11 Ideas to Take Care of YOU

Written and compiled by CAPS staff members Kyle Alexander, LCSW and Kadeisha Bonsu, LCSWA

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been coping with the mental strain of Covid-19 for 10+ months now. Many of us have spent a good amount of that time stuck inside, missing family and friends, so it’s totally normal if you feel more down or isolated than usual this winter. You are not alone.

We at UNC CAPS want to be here for you and wanted to share some ideas for self-care ideas during these last few weeks before the semester begins. CAPS staff is here for you so please don’t hesitate to call us to speak with a therapist anytime 24/7 for support (919) 966-3658.

Get Creative!

A person in socks over a bedspread lays next to a book, pencil, mug, and guitar

Many of us don’t identify as artists, but all of us have creative abilities. Let out your inner child. Dance around, color, draw, paint, make up a song, host a zoom talent show…it doesn’t need to be perfect; you just need to have fun.

Take Baths

A bath with bubbles, candles, soap, and a book

Take a moment to disengage from the world with your favorite music, some candles, and a hot bath. Baths can help relieve muscle tension and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, some studies indicate that going from a hot bath to a cold bedroom can help your body fall asleep faster.

Play Video Games

Two people with gaming consoles play a video game together

Distanced from your friends who may be living far away from you right now? Plug in your favorite multi-player video game and instantly connect. Distraction is helpful in moderation and can be a heathy way to escape for a moment. There are a ton of fun video games out there both on your mobile phone and console to explore. If it’s too cold to go outside into nature, check-out some of these nature inspired games that are fun to play with friends and bring nature indoors.

Read

Library long view

With more time inside, put down the phone, turn off the electronics and pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Escape into that science fiction series, or start that book that’s been on your shelf forever.  

Books feeling too long to commit to right now? How about exploring shorter poems that are speaking to you right now.

Don’t know what book to choose?  the book you’re looking for?, check-out GoodReads.com for book recommendations. For those in the Chapel Hill area already, you can request books from UNC libraries, or through inter-library loan.

Choose a Theme

Graphic of astronauts on various devices lounging around on a couch

Pick a theme for each day or each week depending on the length of your staycation. Include things that address various areas of wellness i.e., emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, etc. Themes you might consider are Zoom-Free Wednesday, Financially-Fit Friday, Self-Care Saturday… doesn’t matter the day, just have fun and get creative!

Listen to Podcasts

Feeling isolated or lonely while socially distancing? We all are. You are not alone. Community and human interaction are important for the psyche, and when coronavirus makes that hard, tune into your favorite podcast to immerse yourself in a digital community.

Next time you are folding laundry or on a walk, play your favorite podcast and instantly you can feel like you are not alone. There are thousands of different types of podcasts (comedy, history, news, etc.), pick which one is right for you and click play.

Person of color with their eyes closed and half in shadow with the words Feeling Seen A UNC CAPS Podcast overlay



A great Podcast option to check out is Feeling Seen, hosted by Dr. Erinn Scott, Psy.D. and Dr. Anthony Teasdale, Ph.D., staff psychologists at CAPS. These colleagues and friends come together to discuss and demystify mental health, therapy, and help seeking, and have some fun in the process. This podcast speaks directly to UNC and its students, giving listeners a more personal side of CAPS and its staff. There’ll be insights, laughs, and mistakes, but always with the intention of reducing stigma and helping people “feel seen.” Find it on all the places you listen: Spotify | YouTube | Anchor | Google Podcasts | Apple Podcasts

Go for a Hike

Fish eye view of the Botanical Garden

Those of us who are privileged to live in the Triangle are able to access numerous hiking trails in the area.

Wherever you are, the best way to find a trail that works for you is to ask friends for recommendation or go online for lists of best hikes in the areaThe All Trails application is a great free tool to download to search and filter the top-rated hikes based on your location.

Winter break is a great time to explore parts of Chapel Hill you haven’t yet. Try walking across the street from campus and check-out the free North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Camp

Glowing tent and fire at night by a lake

Camping is a great activity to escape into nature and be socially distanced with friends. North Carolina has a ton of nature and camp sites for you to explore this season.

Bike

Rameses bikes on a Tar Heel Bike in the Pit while students look on behind him

We know it’s cold out there, but regular exercise can act like an anti-depressant in itself. This Winter continue to challenge yourself to keep moving and get outside as much as possible. Biking is a great way to get some cardio in, but also explore. Check out these bike rental resources on-campus: 

Eat

Image of Heavenly Buffaloes

Outdoor dining under a heat lamp, takeout, or curbside pickup could be a nice treat for you and your friends. Maybe it’s time to pick a new type of food or restaurant you’ve been wanting to explore on Franklin! Or it’s about time you checked out all the cool stuff Carrboro has to offer if you haven’t had the time to explore Carrboro during the school year.

Check-out this resource for most updated list of food option in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In the mood for chicken or vegan wings? Heavenly Buffaloes is open on Franklin and has (outdoor dining, takeout and delivery). We haven’t been paid for this recommendation – it’s just that good.

Women has head on computer desk and is raising a flag with a sad face on it
Nadia_Snopek/Adobe Stock

Set Virtual Boundaries

Give yourself permission to say no to Zoom/video meetings, hangouts, etc. that are not necessary or can be rescheduled. It’s okay to honor yourself, recognize your zoom fatigue, and take some space from it. Be okay with saying no and cancelling/rescheduling anything that gets in the way of your well-being.

Transitioning back to the semester can be rough on mental health – take some time for you over the next few weeks!

Squirrels and Stress Reduction

Over the past year I have given many presentations on stress to students at UNC. I followed guidelines from the experts on how to teach stress reduction which includes, identifying stressors, organizing one’s self, and for giving one’s self. I have even offered different meditation exercises such as counting breaths.  These are all great strategies and there are many more, but I believe each person ultimately has to find what works best for them. For me, being organized and assessing all the tasks I have to do is a great start, however I recently discovered something that works even better- watching squirrels. That’s right, I have started watching squirrels. It is important to understand what is stressing you out, but it is even more important to step out of your troubles for a minute and think about it in a different way. The best way to do this is to take a few minutes each day to not think about the thousand things you have to do. I challenge you to take 3 minutes each day and do nothing; no phones, no internet, no magazines, nothing. Just sit and take in your surroundings. For me, this means watching squirrels. Fortunately there are plenty on campus. Why squirrels? Why not? They are fascinating animals that do peculiar things and have the ability to make you scratch you head and wonder why they are so strange. This is the essence of their therapeutic power. During this process you stop thinking about your life just long enough to come back to it with an open mind. For you, watching the leaves in the wind, the birds flying, or mediation may be the trick, for me, it’s squirrels.  During this final week, join with me and take 3 minutes and do nothing. Here is a video to get you in the squirrel watching mood, but DO NOT get sucked down the You Tube rabbit hole, that’s NOT what this is about.