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!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Tips for a Healthy Hike

This blog post was written by Ben Smart and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 3.51.25 PM

Sedona, Arizona

Fresh air, breathtaking views, and space to explore – these are just a few of the tangible reasons to enjoy an outdoor hike. Engaging your mind and body with a short excursion could also yield health benefits extending beyond physical exercise. Research with nearly 2,000 participants in England found that walking outdoors in a group delivered a significant mood boost as well as lower perceived stress and depression, especially for those experiencing stress from a traumatic life event.

Before lacing up your boots and heading to the trail, take the time to pack and prepare the right way. We’ve compiled a few tips to make your next hike the healthiest to date.

Let’s start with your pack. If your filled backpack weighs more than a few pounds, it’s a good idea to select an ergonomic pack with waist strap capabilities, which will take the bulk of the weight off of your back and distribute it to your torso. When wearing the backpack, adjust the shoulder straps first so that the backpack fits comfortably on your shoulders, and then fasten the waist strap.

Now that your backpack is up to par, let’s examine the contents. Take everything out of your backpack and lay in on a table. Are you bringing any unnecessary items? Think twice before packing the second tube of toothpaste or the heavy binoculars. Ensure that you’ve packed a conservative first aid kit, and one or two plastic bags; these can really come in handy.

The most important part (and my favorite aspect) of hiking is food and hydration. Fill a stainless steel bottle (or two) full of water for the trek. Metal is preferred over plastic, as many plastic bottles can leach small amount of toxic BPA or other chemicals into your water, which means you’ll be drinking those chemicals.

As for snacks, aim for balanced portions. If you’re only hiking 1-3 miles, high protein and low carbohydrate food can be sufficient fuel. Three ideas:

  • Turkey sandwich with spinach and cheese, accompanied with a side of almonds
  • Tuna and high-fiber crackers, completed with an apple and peanut butter
  • Salmon and a whole grain tortilla, topped off with a banana and cheese

Once you’re hiking, remember to make smart choices. Take your trash to go, don’t litter. Watch your step, and adopt a wide stance when scaling steep trails. Finally, look up from the cell phone and enjoy the view! If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some wildlife.

Ready to take a weekend hike? Check out UNC Campus Recreation’s outdoor expedition schedule here for events this summer.

Follow UNC Campus Recreation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be the FIRST to know what’s happening here at UNC Campus Rec!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: What Does the SPF Number on Your Sunscreen Actually Mean?

This blog post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.

This week, we’ve seen three 80º F days in a row and one incredible thunderstorm early Thursday morning! You know what that means: North Carolina is racing through spring into our unpredictable, hot, and randomly stormy summer weather!

With the reemergence of plenty of beautiful sun, it’s time to start stocking up on sunscreen again! When you’re standing there in an aisle of literally over a hundred different types of sunscreen, it’s difficult to know what all of the different claims on all of the different bottles actually means! Here are a few tips on how to understand what different sunscreen lingo means so that you’ll have an easier time deciding!

sunburned

“Sunburned” by Erin Stevenson O’Connor of Flickr Creative Commons

  • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Theoretically, this number is supposed to mean that the sunscreen will protect your from burning that many times longer than you can normally stay out in the sun without protection before you begin to burn. Example: If I can only stay outside for 10 minutes without burning, SPF 30 sunscreen is theoretically supposed to keep me from burning for 300 minutes. I say theoretically because this would happen under perfect conditions. In real life conditions, if you’re sweating, swimming, or just moving around a lot in a way that might cause any friction against your skin from clothes, you’re losing sunscreen protection and it might not last for the entire 300 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 2 hours no matter what the SPF says! SPF is not a measure of how well the sunscreen will protect you, but rather how long the protection will last under ideal conditions.

Fun fact: SPF ratings were introduced in 1962. Apparently, they were determined in the lab by gathering up 20 people with sensitive skin, measuring the amount of UV rays it took for them to burn without sunscreen, and then repeating the test with them wearing sunscreen. If that was really the case, there is no way that this process continues today because it would be considered unethical since even a single sunburn is known to increase your risk of skin cancer over your lifetime.

  • “Broad spectrum” indicates that the sunscreen is protective against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause the visible red sunburns, so all sunscreens contain UVB protection. However, UVA rays can cause dangerous skin damage that can lead to cancer and wrinkles, so you’ll want a sunscreen that protects against both! If the bottle doesn’t specifically say “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protection, you can probably assume that it only contains UVB protection and they don’t want you to notice.
  • Even if they do not specifically mention UVA or broad-spectrum protection, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the “active ingredients” list. These also indicate protection against UVA rays! These ingredients are also included in many “sensitive skin” sunscreens, yet they still cause skin reactions in some people. However, they are approved for safe use and sometimes it just takes multiple brand attempts to find a sunscreen that works best with your skin.
  • Most lab tests of sunscreen use a much greater amount than the typical sunscreen-wearing beach-goer wears! You should be using about an entire ounce of sunscreen every time you reapply, which could be up to 4 or more ounces a day! Don’t skimp and buy a single 8 oz. bottle of sunscreen and then head to the beach for a week; sunscreen is cheaper than cancer treatment!
  • If you have a family history of skin cancer or you take medications containing retinol (a form of vitamin A often used in acne medications), you are at an increased risk for skin cancer and adverse effects to sun exposure, such as excessive burning even with sunscreen use. Talk to your prescribing doctor about safe sun exposure and try to take advantage of trees and umbrellas for shade! (And of course, be especially obsessive about your sunscreen use and reapplication).
  • Ladies: don’t want to mess up your makeup by applying sunscreen over it at the beach? You can (1) apply sunscreen to your face and let it dry before you put on makeup, (2) choose a foundation, liquid or powder, that contains at least a 15 SPF sunscreen because many brands make these now, (3) buy a tinted sunscreen that essentially works like makeup when you put it on! These would be found in the make-up aisle rather than the sunscreen aisle and are sold under various brand names.
  • While you’re in that sunscreen aisle, don’t forget that your lips count as skin, too! Buy a tube of lip balm with sunscreen (such as Carmex) to protect your lips to keep them from getting irritated, peeling and cracking, and encouraging the appearance of fever blisters if you already get them occasionally.
  • Finally, don’t forget that your scalp counts as skin, as well! For men with short hair or women with part lines in their hair, you’ll need to protect your scalp from burning with a sprayable liquid scalp sunscreen (called “scalp-screen”) or a hat!
  • So you’re not planning on going to the beach? What about biking, walking outside, or sitting on the quad? If you’re going to be outside for more than ten minutes, you need sunscreen!

My family and friends always shake their heads or chuckle at me when I’ve spent a lot of time outside one day and I look down at the end of the day and say “Oh no! I’m getting tan lines!” In the U.S. today, media has encouraged the notion that tanned, bronze skin is beautiful skin, and many people see their tan lines as a small victory that has fulfilled their purpose of a day at the beach. I, on the other hand, see tanned skin as damaged skin (and the CDC and majority of dermatologists seem to agree with me these days.) I’ll continue to slather my high SPF sunscreen onto my fair, freckled skin every couple of hours because I like my skin the way it is and I would rather be fair-skinned and skin-cancer-and-wrinkle-free than tan and worried about the consequences that might come from my sun exposure later in life.

1966 Ad, Solarcaine Spray,

You know what else stops sunburn pain? Not getting sunburned.

Also, it’s important to remember that even if you have dark skin and you don’t feel like you have to worry about tan lines or sunburn, the UVA/UVB rays still have the same damaging effects on your skin over time as they do on people with lighter skin! This means that you should be wearing sunscreen no matter what your skin looks like!

My favorite is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum sunscreen; it doesn’t smell like much and it dries on your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling so icky and greasy! I also like the Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen to prevent clogged pores and breakouts and the Neutrogena Pure & Free® Baby Faces Ultra Gentle Broad Spectrum sunscreen because typically any brand of baby sunscreen tends to have a higher SPF and is well-suited for sensitive skin that might react to other types of sunscreen. (I’m not advertising, but as you may have already assumed, I’ve tried many different types of sunscreen and I’ve stuck with the Neutrogena line for a couple of years now because it’s always worked great for me!)

Sunscreen

“Sunscreen” by Joe Shlabotnik of Flickr Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Some sunscreens work great on some people’s skin and really irritate other people’s skin! What works for me might not work for you, so I suggest that you do what I did and buy small bottle of several different brands next time you go to the beach so that you can try them all out and decide which is your favorite! Once you decide, then you go to Sam’s, Costco, or Wal-Mart and stock up on that bulk sized discount! J

Sources:

Jeffries, Melissa.  “What do SPF numbers mean?”  16 August 2007.  HowStuffWorks.com.http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/sun-care/spf.htm  09 April, 2015.

Tachibana, Chris. “Probing Question: What does the SPF rating of sunscreen mean?” 1 June 2010. Penn State News. http://news.psu.edu/story/141338/2010/06/01/research/probing-question-what-does-spf-rating-sunscreen-mean 09 April, 2015.

The Best Sun Protection Plan for Rain or Shine. 5 April 2011. One Life, Make it Count: Aging Well. http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/spring-has-sprung-the-best-spf-protection-plan-for-rain-or-shine/ 09 April 2015.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 10 Day Challenge – It’s Time to UNPLUG!

This blog post was originally published on November 22, 2013 and was written by Jani Radhakrishnan.

A 2013 Mobile Consumer Habit survey reported that 72% of U.S. adults that own smartphones keep it within five feet of them the majority of the time. [Mine is currently about 8 inches away from my computer!] That same study reported that out of 1102 respondents, 55% USED their smartphone while driving, 33% while on a date, 12% in the shower, and 20% of adults ages 18-34….during sex. O2 released a study that indicated that the ‘phone’ function on a smartphone is the fifth most frequently used function. In fact, the study reports that smartphones now replace alarm clocks, cameras, televisions, and physical books.

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/thenumberofm.jpg
Image from cdn.physorg.com

Have you seen this creative video representing our addiction to phones?

Or read this news article about a San Francisco train shooting where “passengers were too distracted by phones to notice the shooter’s gun in plain sight”? With all this new ‘connectivity,’ we are not actually connecting to the world and the people around us. In fact, surveys indicate that 13% of cell phone owners pretend to use their phone to avoid interacting with people around them.

https://i0.wp.com/images.teamsugar.com/files/upl1/0/3362/14_2008/cell.jpg
Image from teamsugar.com

The other day, my phone died while waiting for the bus [It was horrible!]. So, rather than staring mindlessly in to space, I made some small-talk with a guy heading to Carrboro and told him he could take the J and not wait 45 minutes for the CW. It felt good. It got me thinking….

It’s time to UNPLUG! I have come up with a 10 day challenge, and I invite you to try it with me. Since we all have work, school, and social lives, I have fairly realistic expectations. Still, I think we can semi-unplug from the world more often than we think. So, here it is:

Jani’s 10 day Challenge of Unplugging

  • Day 1 Friday: When you’re out with a partner or friend, make a deal to keep your phones in your pockets, bags, etc.
  • Day 2 Saturday: It’s the weekend! Do not check your work or school email accounts. Not even once.
  • Day 3 Sunday: Invest in a watch! Since it is Sunday, maybe you have some time to go find one. This way, you can check your watch for the time instead of your phone.
  • Day 4 Monday: Read the DTH or a hardcopy of some magazine or newspaper to check out any local events happening this week.
  • Day 5 Tuesday: Do not spend all day at a computer. Time yourself so that every hour, you get up and walk around for about 5 minutes. During that time, say hi to a colleague, another student, or a friend. Whatever you do, do not take your phone with you.
  • Day 6 Wednesday: While eating meals, keep your phone in a separate room, on silent.
  • Day 7 Thursday: At work, your room, or the library, open your email only twice per hour. [Coming from someone who permanently keeps the email tab open while on my computer, I know this will be my biggest challenge]
  • Day 8 Friday: When you are watching television, and a commercial comes on, do anything other than pulling out your phone.  Maybe even jumping jacks!
  • Day 9 Saturday: If the weather is nice, enjoy the outdoors! Go for a hike or to the park, and leave your phone at home or in the car. [If you do not feel safe, keep your phone with you but do not look at it!] If it is rainy or cold outside, enjoy a hot beverage of your choice and a movie in the comfort of your own home, and turn your phone completely off during this time.
  • Day 10 Sunday: It is the last day of the challenge and I am hoping that tomorrow we can return to work or school feeling completely rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. What are we going to do to celebrate? Find a moment to answer a text with a phone call or Skype date instead of another text.

[TIPS for Success: Hey iPhone users, did you know there is a function on your phone called “Do Not Disturb” that will save incoming calls, messages, and alerts for later until you unlock your phone?]

My hope is that together, we can all unplug from this world and be in the moment for at least 10 days and continue some of these habits for our minds’ sake. You will be happier, your friends will be happier, and your mental health and boss or professor may be happier, too!

~JR