires relinquishing control and trusting that most of the people in charge are working to solve the problems beyond our capacity. We use this strategy when we use public transit and airplanes, for example. We can also use it during the pandemic.

Stick to the facts

Anxiety makes us feel powerless. Powerlessness becomes fear that we won’t be able to handle the consequences of a terrible event. However, we tend to exaggerate the severity of the threat and underestimate our ability to cope. We almost always cope better than we think we will!

Instead of feeling powerless, evaluate what you know to be true in this moment — and don’t exaggerate — to help ground you. Think: I have people I love, I can still eat food that nourishes me, the sun still rises and sets.

Consider your responsibilities (to yourself, your loved ones, your community, your academics) and get started on the reality-based problems that you can solve today.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking

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Remember that this situation is nuanced. When news and facts are constantly changing, it can be easy to jump to conclusions and fill in unknowns. Avoid processing current events with black-and-white thinking. Events being canceled, for example, doesn’t mean we will never see our community again — it means our leaders care about our safety and are taking precautions. Give your anxiety a name – for example, “Dook.” If Dook says the world is going to end, Dook probably doesn’t know what they are talking about. A little rivalry humor can’t hurt, right?

Take care of yourself

Research has shown anxiety impacts our decision-making skills, and in times like these, you want to make the most informed decisions for yourself and those you love. Practice self-care to diminish stress and anxiety: physical movement, deep sleep and social interactions — even if it’s just a phone call or video chat — have all been shown to help.  You may also want to step back from social media or have some technology-free times in your day.

Get involved

Helping helps decrease despair and stress, while also giving a sense of purpose. Donate to or volunteer with an organization making positive contributions, whether locally, nationally or internationally. Anything you do to be proactive will help ward off powerlessness.

Perhaps most importantly, give yourself some grace.

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You are doing the best you can in a situation that you did not want. We are all figuring out how to cope in this pandemic – you are not alone! Use strategies that have worked for you during difficult times in the past. Reach out to people you adore. Extend yourself some loving kindness. Remember, you have survived every hard thing the world has thrown your direction.

If you try these strategies and find you’re still struggling, CAPS 24/7 is available for UNC students at 919-966-3658. CAPS is also offering 2 digital support groups: a support group for UNC undergraduate seniors during COVID and a support group for any UNC student during COVID.

 

This article is based on Coping Tips provided in New York Times Smarter Living and adapted for UNC students.

Living at Home as a College Student during Coronavirus

As UNC students shift to living at their permanent addresses due to COVID-19, stress is likely high. You’re bringing home all the challenges you faced on campus – keeping up with your academics, staying social, thinking about summer plans – but with the addition of a global pandemic, navigating most interactions online, and living with your family.

Reach out for support.

Engage online with fellow UNC students, professors, and support services. UNC offers the Writing and Learning Centers, Career Center, Dean of Students, CAPS, Advising and more. All of these entities are offering distance support by phone or online – and bonus – you’ve already paid for their services in tuition and fees. Take advantage of them!

Create a balanced rhythm for your days.

With classes beginning this week, consider making a calendar of yourself – either on your device or on paper. Use colors to visually represent different categories, making it less likely to forget important things you need to do and more likely to maintain accountability, perspective and balance. Include fun things in your calendar – video chats with friends, time outside, movement, creativity. If you like specificity – be specific! Schedule things to the hour or half hour. Include the elements of your day that are important to you.

If you like a more relaxed way of being – focus on the rhythm of your day. For example: I start with a grounding activity like yoga, meditation or a run. Then I eat some food and shower, spend a few hours doing work. After lunch, I go outside for a few hours – hike, bike, read a good book in a hammock. I work on school projects again before dinner and then help cook. After dinner is time for me – making art, video chats, watching shows. Just ensure your rhythm makes time for the things that are important to you.

Be mindful of others.

Your family may need time to adjust to you being home again, and of course you’ll need time to adjust to not being on campus. When you live in tight quarters, it’s critical to pause and reflect on how you feel and how others might be feeling. Stay open-minded and compassionate.

It can be easy to revert back to the old parent-child roles and a time when someone else always cooked and did your laundry. But as an adult, help out around the house. Offer to cook a few times a week, do the dishes, help with house cleaning and yard work. Ask about household finances. Having a conversation about these topics can help clarify for everyone how to navigate living together again.

 

Coronavirus is changing what college life looks like for now. Reach out for support, create a balanced rhythm, and think about others. These are challenging and unique times for everyone. You are not alone!

Managing Mental Health During Coronavirus

People like certainty. We want to know what is happening and when it’s happening. We are hard wired to notice things that feel threatening to us.  When situations feel uncertain or we generally feel unsafe, it is normal to feel stressed. That reaction is there to protect us, and there are strategies you can use to help yourself.

Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19, “Coronavirus.”

A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but cannot. We may feel helpless about what will happen. We may not know what we should do to prevent the spread of Coronavirus or prevent further anxiety. The uncertainty might also connect to similar feelings about other aspects of our lives, or remind us of past times when we felt unsafe or we faced an unknown future.

In times like these, our mental health can suffer, which could show up as periods of:

  • Anxiety, worry, panic
  • Feeling helpless
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Anger
  • Hypervigilance to your health and body

Coronavirus is a health issue that is being taken seriously at UNC Chapel Hill and around the world. It makes sense to be anxious but don’t let your worry about the virus control your life. We can choose our response to situations. There are effective ways to manage fear and anxiety; many of them are essential to a healthy life and adopting them can improve overall emotional and physical well-being.

  1. Get the facts. Stay informed with the latest health and campus information at unc.edu/coronavirus. For further information see the CDC Coronavirus website.
  2. Separate what is in your control from what is not. Focus on the things you can do:
    • Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs.
    • Eat a variety of nutrient dense foods.
    • Move your body every day.
    • Get outside.
    • Although you will want to keep informed, take a break from the news to focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.
  3. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because of depression. Stay mindful of your assumptions about others – someone who has a cough or fever does not necessarily have coronavirus. Self-awareness is important in not stigmatizing others in our community.
  4. Get outside, ideally in nature – even if you are trying to avoid crowds. I took a walk in my neighborhood with my roommate. We saw a bit of sun, enjoyed fresh air, moved our bodies and spent quality time together.  Exercise in nature helps both your physical and mental health.
  5. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  6. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. Maintain your social networks using technology. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

We are in this together, and help is always available.  If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can reach out to CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658.

The content for this blog was heavily influenced by UC-Berkeley and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Self-Care to Complete your Stress Response Cycle

You’ve been dealing with stress lately. It’s the end of the semester. Final exams, papers, grading, holidays, relationships – all of these are complicated and cause stress. Emotions are more than just a momentary feeling – they are a biological process with a beginning, middle and end.

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A complete stress cycle – that is from beginning, to middle, to end – would look something like this:

  • Your body senses danger, Let’s pretend you’re walking in the woods and come across an angry lion. It’s coming right for you.
  • Your body responds to help you survive. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate go up. Your immune system, reproductive system and digestive systems get suppressed to focus on survival. Let’s imagine you run and find a safe place where you close the door on this scary lion. The lion scratches a few times and then wanders away.
  • You survive. You feel grateful to be alive. Your systems come back online and your heart/breathing slow back to normal.

In order for your body to feel safe after stress, you have to complete the stress response cycle.

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Today’s stressors usually aren’t lions. They are papers, exams, traffic, relationships, systems of oppression. Some of these we can’t run away from and aren’t going away anytime soon, making it difficult to complete the full stress response cycle. If you get stuck in the stress response cycle, where your body never realizes that you’ve survived the stressor and are safe, you may begin start seeing the negative impacts of stress.

The behaviors that manage stress in our body and complete the stress response cycle are not the same as those that deal with the solutions to the stressors. 

Which is good news because we don’t need to wait for stressors to be over in order to feel better. 

And it’s bad news because even if you manage a stressor (like completing your last exam of the semester – woohoo!), you haven’t necessarily dealt with the stress itself. 

Deal with the stress.

Separate the stress from the stressor.

Take a break from whatever is causing you stress and focus on the stress, that is, the physical and emotional feelings that exist in your body.

Turn towards the stress with kindness and compassion.

TeKaImagine the scene with Moana and Te Ka, the lava monster (spoiler alert!). Walk towards your stress – in this metaphor, stress is the lava monster and you are Moana – calmly, gently, possibly singing “This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Use the video if a visual helps.

Complete the stress cycle with any of the following evidence-based, self-care strategies:

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Physical activity. Moving your body is the most efficient way to communicate to your body that you have moved out of an unsafe place to a safe place. You could take a walk off campus after you finish an exam to help your body realize it’s safe now. You could experience an evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help you body relax at the end of the day.  You could go for a bike ride in the countryside. Remember that the goal of physical activity as self-care is to help your body recognize that you’ve moved to a safe place. We realize that for some people physical activity can be a source of stress. If you’re the only person of color in your pilates class, going to that class can be stressful. If you’re gender fluid, going to a gym and daring to use a locker room can actually be dangerous. If you go outside and walk you might get harassed or cat-called. So “exercise reduces stress” doesn’t quite cover how complicated it is. Thankfully – there are 3 other strategies you can use! 

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Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates the stress. Your imagination can also complete a stress response cycle. Visualize yourself as a B.A. monster crushing the place where you feel most stressed. Watch a movie or read a book that takes you through a hero’s journey and feel the complete cycle with the character. Use the power of your mind to feel that the danger has passed.

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Creative self-expression. Take your feelings and put them into art. Make a physical object or story representing how you feel. Stream-of-consciousness writing can help get the feelings you’re having on paper which helps move through them. Going dancing with friends uses 3 of the 4 self-care strategies listed here. Find ways to express yourself that work for you and help your body feel safe and connected.

002519_CampusScenes0123 (1).jpgConnection. Humans are built for connection and even positive superficial interactions help. Complimenting your server on their jewelry is all that it takes! These interactions clue your brain into knowing that it’s safe again. If you want to go deeper, try a 20 second hug with someone you really like and trust. When you can hold your body against someone else’s body for that long, eventually your chemistry switches. Your body remembers that you have someone who likes and trusts you enough to hold onto you for 20 whole seconds. And, we realize that people can cause stress. Other ways to connect include connecting with nature or the divine. Some people feel safe and held in nature. Some people experience their spirituality as a relationship with the divine and loving paternal, maternal or familial relationship where they can come home and feel safe. Find connection that makes you feel safe and held in whatever way works for you.

You deserve to feel safe and connected. Take the time to complete your stress cycle.

 

 

Adapted from https://youtu.be/BOaCn9nptN8, the research from Emily and Amelia Nagoski by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator. 

Photo credits:

  • Africa image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
  • Studying image by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Moana image screenshot from Disney
  • Jumprope, piano painting, cube painting and quad hangout images by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

 

Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

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Students decorated gingerbread houses at the Carolina Union Great Hall during Holiday Fun Fest on the last day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Photo by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  1. Honor and listen to your body. Let your body be your guide for when you’re hungry (pro tip: eat then!) and when you’re full (pro tip: stop then!). All foods fit – so challenge the food police that join you at holiday meals. Restricting food ultimately means overindulging in foods – so give yourself unconditional permission to eat with attunement to your body.
  2. Savor the good. Whether it’s good food, a good conversation, a good run, a good night’s sleep – take time to savor the things that nourish you this holiday season.
  3. Move your body – ideally with people you adore.  Find ways to keep active during the cooler times. Play some touch football. Run in a Jingle Bell Jog.
  4. Stay hydrated with water. Drinking enough water keeps your body healthy and hydrated. Carrying a reuseable bottle with you can help!
  5. Wash your hands. It’s still flu season y’all, and the holidays usually means crowds of people. Keep yourself and your loved ones healthier by washing your hands often.
  6. Connect. Relationships are complicated and very worth navigating complexity to reach connection. Remember what activities make you feel connected with the people you love and do a little extra of those.
  7. Give back. Brighten someone else’s day with a bit of holiday cheer in whatever way works for you. 

Resilience is How You Recharge (not How You Endure)

Resilience is often misunderstood. A lot of people think of football players when they think of resilience – able to take a hit, pick themselves up off the turf, and go for another play.  Well-meaning students trying to celebrate resilience might support each other staying up until 3am trying to finish a paper.

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Jumping over an official to make a left-handed grab likely requires some resilience.          But there are better examples.

A resilient person is a well-rested one. When an exhausted student goes to class, he lacks cognitive resources to do well academically, he has lower self-control, and he’s often moody AF (not sure we can use that abbreviation here, but we’re going to because moodiness from not sleeping is for real).

Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience.

Resilience is the adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. It means rebounding from difficult experiences.

A resilient person tries really hard, then stops to rest, then tries again.

The more time a person spends in their performance zone, they more time they need in the recovery zone. So the more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more value there is in activities that allow us to return to a state of balance. In other words, the value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us.

Most people assume that if you stop doing a task, like working on your Bio Chem homework, that your brain will naturally recover. When you start again the next morning, you’ll have your energy back. But we are confident that most of us reading this has had times where we lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because our brain is thinking about all the things we need to do. If we lie in bed for eight hours, we certainly have have rested, but we can still feel exhausted the next day. Rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping does not equal recovering.

What is recovery?

Internal recovery is the short periods of relaxation that take place throughout our day – via short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, shifting our attention, or changing to other tasks when the mental or physical resources required for task completion are depleted.

External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of scheduled work – so evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations. If after your day you lie around and get riled up by news you read on your phone or stress about the paper you have due on Monday, your brain hasn’t received a break from high mental arousal. Our brains need rest as much as our bodies.

In other words – it’s taking time to do things that are fun and enjoyable. It’s doing different things like going outside and moving your body. It’s letting your brain take a rest by unplugging and getting good sleep.

If you really want to build resilience, you can start by strategically stopping to rest.

Ideas to help:

  • Have tech free time. Apps like Offtime or Unplugged to create tech free zones by strategically scheduling automatic airplane modes.
  • Set a timer to take a cognitive break every 90 minutes when you’re studying to recharge your batteries.
  • Don’t do work over lunch. Instead spend time outside or with your friends — not talking about school.
  • Get good sleep!
  • Balance your class schedule so that no one day is overfilled.
  • Take day trips or mini-vacations, preferably outdoors.
  • Find things that make you laugh.
  • Give yourself permission to get distracted. Sometimes those distractions can be brain breaks.

But when all’s said and done, the best person to tell you how to recharge is YOU. You know what makes you feel refreshed – do those things! At least one of them every day.

This article was adapted from Resilience is About How You Recharge Not How You Endure to make it more relevant to UNC students by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health Services and CAPS. 

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season

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Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year. Back-to-school shopping and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context.

Take some time to think about your finances.

How much do you have to spend?

How much do you need to save?

What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!

This blog was updated from November 2015 and written by Kaitlyn Brodar. Kaitlyn was the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Don’t Overdo It! – Preventing Burn-Out at the End of the Semester

Although we know that self-care is an important part of maintaining holistic wellness, oftentimes it is difficult to truly engage in this practice. Being a college student is not always easy. Many times, competing interests are at work including courses, clubs, organizations, and other activities. It is extremely easy to look at peers and think, “They are doing so much! I’m not doing enough! I need to do more!” This thinking can be destructive for a number of reasons. We are all unique individuals with different aspirations and talents. My talents and interests may not align with my peers, but that does not necessarily mean that I am not doing enough. This means that I am strengthening and utilizing my skill sets in areas that interest me. Each activity and organization that you involve yourself with should be something that you are passionate about. Aside from thinking about what you can add to the organization, as a participant/member, it is perfectly okay to consider what the organization can add to your life as well. For example, will you gain the necessary skills and expertise which will help to guide you along your path?

Being over-involved can lead to fatigue and burnout.

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Burnout image by dskley at Flickr Creative Commons

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/preventing-burnout.htm). The dangerous truth about burnout is that it is a gradual process which manifests differently in everyone. It also directly impacts holistic wellness. Symptoms of burnout include but are not limited to the following:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time,
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits, sense of failure and self-doubt,
  • Loss of motivation,
  • Isolating yourself from others, and
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities

One of the primary ways to avoid and manage burnout is engaging in self-care on a regular basis. Below are some tips:

  1. Set aside at least 15-20 minutes per day after classes or other responsibilities in which you can sit alone and process the day. Alone time is essential for recharging!
  2. Find a hobby unrelated to school and schedule that time weekly (weekends usually work really well).
  3. Make friends! Don’t underestimate the power of these bonds!
  4. Be kind to yourself and others. Adjusting to the college is a process and everyone’s experience is going to be different. I know it is difficult, but avoid comparing your experience and journey to the next person’s.
  5. Embrace your individuality!

If you are having difficulty with any of the topics discussed in this blog, please feel free to stop by UNC Student Wellness or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) https://campushealth.unc.edu/services/counseling-and-psychological-services or call 919-962-WELL.

 

Millicent Robinson is a 2nd year MSW/MPH dual degree program student and Program Assistant with Student Wellness. Millicent went to UNC as an undergrad, earning a B.A. in Psychology with two minors in Spanish for the Professions as well as African and Afro-American Studies. Millicent is interested in holistic health and academic wellbeing, particularly in minority students. She has worked with the Upward Bound program at UNC for three years, and approaches health disparities and inequities using an interdisciplinary approach. 

Why Therapy Is Not For Me (but actually might be)

1. I want to get through it on my own.

We live in a society that places a lot of value on independence, but in truth, we are interdependent. Each of us does need other people to some degree. Participating in therapy is not a passive process. You are not “attending therapy”, or “getting therapy”.  Therapists are not administering something to you. Therapy is an active, collaborative process of figuring out life. Therapists do have some specialized knowledge about mental health, but we act as guides, not fixers. In fact, but of the unique aspects of therapy is that therapists act as guides, not as fixers.

2. If my friends and family can’t help me, how will someone I don’t even know help me?

Friends and family play extremely vital roles in our lives, and there is no substitute for those types of relationships. Often the people in our life have a vested interest in what we choose to do or in what direction we move. The role of a therapist is very different. When you go to therapy, the first task is for the therapist to be able to understand your hopes and goals, because your agenda is our agenda. Sometimes family and friends have the tendency to try to make things better for you. Therapists are trained to help you find the tools to make things better for yourself.

3. It’s not that bad. I’m not crazy. Therapy is a last resort for me.

People participate in therapy for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes things in their lives are pretty bad when they initiate therapy.

Sometimes they start treatment because they aren’t feeling fulfilled, or because something in life feels “off”. They want to not simply get through each day, but instead want to thrive. Sometimes students come to therapy because they are aware that academic stress is unavoidable and they want to learn strategies to manage it before it starts to create problems. At UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we work with people throughout the whole spectrum, between preventing problems before they start and treating issues before they begin.

Mental Health is similar to physical health in that it is often a quicker, easier process if you take a proactive approach. I often hear from students who have recurrent depression that the first episode was the worst, in part because they didn’t know to take action until things felt completely unmanageable.

Stigma is real. Often times we are socialized to have some negative feelings towards individuals with mental health disorders and towards seeking mental health treatment. Where have you heard some of those messages? What do you believe? How might you overcome the stigma associated with seeking services?

4. Therapy is too _____________________ (Expensive, Time Consuming)

There is no arguing with that. Participating in therapy definitely takes time (typically 45-60 minutes weekly). It also may require a financial investment. Although CAPS brief therapy services are free, there are times when students may start off with or transition to a community provider, where there will likely be a copay.

Often when I meet with students, their symptoms are impacting their ability to be as successful as they could be academically. Their friendships or relationships with loved ones may be impacted. Anxiety, for example, could make it extremely difficult for a person to concentrate and learn new material, and to seek frequent reassurance from friends, or to avoid social situations altogether.  Also, some of the symptoms they are experiencing are painful. They are in real distress. Can you relate to this? How are the issues you are having impacting your quality of life?

If one part of the equation is the cost/time/effort, please remember to include the other side of the equation- the impact the symptoms are having on your well-being.

In Conclusion

Therapy is not for everyone. But therapy is helpful for some people, and it just may be that it could be helpful to you. But don’t take my word for it! See if therapy can help you. The best way to get something out of therapy:

  • Come in with some goals in mind.
  • Ask your therapist questions.
  • If you don’t feel as if the first person you see is a good fit, work with someone else.
  • Monitor your symptoms and your progress toward your goals, and work with your therapist to get the most out of your time together.
  • Be open with your therapist about any concerns you have about the therapy process.

If you would like to initiate therapy or simply talk with a clinician more about your options for mental health services, please walk in to CAPS between the hours of 9*-12 and 1-4 M-F (8-5 if you have urgent concerns). *Friday morning initial appointments begin at 9:30 a.m. 

 

Originally posted August 6, 2013. Revised and updated 2016.