Mindfulness During Finals Season

Finals season might be a daunting time to try something new, but if you’re going to try anything to help you be successful during finals – try mindfulness.

A busy mind – especially during finals.

It’s a practice, for sure, but even with one session, you brain will be shifting it’s patterns of worry and anxiety to paying more attention to the present moment with intention, without judgment, and with an attitude of acceptance.

You could start by focusing on how your breath feels, noticing that you’re feeling tired, noticing how the warm sun feels on your skin. You don’t need to do anything about your experience, you just need notice it and then simply turn your attention to whatever comes next.

If you want to do more, consider meditation. You do not have to be part of a special group to start a meditation practice. You can practice alone or with a group of friends.

Basic Meditation

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit, whether it’s in a chair, on a mat, on the floor, just wherever works best for you.
  2. Sit in a dignified way – not too ridged and not slouching.
  3. You can keep your eyes open or even half open. You can also close them if that’s comfortable. Just try to avoid falling asleep.
  4. Now, bring your attention to the sensation of your breath. Notice how the cool air feels as it enters through your nostrils.
  5. Now move your attention down to your chest and belly. Notice how the chest and belly expand out with each inhalation, and contracts or flattens out on the exhalation. See if you can count at least 5 exhalations.
  6. If you notice that your focus starts to drift away from your breath and to your thoughts, for example, just notice that this has happened and slowly, without any judgment, bring your full attention and awareness back to the sensation of the breath. Just be sure that you don’t beat yourself because your mind wandered
  7. Try and keep your attention on the breath for just 10 minutes. It’s not easy, but keep at it!

If it’s easier, you can do this with audio instead of written instructions.

Walking Meditation

Beach not necessary, but a bonus if you’ve got one!

You can do this as you’re walking between classes, or anywhere on campus, and no one has to know that you’re doing it (unless you want them to know).

  1. Bring your attention to your feet, and notice what it feels like to have them firmly on the ground. You may notice how your shoes and socks feel on your feet.
  2. While lifting each foot and leg off the ground, try to notice how it feels to lift your foot and leg into the air.
  1. While alternating each foot and leg, notice the experience of your weight shifting as you move forward.
  1. Bring your awareness to your upper body and pay attention to your arms as they swing and any other motion you feel in your upper body as you walk.

Audio file version! 

Moving Meditation for Individuals in a Wheelchair

Use a wheelchair? No problem! You can do this too!

  1. Bring your attention to your arms and hands as they move back and you get ready to push your wheels.
  1. You may notice how the muscles in your back squeeze together or how your shoulder muscles stretch.
  1. Notice what your hands feel as they grip your wheels.
  1. Finally, see what you experience as you start to push your wheels. You may feel the muscles in your biceps and triceps flexing and stretching. Don’t worry if you don’t notice this. Just bring your full attention to what you do feel.

You’re now on your way to having your own mindfulness practice. Now, go out there and start giving your attention to each moment! You never know what you might discover.

Originally posted in 2014, this post has been updated for clarity. In 2014, Dennis Carmody was an MPH candidate in the Health Behavior department at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and enjoying his summer practicum with the great folks at UNC Student Wellness.

Finals Nutrition: Fuel your Brain

For many people, the nutrition facts found on the back of food packages are confusing. They are meant for the general population, and thus cannot provide the information necessary for individual dietary needs. Your individual needs are based on your gender, age, size, physical activity level, and many other factors.

According to UNC Campus Health’s registered dietitian, most students only need to follow one simple rule to get nutritional needs met during finals and otherwise: MyPlate.

 Image courtesy of ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Image courtesy of ChooseMyPlate.gov.

MyPlate is an easy nutrition guide. It reminds us to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, with the other half split equally with grains and protein. Following MyPlate means you’re more likely to eat balanced meals and snacks that meet your nutritional needs.

Think about a “typical” American breakfast. 1/2 of it as fruits and veggies? That’s not going to happen with a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, or a plate of bacon and eggs. Eating the nutrient-dense colorful fruits and veggies takes a bit of effort and creativity!

Some examples of a well-balanced meal:

  • Spaghetti with heavy-on-the-veggies sauce and fruit
  • Pizza with veggies on top and a salad on the side
  • Eggs and bacon with roasted root veggies
  • Quinoa salad

A well-balanced snack can use the Plate method as well, or think about making sure each snack has fat, fiber and protein.

  • Yogurt and granola with berries on top
  • Fresh veggies and hummus
  • Almonds and kale chips
  • Good ol’ raisins and peanuts
  • Apple and nut butter

These can be tough to find on campus – so plan ahead and bring them with you!

Finals is a tough time, but will be even tougher if you don’t nourish your body and brain.

If you are interested in receiving more information about nutrition, make an appointment with Nutrition Services at Campus Health.

This post was adapted from one by Justin Chu, a former nutrition graduate student and program assistant at Student Wellness. 

5 Money Strategies for UNC Students

Managing money as a college student is not easy. Tuition, housing, food are all expensive – not to mention the costs of extracurricular activities (the fun stuff!).  Some ways to help your finances stay afloat in college:

  1. Make yo’self a budget! This is the most important step. You need to know how much money you have saved as well as income – wages, scholarships, etc. Then you need to try to think through what expenses you might have. This isn’t always easy! But think through costs such as school supplies, food outside your meal plan, personal care items, laundry, cell phones, subscriptions, etc. Then try managing your budget and tracking expenses. This can be done by hand, using a digital spreadsheet, or just signing up for an online personal finance management tool like Mint.com.
  2. Separate wants from needs. These are personal decisions. After a few months on campus and tracking expenses (again, super easy with Mint.com or other applications like it), you will be able to see patterns and put a plan into action to minimize unnecessary spending. Some students get out as much cash as they can spend on “wants” each week and only pay with dolla’ bills. Once they run out, they wait until next week for more.american-express-89024
  3. Use, don’t abuse, credit cards. College is a great time to start building credit, a crucial aspect for leasing an apartment, purchasing a car, and someday buying a house – but it’s easy to build up loads of debt while at UNC. To build credit, pay off your credit card every month. That means you can only spend on the card what you have in your accounts already.
  4. Research loans and financial aid. Understand what your student loan debt will be upon graduation and plan how you will pay it back.
  5. Shop smart. Textbooks are one of the biggest college expenses – find ways to make that expense cheaper. Look at your monthly recurring  charges. Subscription services add up – are there any you don’t need? Cell phone bills can often be made cheaper with family and friends plans or using a pay-as-you-go version. Coupons and sales are everywhere. There are almost always ways to minimize costs on purchases!

I Manage Money Shirt Design 2018

Employing basic money management now will set you up for success later. Plus good financial habits help you handle more and more responsibility around money when you move on from UNC. For more tips:

CashCourse.org has accurate, easy to understand and college-centric financial management information. Just make yourself a free account using your UNC email address. It covers loans, saving for spring break, studying abroad,  jobs, taxes and more.  There are even worksheets and tools that you can use to help get your finances in order, meet a savings goal or determine your spending allowance.

The Dean of Students Office provides financial literacy events on campus such as “Ballin’ on a Budget” and “Swiper, No Swiping. Debunking Credit Myths.” You can hop into one of those or request one for your organization.

Overcome Imposter Syndrome

High achieving folks (ahem, UNC students) and self-doubt go together like PB&J.

Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve your accomplishments? That you’re in over your head and someone might notice?  If so, you’re not alone. The tendency to diminish obvious evidence of our abilities is called “imposter syndrome.” And it is an issue for many successful people.


Psychologist Pauline Rose Clance, a therapist who worked with undergraduate students, noticed that while many of her clients got good grades and had all the markers of being a successful person, they believed they didn’t deserve to be at their college. Some went so far as to think that their acceptance had been an admissions error. Clance knew these fears were inaccurate, but she also recalled feeling the same way herself while in grad school. She decided to study that feeling of fraudulence.

Who feels like an imposter?

Feeling like an imposter is an almost universal experience of humanity. It’s not a disease. It’s not tied to mental health issues. There is no level of accomplishment that puts these feelings to rest – people as highly revered as Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein expressed feelings of imposter syndrome. Clance researched people with diverse gender identities, races, ages, and occupations, and found imposter syndrome virtually everywhere, though more prevalent in underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.

Where do these feelings of being an imposter come from?

People who are highly skilled or accomplished (people like YOU) tend to think others are just as skilled. This can turn into feelings that they don’t deserve praise and opportunities over other people.

Plus, everyone can be susceptible to pluralistic ignorance – where we doubt ourselves privately but think we’re the only ones who do so because no one else voices their doubts.

We can never really know how hard the people around us work, how difficult they find certain tasks, or how much they doubt themselves.

If everyone has imposter syndrome at some point, why is it a problem?

Intense feelings of imposter syndrome can prevent people from changing the world! They might avoid sharing their great ideas or applying for majors, internships and jobs  where they would excel.

How can I overcome my feelings of being an imposter?

TALK ABOUT IT. Hearing that advisors or mentors or friends have experienced similar feelings of imposterism can help relieve those feelings. You are not alone in your experiences!

COLLECT THE GOOD STUFF. Many of us shrug away compliments and hold onto criticism. Soak in the praise. Revisit positive feedback. Make yourself a “smile file” of nice notes from people you love or good comments from professors and read through them when you’re feeling down.

THINK DIFFERENT THOUGHTS. We all can learn to think like a non-imposter. No one likes to not know the answer or have an off day. Instead of thinking “wow I’m full of BS” you could think “I can come up with things to say on the fly that people find useful.” It’s reframing imperfections. It’s finding the good in what you do. Even if you don’t believe it – that’s ok.

FEELINGS ARE THE LAST TO CHANGE. If you’re struggling with feeling like an imposter, it’s not going to change immediately upon reading this article. All changes happen in a similar pattern: start with intention, move to action and change your behavior, practice that new behavior over and over again. At some point, that behavior becomes second nature – and finally, it’s just who you are.

“First, it is an intention. Then it is a behavior. Then a practice. Then second nature. Then it is simply who you are.” -Brendon Burchard


  • You did so many things that got you to UNC.
  • You know how to do difficult things.
  • You belong here.

Learn more

If you want to dive in deeper, take an online questionairre by Pauline Rose Clance, the psychologist who originally studied imposter syndrome. If you find that you have imposter experiences, remember that you’re not alone.

This article was compiled from information from TedEd, How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Mindful.org


5 Quick Tips for Roommate Success

Having roommates can be the absolute best – you can enjoy each other’s company 24/7!  On the other hand, you can be around each other 24/7.

Even if you’re BFFs or instantly make a connection, there will likely be moments when y’all get on each other’s nerves. Here are some ideas to make living with someone a bit easier:

  • Communicate. We recommend using I statements and observing a situation without judgment. You can learn more in the video below. Relationships Video Still.PNG
  • Don’t Borrow. Everyone deserves to have their things be safe in their home. One of the biggest sources of friend conflicts is borrowing that goes wrong. Your friendship is worth more than that! So we recommend avoiding borrowing things from friends unless you’re prepared to replace it if it gets broken or lost. Can’t afford to replace it? Don’t borrow it in the first place.
  • Find common ground with cleanliness. Likely one of you will want things more clean than the other. Meet in the middle!
  • Respect each other’s need for sleep. Everyone has different patterns and there will likely be times when one of you decides to be awake when the other is asleep. Talk through how to handle this. What should happen if one of you comes home and the other is asleep? What if one of you needs to wake up early before the other?
  • Take breaks. Work to ensure that everyone gets time in the space by themselves at some point.

If you live in a residence hall, your Resident Assistant can help support you and your roommate through conflicts. If you’re off campus, choose those roommates wisely, and perhaps talk through things before you move in together.

Some of your roommates will likely be your friends for life, so try to build a relationship that inspires lifelong trust and respect. We promise it’ll be worth it.


Get outside! Best nature areas to explore near UNC.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey

The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience -and you don’t have to go far to find them.

The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.

Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Explore them! We start with those closest to campus and swirl outward across the state.

Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside! (pro tip: Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Carolina Adventures Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some of these fantastic adventures.) Continue reading

Pro Tips for Sun Protection

The best way to defend your skin from damage and long term skin issues is to protect your skin early and often from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The most common sun protection method is using a quality sunscreen.

What should I look for in a sunscreen?

  • At least SPF 30. Pro tip: Going above 30 SPF doesn’t offer much greater protection.
  • Broad spectrum. Pro tip: this means the sunscreen covers both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Water resistant. Pro tip: This is especially important for water exposure or sweating.

How much sunscreen should be applied?

One fluid ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) is the amount generally considered enough to cover exposed body areas, although this varies based on a person’s body size. Apply and rub in to all exposed body areas.

How often to reapply?

Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied at least every two hours under dry conditions. Apply more often if in water or sweating. Pro tip: Every two hours is tough to manage, so also seek shade, wear a hat, and wear protective clothing when possible.

Pro tip: if you are using bug spray, the sunscreen should be applied first, followed by the bug spray; avoid sunscreen/bug spray combination products because they have different reapplication schedules.

What are the differences between the different sunscreen types – chemical vs. barrier?

Chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone) are very popular and work by absorbing and filtering harmful UV radiation from penetrating the skin. This sunscreen type is often colorless and remains as a thin layer on the skin.

Barrier, or physical, sunblocks (such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) physically block harmful UV rays from reaching the skin. Barrier sunblock can provide high protection from thsunscreene sun, but a quantitative SPF is difficult to specify. Some folks find this sunscreen unfavorable because it is visible on the skin (pro tip: If it’s visible, it can function properly). There are colorful options that can be fun, or you can go for the nose-specific “Dad style” of barrier sunblock application modeled by The ‘Hoff.

What about parts of my body I can’t apply sunscreen to?

Protect your eyes! Look for sunglasses that promote UV400 protection; these filter out 99.9% of UVA and UVB rays. Lips need protection from the sun too! Use a lip balm that has SPF protection.

What about clothing with UV protection?

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is similar to SPF in that it is a quantitative system used to describe how much UV protection clothing provides. For reference, most clothing typically has a UPF of ~6, while most sun protective fabrics have a UPF of 30 and others can exceed a UPF of 50! These are great options if you are going to be outside on a boat all day or doing other activities where applying/reapplying sunscreen may be difficult.

What else am I forgetting about sunscreen?

  • Check expiration dates! Yes, sunscreen can expire, and when it does, you will be frustrated and burnt. Expiration date locations on products vary, so be sure to look over bottles before applying! See below for examples of expiration date locations:expiration
  • Apply on cloudy and cold days This is especially important to note for your face when skiing; the white snow can reflect the sun’s rays back up to your face to intensify the damage.
  • Don’t forget the tops of your feet; take off those flip flops when applying sunscreen.
  • Scalps can and do burn. To my fellow short-haired folks: rub in sunscreen to the scalp. If you part your hair, apply sunscreen to the exposed line. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is a good option or addition for head/scalp sun protection.
  • There are also several makeup brands/products that contain SPF. Give these options a try to protect yourself from your daily excursions into the sun’s harmful rays.

How to treat/manage sunburn if it happens?

  • Take cool baths/showers.
  • Apply moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to soothe burned areas. You may also apply a thin layer of OTC hydrocortisone to particularly uncomfortable areas to help with redness, itchiness, and inflammation. (Note: hydrocortison is only for small sections of the body, only for use less than 4 times per day and at most, only to be used for 13 consecutive days.
  • Drink extra water.
  • If appropriate, you can also take over-the-counter NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen) to help with pain and reduce inflammation. Be sure to take NSAIDs with food, plenty of fluids, and as directed by the package or your healthcare provider. If you are taking any other medications, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider to ensure NSAIDs are safe for you to use.
  • Avoid using products that end in “-caine” (such as benzocaine).
  • If your sunburn forms into blisters, keep the blisters intact. The blisters are there to aid skin healing and protect against infections.
  • If the sunburn is over a large surface area of your body, or if you are worried an infection has set in, see your healthcare provider to see if prescription medications are warranted.

Can some medications that can enhance sunburn possibility?

Yes! Several medications can enhance sunlight sensitivity of your skin. Check medication labels and/or ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if medications you take can cause increased risk of sunburn. Examples of common medications that can have this side effect include:  Tetracyclines (e.g., doxycycline, minocycline); Thiazides (e.g., HCTZ); Sulfonamides (e.g., sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim); Phenothiazines (e.g., promethazine); Quinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin). If you are taking any of these medications, be sure to take special care of your skin by wearing sun-protective clothing and reapplying sunscreen with any sun exposure for the entire duration you take the medication and even a few days after your last dose.HHS Sunscreen

Be sure to look for SPF 30+ products available at the Health Heels Shoppe in the basement of UNC Campus Health Services and at the Student Stores Pharmacy for your sun protection needs.

John Taylor Schimmelfing is a Pharmacist at Campus Health Services. John graduated from Elon before obtaining his PharmD from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He also happens to be a National, World and Junior Olympic jump rope champion, which clearly qualifies him as an expert on all things jump rope related such as whether jump rope is two words or one (it’s two!). 

Sources:  American Academy of Dermatology; American Melanoma Foundation

Post originated in 2016. It has been edited and updated for clarity. 

STD Myths

There are many misconceptions surrounding STDs. In honor of STD awareness month (that’s in April!), we’ll clarify some of those most common myths sexual health educators hear.

“Only promiscuous people get STDs.”

STDs can be acquired and transmitted by anyone, regardless of the number of sex partners one has. Unprotected sex and inconsistent condom use can occur in a variety of sex partnerships, from a long-term monogamous couple to a casual fling.

“Condoms are too expensive to use regularly.”

Condoms and other safer sex supplies (dental dams, female condoms, lube) are available for FREE to students through Campus Health Services and Student Wellness. When used correctly, condoms are very effective at preventing most sexually transmitted infections.

Continue reading

Women’s History by Dimensions of Wellness

March is Women’s History Month.  In honor of the month, here are some famous women throughout time who embodied dimensions of wellness.



Despite an official trying to attack and eject her (even though the rules did not say women couldn’t run), Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.



Erin Pizzey was the first person to start a formal organization to protect women who have been domestically abused.  Erin started Refuge as a place where abused women could and take shelter with their children.



Rosalynn Carter defied traditional first lady roles and fought to promote positive change, awareness, and stigma reduction in the mental health field.  She created The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force and hosts the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy.


Wangari Matthai 3a-12_0

Founder of The Green Belt Movement, Wangari Maathai advocated for poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree planting. Wangari was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.



After barely graduating college, Suze Orman was a waitress tired of stereotypes when she decided to open her own restaurant. She taught herself everything about finances, and is now one of the most successful financial advisors in the world.



Virginia Dare was the first English person born in the Americas. Nobody knows what happened to her colony, but there’s plenty of legend and lore surrounding The Lost Colony, and the mark it left on history.



Toni Morrison became the first black woman writer to hold a chair at an Ivy League University, and she became the first black American woman to win a Nobel Prize.




Ingrid Mattson is a prominent religious leader and interfaith activist. She teaches and chair Islamic Studies programs at universities in the U.S. and Canada. Shen advocates for a greater dialogue between faiths as a way to increase partnerships and understanding.

Spring Break Packing List

As spring break approaches, many UNC students look forward to beach destinations and a long week of chill. Some may travel to the tropics like Mexico or the Carribean, while others may opt for metropolitan adventures in Amsterdam, Bangkok or otherwise. Still others hit the slopes.

Most spring break destinations have health risks that may impact what you pack for your vacation. Connect with the UNC Travel Clinic as soon as you can once you know your plans for leaving the United States. We help you determine vaccines you might need, medications that could help you stay healthy, and health risks specific to your travel itinerary.

the-suitcase-811122_1920.jpgWhat to Bring

We know you’ll bring the fun on your adventures! It’s harder to think about when things don’t go perfectly. So for those less likely scenarios, also bring:

  • Copies of your passport and travel documents. We suggest one copy in each piece of luggage (in case a bag gets lost!), one copy with a trusted friend or family member at home, and the actual documents with you.
  • Prescription medications – the ones you regularly take (and enough of them to get you home) and any special prescriptions for your trip such as anti-malarials or meds to help with travel diarrhea (the #1 health issue for international travelers).  Bring your EpiPen if you have one prescribed to you!
  • Over-the-counter medications – ones you regularly use like supplements or asprin as well as those that might help if you become ill while traveling. Antidiarrheal medication is helpful since traveler’s diarrhea hits so many. Bring first aid items like bandages, antifungal and antibacterial creams, moleskin, a thermometer and hydrocortisone. Also think about what works for you if you get a cold, motion sickness, a headache, constipation, indigestion, etc and bring those items as well.
  • Insect repellent containing DEET (30 – 50%)
  • Water-resistant sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater with both UVA and UVB protection, hat and sunglasses
  • Antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Health insurance card (consider supplemental travel insurance as many US health plans do not cover all of your needs while abroad).
  • Earplugs, travel pillow or other sleep aids
  • Water bottle – as well as purification tablets or system if you’ll be in the backcountry
  • Condoms – for you or to give away. You can get them for free at Campus Health Services.
  • Yummy and nutrient-packed snacks for the trip. Try for a mix of fat, protein and fiber!

All of these items are available at Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy, right on UNC’s campus.

Learn more tips for healthy Spring Break Travel at the CDC.gov.  And enjoy yourself!