Happy World Mental Health Day!

Today – 10/10/22 – is World Mental Health Day. There are so many issues that affect our mental health. Many members of campus are collaborating to address environmental and systemic issues that may affect our community’s well-being. One strategy is removing barriers to accessing supportive resources. 

Remember there are places to get help if you or a friend need it. The Heels Care Network is your gateway to find that support and get connected.  

UNC-Chapel Hill Resources: There are many supports for your mental health and wellbeing – from CAPS to peer support to spaces centering cultural needs or specific mental health issues. Visit the Mental Health Resource Hub to find a resource to support you. If the site feels overwhelming and you want help navigating campus resources, chat into the LSN Peer Support live chat. 

Learn and Advocate: Tomorrow, you can join the Mental Health Seminar, and many organizations and trainings exist to learn about and advocate for mental health

Set up Your Spaces for Mental Health Success: Often we have spaces where we have influence, whether that’s a student organization, workplace, or study group. Use your influence for good by offering structure, being flexible, creating a safe atmosphere, taking time for self-care, and advocating for systemic shifts in well-being.

We are in this together here at Carolina. Look out for each other, and do what you can to help address the well-being of all community members. Thank you for being a part of our community of care!

Managing the Emotional Roller Coaster of College

Stepping into or returning to campus can be difficult at first. You may often hear about resources to manage your academic life, and navigating coursework is vital to your success. But we often forget about managing our emotions in our day-to-day lives. Some reminders to help yourself:

Connect with others

Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends or family. Your emotional state is less likely to improve or change if you stay isolated and keep thinking about the feelings. Find and lean on your people!

Feel what you feel 

Emotions cannot be directly controlled. What you can control is your response and actions to your emotions. What you do – like moving your body and engaging in mindfulness – can improve your emotional state.  

Develop empathy for others and yourself

Give yourself a break. College is a time to develop and grow into a better version of yourself. You are going to run into challenges. By learning to recognize the emotions that you and others are feeling, you’ll find yourself more emotionally balanced and your relationships with others will improve.

Be honest

Strive for transparency in your relationships with others and yourself. The more you try to minimize your emotions, the more challenging in the long run it becomes to deal with them. Make a choice to accept how you and others feel.

Emotions are temporary

Understand that how you feel in the moment will not last forever. Emotions are like clouds – constantly moving and shifting. But if a negative feeling lasts a long time, recognize that you likely need help to resolve it—and that help is available. Learn more about supportive resources at the Heels Care Network.

Finding Inner Peace at College

The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced. 

Person sits cross legged on a rock in a lake at dusk

Be calm in the storm 

Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind. 

6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind 

  1. Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
  2. Meditate.  You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness. 
  3. Give yourself time to worry.  Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
  4. Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
  5. Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.  
  6. Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.

Be grateful. Science says it’s good for your health!


Image courtesy of BK on Flickr

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
—Melody Beattie

Thanksgiving—it’s one of my favorite times of the year. This has nothing to do with Pilgrims, and very little to do with football or parades. It does, however, have a lot to do with the word Thanksgiving—literally, giving thanks. For me, Thanksgiving is a reminder to pause and consider all of the things in my life that I’m grateful for—friends, family, opportunities… the list goes on.

While gratitude may be at the forefront this week, perhaps we should consider practicing it every week. According to a study from UC Davis, having a grateful outlook on life significantly increases health and well-being. This same research group has found that gratitude can decrease blood pressure and feelings of loneliness, and improve sleep quality, attention, and self-control. Not convinced? Check out the HappierHuman website for a summary of 31 ways that gratitude benefits your health and well-being, compiled from 40+ studies of gratitude.

A couple of years ago, SoulPancake decided to try out gratitude as an experiment within their Science of Happiness series. They had individuals come into their lab and complete a happiness test. Then, they asked the participants to write a letter to someone they were grateful for, expressing their gratitude. Finally, the participants were asked to call these individuals and read them the letter. At the end of the study, they took another happiness test. Overall, expressing gratitude produced a 4–19% increase in happiness, and the person who came in least happy had the greatest increase.


Image courtesy of BK on Flickr

So, what are some ways you can practice gratitude?

  1. Express it. Like the participants in the Science of Happiness study, you could write a letter to someone you care about. Let them know how much they mean to you. Better yet, call them or go see them in person. William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” When you’re feeling grateful for someone, tell them—don’t keep it to yourself! You can make their day and benefit your own health at the same time. Obviously, there’s an app for that.
  2. Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal. At the beginning or end of your week, think about what you’re most grateful for and record it in your journal. That way, when you’re having a bad day, you can look back at your journal and remind yourself of the people and things you appreciate most.
  3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention, without judgment, to your thoughts, sensations, emotions, and the external world. Sometimes we go throughout our busy days without actually noticing what we’re doing, who we’re interacting with, or what the world around us looks like. When we start paying attention, we can live more authentically and express gratitude for what we have. Try adding this gratitude practice to your mindfulness routine.

Gratitude can do some pretty amazing things for your health, and it’s really easy to do. Use this Thanksgiving break to prioritize gratitude for the people, places, opportunities, and things you appreciate most.


Image courtesy of Sandra Marie on Flickr

Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

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

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: In Someone Else’s Words

Sometimes the best advice – the most meaningful nuggets of information – are all packaged up in a sentence or two. So with midterms upon us (eek!), I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes, some funny, some serious, some motivational. Thus, today I’m not actually really going to write anything (apart from this introduction that is), instead enjoy someone else’s (wise) words:

 “Happiness is anything and anyone that is loved by you.” — Charlie Brown, of Peanuts

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants won’t help.” — Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than success. We often discover what we will do, by finding out what we will not do.” — Samuel Smiles

 And of course, the CWS favorite: “Don’t stop believing” — Journey

PS. I lied, I am going to write more (but just a little more). If you enjoyed these, there are tons of quote databases online (like this one) with a wealth of great quotes. Also, please share your favorites with us via comments!

Loving Your Long Distance Relationship

“I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…” But what are we walking for?

It’s a question that crosses a lot of minds when we hear “long distance relationship,” as though the sacrifice is too much. For some people, that may be true, but for others LDRs aren’t that much of a sacrifice.

People in LDRs can still have a relationship with their partners. We still hear about their long days at work, their awkward conversations with their parents, their bad jokes… The intimacy and the romance is still there, it’s just a little more spread out or creatively communicated.

The distance can be good for both partners, as it gives us some room to be with ourselves. This could mean sorting out our own emotions or stress, or working on our careers, but the point is that we have the space to do it.

And if we do reunite with our partners, it’s always a treat. It’s like a mini-vacation from our day-to-day lives with someone we truly enjoy spending time with. That weekend may even be the motivation you need to get through an especially hard workweek or paper.

Image by Eileen of Flickr Creative Commons

Perhaps the most important thing, though, is that our LDRs make us feel good. Even with the distance, our partners make us happy and bring joy to our lives. They can support us through a rough patch, and we can brag about them to our friends. The distance doesn’t seem to matter so much when we’re still being fulfilled.

Some of us may know exactly what we love about our LDRs, while others may be struggling to determine if it’s actually worth the stress. All relationships can be stressful at certain points, but distance can further complicate things.

For example, while maintaining an LDR, both partners may be faced with the increased financial burden to maintain their relationships. This doesn’t stop at paying for a plane ticket or gas, it includes taking time off of work – time which you otherwise would have gotten paid for.

Partners in LDRs can also have a hard time maintaining close friendships. This could be the result of not being able to partake in “couple activities”, or even dealing with the lack of free time to develop those relationships so you can contribute to your romantic one.

And finally, what are we? It can be difficult to assess the state of a relationship when the two partners are separated by distance. How do we know our roles in the relationship when we’re living week-to-week, or month-to-month? Partners in LDRs tend to set such high expectations for their time together that the roles can be unclear for time that is spent apart.

All of this added stress could make a person wonder: Why are we doing this?

It’s an important question. Why are you doing this? What do you enjoy about this relationship? It’s important for both partners to know why you are in a LDR, to clarify the logistics of the situation, the timeline, your feelings, and your expectations.

When partners feel as though they are out of sync, it can be easy to lose focus and to develop feelings of blame, resentment, or even personal guilt. These are feelings that can come up again and again.

So, you’ve decided you love being in your LDR, and you want to keep it going strong. Here are some relationship-maintaining strategies to help keep your LDR happy and healthy:

Positivity. An optimistic attitude about your relationship is invaluable to ensuring the security of your relationship. Always look for the best in your partner. Relationships can really suffer if we start searching for the other person’s flaws.

Assurance. It’s normal to have doubts every now and then about your relationship, but communicating your commitment and support frequently and verbally can really help both you and your partner to feel confident in the status of your relationship.

Openness. Let your partner know how you feel—don’t expect them to guess what’s going on with you. It will save you a lot of time and a lot of pain to be open and honest, even if that means spending your only two days together fighting.

Fight fair. Speaking of fighting, remember that while arguments inevitably happen in relationships, it’s important to fight fair. Listen, be gentle, and be kind. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt — or if nothing else, at least a chance to explain what they think.

Sharing tasks. Support one another through bad days, and look forward to future plans. Check in with one another throughout the day. Something as simple as sending a text and saying “thinking about you, hoping your day is good” can go a long way in helping us to feel confident in our relationships.

Share social networks. Talk to your partner about your friends and talk to your friends about your partner. By integrating the different areas of your life, you are likely to feel more comfortable with the relationship and the role it plays in your day-to-day routine.

Intimacy. Each couple does intimacy differently. Find what works for you and your partner and enjoy it! (Note: Sometimes our access to technology can do more harm than good.)

It may be difficult to implement all these strategies, especially right off the bat, so it’s important to remember that it takes time. Dealing with the stress of a LDR can be frustrating, but if we know why we’re doing it, it all becomes a little more manageable.


For additional reading see:




Compete to WIN a $1,000 GRAND Prize at LDOC HeelFest–Auditions start this Week…

That’s RIGHT–your or your student group could win $1,000 at the very first LDOC HeelFest!!!

LDOC HeelFest will be an end-of-year talent show extravaganza. This is the first year UNC is doing this event and it is a collaboration among multiple campus departments and student groups. It will be held at Ehringhaus Field from 4-8pm on LDOC, which is Friday April 24th. The talent show will feature a showcase of UNC student talent, and the students at the event will get to vote on the winning performer/group. The Grand Prize will be a cash amount, TBD.

Come to auditions this week and next…Let’s see what you got!

LDOC HeelFest audition schedule
LDOC HeelFest audition schedule

Wake Up To Music

Alarm Clock 3
Photo: “Alarm Clock 3.” Alan Cleaver. Flickr Creative Commons.

Today I woke up to the sound of music. I’m not talking about Julie Andrews in Austria. I’m talking about my alarm. It wasn’t a terrible beeping, though. I hate those types of alarms. They scare me out of bed and put me into a panic. I would always be waking up thinking I was late. My morning monologue was something like “holy crap”, “this sucks”, “why me?”. I would feel resentful and annoyed. It wasn’t until I started waking up to more peaceful kinds of music that I noticed how that was really affecting me. Those blaring alarms were actually affecting the way I experienced my entire day. I would see class as a chore and a burden. I would feel rushed to the point where I would either physically speed around to get myself ready, out the door, and to wherever I needed to be, or I would become insufferably slow, as though I was at a silent protest against the morning.

So I changed my routine. What a relief! It’s way better, trust me. Music soothes me awake, just as it used to soothe me to sleep. Though, I guess it depends on the kind of music you choose to wake up to. Hold on, people, we’re about to take a step into the world of science (and by science, I mean YouTube). Click here (don’t listen to the whole thing)—>>>>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym8JjY4fy-M .

Welcome back. So, that was kind of nice, huh? That’s the kind of soothing I’m talking about. That can get me through the day. It sets the pace for me. Okay, let’s imagine how music is used in film. Without music, some of the most terrible, scary movies would be only mildly frightening and even humorous in some cases. The music in suspense/horror flicks is intended to affect my breathing, heart rate and ultimately my emotional response. It causes me to react with fear.

Where am I going with this? Good question… What I’m getting at is this: how can we become more aware of our emotions? Better yet, will becoming more aware of our emotions allow us to practice a certain level of control over them? For example, I like being happy, content and excited over being angry, afraid or sad. Knowing that, what is one way I can set myself up to experience more of the emotions that I prefer to experience?

If I want to feel happiness, I can listen to some Sara Bareilles or Jason Mraz. If I want to feel calm and motivated, I listen to some classical guitar music. That’s just me. But seriously, there are physical and emotional responses to musical stimuli. If you’re interested in exploring the topic in greater depth, do some research into music psychology and mood regulation. Check out some books from the library, listen to music, make music, share music and study music. And visit my favorite source of science… YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grsyT0erx6E

Start your day off right. Get your heart beating to the rhythm of your choice. Your emotional wellbeing is important and it could affect others as well, and may ultimately have an impact on the Carolina community. So, be conscious, deliberate, and systematic in your music choices.

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” -Billy Joel

Jazz Band
Photo: “Jazz Band.” Kevin Dooley.

Smiles or Tears? How to Beat Summertime Sadness With Optimism


Welcome to a new week! I hope you jumped out of bed with a purpose in mind, ready to live exactly how you want. If not, that’s ok too – maybe it’s more sleep you need! I hope that the summer has given you time to focus on your overall wellness. Maybe you’ve been working hard to eat more healthfully, be more active, or quit smoking.  Along the way, you may have hit some unavoidable roadblocks stopping you from reaching your goal. When bad things happen – do you recognize them as a passing storm cloud, or do you believe that the universe is wholly aligned against you? The answer matters – a lot! We’re going to begin this morning with a look into optimism, and why it’s an essential aspect of a well-balanced life.

First, let’s take a closer look at what it means to have an optimistic world view. Let’s be clear- there are several things that optimism is not. Optimism is not happiness, as happiness is an indefinable and subjective emotion. Optimism is not forcing a smile, mentally chanting “cheer up buttercup,” or prancing through a field of daisies. These behaviors could be a natural byproduct of experiencing optimism in your life, but they likely will not bring you a sense of inner peace in of themselves. Optimism is hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. By extension, optimism allows you to believe that your life is worth living.

Sounds great, huh? Here are a few behaviors you can use in your life to achieve a greater sense of optimism:

  1. Create and purse your own goals: This is the foundation of a meaningful life. People who get things done and laugh along the way don’t have access to some secret elixir – rather, they know what they want from their life and they work hard to make it happen. Do you want to lose weight and feel better about your body? The drive must come from within – not a nagging parent or a concerned counselor. You’re much more likely to cultivate personal inspiration if you are invested in the achievement of your goal. Start small – drinking more water, being active 30 minutes a day, and adding more vegetables to your plate. This is a simple example of a goal that an optimist might create! Optimists are also persistent; they don’t let setbacks define them or their life.
  2. Solve problems proactively: It’s easy to run on autopilot in life and react to challenges with indecision and disengagement. Optimists, however, do things differently. When a storm strikes and a problem arises – take action immediately. Grab a pen and paper and write the problem at the top, followed by a list of possible solutions with pros and cons for each. Then, weight the options and take action. It’s easier to lay in bed and watch House of Cards all day, but taking small steps to fix a problem will actually make you feel a lot better. Take the optimistic route!
  1. Think of the worst possible outcome: That’s right, a healthy dose of realism could actually make you more optimistic. Anticipating failure, THEN making changes to ensure that these outcomes don’t happen will help set you up for success! You may have heard the trite phrase – “stop worrying, everything will be ok.” Instead of forcibly blocking thoughts, brainstorming practical solutions to possible problems will help pessimists achieve a more optimistic mindset.

How optimistic are you? If you’re still unsure after reading through these behaviors, take the optimism quiz to find out once and for all.