FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 3 Ways to be a Better Student

We consistently hear from students that academics are their biggest stressor, which makes sense.  I mean, that’s why you’re here—to get a world-class education, right?  And that means learning to study smart, which may be simpler than you realize.  One of my high school teachers, Ms. Dawson, had only 3 rules in her class, but they really summed up how to get the most academic bang for your buck, no matter what the subject:

Show up.

According to Woody Allen “90% of life is just showing up”, and this idea definitely applies to school.  You are much more likely to get something out of your classes if you go to them.  Even if you don’t take any notes or listen to the lecture, at the very least you may absorb some important random detail that ends up on the final or catch that announcement about a paper extension or extra credit opportunity.  The secret to good grades is not just knowing the material; it’s knowing your professor.  Professors are people just like us and the tests they write reflect their own knowledge and teaching style.  And the best way to get to know your professor?  That’s right—class.


Now I know I sound like Captain Obvious when I say this, but school requires thinking.  And thinking is hard.  Thinking means processing and applying information, not just memorizing and regurgitating.  So, you have shown up to class—great start!  Rather than feverishly typing out the professor’s every last syllable, take a few moments to think about what you are hearing.  Ask yourself questions like: How would I apply this in a real world context? What are the implications of this? Or If I were to write a test on this information, what questions would I ask?

Being able to ask and answer questions like these will put you way ahead of the game when it comes to studying for a big exam.

Look at your book.

Ok, so the days of having to lug textbooks around and review them during class are over.  But the sentiment behind this rule still applies today.  Now you’ve come to class and you are thinking—awesome!  The next step is focusing on what is going on IN class and tuning out everything else.  Ever been in that lecture class where all the laptop screens in front of you are flickering between Facebook, gchat, and Sakai?  If the professor hasn’t changed the powerpoint slide in 20 seconds, do you start fumbling for your phone or google searching articles for that poli sci paper due tomorrow?  Multi-tasking may seem like the way to get everything done, but recent research suggests that chronic multi-taskers may be LESS productive.[Multitasking May Not Mean Higher Productivity http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112334449]  Those that stay focused and tuned in during class are more likely to retain the information longer.  I mean, you have to be in class anyway, why not get the most out of it—turn off the phone, close those tabs, and keep looking at the powerpoint slide even though you’ve already read over it twice.  Think of it this way: the more you can focus during class, the less time you will spend studying out of class.  That means fewer late night cram sessions and more time for FUN!

Now you know Ms. Dawson’s 3 rules for success—Show up, think, and look at your book.  Simple, right?  The hardest of course is consistently applying these rules, and sometimes these 3 things won’t be enough to ensure success in all classes.  Luckily, UNC has a multitude of resources to help you find ways to study smart:


Here’s a great place to start if you are struggling academically and not sure what you need:



For help with studying or free tutoring, visit the Learning Center:



For help with writing a paper or application essay, visit the Writing Center:



If you think you might have a learning disability or ADHD:



And, if you need to talk to someone about managing your stress or personal issues, we are here for you. Come to Counseling and Psychological Services between 9am and noon or 1pm and 4pm to see a counselor without making an appointment.



 Updated September 25, 2015 to reflect accurate contact information for Counseling and Psychological Services. Previous version included the former name of the service and a link that did not go to the CAPS page directly. 

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Sexual Health!! Read All About It!

There is a lot of information out there about sex, sexual health and pleasure. But how do you know which resources to trust? Wonder no more! Below is a list of resources that contain excellent, reputable information:

Go Ask Alice!

Go Ask Alice! is a great health resource that is maintained by health educators at Columbia University. The website is set up in a Q & A format and it covers a variety of health topics including emotional health, sexual health and relationships.

Sex Etc.

Sex Etc. is a great website hosted by Rutgers University. All the staff writers for the website are students so it is sex education for students, by students! The website is fun and interactive and once a week, the site hosts chats with a health educator so you can ask questions and get an accurate answers immediately.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been providing accurate sexual health information for a long time and they are still one of the best resources on the web. Their website has information on just about any sexual health topic you can think of including body image, gender and emergency contraception.

Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World

This website offers a lot of information about sexual health, but they also have a blog and “sexpert” advice. The website has also started building a database to connect young people to services like counselors and clinics. Check it out!

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week
Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around one in four adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness each year – that’s about 61.5 million people. Furthermore, one in 17 adults is living with a serious mental illness like major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Given these statistics, it’s likely that mental illness affects the majority of us in some way. Yet, it’s a topic that is often misrepresented or ignored altogether in the media and within our society as a whole.

To work towards changing this, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was created in 1990 – Each year, the first full week of October (this year, October 5-11) is designated as MIAW. So that’s happening next week! You might be wondering: what exactly is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and how can I get involved? Keep reading for answers to these questions.

NAMI explains that during Mental Illness Awareness Week, “we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.” As NAMI’s definition states, fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the main objectives of MIAW. According to a study done among students at UNC, 11.3% of Carolina students surveyed said they agreed with the following statement: I would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment. Furthermore, 19% of students surveyed agreed with this statement: I feel that receiving mental health treatment is a sign of personal failure.

As these statistics show, stigma surrounding mental illness in our community is a real issue. For more information on stigma and how to combat it, check out Stigma Free Carolina – a group on campus working to fight stigma and raise awareness about mental health issues in the UNC community.

"People in the summertime," by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons
“People in the summertime,” by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons

There are a bunch of great events happening at UNC for Mental Illness Awareness Week – if you’re interested in learning more, get involved with some of these opportunities! Here’s a schedule of events for MIAW (and beyond):

  • Mental Health awareness event in the Pit – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 3, 2014 from 12:00-2:00pm
    • Location: the Pit
    • Trivia questions and prizes!
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 4, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 2423
    • Register here
  • Redefining Mental Health panel discussion sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 6, 2014 from 5:30-7:00pm
    • Location: Carolina Inn
    • Register here
  • Interactive Theater Carolina performance on mental health issues
    • October 7, 2014 from 6:00-7:30pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3203
    • Register here
  • Mental Health 101 training
    • October 9, 2014 from 6:00-8:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3408
    • Refreshments served!
    • Register here
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training
    • October 25, 2014 from 12:00-4:00pm
    • November 8, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Register here

For more information on mental health services on campus, including individual and group counseling, check out UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

9 Ways to be a More Conscious Volunteer

A few weeks ago, I sat down to start writing a blog post on volunteering, including the many opportunities we as Carolina students have to volunteer. As I started researching the topic I came across a number of websites on the benefits of volunteering, and I noticed that on many of these websites, most or all of the reasons given on why to volunteer were focused on the personal benefits that can be gained through volunteering. For example, I found numerous lists of reasons why people should volunteer, and resume building, developing new skills, and networking were some of the most common (and sometimes only) reasons given. This surprised me, and ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. While these things are all great aspects of volunteering, I think that if our only reasons for volunteering are self-serving, this can be problematic. And thus, a new blog topic was born: how to be a more conscious volunteer!

Photo (Volunteers planting a rain garden 3) by (Chesapeake Bay Program), Flickr Creative Commons.

Volunteering can be a great part of one’s undergraduate or graduate experience at Carolina. I highly encourage everyone to get involved in whatever way(s) they are able. But as we embark on our journeys as volunteers, I would like to challenge us all to be conscious, mindful, and respectful throughout the whole process – from our reasons for why we volunteer to where we volunteer and what volunteer work we choose to participate in.

If you accept this challenge (and I hope you do!), here are some tips for all of us to keep in mind as we venture out into our communities to volunteer:

  1. Define for yourself why you volunteer. Maybe you volunteer because you feel strongly about a certain issue facing our society, or because you want to positively impact your community. Whatever your reason is (and I again challenge us all to identify reasons beyond things like resume building), remind yourself of it often. Let it serve as an inspiration for you.
  2. Do your research! Find an organization you’re interested in that does work in an area you’re passionate about, and volunteer with them as regularly as you’re able. Get to know the staff and clients. Find out what the organization really needs help with, and offer to help them with those projects that are perhaps not the most glamorous (like shredding paper, sealing envelopes, or filing).
  3. Talk to members of the community where you volunteer. Spend some time critically thinking about the volunteer work you are doing, and how community members perceive it. Is the volunteer work you’re providing something that the community feels is important to improving their community, or is it just something that someone outside of the community decided was a good idea?
  4. Volunteer as regularly as you can. While one-time, once per year service days are great, the more regularly you can volunteer with an organization, the more they will get to know you, and be able to really utilize your many talents to help further their mission.
  5. Be consistent and reliable. Whatever commitment you make to an organization to volunteer (be it weekly, monthly, four times per year, etc.), honor it. Remember that the organization and the community it works with are counting on you to fulfill that commitment.
  6. Be knowledgeable about and respectful of the communities you’re volunteering in. Be aware of the disparities that exist in our society (racial disparities, income disparities, health disparities, etc.) and how they might be impacting the community you are volunteering with. Be aware of your privilege as a volunteer coming into a community, and how that dynamic might be impacting members of the community. For more information on different neighborhoods and communities in Chapel Hill, check out the Town of Chapel Hill’s website as a starting point.
  7. Don’t view your volunteering as a way to “fix” people and the communities they live in. When you go into a community to volunteer, consider the community members the experts. They know their community best, and they know what their community needs. When volunteers see their role as “fixing” a community, that mindset can be both disrespectful and harmful to the community and its residents. Instead, when volunteering in a community you’re unfamiliar with, think of yourself as a partner to community residents – be ready and willing to listen and learn. For more information, check out a previous Healthy Heels blog post that talks about savior complex and the effect it can have on communities.
  8. Spend some time volunteering in your own neighborhood. Think of ways you can positively impact the community you live in (trash pick-up, building a community garden, advocating for an issue in front of local government, etc.). Check in with your neighbors – see if you can get a group together to work on a project that will benefit your neighborhood and get some of your friends or neighbors together on a Saturday to work on a project that you all think is important for your neighborhood.
  9. Have fun, learn something new, and gain new perspectives!

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities while at UNC? Check out some of these websites:

Apples Service Learning Courses

Volunteer opportunities in Chapel Hill

Interested in learning about volunteer options for after graduation? Check out these opportunities:


Peace Corps






Do I need to go to the doctor? Problem solved.

Less may not be more: I can never decide when and if I should go to a doctor. I tend towards a “less is more” approach with western medicine, hoping my body can fight away illnesses and muscle aches on its own. But after a few weeks of struggling against a health issue, I always wonder – “Am I a few days away from being better? Or is this a battle my body will only win with some medical intervention?” I have found the question of whether or not to seek medical care to be the most challenging part of health care.

Continue reading

Workout Wednesdays: Prep for Your Workout

Do you ever get to the gym and feel somewhat clueless?  Working out isn’t as simple as just showing up and getting into your routine.  Whether you are new to the gym or a veteran, follow this plan to prepare for a workout.  It’ll help you avoid injury, perform your best and see results.

  1. Plan – What will you do at the gym?  Weights, cardio or a combination of both?  Come to your workout with a specific plan.  If you do, you’ll be less tempted to skip out the hard stuff.  If I wait to do my abs after my workout, sometimes I’ll just skip and go back to my dorm a tad early.  Know exactly what you will do and for how long at the gym.  If you’re like me, do your abs before your cardio.  Know which arm exercises and which leg exercises you’ll perform.  Know how many miles you will run on the treadmill or how long your set of sprints will be.  Be prepared!
  2. Fuel – As I’ve stated before, it is incredibly important to have a pre-workout meal.  Maybe “meal” isn’t the right word, but a snack with some carbohydrates is a great way to get your body ready for intense exercise.  Try some fruit, a granola bar or even some toast with peanut butter.  Carbs will fuel your body with the energy it needs to get through any sweat session.
  3. Warm Up – If you’re short on time, it can be tempting to skip the warm up.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT skip this 5-10 minutes.  If you casually walk into the SRC and go straight into doing heavy squats or extreme sprinting, you can easily hurt yourself.  Skipping these few minutes could force you to skip the gym for months to recover from a major injury like a pulled hamstring or a torn ACL.  Seriously, it happens.  So just save yourself from injury and warm up your muscles prior to an intense workout.
  4. Stretch – You can either do dynamic stretches (like these fromRunner’s World – which help warm up your muscles while stretching them) or stretch after warming up your muscles with an easy walk on the treadmill or any light cardio.  Skipping your stretch session could lead to injury.  And, believe it or not, simply holding a stretch for 30 seconds prior to warming up could also damage a muscle.  It is important to warm up while stretching, like through dynamic stretches, or warm up slowly and then stretch after.
  5. Get Rest – Sometimes the best way to prepare for a workout is to skip one.  If you’ve been doing intense workouts everyday for a week, you should take a day of rest.  Your body needs to recover and rebuild.  You’ll come back to your workout the next day feeling better than ever.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that our readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

More than Molly- Real Talk about Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

If you’ve been anywhere on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Rick Ross’ newly released single U.O.E.N.O., during which he raps “Put molly in her champagne / She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain’t even know it,” The song has sparked controversy and online petitions calling for companies like Reebok to drop Rick Ross as a spokesperson and radio stations to remove the song from their playlists. I gotta tell you- I’m pretty pumped about this. I’m pumped that the public is outraged with Ross’ lyrics and glorification of drugging a woman with ecstasy (a.k.a. “molly”) in order to have sex with her and that I haven’t found one article citing that the ambiguous woman Ross is referring to should have watched her drink.

Despite my elation about the public conversations being prompted by Ross’ lyrics, our conversations about drug facilitated sexual assault need to go beyond illicit drugs and drink spiking. If we’re going to talk about drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), we need to be willing to engage in a conversation about alcohol. Alcohol is by far the most commonly used substance in drug facilitated sexual assaults, whether alcohol is forced upon the victim* or a perpetrator takes advantage of someone who has willingly consumed alcohol.

drunksexUp to 52% of a sample of men who reported committing a sexual assault since the age of 14 had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault(s) (Gidycz, 2007). High risk drinking has been linked to sexual perpetration among first year college students, with heavy drinkers being more likely to report that they have perpetuated a sexual assault (Neal & Fromme, 2007).

What theories are there to explain the frequent concurrence of alcohol and sexual violence perpetration? Researchers speculate that either:
(a) alcohol causes a causal role in sexual violence perpetration
(b) the desire to commit sexually violent acts prompts perpetrators to use alcohol heavily so that their actions are seen as more socially acceptable/excusable since they are intoxicated
(c) various other factors contribute and cause both high risk drinking and sexual violence perpetration (Abbey, 2008; George, Stoner, Norris, Lopez, & Lehman, 2000).

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence explain the relationship between American culture, alcohol use, and sexual violence as one that includes multiple factors.

“American culture glamorizes alcohol consumption and links it to sexual desire, sexual performance, aggression, and other types of disinhibited behavior. This affects people in two ways. First, as noted above, people may decide to drink when they want to be sexual, aggressive, and/ or disinhibited. Alcohol provides them with the “liquid courage” to act in the way they wanted to act. Second, intoxicated individuals are likely to interpret other people’s behavior in a manner that conforms to their expectations. Thus, a smile is more likely to be viewed as a sign of sexual attraction and a mildly negative comment is more likely to be interpreted as grounds for an aggressive response” (Abbey, 2008).

Even with societal pressure and the cognitive effects of alcohol, no matter how drunk a person is it does not excuse committing a sexual assault.

If you’re worried about a friend’s high risk drinking and concerned that their own alcohol use may be influencing their sexual decision making, you can encourage them to make an appointment with an Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialist at Student Wellness. Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialists assist students in exploring the social, academic, and sexual consequences of their drinking and encourage positive changes in drinking behaviors through Tarheel BASICS. Remember, how drunk a person is does not excuse committing a sexual assault.

Look out for Raise the Bar, a Student Wellness initiative launching in April as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Raise the Bar is an outreach and training program for local bar establishments offering education on DFSA and training on bystander intervention, providing bar staff the information and  tools to intervene and prevent drug facilitated sexual assault.

Raise the Bar Chapel Hill Caps not Bold


*The term victim is used because this post focuses on circumstances surrounding the victimizing experience of DFSA, not the recovery process

  • Abbey, A. (2008, December). Alcohol and Sexual Violence Perpetration. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day/year, from: http://www.vawnet.org
  • George, W.H., Stoner, S.A., Norris, J., Lopez, P.A., & Lehman, G.L. (2000). Alcohol expectancies and sexuality: A self-fulfilling prophecy analysis of dyadic perceptions and behavior. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 168-176.
  • Gidycz, C.A., Warkentin, J.B., Orchowski, L.M. (2007). Predictors of perpetration of verbal, physical, and sexual violence: A prospective analysis of college men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 8, 79-94.
  • Neal, D.J., & Fromme, K. (2007). Event-level covariation of alcohol intoxication and behavioral risks during the first year of college. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 , 294-306.

Survivorship and Speaking Out

“Healing begins when someone bears witness.”

I love this quote, because it acknowledges both the power of speaking out and the potential healing offered by those who listen. When it comes to being a survivor of interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, there are a number of ways to speak out and a number of organizations with folks prepared and willing to “bear witness” to your experience. Even if you’re not interested in filing any charges against your assailant, either through the University’s Grievance Panel Procedures or a report with local police, sharing one’s story can be a powerful mode of healing.

One way allies can support survivors is by respecting survivors’ preferences about how they choose to “speak out”. Not every survivor will want to speak out the same way, and some won’t want to at all. How public an individual is about their experience of IPV does not determine their level of “survivorship” or their right to identify as a survivor. In that same vein, the amount or mode of “speaking out” about one’s assault is not indicative of how much an individual has healed from their experience. Learning that friends or loved ones have experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) can motivate allies to become involved in speaking out against IPV themselves, but it is important to not share a survivor’s story without their permission- even if you leave out names or identifying information.

Here are some ways survivors can “speak out”, anonymously or not.

In person:

OCRCC Shout Out!
Submissions due March 15
The Orange County Rape Crisis Center will host the 11th Annual Shout Out Against Sexual Violence on April 16, 2013. Survivors of sexual violence and those who care about them will have the opportunity to read works and perform pieces surrounding the issues of rape and sexual assault. If you would like to submit a piece to the Shout Out, please email Joey at joey@ocrcc.org or call 919-968-4647 for more information. Please indicate whether you will present your piece at the Shout Out, or if you would like a staff member or volunteer to present it on your behalf as an anonymous submission.

Support groups for folks who have experienced relationship violence and sexual violence are available at the Compass Center for Women and Families and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, respectively.

If you’re a student at UNC Chapel Hill, it’s important to be aware that under the University’s Policy on Prohibited Harassment, including sexual misconduct, and Discrimination, staff and faculty of the university are mandated reporters of incidents of sexual assault. Meaning, if you disclose or chose to share your story with a staff or faculty member they are required by federal law to report the assault to the Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator at the university. The Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator may get in touch with you to follow up and make sure that you are provided information about all of the options available for filing a report through the university or the local police.

On paper:

Blind Reporting at UNC- CH
For sexual assaults involving a fellow student at UNC Chapel Hill, a blind report can be filed with the University. This report does not require names and can be turned in anonymously. The only identifying information that is required is the last four digits of your PID. (This is used to ensure that the university does not receive any “double reports”.) You may fill out as much information as you are comfortable providing on the form. You can place a completed form in one of the anonymous reporting boxes available in the Student Rec Center or Rams Head Rec Center, mail or bring it to the Dean of Students office or email it to the Dean of Students Office at dos@unc.edu.

Over the phone:

Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC)
The OCRCC hosts a 24- hour help line which can be reached by calling 1-866-WE-LISTEN (935-4783). Trained companions and OCRCC staff respond to help-line calls and are great folks to talk things through with, offer options for counseling, or just listen.

Compass Center for Women and Families
The Compass Center offers a 24 Hour Relationship Violence Hotline at 919-929-7122. Trained advocates and Compass Center staff can offer resources and/or a supportive listening ear.


Project Dinah’s Speak Out Blog
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
The UNC student group Project Dinah (PD) runs a blog on which anonymous submissions of stories of sexual and interpersonal violence are submitted and posted. Please click the comments link of the post titled “testimonials” to share an anonymous testimonial. A site administrator will post your testimonial after it has been submitted. PD asks that folks who submit stories do not include any personal information that would reveal their or anyone else’s identity.

And it Was Wrong
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
And it Was Wrong is a grassroots compilation of women’s experiences of sexual assault. Stories are submitted anonymously through the website; a few are posted online periodically. Rachael Goodman-Williams, the founder of the project, provides only one guideline for submissions: that they end with the phrase “and it was wrong.”

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s Online Hotline
If you’re hesitant or hard pressed to find a private place to chat over the phone, RAINN’s online chat offers trained volunteers who are available to chat with you online 24 hours a day.

The Food Police

Every time I order food from a particular take out place, as soon as I hang up the phone I get an incoming call. An automated machine calling on behalf of my bank, reciting “We fear there may be fraudulent charges on your account […] Please contact our identity theft and fraud department immediately at …. “. Sometimes I even get a text with the same information. The most recent time, I received a call, text, and an email which even went so far as to inform me that my account had been put on hold (i.e. my card was useless) until I called them back to go over the most recent charges on my account. Every time this happens I have to call the bank, and listen to a stranger list the most recent purchases on my card- which of course always concludes with a report of the place I ordered food from and the amount charged.
When the very nice stranger on the phone asks me if this is my charge, all I hear them saying is “so- this extremely unhealthy carb full restaurant you ordered from AGAIN…you spent ____….Don’t you live alone? Geez how many people are you planning on feeding?” I feel embarrassed and called out by the universe for my eating choices and frustrated at the fact that I am forced to report them to a stranger. Even so, I have not yet had the guts to tell my bank that they can stop calling every time I order food from this place because yes, it’s always going to be me (I like to eat their food) so while I appreciate your concern and thorough job of protecting my identity, please stop asking me to answer for my food choices.

These interactions with my bank, although unintentionally and indirectly on their part, are a great example of food policing. I’m sure that many folks prone to food policing out there mean the best. Sometimes it’s good to catch ourselves though and ask – what good is food policing really doing?

If you’re concerned about a friend’s health, it will probably be much better received if you express those concerns in the context of health and caring for your friend instead of commenting on if they’re “going to eat all that”, asking them “if they need to eat that” and making comments such as “you sure don’t look like a vegetarian”. Food policing ourselves, i.e. making comments like “oh no, I don’t need anymore, I’m trying to be good” can have a similarly negative effect on those around us. Food policing may sometimes even sound like compliments such as “great job choosing that salad!”.

Unless a friend or partner has come to a plan of healthy eating or exercising on their own or at the suggestion of a doctor and specifically asked for your support, food policing may be more harmful than helpful. Hopefully you’ve been hearing a lot about eating disorders and how they affect college students over the course of this past week. Even if you think information about eating disorders seems a little too extreme to apply to you and your friends, we can all still be mindful of how our own food policing-whether directed at others or at ourselves in the presence of others- is affecting our friends and their body image.

nutrition1If you’re genuinely concerned about a friend’s eating habits, make it a point to talk to them while they’re not in the middle of a meal or about to sit down to start eating. You may consider suggesting they make an appointment at Student Wellness to meet with a Clinical Nutrition Specialist or Nutrition Education Consultant on campus. They’re great folks who can help you, your friend, or a partner go over healthy meal planning and choices for them and their body. If you’d like to host a program on healthy body image or nutrition for your student group or hall, check out the health education and training services available at Student Wellness.

Fighting Fair & Healthy Communication in Relationships

Real talk. Couples argue. Even if you really like each other 98% of the time, every couple gets into a snafu or disagreement every now and then. How can you survive the fights and keep your relationship happy and healthy overall?

Here are a few things to avoid:

Criticism. While no partner is perfect, it’s important to keep in mind the difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint addresses a specific action of a partner(s). A criticism is more global — it incorporates or implies a negative judgment about a person’s character or personality.

Contempt. Contempt can be communicated through sarcasm, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is harmful to a relationship because it is virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that their partner is disgusted with them.

Defensiveness. When a disagreement escalates and becomes negative and critical, it’s not surprising that someone may feel attacked and thus become defensive. While this is a natural response, becoming defensive keeps a person from taking responsibility for your part in the conflict and essentially blames one partner as solely responsible.

Stonewalling. In relationships where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This stonewalling involves acting as though they could not care less about what the other is saying or feeling, and often looks like refusing to engage in conflict resolution or touch conversations altogether.


And some healthy communication tips for tough conversations:

Validate and affirm the importance of the relationship and your partner to you.  Express your hope that you can have an authentic, respectful conversation. Agree on whether you’re okay with taking a break from the conversation if you or your partner get frustrated or feel overwhelmed.

Stay focused on the main theme(s) you want to discuss.

Make sure that your verbal and non-verbal communications are in alignment.  Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and body posture can have a huge impact on the meaning of words. The tone of our voice and the volume you speak in can all change the meaning of your message as well.

Use “I” statements, feeling statements, and be direct. Passive aggressiveness is not effective and can only escalate situations. “I” statements ensure that you are keeping the conversation focused and remaining honest to your own experiences.

Use active listening skills. Use eye contact and avoid texting, being on your computer, or interrupting during an important conversation or argument. Keep an open mind and try to understand your partner’s experience rather than judge it or get defensive.

Paraphrase and ask questions. Use very brief statements to summarize or reflect what the other person has said. This practice allows an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings within the conversation before they grow into their own argument altogether.

Be supportive. Even if you disagree, both partners should support each others’ right to share their feelings and thoughts as well.

Make specific requests for behavior changes you need. Perhaps you need to change some of your own behaviors or perhaps you would like to see a change in the behavior of your partner(s). Maybe you would like a change in how you do something as a couple. Look for a compromise. Keep in mind its important in a new relationship to balance trying new things and communicating what you want.

Afterward, do something fun! After a conflict has been resolved or a tough conversation concluded, it can be helpful to do something fun or enjoyable with your partner(s) to end your time together on a positive note.  Although it may feel awkward after you’ve just had a tense conversation, spending some fun time together can remind each other what you like about each other and why sticking it out through tough times and working through disagreements is worth it.

Communication tips taken from Sustaining Healthy Relationships in LGBTQ Communities curriculum.


Enjoyed this post and think more information on healthy relationships would be helpful for you or you and your boo? Check out Sustaining Healthy Relationships, an online workshop created by Carolina students, for Carolina students.

If you’re afraid to communicate your needs or express a disagreement with your partner(s) for fear of what they might do, your relationship may be struggling with more than some problematic communication patterns. Check out the resources at safe.unc.edu which can help you sort through whether your relationship may be abusive and offer you options of what you can do if it is.