The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and so are the holidays! There will be more to do these next few weeks. Help yourself by creating a plan.
Look ahead and evaluate. Take a look at your upcoming calendar, your class assignments, your holiday plans, and ideal gift recipients. Evaluate and clarify priorities.
Make a To-Do List. Based on those priorities, write down what you need to do. Focus on one task at a time – as you are only ONE person.
Practice Financial Wellness. Consider your budget for November and December.The end of the year is often one of the most challenging times to stay financially well with the strain of travel costs, winter break plans, celebrations with friends, and celebratory gifts. Be realistic with what you can afford to spend. What are your personal short term and long term financial goals? How does your spending fit into this? Learn more about tips for financial wellness through UNC’s Student Wellness office.
Monitor your emotions. Upcoming deadlines and planning for the end of year can serve as a recipe for an emotional storm. Managing and planning for assignments, events, and job schedules may prove useful to prevent this from happening. Try giving yourself grace during this time frame. If things get too hard, take a deep breath, step back and then try again. Managing your emotions can help you stay on track with the plan you created.
This can be a busy time of the year as you grind to wrap up the semester and prepare to spend time with family and friends. Make it easier for yourself by planning out what you can.
Today – 10/10/22 – is World Mental Health Day. There are so many issues that affect our mental health. Many members of campus are collaborating to address environmental and systemic issues that may affect our community’s well-being. One strategy is removing barriers to accessing supportive resources.
Remember there are places to get help if you or a friend need it. The Heels Care Network is your gateway to find that support and get connected.
UNC-Chapel Hill Resources: There are many supports for your mental health and wellbeing – from CAPS to peer support to spaces centering cultural needs or specific mental health issues. Visit the Mental Health Resource Hub to find a resource to support you. If the site feels overwhelming and you want help navigating campus resources, chat into the LSN Peer Support live chat.
Stepping into or returning to campus can be difficult at first. You may often hear about resources to manage your academic life, and navigating coursework is vital to your success. But we often forget about managing our emotions in our day-to-day lives. Some reminders to help yourself:
Connect with others
Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends or family. Your emotional state is less likely to improve or change if you stay isolated and keep thinking about the feelings. Find and lean on your people!
Feel what you feel
Emotions cannot be directly controlled. What you can control is your response and actions to your emotions. What you do – like moving your body and engaging in mindfulness – can improve your emotional state.
Develop empathy for others and yourself
Give yourself a break. College is a time to develop and grow into a better version of yourself. You are going to run into challenges. By learning to recognize the emotions that you and others are feeling, you’ll find yourself more emotionally balanced and your relationships with others will improve.
Strive for transparency in your relationships with others and yourself. The more you try to minimize your emotions, the more challenging in the long run it becomes to deal with them. Make a choice to accept how you and others feel.
Emotions are temporary
Understand that how you feel in the moment will not last forever. Emotions are like clouds – constantly moving and shifting. But if a negative feeling lasts a long time, recognize that you likely need help to resolve it—and that help is available. Learn more about supportive resources at the Heels Care Network.
The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced.
Be calm in the storm
Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind.
6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind
Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
Meditate. You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness.
Give yourself time to worry. Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.
Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.
Self-care can support a healthy college experience – increasing productivity by stepping away from your to-do list. Sounds like magic, right?
What are the different types of self-care?
Emotional Self-Care means evaluating your emotional well-being. Giving yourself space for self-talk, saying “no” to things that would disrupt your energy flow or cause stress, and going on friend dates are all ways to contribute to your emotional self-care.
Physical Self-Care. Prioritizing sleep, adopting a routine that includes physical activity, and eating a diversity of yummy, nutrient-filled foods are all ways to take care of yourself physically.
Spiritual Self-Care can look different for everyone! Spending time in a quiet place, meditating, journaling and incorporating overall peaceful activities into your day can all help with spiritual well-being.
What does your self-care look like?
What does giving yourself attention and space – just like you do for assignments and others – look like? Use this well-being day to set some daily or monthly wellness goals to help make sure you meet your own needs. Remember that you came to UNC with a host of identities and values outside of school. Ensure you’re supporting your whole self through this journey.
Some questions to ask yourself:
What self-care successes are you proud of so far this semester?
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.
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.
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 to 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 or having a difficult conversation at last), 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.
Imagine 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:
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 evening restorative yoga classes at Campus Rec to help your 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!
Imagination. If you’ve ever had a racing heart or sweaty palms before a competition or interview, you know that your body doesn’t have to BE in a real-life stressor in order to THINK that it needs to initiate a stress response cycle. Your imagination creates 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.
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 that 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.
Connection. 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.
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
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!
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 the 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:
Listen to what people you disagree with say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
Reflect back on 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.
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!
As we all do our best to navigate a global pandemic, we must find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also assist us in extending these same virtues to others during this time. The uncertainty and stress is difficult for everyone, but especially challenging for some due to their specific identities.
Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:
How am I feeling right now?
What does my self-talk sound like?
Is this self-talk something that I would say to support a small child or friend?
Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:
I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
This is a difficult time. It is natural to feel stressed. I am here for you.
I am safe and supported.
Remember that self-compassion is about radical self-acceptance. It does not mean that pain and suffering does not occur, it means that we care and support ourselves through these tough experiences. Like all things self-compassion takes practice including checking-in with yourself regularly and reframing as needed. Soon you will be ready to spread kindness and compassion everywhere.
Time to practice! Enhance your self-compassion skills by trying one of these: