11 Ideas to Take Care of YOU

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.

Get Creative!

A person in socks over a bedspread lays next to a book, pencil, mug, and guitar

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 Baths

A bath with bubbles, candles, soap, and a book

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

Two people with gaming consoles play a video game together

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.


Library long view

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

Graphic of astronauts on various devices lounging around on a couch

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.

Person of color with their eyes closed and half in shadow with the words Feeling Seen A UNC CAPS Podcast overlay

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

Go for a Hike

Fish eye view of the Botanical Garden

Those of us who are privileged to live in the Triangle are able to access numerous hiking trails in the area.

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 areaThe 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.


Glowing tent and fire at night by a lake

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.


Rameses bikes on a Tar Heel Bike in the Pit while students look on behind him

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: 


Image of Heavenly Buffaloes

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.

Women has head on computer desk and is raising a flag with a sad face on it
Nadia_Snopek/Adobe Stock

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!

Have a Healthy and Happy Winter Break

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

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

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

Mental Health Strategies

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

Ideas to protect yourself and others from illness

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

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

Prepare for the Holidays – Starting Now

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

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

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

Why you need more than a negative test

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Gathering Guidance

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

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

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

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

Stress Continuum

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

– click for 1 min video about the stress continuum –

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

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

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

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

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

Ideas to Cope

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

More coping resources for UNC students

How to stay balanced during Election 2020

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

Focus on What You Can Control

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

  • Think about how political content makes you feel when you consume it.
    • Find political content that is fact-based, reputable or uses primary sources rather than viewing memes or personal opinions on social media.
    • If you have increased stress, limit your political content intake for a bit.
    • If you’re feeling paralyzed or anxious, act. Do something constructive for a cause you believe in to help you feel better.
  • Engage in meaningful activities.
    • Find an activity you enjoy and do it, rather than fixating on news or social media coverage,
    • Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you.
    • Stay socially connected and lean on your friends when you’re feeling stressed.
    • Stay active – moving your body helps release stressful energy.
    • If you have a therapist, talk to them about your election feelings to help you manage.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings when sharing opinions. Avoid assumptions about other people and how they think. Anticipating differences in opinions can help prepare you for difficult conversations. Even for like-minded, politically-engaged folks, be aware that the other person might be trying to limit political exposure.
  • Be open to learning about other points of view. There are always reasons why people feel the way they do about certain issues or people. Consider using this cycle for conversations:
    • Ask open ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
    • Listen to what people you disagree with say. Deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
    • Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
    • Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
    • Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience. People tend to best process stories, rather than logic.
  • Stay close to people you disagree with. Some fear that this election will divide our country further. Counteract this in your life by maintaining close relationships – even with those who don’t see eye to eye with you. Test out how it feels to stay friendly with acquaintances who support opposing candidates.
  • Plan an enjoyable event for after election day. Whatever happens with the election outcomes, life will go on, so planning an event will help reinforce that notion.
The United States flag flies near the Morehead Patterson Bell Tower
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After Election Results

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

Support Options for UNC Students

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies to reduce your risk include:

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

Acknowledge ambivalence

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

What to say if you choose not to attend

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

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

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

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

Heel-oween 2020

We need to change how we’ve celebrated Halloween in the past to make room for the pandemic. Here are some ideas how:

Have a Halloween Plan 

Decide what to do. 

Decide what you are comfortable with this Halloween before Saturday arrives. The gathering on Franklin Street is cancelled, so find another spot to be on the night of Halloween. Consider watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up to eat dinner with your roommates, or joining one of the activities listed below.

Jacob Bermeo from Chapel Hill sits outside of Wilson Library while dressed up as Spider-Man on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
(Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Reduce your risk for COVID

COVID risk increases with indoor exposure(s), length of time together, lack of masks and number of people encountered. Reduce your risk by choosing a small group to spend Halloween with, sticking with them (and only them) throughout, wearing COVID masks, and staying outside as much as possible if you’re gathering with people who don’t live with you. 

Pick or make your costume.

If you choose to wear a costume, pick one that allows you to easily wear a COVID mask. Also make sure your costume avoids cultural appropriation.

Reduce your risk of negative impacts of substance use

Substances also bring risk – especially in a pandemic because of how they affect judgment and decisions making. If you choose to use substances, have a plan. Set a limit for yourself ahead of time since it’s hard to know when to stop once you’ve started. Use the buddy system to hold each other accountable. Know how much you consume. Consider bringing your own or making your own so you can better understand how much you’re using. If you drink alcohol, eat a good meal beforehand and drink water throughout. 

Be an active bystander

Don’t be afraid to speak up or take action if you or your friends are made uncomfortable. Everyone is entitled to having a good time on Halloween, and that starts with feeling safe.  

UNC Halloween Activities

MONDAY 10/26




FRIDAY 10/30


Anytime this week

Granville Haunt Farm – Haunted Drive In Movie Theme
Haunted Hills Terror Drive
Phillips Haunted Farms

“Responsible” Drinking: What it Really Means

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation Starts with Listening

by Will McInerney

All too often, we tend to mistake hearing for listening.

Hearing is a physiological process by which sound waves are processed and passed along from our ears to our brains. Listening is a more complicated psychological process by which we comprehend, create meaning, and apply understanding. (2) Listening engages empathy and connection. This process asks us to be introspective and to challenge ourselves. Listening looks like putting your phone away during a conversation. Listening means you are not formulating a rebuttal or counterpoint while the other is talking, rather you are thinking deeply about what they are saying and taking time to process the information.

“Listen” by Ky. Flikr Creative Commons.

As a community, we need to deepen our commitment to whole-heartedly listening to survivors and to the professionals who work and advocate on these issues.

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). During this month (as well as every other month) it is important that we work to hone our listening skills, foster conversations, and catalyze action.

Relationship violence takes many forms (including but not limited to physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, economic, and verbal) and affects a significant percentage of college-aged individuals. (1) RVAM is a time of year when we seek to shine light on this issue and work to create a safer, more accountable, and inclusive campus for all faculty, staff, and students.

One way we can do this is by having more open and honest conversations. Through conversation, we seek to elicit action, foster change, and create impact. But when having conversations it’s also important that we take special note to truly listen, especially to those directly affected.

This year during RVAM, Student Wellness and the Compass Center is focusing on consent, communication, and healthy relationships. Throughout this October, members of the Carolina community are encouraged to show support by participating in any number of the following RVAM events.

Every Monday a live stream consent playlist is available.  Tune in while you are working, out for a walk, or driving for an RVAM crafted playlist between 9am -4pm via Twitch.tv. (search RVAM consent playlist)

On October 21st, students can participate in 3 rounds of virtual trivia covering, the Spectrum of Violence and Pop Culture, Maintaining Healthy [Virtual] Relationships through Love Languages,  Who, What, When, Where, and Why–UNC [Virtual] Campus Resources.

On October 28th, a collection of UNC organizations will be hosting a virtual panel to explore the intersection of Relationship Violence, Race, and Economic Justice. The event will be held @ 2:00pm via zoom.

A panel of professionals from Student Wellness, Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office, Carolina Women’s Center, Compass Center for Women and Children,  will speak and help facilitate group discussions. This is an opportunity for us to engage, to speak, and to challenge our community and ourselves to take tangible steps to reduce violence and listen to survivors.

For more information, check out the  RVAM schedule below.  (all 2020 events will be hosted virtually)

RVAM calendar 2020


  1. http://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Dating_Abuse_Statistics.pdf
  2. http://study.com/academy/lesson/hearing-vs-listening-importance-of-listening-skills-for-speakers.html
  3. http://speakoutunc.blogspot.com/
  4. http://rvam.web.unc.edu/rvam-event-schedule/

Will McInerney has worked with the campus wide initiative to increase men’s involvement in gender equity efforts and violence prevention since its inception. He partners with students, faculty, and staff to promote positive, inclusive, and non-violent masculinities.

Will is also a writer, performer, and consultant specializing in Middle East and North Africa-based conflict zones. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, American Public Media, and recently at the International Storytelling Center. Will earned his Bachelor of Arts in Peace, War, and Defense from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

College Students and the Flu: COVID edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does the flu shot cause the flu? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

When and where can I get vaccinated?

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

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

Count it!

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