How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading


Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes
–Guy Clark

We all know we’re supposed to eat more fruits & vegetables.

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” they tell us. That just got so much easier! Why, you ask? Because it’s summer in North Carolina! Do you know how lucky you are to be right here, right now? You’re probably cranking up your AC and slapping mosquitoes and looking at me funny, but I’ll contend we have it good because we live in a community with so many amazing farmers and farmer’s markets. What do I love best? Their tomatoes!

Find a farmer’s market near you!

Don’t Put Tomatoes in the Fridge

This discovery changed my life. Have you ever eaten a tomato that’s never been refrigerated? Try it and tell me if it’s not markedly better than what you’re used to. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Baldwin, a researcher at the USDA who investigates “flavor quality of citrus, tomatoes, and tropical/subtropical products” has found EVIDENCE that refrigeration diminishes tomato flavor.

If you don’t have access to home-grown tomatoes, the next best thing is your local farmer’s market for never-refrigerated tomatoes. If you’ve only ever eaten tomatoes still chilled from the grocery store, you might be shocked by how much better they can be with appropriate handling.

I recommend you buy tomatoes as you go. Buy what you can eat in the next couple days, because in this weather they aren’t going to last that long at room temperature. Keep them out of direct sunlight; if they’re pretty ripe, farmers have advised me to keep them in an open paper bag in a dark pantry. Closing the paper bag will trap the ethylene and further speed their ripening. If you keep them in a darker place, just don’t forget about them. However you keep them, lay them flat in a single row because they are sensitive to bruising. If you discover that tomato has a break in the skin, I’d recommend eating it immediately.

If you buy too many, here is a simple solution: eat them. Have people over to eat them with you. If you cut a tomato and don’t use all of it, eat it. If you refrigerate it, it’ll get mealy and bland. If you wrap it up and leave it at room temperature, it’s probably going to mold & attract fruit flies. Just sprinkle a little S&P on it & eat it! Easy as pie!

Where to start

If you’re new to the wild world of heirloom tomatoes, it can be daunting. There are so many different kinds! Talk to your farmers — the people who grow your food often have great advice about what to try first. Personally, my absolute favorite tomatoes are sungolds and Cherokee Purples. Rinse off the sungolds and eat them like candy. Cherokee Purples make sublime tomato sandwiches. But matters of taste are very individual! I did an informal survey of my friends, asking, “What are your favorite tomatoes?”

“Green Zebras are my fave. Firstly they are striped, and that’s sexy, but also they are sweet and tangy at the same time – I eat em like apples!” — Erin

“I don’t like the goop inside of the tomato, so I tend to like smaller tomatoes. Because they have less goop.” – Diana

“Heirlooms are trendy and all, but I love beautiful, fresh grape tomatoes in a great panzanella salad. I love the question, by the way. Tomatoes are our friends.” — Leslie

“Cherry! Tart, tiny, tasty!” — Cameron

“Fresh off the vine, don’t matter the kind” – Alysse

“Whatever is still warm from the sun” — Joanna

Go exploring! Maybe try one new tomato every week. Ask the farmers what they like best! Try them with balsamic & basil or feta & cucumber. Be adventurous or be classic.

At the end of the day, remember that Latin maxim — “De gustibus non est disputandum” – “No disputing matters of taste.” You like what you like! You might like tomatoes more if you try them ripe & fresh & in season.

No More Pencils, No more Books…

… No more teacher’s dirty looks.

Remember the amazing energy and promise of the last day of the school back in Elementary School? Clamoring onto the bus, singing “no more teachers,” maybe throwing paper airplanes out the window (not that I ever did that or anything) and thinking about all the amazing things you’d do over the summer without all that darn homework to do? Well I’m not going to lie, I kind of feel like doing that now.

With classes wrapping up and the weather warming up, I’m starting to think about all the possibility and promise that summer offers. Despite the fact that summer break in college comes with some strings attached—summer jobs, internships and perhaps summer classes—for me it’s always entailed a sense of adventure, relaxation and promise. I’ll be working pretty hard this summer, however; I’ve already begun to plan some little adventure here and there that I never had time for during the school year. For example… laying by my pool (with sunscreen on of course), learning to grill a really great steak, finally going to Asheville and, hey, maybe I’ll make a few paper airplanes just for the heck of it.

So, on behalf of all of us here at Counseling and Wellness we’d like to congratulate you all on a year successfully completed here at Carolina, whether it’s your first or your last (woo class of 2012!). Enjoy your summer, have an adventure, or don’t, whatever you fancy. But, the bottom line is, take some time relax and enjoy—it’s your summer and you deserve it!

Here at Counseling and Wellness we’ll also be relaxing a bit, but we’ll still be blogging! Make sure to stay tune in for new blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to see? Submit it anonymously, using the anonymous submission box on the right hand side of the screen.


“Why do I feel pain during sex?”

Sex is supposed to feel good! Sex might not be earth-shattering every time and that’s just part of life, but sometimes penetrative vaginal sex can be downright physically painful. Why? There’s no one single answer. A variety of physical and emotional issues can play a role. Here are some possibilities to consider.
Continue reading

Helping Ourselves

I just took down my Christmas tree last Thursday.  It was February 16th.  It only took 1 hour and 10 minutes.  I have been stressing out since I got back from break because despite the amount of free time I have on my hands, I could not bring myself to take down that tree.  I got the box set of Sex and the City for Christmas and just finished the first DVD of Season 5 – I certainly had a free 70 minutes at least 30 times over in the past month and a half.  So, if it was stressing me out and if I had the time, then why couldn’t I buckle down and do it?

I wish I knew the answer to this question but it seems as I go through life, questions of this variety pop up much more often than the answers. Continue reading

How Altruism Creates Healthy Benefits

By Anna Holcombe

Who knew helping others could in turn benefit your own health?

As college students we are often encouraged to volunteer, offering up what little free time we have in order to help others. These acts of altruism occur in many different ways, from volunteering with an organization to providing a ride for a friend. Yes, sometimes we only are contributing because we feel an obligation to do so, but no matter the initial reasoning, helping others will always create benefits for our own health as well.

The personal benefits of random (and not so random) acts of kindness can foster spiritual and developmental growth.  Direct advantages can include “helper’s high” or a sense of euphoria, decreased stress due to a greater sense of calmness, a more positive and open-eyed prospective on life, a sense of belonging to a community, and even physiological benefits such as stronger immune system and reduction of high blood pressure. I was able to experience a few of these last weekend when I volunteered at the “Pedal for Peds” bike race. People of the UNC community came together on a Saturday morning to bike a 29 mile trail in order to raise money for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.  It was inspiring to watch children with cancer and their parents and loved ones bike parts of the trail.  Although exam week is right around the corner, I was able to step back and appreciate the important things in life like personal health and the love of my family. In our hectic college lives we need these types of stress relievers.

So, how does a UNC college student get involved? Visiting the Pit is probably one of the most effective and easiest ways to find one way or another to get involved.  If you don’t find anything that interests you there, be sure to check out all the flyers around campus. The next time you see a wall or pole consumed by colorful paper, don’t just walk past without a care. Stop and find one that will allow you to incorporate your own personal passions with helping others. I promise you will reap rewards and helping the cause you are supporting will benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine.

Makin’ Me-Time

Continuing with the spirit of welcome back, I’m going to share a little slice of honest pie….

I’m a student, and sometimes this “back to school thing” gets my heart beating a little more rapidly than usual as I imagine the one hundred million different responsibilities awaiting me (a slight exaggeration), and I’d like to imagine I’m not alone. Right now we’re all going through what I like to call our syllabus days. My typical reaction to this: “Oh my gosh, you want me to write/read/do WHAT?!?… Uh, no way.” Usually, it takes me a day or two, but I soon accept my fate. And by “my fate” I mean my life being  school, school and more school. This semester, however, I am determined that my fate will be different. I am going to be the master of my schedule, and I will continue to do some of the things that I love.

Now, I’m not really sure exactly how this is going to shape up, so I resorted to trusty Google to see what time management and stress management experts had to say (funny how frequently those things go together, huh?).  So here we go… makin’ me-time:

Before even going any further, take a second and think about what your me-time might be. What makes you happy? Helps you to decompress? Keeps you in a happy, healthy and balanced frame of mind? I know for me its reading, cooking and exercising…. All things which fell off my radar quickly last year and resulted in a much less happy, less healthy and overall un-balanced Sarah. No bueno.

So without further ado, here is what my favorite three tips from what the experts had to say:

Make it routine & schedule it in. As Laura  said, this is super important. Your classes are scheduled in, why should your other “life” priorities not. Find a time in your schedule, say Saturday mornings and designate it as your reading/running/watching cartoons/ laughing/ smiling/ fun… YOU TIME!

Find your “time sucks.” Where in the day are you “losing” useful time? Time that you could use to do those things that make you happy, but instead you’re doing “eh” or “so-so” things.  For example, I personally find myself on Facebook—frequently. Do I really need to be on Facebook? No. Does Facebooking really make me that happy? Eh, honestly, not really. If I used that time to do get some exercise/make some tasty food/ read a book would I enjoy it more. Probably.

Find support. Sometimes it can be hard to stick to a schedule, especially if you feel that aspects of your academic life are pushing you farther away from those things. In these cases it can be useful to elicit the help of friends and peers. Let them know what your goals and plans are, and ask them to help you stay accountable. Personally, this has manifested as me and my roommate committing to a gym class together. With the two of us both pushing for the same personal-happiness goal together, we can support each other on our “off days.”

I’d love to hear other tips on how you all make “me- time,” as clearly this is going to be a new endeavor for me.