The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday September 25th

'Take care of yourself': UNC students look to apps for stress relief

DTH Photo Illustration. As students are struggling with their mental health, some turn to meditation apps like Calm, as well as CAPS for help.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. As students are struggling with their mental health, some turn to meditation apps like Calm, as well as CAPS for help.

Balancing four classes, witnessing racial tensions and fearing the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis Amponsah found himself overwhelmed by the chaotic climate of the world. After discovering it through TikTok, Amponsah’s sister introduced him to meditation as a form of stress relief.

Amponsah, a UNC junior, is not alone in looking to technology for this kind of service. 

Self-care is becoming increasingly important for college students to maintain their well-being while juggling classes and extracurriculars. With so many students owning smartphones, resources to guide them through self-care exercises are right at their fingertips.

Amponsah said he first began meditation through YouTube videos. He later experimented with the app Headspace, but found himself drawn to the more personal experiences without guiding. 

Amponsah now uses the app Insight Timer when he meditates due to its music feature, which allows for guided meditations or music to be played in accordance with a timer. 

An intern for UNC Healthy Heels and a full-time student, Amponsah said regularly practicing meditation has helped him throughout the pandemic. 

“I felt like a day where I practiced meditation was much more productive than a day than I didn't,” Amponsah said. “It relieves stress for me.”

Caress Roach, the health promotion and well-being programs coordinator at Student Wellness, said it’s essential for students to utilize University resources for mental health and self-care, including Student Wellness and Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Roach said it’s important for students to understand that stress is natural. She said reframing and understanding one’s stress can alleviate unrealistic expectations. 

She added that with internal stressors and external stressors, good stress and bad stress, students can learn to healthily differentiate their feelings and further grasp where to go from there. 

In a constantly evolving society, Roach said the most important step in self-care is reflection.

“You’re not socialized to really think about yourself,” Roach said. “And that’s why all this external stress is compounding, especially at this point in time, so it’s really important to take care of yourself, and that starts with being willing to reflect.”

Junior Nautica Harvin said he has used self-care apps, including Calm and Breathe, to reflect through meditation. Harvin found the apps to be helpful for cultivating a self-care routine.

“It helps me collect thoughts and fix my mindset,” Harvin said. 

Roach emphasized the importance of self-care for everyone. In addition to students, staff have also been reaching out more for self-care tips since the pandemic began. 

Roach said although Student Wellness does not specifically recommend self-care or meditation apps due to the large amount of time students already spend in front of screens, she pointed to their potential to help in beginning a routine. 

“It's way more than just giving yourself a facial or buying yourself your favorite fry or burger,” Roach said. “It's not just instant gratification like that. It really is a lifestyle.”

Here’s a guide to some self-care and meditation applications:

  • Headspace: A free app available in the App Store and Google Play focusing on meditation, sleep, stress relief and mindfulness. 
  • Insight Timer: A free app for sleep and anxiety relief with a variety of guided meditations, sleep exercises and yoga classes, some even featuring celebrities like Russell Brand.
  • Calm: A free app known for meditation and improving sleep that offers mindfulness workshops and sleep stories. 
  • Breathe: An app that has the ability to connect with an Apple Watch for an enhanced experience. The app takes users through a series of deep breaths with animations.
  • Liberate: Available for iOS and Android, the app provides meditation exercises designed for people of color in order to create a safe space for meditation habits. 
  • Shine: Aiming to help users create a self-care ritual, the app provides meditations, a supportive community and resources to reflect. 


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