Gratitude, Culture, and Food

Thanksgiving can be a time that brings up a lot of feelings for people. Be kind to yourself and the people around you!

Gratitude

Thanksgiving often brings up thoughts about gratitude. While just noticing your gratitude makes a difference, you can add benefit to the people around you by expressing gratitude to them. Encourage people around the dinner table to share a story of when they were grateful for someone at the meal. 

You can also write about gratitude, and jot down the little moments of your day that make you feel grateful. If you want to bring this idea to Thanksgiving, create a gratitude tree or jar for everyone to use, or write gratitude postcards to people who are far away. You could also make a collage, Reel, or TikTok to visually express gratitude

However you notice and/or share – take time this holiday to experience gratitude. 

Culture

Your family may have traditions that you invoke for Thanksgiving. Cherish the ones that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to suggest new ways of doing things this holiday to move away from activities that no longer serve you.

Remember that the history around Thanksgiving is complex. Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the genocide and violence that Native communities experienced and continue to experience. Decolonize your Thanksgiving by learning about, listening to, and celebrating Native people.

Food

For many of us, food is central to our holiday. Try to make food a positive experience for everyone this holiday. If you talk about food, focus on the wonderful flavors of the season and gratitude for the land, workers, and chef who helped bring the food to the table. Use mindful eating strategies: 

  • Stick to normal eating habits, eating consistently and mindfully throughout the day. 
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.
  • Be present during meals. Slow down and notice how the food tastes. Feel the pleasure and satisfaction in the eating experience.
  • Add foods, don’t subtract. All foods fit into healthy eating! Consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your body.

May your Thanksgiving be full of experiences for which to be grateful. 

Planning for Finals and Holiday Stress

Hand hold wooden cubes spelling PLAN.

The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and so are the holidays! There will be more to do these next few weeks. Help yourself by creating a plan. 

  • Look ahead and evaluate. Take a look at your upcoming calendar, your class assignments, your holiday plans, and ideal gift recipients. Evaluate and clarify priorities. 
  • Make a To-Do List. Based on those priorities, write down what you need to do. Focus on one task at a time – as you are only ONE person.  
  • Practice Financial Wellness. Consider your budget for November and December. The end of the year is often one of the most challenging times to stay financially well with the strain of travel costs, winter break plans, celebrations with friends, and celebratory gifts. Be realistic with what you can afford to spend. What are your personal short term and long term financial goals? How does your spending fit into this?  Learn more about tips for financial wellness through UNC’s Student Wellness office. 
  • Monitor your emotions. Upcoming deadlines and planning for the end of year can serve as a recipe for an emotional storm. Managing and planning for assignments, events, and job schedules may prove useful to prevent this from happening. Try giving yourself grace during this time frame. If things get too hard, take a deep breath, step back and then try again. Managing your emotions can help you stay on track with the plan you created.  

This can be a busy time of the year as you grind to wrap up the semester and prepare to spend time with family and friends. Make it easier for yourself by planning out what you can. 

Finding Delight

Detail photo made at Bowman Gray Memorial Pool on September 14, 2020, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

No matter how stressful or distracted things may get, delights are all around us. Simple joys are what make life worth living! And as we practice noticing those moments, we might start to see them everywhere. Things like…

  • Laughing until you cry
  • Riding the bus, thinking about all the people around you
  •  An old, comfy chair
  • When someone remembers what you told them and asks you about it later
  • Catching a falling leaf
  • A tight, love-filled hug
  • Fixing something for someone
  • Putting a picture of family into a frame and setting it up where you can see it
  • A great workout
  • Eating your favorite food
  • Clean sheets
  • Finding something you thought you lost
  • When the Tar Heels win a big game
  • A haircut that transforms you a little bit
  • Setting up your camping gear after many months of not camping
  • Peeling the foil lid off of a container – so satisfying!
  • Coming home to pets
  • Watching someone learn something new
  • Listening to a song you forgot you love, and then listening to it again
  • Stretching and moving around – feeling good in your body
  • Putting on a cozy sweatshirt
  • Organizing a cluttered space
  • Finding the perfect word to say exactly what you want to say
  • Sitting on a porch

Noticing and reflecting on moments that bring you joy and the good feelings they elicit can make a difference in the texture of your day. For more on delight, check out The Book of Delights by Ross Gay or the Happiness Spells podcast. 

Happy HalloWeek!

Our campus and community love celebrating Halloween, so consider getting in on the fun by watching a scary movie curled up on the couch with some treats, carving a pumpkin, dressing up in a punny costume, or joining one of the activities listed below.

Remember that some Halloween traditions can include risk. Here are some strategies to have a safe and fun Halloween! 

  • WEAR THE RIGHT COSTUME: Pick something that is easy to move and see in, and keeps you comfortable. Avoid cultural appropriation. The general rule of thumb is if your costume is disrespectful towards a culture or ethnic group, or pokes fun at those groups in any way, it’s not a costume you — or anyone — should wear. Never carry fake weapons or items that could appear to be a weapon. 

  • IF YOU DRINK OR USE, BE SMART ABOUT IT: If you choose to use substances, have a plan. Set a limit for yourself ahead of time since it’s hard to know when to stop once you’ve started. Use the buddy system to hold each other accountable. Know how much you consume. Consider bringing your own or making your own so you can better understand how much you’re using. If you drink alcohol, eat a good meal beforehand and drink water throughout. Don’t drive under the influence, and don’t ride with someone who has been drinking or using.

  • PLAN AHEAD: Be sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for the night and make sure the volume is turned on in case a friend is trying to reach you. Don’t let your phone out of your sight—it could save you in case of an emergency. Decide in advance when you are heading home, and have plans to get home safely.

  • TRUST YOUR GUT:  On Halloween or any other night if something “just doesn’t feel right” trust your instinct. Say something if you feel safe doing so, or take your buddy and leave the situation.

  • HAVE FUN: Find ways to have an enjoyable, healthy, and safe Halloween week! We have the halloween-y activities noted below with a pumpkin emoji – join some and enjoy!

Halfway through the semester!

Congrats. You are halfway there!

You’ve navigated all the exams, papers, and other obstacles in your way to arrive at the mid-point of the semester. Take a moment. Reflect on where you are. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now is the time to start thinking about your game plan to finish the semester strong. 

Make a schedule or routine.  

The last couple of months in the semester can seem like a lot with assignments, projects, and extracurricular activities. Take a minute to consider your priorities, and schedule time for the things that matter the most. 

Don’t skip classes.

It can be tempting to skip a class to catch up on something else, or to multitask during virtual classes. Try not to fall into this trap. You will eventually fall behind. Instead take a breath. Examine your schedule. Remember that you are paying for your classes! You can’t “make up” a class. Find time elsewhere if at all possible. 

Give yourself a comfortable work space.

You’ve most likely found what works for you in terms of study spaces. If you haven’t or you want to switch up, consider creating a comfortable space that puts you in a good mood. Good Mood = Productivity 

Prioritize time and energy.  

You are in the phase of the semester where everything demands your attention. You may have competing assignments – like a homework assignment due tomorrow and a paper due the day after that. Although the homework assignment is due first, it may beneficial to spend more time on the paper which is a greater percentage of your grade. Prioritize! 

Enjoy the Break 

Find ways to inspire joy and rejuvenation during your time off of classes later this week. Taking some time for you will help set yourself up for success the rest of the semester.

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.

How to Build Healthy Habits

The Science of Healthy Habits

Humans are creatures of habit, following similar rhythms each day. But changing our rhythms towards health can be difficult! Here are strategies, backed by research, for forming new healthy habits: 

Stack Your Habits

Look for patterns in your day and connect new habits with existing ones. For example, while you brush your teeth, you might stand on one foot to practice your balance. Or every day when you get back to your residence after class, start with a healthy snack and mindful moment before you succumb to your work or couch. 

Start Small 

Big behavior changes require high motivation that is difficult to sustain. Instead, consider tiny changes to make the new habit as easy as possible. 

Do it Every Day

Habits take a long time to create but they form faster when we do them more often. You’re more likely to stick with a habit if you do a small version of it every day rather than big, deep versions of it a few times a week.

Make it Easy

Set yourself up for success by removing friction to your success, or adding friction to the habits you want to avoid. Sleep in your workout clothes to make it easier to wake up and move. Choose a mini-habit that requires minimal equipment. Make the healthy choice the easy choice! 

Make it Fun

Try adding habits with fun built in – listen to a good audiobook or podcast while doing your new habit. Do your new activity with someone you adore. Create reward systems that will motivate you. 

For more habit-changing advice, check out the Learning Center’s website.

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.

Nutrition Philosophy

Here at Healthy Heels, we view food as fuel, nourishment, and something to be enjoyed. We encourage Tar Heels to eat a wide array of foods that are both nourishing and delicious. There are no bad or forbidden foods – it’s all about paying attention to your body’s needs.

Eat When You’re Hungry

Keep your body biologically fed with enough nourishment. This helps avoid the natural response to over-consume food in moments of excessive hunger. Learning to honor your initial biological signal of hunger sets the stage for building trust in yourself and in food.

  • Help yourself by bringing yummy, nutrient-dense snacks with you so that when you notice hunger, you have food available.

Enjoy Your Food

Feel the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. Some studies indicate that when you look forward to the food that you’re about to eat, your body absorbs more of its nutrients. Plus, eating food you enjoy in a pleasurable environment helps you feel satisfied and content. 

Stop Eating When You’re Full

Trust yourself with eating and listen to your body. Your body will tell you what foods you need and when it needs them no longer. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and check in on your current level of hunger.

Use Gentle Nutrition Strategies

  • Zoom out. Focus on the big picture when it comes to nutrition. Individual food choices make very little difference when it comes to health. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Consider overall patterns in your food intake.
  • Add foods, don’t subtract. Remember that all foods can be a part of a healthy life and no foods are off-limits. Instead, consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your eating patterns.
  • Focus on variety. Different foods contain different nutrients, which means that eating a diversity of foods helps to ensure that we are getting adequate nutrients.
  • Pay attention to food that feels good. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making your body feel good.
  • Try to include 3 things at each snack and meal: protein, fat, and fiber. This will help keep you full and nourished.
  • Create an environment that makes health easier. Your environment is the biggest predictor of your health choices, so consider how you can make shifts to your space to set yourself up for the health behaviors you want.