Avoid the Flu

We all know someone who has been sick recently. Avoid the #uncplague this Cold and Flu season by using these annual reminders about what to do to not get sick.

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Wash your hands (and stop touching your face).

Illness is often spread by people getting the a virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. In a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

When should you wash ’em?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After riding on public transportation
  • After using the toilet
  • After using shared gym equipment
  • After handling money
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching or taking out garbage
  • After any other potentially gross things you do

Sleep

We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep which are amazingRead them nowSeriously.

Hydrate.

Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.

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When you are really sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get a flu shot

According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decades. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

So each flu season, get yourself that flu shot. The vaccine is available on campus without appointment at either Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy.

Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.

This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It was updated and reposted November 4, 2016 and January 31, 2018.

Avoiding infectious diseases while traveling

Avoid getting sick on your next trip with these tips:

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1. Wash your hands.

Spend 20 seconds washing, including under the nail beds. If you can’t wash your hands right away, avoid touching your face to prevent germs from entering your eyes, nose or mouth. Use hand sanitizer if your hands aren’t visibly soiled.

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2. Learn water and food precautions for your destination

Relying on your easy-going stomach is a surefire way to ensure you get food poisoning. Be wary of possibly unsafe tap water! Avoid contamination from water by foregoing ice in your drink and use boiled or bottled water for brushing your teeth and washing fruits and veggies. High-risk foods to stay away from include (but are not limited to):

  • raw and peeled fruits and vegetables
  • raw, rare or undercooked meats and seafood
  • unpasteurized dairy foods, including milk (do you know the word pasteurized in the local language?)
  • any hot food that has been left long enough to cool
  • food buffets

You want food that is cooked and served to you hot.

 

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3. Protect yourself from insects

Use DEET protection while traveling, and make sure your place to stay is insect proof. Check the screens, spray a knock down spray (pictured above), and use a bednet.

4. Visit UNC’s International Travel Clinic

We want you to have the healthiest and safest travels you can. We can help! UNC’s International Travel Clinic offers general travel health information and destination-specific recommendations. Immunizations and medications to help you stay healthy and safe are also provided.

 

 

 

 

Safety Tips for Traveling Alone

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Traveling solo? Stay connected and make safety a priority.

Traveling alone has many rewards – from becoming more mindful to making new friends. But staying safe while alone can take a bit more effort. Here are 7 tips that can help:

1. Stay connected.phone-875488_1920.jpg

Before you leave, determine if your phone will work at your destination. If not, or if the cost of use is prohibitive, rent a phone once you arrive or buy international SIM cards if you have an unlocked phone. This gives you a lifeline if you need it. Your phone’s GPS helps you know where you are when in new locations.

If a mobile device is absolutely out of the question, you’ll need to work even harder to do #2:

2. Keep others apprised of your daily itinerary. map-2590417_1920.jpg

Let people know where you are headed – your friends and family back home and someone near you (hotel concierge, for example). When traveling alone in the backcountry, always let someone know when you plan to return and your exact route – and then stick to that plan. Most parks have registration options for your trip which can help immensely if an emergency arises.

3. Keep important items in separate locations.

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Your money, credit cards and passport should not be in the same spot. Keep some payment options in your wallet, additional payment options in a pocket. When out for a day adventure, carry a copy of your passport’s data page and keep your actual passport locked in a hotel safe. It’s also good to leave a copy of your passport’s data page with someone at home. On travel days, carry your passport separately from your money and credit cards.

4. Learn as much as you can about your destination.

UNC Travel Clinic

UNC’s International Travel Clinic helps with this if your destination is abroad. The materials you’ll get will include some of the most important info:

  • Where to get medical care if you need it
  • Local customs and etiquette
  • Local laws
  • Public transportation
  • Water safety
  • Insect needs
  • Health issues in the region

Many of these items can be found through internet research as well. Be aware of how people dress, and when in doubt, opt for conservative. Talk to locals about neighborhoods to avoid, especially after dark. Know what to do in emergencies.

5. Ensure your lodgings are safe.

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Keep your door locked, and use a security chain or deadbolt when inside if available. Avoid first floor rooms where window entry is possible.

6. Stay healthy

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Bring an extra supply of your prescription medications and an extra script with the generic drug name rather than the brand name. Carry hand sanitizer. Use insect repellent and sunscreen. Hydrate!

7. Be confident

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Venturing into the unknown is one of the exciting parts of travel. Keep your guard up, but enjoy yourself! The International Travel Clinic is a great way to gain confidence in staying healthy and safe while traveling.

How Being You can Lead to a Less Stressful Life

Focus on you for a minute. The world sends all kinds of messages about what it means to be…a UNC student, a citizen of the world, etc. But when it comes down to it, you have all the answers for what it means to be YOU. And using that internal voice can help you be more successful at UNC.

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1)      Set realistic goals.  Realistic is the key word here.  Maybe some people you know can go to class and work full time and spend 3 hours at the gym and study for 8 hours and take 4 hours to cook a five course gourmet dinner and be the president of every club and volunteer to save sea turtles and keep their inbox empty and still get 8 hours of sleep every night.  I, however, am not that person (and probably you aren’t either). Ask yourself what is most critical to you. Prioritize! Then set some goals on realistic achievements for those priorities and plan for what you’ll do when you achieve those goals.

2)      Be honest with yourself.  Who do you want to be when no one is watching? Deep down, what are the characteristics you value most? And how can you cultivate those in yourself?

3)      Say no.  Just because you have a time slot open in your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill it if something comes up that you think you “should” do.  I find myself overcommitting and switching around other things in my calendar to accommodate obligations that I didn’t even want to do in the first place!  This year, I’m going to say “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it” a lot more and “Absolutely, do you need me to get there early and stay after to clean up too?” a lot less!  And, I won’t feel guilty about it. Saying “no” to others often means saying “yes” to yourself.

4)      Don’t listen to everyone.  You are the expert in you. Ask yourself first! Collecting opinions can be valuable, but ultimately you get to decide. I find that when I’m having a hard time making a decision, if I just sit and really ask myself what I should do, I know the answer. But acting on that knowledge is what’s difficult.

At the end of the day, you really have to listen to and trust yourself.  But, you don’t have to take my word for it – you are the expert in you!

4 Reasons Traveling is Great for Your Health

castelmezzano-1979546_1920 (1)Travel is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellbeing.

Yes, travel can be stressful. But overall when you go to new places you gain so much!

Your only limitation is what you can afford. So save up and plan your next vacation already!

You’ll move more. 
There are so many things to see and do – so you will get up and moving more than usual. Movement throughout the day is the best way to improve your health, and that’s traveling in a nutshell! Your whole cardiovascular system will thank you. Plus, movement reduces stress. And these physical benefits last even after travel. According to one study, “travelers experience a 25% increase in performance on vigilance tests after returning from vacation.” (Vigilance tests refer to responding quickly to visual stimuli.)

You’ll use your brain differently.
The brain is a muscle – and just like those biceps, the brain benefits from regular challenge and activity. Travel means your environment changes, forcing your brain to think in new ways as well. Your brain will be constantly on the go, improving your memory and cognitive abilities. Mental health is also improved – you have an opportunity to set aside your daily responsibilities and focus on yourself. You can explore, relax, or both (relaxploration!). The schedule for the day is based on you. In addition to stress relief, some studies show that anticipating upcoming travel correlates to happiness.

You’ll socialize.
Travel is all about people. Even if you are traveling solo – reach out of your shell. If you go to a coffee shop, a local bar/restaurant, or take a bus or train ride, chat with your neighbors. Social interaction is linked to improved cognitive function and decreased levels of stress hormones! Just like physical wellness, social wellness benefits last long after you return from travels. In fact, 53% of employed Americans reported that they feel more reconnected with family members after a vacation.

the-sea-3058780_1920You’ll be more mindful . 
Traveling allows you to cultivate mindfulness. You will have time for reflection and introspection. You have the opportunity to be present in the moment and focus your attention on taking in your new surroundings. Exploring the natural surroundings at your destination can connect you spiritually with things greater than yourself. Traveling involves a lot of waiting, so patience is also a good practice while traveling. The unexpected will happen while traveling, so practice keeping an open mind and staying flexible to make room for changing plans.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and travel for you and your health.

Revolutionize Your New Year’s Resolution: Tips for Weight Loss, Exercise, and Healthier Eating for 2018

Are you considering a New Year’s resolution of weight loss? Or eating healthier? Or changing your exercise routine? Revolutionize your body – and your resolution – using the tips below.

Start with the right perspective

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Image “Hold the Sun” by Alexander Redmon at FreeImages.com
  • Think of your body as an instrument instead of as an ornament. Be thankful every day for all of the wonderful things you can do such as dance, play, run, enjoy good food, and give hugs. Your body will continue helping you be healthy even if you don’t change a thing in 2018.
  • Love yourself. You and your body work hard, every day, to move through life. Acknowledge and be grateful for all of that goodness. Studies show that people who hold their bodies in high regard are much more likely to take good care of their bodies.
  • Change the messages you say to yourself. Identify the negative ways that you speak to yourself and make a decision to replace that self-talk with more realistic, loving, and positive statements. Tell yourself you are handsome, beautiful or strong, and mean it!

Fuel yourself, mindfully

  • When you eat, be mindful. Focus on your food. Pick one place to sit down and eat (ideally, at home). Eating while doing other things like watching TV or reading can lead us to miss our body cues such as being satisfied or feeling actual hunger (rather than a craving). Use the principles of intuitive eating to help with this – many are included in this article.
  • Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. It takes some time to re-learn the ability to hear your body cues. You can pause in the middle of eating to ask yourself how the food tastes and how full you are feeling. Same goes with a workout or an end-of-the-day activity – give yourself permission to stop when you need a rest.
  • Choose foods that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Incorporate nutrient-dense foods, foods that satisfy your hunger and foods that bring you pleasure. There is no forbidden food!
  • Balance your plate with the right proportions of food. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following:
    • Half of your plate should be filled with low-starch vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus or Brussels sprouts)
    • One fourth of your plate should have a high-protein food (like lean meat, poultry, fish, peanut butter, eggs or tofu)
    • One fourth of your plate should have grains (like rice or bread) or starchy veggies (like potatoes or plantains).
    • To round out your meal, add a glass of water or milk and a serving of fruit for dessert.
  • Consider using smaller portions. Keeping tabs on your portion sizes helps you eat a diverse array of foods because you won’t fill up on a plate-sized anything. Try using your hands! Like a handful of potato chips or blueberries or a fist-sized portion of pasta or mashed potatoes.

Move your body more!

  • Exercise to feel good and be healthy, not to lose weight or “make up for something you ate earlier.” Find fun ways to add more physical activity in your life, such as going for a walk with a friend or playing basketball with your roommate. Moving your body should be something you look forward to doing.
  • Move with your head held high. If you act like someone with positive body image and high self-confidence, the act will eventually become reality.
  • Rest. Sleep helps our body in a myriad of ways, like balancing your mood, appetite and energy levels (to name a few). If you struggle to sleep, check out some tips and info to help you sleep better.

Feel good.

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    Image “Self-Hug” by Evan Long, Flickr Creative Commons

    Focus on how you feel instead of how much you weigh. How much a person weighs depends on all kinds of factors, many of which are outside our locus of control such as genetics and the environment around us. Instead of focusing on whatever that scale says, focus on how amazing it makes your body feel when you eat nourishing food and move your body.

  • Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your body. These folks love you no matter what you look like or how much you weigh.

Doing the above in 2018 just might make you feel better about yourself and feel better overall.

Revolutionize your resolution! LOVE YOURSELF.

Does RVAM Really Matter if I’m Single?

There are certain times of year that are decidedly not fun to be single. Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, the weeks leading up to my senior prom, and standing in line to ride the Ferris Wheel at the state fair are just a few examples. And at first glance, an entire month centered around healthy relationships and relationship violence awareness may not seem inclusive of single people either. Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM) rolls around every October, right around the time people start going on dates to pumpkin patches and planning fun couple’s Halloween costumes. However, when you look closer, RVAM is a lot more inclusive than third wheeling your roommate and her S.O.’s pumpkin-spice latte date.

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An example of third wheeling
“Pumpkin Patch” by Samantha Daley, Flickr Creative Commons

Relationship Violence (RV) encompasses a lot more than just intimate or romantic partners. It includes anyone in any kind of relationships – friends, roommates, co-workers, acquaintances, causal sexual partners, group project members, professors and more. All of these relationships could potentially become unhealthy or even abusive. Carolina chooses to focus on RV in RVAM rather than the traditionally celebrated DVAM (domestic violence awareness month) because it’s a better representation of the variety of relationships here at UNC. So clearly, even perpetually single Tar Heels like me can benefit from RVAM programming.

So amidst the cute hayride dates and football games, we can take time to make all of our relationships a little healthier. Even the oldest, strongest, relationships aren’t conflict free (my roommates can attest to that one). Arguments, disagreements, and general annoyances crop up, and learning how to handle those can make all the difference.

How are we supposed to go about addressing these conflicts? The secret lies in communication. Letting problems continue to go unresolved can turn small issues into big ones, so setting aside some time to talk can really make all the difference. When you do, experts from the National Domestic Violence Hotline suggest to keep a few things in mind:

  • Timing is everything! Don’t try to talk when both of you are busy, unfocused, or upset about other things. For example, it’s probably not productive to talk to someone as they’re walking out the door to an exam.
  • Don’t attack the other person. Use “I” statements so that the conversation doesn’t turn into a fight.
  • Be honest. Tell them how much you care about having them in your life and how the conflict has made you feel.
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An example of what NOT to do when resolving conflict. “Argument” by Douglas Bittinger, Flickr Creative Commons

For other helpful tips about resolving conflict, check out these lists of communication suggestions from the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect.org, or check out this image for what not to do when resolving conflict. If you’re feeling confused about what is going on with a relationship, check out this page on examples of unhealthy or abusive actions or this list of questions to ask yourself.

Even though all relationships have their moments of conflict, it is never okay for you to feel intimidated, controlled, or powerless in the relationship. If someone is threatening you, humiliating you, or treating you disrespectfully, you may be experiencing relationship abuse. If this is the case, look here for a list of services on or around campus that can help.

To continue learning about Healthy Relationships, take this module created by the LGBTQ Center and Student Wellness! It provides great guidance on how to sustain healthy relationships and local resources you can access. This module is centered on the experiences of LGBTQ+ people.

For more information about on and off campus resources, check out safe.unc.edu

This blog was written by Izzie Hirschy, a Student Wellness Violence Prevention Intern and  UNC honors student double majoring in Political Science & Peace, War and Defense with a Social and Economic Justice Minor. She’s also the assistant Vice Present for New Member Education in Delta Advocates.

10 Quick and Easy Ways to Manage Stress

Organize Yourself. Take better control of the way you’re spending your time and energy so you can handle stress more effectively. There are loads of tips and tricks online, or you can visit the Learning Center and talk with an academic coach to get tips especially for you.

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The port-a-john folks can do it and so can you!

 

Control Your Environment by controlling who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself. Consider the people and places around you that give you joy as well as those that are a vortex of negativity. Choose your people wisely!

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You choose. Just like the playground equipment says.

 

Love Yourself by showing yourself compassion. Extend compassion to yourself when things get hard or when you mess up. Know that you deserve compassion just like you would show a friend.  Everyone goes through difficult times and challenges. You are not alone.

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Sending yourself love notes and leaving them in the rain is optional.

 

Reward Yourself by planning leisure activities into your life. It really helps to have something to look forward to. What are the activities that make you feel refreshed? Plan one for your next break!

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Sunsets in the mountains count as a reward.

 

Exercise Your Body since your health and productivity depend upon your body’s ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Exercise your heart and lungs regularly. Move your body a minimum of three days per week for 15-30 minutes. This includes such activities as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc. We have a whole article dedicated to ideas to incorporate more movement into your life.

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Olympic speed not required.

 

Relax Yourself by taking your mind off your stress and concentrating on breathing and positive thoughts. Dreaming counts, along with meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, listening to relaxing music, communicating with friends and loved ones, etc.
Try this 2 minute yoga routine by UNC CAPS’ Linda Chupkowski.

Rest Yourself as regularly as possible. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Take study breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time, it needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.

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Cats can be your guide here.

 

Be Aware of Yourself. Be aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders (i.e., ulcers, hypertension, heart disease).

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Pay attention to your body! (drivers do not have access to the muffins).

 

Feed Yourself/Do Not Poison Your Body. Eat a balanced diet. Avoid depending on drugs and alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also often makes it harder to concentrate. Your body responds to what you put in it – so be mindful of how you feed yourself.

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Balanced diet is great – bonus if you can actually balance plates.

 

Enjoy Yourself. It has been shown that happier people tend to live longer, have less physical problems, and are more productive. Look for the humor in life when things don’t make sense. Remember, you are very special and deserve only the best treatment from yourself.4095175043_45e133d60c_z

What ideas do you use to support your stress management? Leave us a comment below!

 

This article was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS. She uses nature and play to manage her stress – usually at the same time. 

 

 

  1. Image credits:Organized by saird, Flickr Creative Commons

    Choose by Tony Webster, Flickr Creative Commons

    Love yourself by Quinn Dombrowski Flickr Creative Commons

    Sunset by Sara Stahlman

    Sprinting by Adi Probowo, Flickr Creative Commons

    Relaxed cat by Robin Zebrowski, Flickr Creative Commons

    Cinderella by DirkJan Ranzin, Flickr Creative Commons

    Happy by Franklin Hunting, Flickr Creative Commons

Resilience is How You Recharge (not How You Endure)

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

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

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

Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience.

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

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

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

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

What is recovery?

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

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

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

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

Ideas to help:

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

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

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