Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

This blog post was originally published on July 7, 2015.

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

Got an Interview? Check Out These Tips!

"Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014" by COD Newsroom, Flickr Creative Commons
“Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014” by COD Newsroom, Flickr Creative Commons

With spring in the air and summer getting closer (it’ll be here soon – I promise!), you may be wondering, “What am I going to dooo this summer?” For those of us graduating in May (congrats!!), the somewhat daunting search for a job may already be on your mind. And for those of us who still have some time left here at Carolina, maybe you’re thinking about finding a summer job or considering doing an internship once classes end. If jobs or internships are part of your summer plan, this probably means that you’ll have to do some interviews! If just reading that sentence made you a little nervous, this blog post is for you. Interviews can definitely be a little nerve-wracking, but they can also be a great learning experience! Here are some tips that will help you tackle your interviews with confidence and hopefully will help you land that job or internship you’ve got your eye on!

"Interview! White Background" by One Way Stock, Flickr Creative Commons
“Interview! White Background” by One Way Stock, Flickr Creative Commons
  1. Do you research. Wherever you’re interviewing, read up on the organization/company. Go to their website – look at their mission and vision, look at the different services they provide – try to find out as much as you possibly can about the organization and what your job or internship might entail.
  1. Come up with two or three questions you can ask your interviewer. There is usually time at the end of an interview for you to ask questions – this is a time to show the interviewer how well prepared you are! Do you have questions about specific duties of the job or internship? Ask! Do you have questions about the office environment? Ask! Interviews are also a time for you to find out if the job/internship will be a good fit for your needs and skills, so take this time to figure that out.
  1. Before your interview, make a list of questions you think the interviewer might ask you. Try to anticipate what you think they want to know about you, and try to think from their perspective. Is there a past internship you think they might have more questions about? Are there skills they are looking for that you can highlight in your responses to their questions? Once you have your list, practice your answers to these questions! Write your answers down, practice your answers with a friend, or practice your answers in the mirror! This will help you feel confident and ready for anything the interviewers might throw your way.
  1. During the interview (and when you’re practicing your answers to potential questions), try to think of concrete examples of things you have done or learned in past jobs or coursework to strengthen your answers. Be as specific as possible! For example, when asked about your strengths, rather than saying you’re a good public speaker, talk about your strong public speaking skills and give examples of times when you have given presentations or facilitated group discussions.
  1. Be aware of your body language. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with the interviewer while you’re talking, and try not to slouch back in your chair. This will show the interviewer you are engaged in the conversation.
  1. Be honest, and be yourself. You’re awesome and qualified – let that show!
  1. Be sure to take advantage of campus resources when you’re prepping for your interview. UNC’s University Career Services has some amazing resources to help you prep for interviews on their website, and they also host a TON of great workshops that will help you with your job search. And guess what?!?! They are hosting an Interview Tips and Strategies workshop on February 12th from 3:30-5:00pm in Hanes Hall, room 239B – be sure to check it out!
  1. One final tip to keep in mind when interviewing is to be sure to thank your interviewers. This can be done in many ways, but one suggestion is to send each person you interviewed with a personalized email (or hand-written thank you card if that’s your style!) thanking them for taking time to interview you, and reiterate your enthusiasm about the internship/job and why you think you’d be a good fit.

Good luck in your search for that perfect job or internship! And for those of you graduating, be sure to check out one of our blog posts from last semester about for some additional tips. Do you have any additional interviewing tips you’d like to share? Feel free to comment!

Being Uncomfortable Can be Good for You

Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons

As I walked to work last Thursday on a breezy, brisk (one might say down right cold) 12 degree morning, I noticed the slow onset of pain in my fingers, as the blood left them and moved towards the center of my body. This is an amazing evolutionary adaptation which basically keeps our most important organs functioning in really cold weather, but anyways. The wind bit my face and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. It was cold, and I am guessing like many others, I found myself thinking, I wish it would warm up a little.

Along the same lines, I also often find myself longing for changes in the weather during summers in the Triangle. For me, they are too hot and humid. I don’t like 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. When I am out working in that kind of weather, and instantaneously the sweat starts beading up on my forehead and rolling down my back, I just want to get out of it, into the comfort of my air conditioned house. But in moments like both of these (hot and cold) I often have to tell myself to stop, and instead I try to be mindful and present with the discomfort, and I have realized that being uncomfortable is a really good thing.

It seems like the majority of engineering, innovation, and technology today is geared towards making things easier or making people more comfortable: lotion and baby wipe warmers, driver and passenger side climate control in cars, heated floors, the newest fastest computer and cell phone, and of course all the grab and go, disposable EVERTHING! They all seem really nice and why shouldn’t we buy, use, and throw away all these comforts? We shouldn’t because too much comfort is not good for any part of our health, even our mental health. According to brain scientist Gregory Berns of Emory University School of Medicine, “The two key factors in long-term life satisfaction are novelty and challenge,” and being too comfortable does not allow for either of these. Additionally, it is also not good for the health of the environment, the workers who make these cheap disposable products, and it is not even good for you in the long run.

Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons

In order to learn, we have to step out of our comfort zone, and in order to appreciate the good we have to experience a little bit of the bad. I hope that you understand that I am not promoting constant discomfort, pain, or suffering. I cannot tell you where that line is for you, and it is different for everybody. I am simply saying that resilience, growth, and mental and physical health are often born from a small bit of discomfort. Exercising often hurts, but it makes you stronger and healthier. Eating healthy food is not always fun, but it allows you to really appreciate the “comfort foods” when you have them once in a while. Resilience and positive ways of dealing with stress are often achieved in the presence of adversity. And to bring me back to where I started, in order to appreciate that perfect 75-80 degree, sunny, low humidity day and really be mindful of how great it is, sometimes you need to sweat and sometimes you need to freeze (a little). If you live your life in a climate controlled world, with every want and need met, and no discomfort, you never grow.

Food for your Brain: Finals Edition

(Raskol Mihin, “Always tea makes me feel relax and happy #studying” from Flicker Creative Commons)
(Raskol Mihin, “Always tea makes me feel relax and happy #studying” from Flicker Creative Commons)

Give yourself a pat on the back; you’ve made it to the last week of the semester! But don’t get too cozy, now it’s time to kick it into full gear! With LDOC (last day of classes) approaching, it’s time to start figuring out what your study schedule will look like. Will you be studying with others? By yourself? In your room? The library? There are so many factors to consider, but regardless of where or with whom you choose to study with, be sure to stock up on all of those goodies that will help keep your brain churning!

7 Top Brain foods

  • Avocados- This super food is filled with vitamin B and potassium and is also known to reduce stress levels.
  • Tea- Looking for a way to relax after a long day of studying? Curl up with a hot cup of tea and let it warm your soul!
  • Fatty Fish- The versatility of fish is amazing; it can be eaten with any of your three main meals of the day. It’s high in omega 3’s and also is a known stress reliever.
  • Milk- Remember when you were a little one and milk was your best friend? A warm glass of milk helps reduce stress. There’s no shame in tapping into your little kid side for much needed stress relief!
  • Yogurt- Not only is yogurt yummy with all of the many ways you can dress it up, like with fresh fruits, honey and granola, it’s also high in vitamin D and great for studying on the go.
  • Nuts- Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts…. all of these and more are great for relieving stress during finals. Try throwing some into your yogurt and get the maximum benefit!
  • Dark Chocolate- Who doesn’t like chocolate? Not only is it high in antioxidants but it also improves your mood.

Be sweet to your brain and try incorporating these brain foods into your snack stash while studying for finals, it’ll thank you later! Questions about brain health? Feel free to stop by Nutrition Services at Campus Health.

Read more at Huffington Post here

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CAFFEINE!

With exam season on the way and the end-of-semester paper crunch coming, students will be turning to caffeine to help them make it through the long days (and nights) of work. It’s important to know that caffeine cannot replace sleep, and that your brain works best when you have time to sleep before taking an exam. So plan ahead, prioritize, and get some sleep! Your GPA will thank you. Also, learn more about caffeine by checking out the cool info-graphic below. Click to enlarge. Happy Studying!

Celebrity Drug Overdoses Teach Important Lessons

Whitney Houston was 48 years old when she died in February of this year.
Amy Winehouse was 27 when she died from alcohol poisoning in 2011.
Michael Jackson was 50 years old when he died from prescription drug overdose in 2009.

ImageAll three of these artists were gripped by alcohol and/or drug abuse throughout their adult lives, the tragedies of which were a constant source of ridicule for the tabloid press and late-night comedians. The official causes of Whitney Houston’s death have only recently been released, and the LA coroner’s office reported that the official cause of death was drowning and the effects of heart disease and cocaine use. The amount of cocaine found in the singer’s system indicates that she used the substance shortly before her death. The prescription bottles of Xanax and Valium that were found in her hotel room are anti-anxiety medications that are also used during substance abuse treatment programs. Houston went through several cycles of rehab and relapse, most recently in May 2011. Other substances found in her system included Benadryl, marijuana, and Flexiril.

A source claims that some members of Houston’s family blame ex-husband Bobby Brown for turning her into a heavy drug user. In an interview, Houston “admitted she made habitual use of marijuana and crack and specified that Brown’s highs of choice were alcohol and marijuana laced with cocaine.” Sadly, Houston’s daughter, age 18, has also struggled with substance abuse for the past 3 years and her family’s attention has turned to her in the wake of their loss.

Without going into the specifics surrounding the deaths of Winehouse and Jackson, I will summarize some of the themes that come out of these tragic stories.

  • Prescription medications can be just as risky as illegal drugs when it comes to the possibility of dependence and accidental overdose.
  • Alcohol should not be used in combination with prescription medications due to interactive effects that can amplify drug reactions.
  • Past drug use has long-term consequences on a person’s physical health that don’t disappear after quitting.
  • Substance abuse often coincides with untreated mental illness, as in the cases of Winehouse and Jackson.
  • Susceptibility to substance abuse is influenced by an individual’s genetics and environment. The people that surround a substance abuser can enable self-destructive behaviors or they can choose to be positive influences.

With their histories of drug abuse, was it inevitable that these celebrities would die from overdoses or do you believe that they could have turned things around at any time? Looking at yourself, your friends, and your family, would you know how to spot the signs of substance abuse and would you know what to do?

Coffee—Good for you?

Today I wanted to write about one of the great loves of my life.  No, it’s not a significant other, or a pet, or some electronic, soul-slurping gadget….nope, I’m talking about that steaming cup of black coffee that kick starts my day, every day.   I love everything about coffee: the smell, the taste, the color, the warm excited feeling I get after I drink it.  Without it, I feel sluggish and unfit for human interaction. Continue reading

Word-up

Summer is almost halfway done, and I’m sure no one wants to think about returning to the grind of classes, homework, etc.  But there is a way to keep your brain powered up and your memory rockin’ during the summer months: learn a word a day!

Not only will learning a word a day help your memory, it can also come in handy in the future when writing papers, or taking tests like the GRE, where vocabulary knowledge makes up a considerable portion of your overall score!  Plus, you can wow your friends with fun facts- for example, did you know that Chandler is not just a character on Friends, but is also a… Continue reading

The latest from researchers at UNC…

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The latest from researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill: binge drinking among college students “can lead to lower intelligence and impulsive behavior.”1 What’s binge drinking? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines it as: 5 or more drinks in a drinking episode for men, or 4 or more drinks for women.2 See my post “Women and Alcohol” for info on why it’s 4 drinks for women and 5 for men.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego looked at brain scans of young folks who drink compared to brain scans of young folks who don’t drink. They “found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of the teens that drank. [They] believe this damage negatively affects attention span in boys, and girls’ ability to comprehend and interpret visual information.”3

Here’s what’s crazy: the young folks whose brains they scanned didn’t drink all that frequently – on average once or twice a month, with 4 to 5 drinks each episode (which is technically binge drinking, ya’ll). That doesn’t seem like very much, right? Well, it is. See, our brains are still growing and developing, actually until we’re about 25, and exposing those brains to the toxic effects of alcohol (it’s an intoxicant, friends!) is bad news bears.

But here’s the thing, we (meaning us young folk) aren’t as likely to experience immediate negative health stuff like nausea, vomiting, and really nasty hangovers as older folk are, but binge drinking actually affects us more in the long run. Because we don’t experience as many effects right away, we may not think it hurt us in the long run. But it does, friends! No word yet whether this damage is reversible.

So protect those brains and if you choose to drink, drink moderately, which means no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.2

References:

1http://www.wral.com/lifestyles/healthteam/story/9385540/

2http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm

3http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122765890