Journal Through Your Journey

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Did you know that journaling can help you live a more productive and healthier life? According to an article published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), journaling is one the most recommended tools to help manage mental illness. Journaling can help you clarify your thoughts and gain a deeper understanding of yourself. While journaling cannot solve your problems, it can help you  work through anxiety and stress, as you navigate your personal and academic journey.

There is no right or wrong way to journal, and you can begin today! Here are a few strategies to help you get started:

  • Determine a method that is best for you.  You can journal in a notebook, an online app such as penzu or you can start a blog in which you share your personal thoughts with others. Not sure which one will work for you?  Test the waters and try different options, to figure out which method will work for you and your personal style.
  • Be consistent. Find time to journal daily and make a commitment to follow through. Set aside time in the morning or evening to journal and do your best to limit distractions. There will be days that you may not be able to write, but that’s okay.  Regroup and keep going.
  • Don’t worry about what you should write about. There are no rules, when it comes to journaling. You can write about whatever you want, as you are the chief editor. Your journal can include notes about academic accomplishments, personal challenges, positive affirmations and future goals.  If you get stuck, feel free to use writing prompts for inspiration.

It is important to remain aware of your emotional state during challenging times. Although journaling is simple, it is an effective way to help you cope and alleviate stress. You can create a gratitude journal, a prayer journal, bullet journal, or a dream journal: its totally up to you! To learn more about how you can journal through your journey, click here.

You Can Handle This!

Image by kdbcms from Pixabay

By Kevin Casin, PhD, Former Student Life Program Assistant

Note: This week’s post is from our archives and written by our former program assistant. Many of us are facing both giants and windmills today (as described below). Whatever you’re facing, Student Life is here to support you!

I (Kevin) have a habit of making small challenges into giants, something we all might do from time to time. I invite you to examine the challenges and see them for what they really are; a blip in the road. Making a mountain out of a mole hill is extremely common and can often be a tremendous source of stress. In the story of Don Quixote, a deluded old man,  believing that he is a knight out to correct the wrongs of the world, charges at a giant in his path. With his lance in hand and his faithful stead, he challenges the giant only to find that it nothing more than a windmill. A frantic Sancho, Don’s loyal squire, races towards him and tries to reason with the old man. Sancho gets nowhere because Don is convinced that there are mystic forces opposing his righteous plight. Despite the pleas of Don’s most trusted friend, there is nothing that can be done to bring him out of his delusion. Allow me to be your Sancho. Few things in this world are that big. Sometimes, it’s just a windmill and you can handle this!

“Pray look better, Sir… those things yonder are no giants, but windmills.”

– Miguel de Cervantes

Here a few strategies to help you to discern windmills from giants:

1) Experimental Method: Turn your negative thoughts into an experiment and test them out. Use the scientific method and reason with your negative thoughts. Develop a hypothesis, ask questions and collect the evidence, then draw conclusions based on the evidence. Did you come up with a giant? Give it a try! We are all scientists here!

2) Survey Method: Consult with your support group (i.e. trusted friends and family) if your thoughts are realistic. Objective, and trustworthy, perspectives can be valuable. Of course get these perspectives from trusted people. Asking someone just hanging out a bus stop might not be the best idea, but a trusted friend or family member can be very helpful. Sometimes all we need is some perspective.

3) See Attached Document! Some issues require us to work through them in a more detailed way. Coping with Dilemmas by Russ Harris provides additional steps/perspectives for working through nagging dilemmas.

Surviving Praise and Criticism: Doctoral Student Encouragement

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

By Jessica Harrington, Director

The long road to the PhD is filled with constant feedback. At times it may be wonderful and inspiring, and other times, it may be harsh or critical. Below are some tips to navigate the feedback loop in a balanced way.

  1. Remember this: Praise and criticism are only two ends of a long spectrum of feedback. In the middle is room for growth and change.
  2. Communication style matters. Talk with your advisor about your communication style and theirs. Regarding performance, do you prefer feedback in person or emailed? When it comes to your research, how would you prefer to receive encouragement or correction?
  3. Get curious and ask questions! Ask for clarification (you may need to take a deep breath first if the moment is intense.). Repeat back what you hear the other person saying in a non-defensive way. If the response strikes your emotions in a negative way, ask for a break or if you could have time to process the issue.
  4. You are you; you are not your feedback. It can be difficult to separate ourselves from our work. Author Tara Mohr has some excellent advice about ways to unhook from praise and criticism.
  5. Talk with your peers. Identify community support and learn ways other doctoral students navigate feedback. In addition to support from JHSPH peers, consider visiting
  6. You always possess the gift of response. Options for responding to feedback include gratitude, openness, engagement, as well as bitterness, resentment, and disengagement. Sometimes, you may need to disengage before re-engaging. It’s also great to vent and let out resentment and bitterness. Just remember, you always have a choice. Remember
  7. You can handle this. Enough said.

Stay Social While Distancing

by: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Our current crisis has forced many individuals to embrace their new normal, which includes social distancing.  In an article published by Johns Hopkins HUB, “Social distancing is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission.”

Outlined below are a few activities, that can help you stay social while distancing from others. These suggestions can help relieve stress, decrease anxiety and help you have fun – while engaging with others!

  • CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES: Foster your relationships and reach out to your loved ones daily, by calling to check in and say hello. You can connect with your loved ones via video chat using WhatsApp or Google Hangouts to see their beautiful faces or send free e-greeting cards to let them know, they’re in your thoughts.
  • JOIN A VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB: Is there a book that you’ve wanting to read? Want to make new friends?  Consider joining a virtual book club and get carried away with a good book! Try searching Facebook or Goodreads for virtual book clubs or start your own using
  • DISCOVER A NEW PODCAST: Tackle the fourth term, with a little pick-me-up, by exploring new podcasts. According to Forbes, podcasts are perfect for those with busy lives, because they provide bite-sized content that can be educational and entertaining. To help lift your spirits, check out the Good Life Project podcast for inspiration from: Brene Brown, Kyle Carpenter, Sophia Chang, plus more. For more podcast recommendations, click here.
  • ATTEND A VIRTUAL PARTY: This past weekend, celebrity DJ D-Nice, hosted a free nine-hour, virtual party. The party took place via Instagram LIVE with over 100K viewers, including Michelle Obama, Lenny Kravitz, Halle Berry, Mark Zuckerberg and other celebrities – who danced the night away, from the comfort of their own homes. According to The New Yorker, this event was “part dance party, part social-media therapy, and a health-policy initiative.” Find your next virtual dance party, by searching Facebook, Instagram or another social media platform. 

For additional ideas, to help you remain social while distancing, please click here

As a graduate student, this may be a difficult time in your life, as you navigate the evolving crisis, strive to complete your studies remotely and adjust to social distancing. You are not alone in your efforts, and the JHSPH community is here to support you. Please be sure to reach out to your professors, TA’s as well as the Office of Student Life for support. 

For more information about the Coronavirus, visit the and

Navigating Difficult Times as Future Public Health Leaders

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay 

If someone would have told you our current situation back in January 1st, 2020, would you have believed them? Personally, I probably would not have done so.

As public health students preparing for leadership roles, we are trained to analyze disease and behavioral surveillance data, use epidemiologic techniques, understand health systems organizations, support state and local agencies, and serve when public health threats arise. However, although we have been trained for years to face public health crisis and difficult situations, many of us were not physically nor emotionally ready for a global pandemic. Am I wrong? 

The past few days and weeks have been everything from worry to uncertainty to advocacy. As public professionals we understand the measures taken by our university, local and state agencies, and the preventative measures we need to take to flatten the curve. However, the current situation may also carry a bigger burden on us because we know what is going on, we know it will be awhile until things get better, and we know all the current and future work required to combat the pandemic. 

You are not alone. Many of us are in the same situation. We are worried about the future. We are tired (but will not stop) of telling our friends and family to stay home. We are trying to figure out how to do an entire term of online coursework. And yes, we are disappointed but understand the measures taken for our commencement ceremony. 

Amidst everything, we have to make time and take care of ourselves. We are navigating something new to all of us that could take a big toll on our physical and mental health. Below are some resources that will hopefully help you through this difficult time:

1. Mental Health: SilverCloud is an online, confidential mental health resource free for all full-time students and trainees. It offers a personal train supporter that will help you make progresses through interactive learning modules that teach cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

2. Physical Health: I started taking my fitness journey seriously at the beginning of my graduate program to be physically and emotionally healthy. With our current situation, I recently discovered that home workouts are not as bad as they sound, especially with great coaches. Peloton is currently offering a 90-day free trial with different workout exercises including cardio, meditation, running, strength, and yoga. It’s a great package deal!

3. Emotional Wellbeing Although you may be tired of ZOOM after the first week of 4th term, it is actually a great online platform to host meetings with multiple people at once. Remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation. You can engage with others, just virtually. Check on your loved ones through ZOOM, a phone call, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, or text.  

As evidenced by the outbreak of COVID-19, we need your expertise and passion more than ever before.  The world is counting on your unwavering commitment to the power of public health, protecting health, saving lives—millions at a time.

-Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie

Remember to make time for yourself. Take care of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. I promise to do the same. 

The VALUE Conversation: An EQ Approach to Communicating

Caption: person having a video conversation. Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Emotional intelligence (EQ) will be required to navigate extenuating circumstances and an unusual term together. EQ refers to our ability to relate to others, even and especially, during times of stress.  EQ includes introspection to process our own emotions and then requires us to engage with others from a place of empathy.  Below is a simplified EQ  approach using VALUE as an acronym (found in this resource within our library). 

V: Validate: Honor the reality of emotions within self and others.
A: Ask questions: Investigate before making judgments and assumptions.
L: Listen: Use your whole body to listen. Hear the words, process, and then respond.
U: Understand: Consider what is not known. Ask questions to clarify. Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Stephen Covey).
E: Empathize: Find the appropriate balance of empathy to move the conversation forward. Empathy is a willingness to consider others’ point of view and experiences. 

If you need support navigating difficult conversations, don’t hesitate to reach out. Student Life is still here to support you! 



Prepare for Professional Conversations

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

By Jessica Harrington, Director

In light of tomorrow’s Career Fair (and beyond), we encourage students to prepare to connect with prospective employers and career mentors. At times, there will only be an opportunity for a simple elevator pitch . At other times, there may be an invitation to expound on one’s professional identity. To prepare for these encounters, practice articulating your professional impact, contributions, knowledge, and skills. Below are some prompts to get started.

Impact is one way to express the purpose behind your work. Impact questions include:
1.What is the impact I hope to make in public health? What changes am I aiming for through my profession?
2. Who/what populations or issues do I want to impact specifically?

Contributions are a way to describe how you’d like to advance toward your intended impact.
Contribution questions include:
1. What do I hope to bring to my field?
2. Whom do I hope to partner with in making contributions toward impact?
3. What ideas do I bring to the position/opportunity?
4. What advancements would I like to foster or be part of?

Interviews are often the opportunity to express what you already know about a position, organization, or area of expertise.
1. What do I already know about ______________?
2. How do/would I demonstrate this knowledge?
3. What do I hope to learn if provided the opportunity?

Skills are the tools you bring to the table to execute knowledge within a particular opportunity.
1. What skills have you acquired from prior positions and your education?
2. How do you hope to express those skills in a position?
3. What skills do you hope to learn in a new position?

Practice and reflect regularly since opportunities often come unannounced! If you attend the fair tomorrow, we will see you there.

Hit the Mark & Accomplish Your Goals

by: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels.

The start of a new year is exciting, as it provides us with an opportunity to hit the reset button and begin anew! For many graduate students, a new year provides another chance to accomplish goals, that they were unable to achieve during the previous academic year.  According to an article published by U.S. News & World report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. If you are struggling to keep up with your new year resolutions, don’t worry! Outlined below are a few strategies adapted from a article, to help you hit the mark and accomplish your goals.

  • Create A Clear Vision: Develop a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and anchor it on why you want to achieve it. For example, what is your vision as a leader in public health? What public health crisis do you want to solve? Why do you want to solve it?
  • Commit to Two or Three Goals: You may have many academic and career goals that you want to accomplish within the next 2-3 years.  However, to help ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed, begin with 2-3 goals that you believe, will have the most impact on your life right now. Be sure that your goals are SMART goals and begin working on them today. Once you have completed your initial three goals, identify 2-3 more and start again.  
  • Make A Commitment and Then Stay Consistent: As a graduate student, you may have a very demanding schedule with your personal life, classes, assignments, teaching assistantships, etc. However, you can accomplish anything that you set your mind too. Identify a strategy that resonates with you and stick with it, as commitment and consistency is key.
  • Write A Letter to Your Future Self:  Write a letter to yourself when you are eighty years old. What goals did you set? What goals did you achieve? What are you most proud of accomplishing in your lifetime? Use the answers to those questions to define your goals and action steps from there.

If you need additional support with goal setting, please contact the Office of Student Life to schedule a coaching session today.

Handling Rejections: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


“Dear [insert name],

Thank you for submitting your application. After reviewing numerous requests, we regret to inform that your application has not been selected” 

At this point in your graduate career, I’m sure you have experienced what it feels to be rejected. I have been through it countless times, but every time it happens, I am reminded that it does not feel good to get another letter of rejection. Although rejection in academia is part of the process as in any other sector, sometimes it can feel more personal. Grants, manuscripts, fellowships, scholarships, graduate programs, they all come with a yes or a no. Somehow though, it can feel more personal as a group of total strangers are judging your work and all the sacrifices you have made. 

Before going into graduate school, no one ever tells you that your initial first author paper is likely to be rejected. They do not tell you that even as a student at the number one School of Public Health, you will continue to receive rejections. But think about it: When you look at someone’s CV, what do you see? It’s like social media; all you see are the highlights of successes in their lives. No one really lists their failures in their CV (unless you are Johannes Haushofer) or how many times their manuscript was rejected. Because this is the culture of academia, very few people openly talk about their own rejections and failures. 

Because I know how it feels to get another letter/email (lost count already), this blog is to share with you some advice to help you cope with rejection in graduate school:

1. It’s okay to feel bad about it: Feeling sad, disappointed, even angry is perfectly fine. It sucks getting rejected. Don’t fight the feeling. Once you have processed it, use that fuel and energy to continue the fight.

2. Learn from it: Accept it and learn from it. Rejections say nothing about you as a person. However, there is always room for improvement. Do not let rejection define you, instead, use it to your advantage to become a better version of yourself.

3. Don’t take it personally: When it comes to a manuscript or grant, there is always that one reviewer that will give you a harder time. Remember, it’s not about you. They are critiquing the work and doing their job in helping you become a better researcher. 

4. Focus on the process: It wasn’t until about a couple of years ago that all I could see as “success” was me having that dream job. I quickly realized I would be miserable if I did not enjoy the process itself. Enjoy the process, have fun, work hard, and things will fall into place.

In a few years, you will look back at those rejections and laugh about them. Do not let the system bring you down. Rejection is part of the process; the difference is how you react to it. 

Cultivate Self-Awareness With One Simple Strategy

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director

In 2017, organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Tasha Eurich presented a Tedx Talk, on how to increase your awareness using one simple strategy. In the talk, she discusses her research on self-awareness and her surprising discovery about human perception as well as introspective thinking. Through the findings of her research, she has been able to identify how people can truly become more self-aware.  

According to Dr. Eurich, self-awareness is the ability to see ourselves clearly, to understand who we are, how others see us and how we fit into the world. She believes that although we might not like what we see in ourselves, there’s comfort in knowing who we truly are. Self-awareness gives us power. Research shows that people who are more self-aware are more fulfilled, they have stronger relationships, they are more creative and better communicators. According to a 2019 article published on, self-awareness is a vital skill to develop that could help individuals lead a more fulfilled life.

Photo by Natasha Fernandez from Pexels.

However, Dr. Eurich’s research found that people who did more introspection were more stressed, depressed, less satisfied with their jobs, their relationships, and that they were less in control of their lives. These negative consequences increased the more they introspected. While the pursuit of self-awareness/ introspection may seem like as waste of time or depressing, it could be rewarding, because of the insight that it produces. She believes that the pursuit of self-awareness is not a waste of time, however, the way it’s being done is. 

According to Dr. Eurich, people often self-reflect because, they may be trying to figure out why they are in a bad mood, they may be questioning their beliefs or trying to figure out the why behind a negative outcome. She found that, when we ask WHY, it doesn’t lead us toward the truth about ourselves, instead, it leads us away from it.  When we ask why, we end up inventing answers that feel true but are often very wrong.  

As graduate students you may encounter negative experiences in which you question why. Outlined below are a few examples to help you understand the negative impact of why questions:

  • You might have received a low score on a recent exam or paper and may have questioned, why you did so poorly. Instead asking why, re-frame your question to, “What could I have done differently, to earn a better grade?” and “What can I do differently for the next assignment?”
  • You receive notification you weren’t chosen for a position you applied for. You are upset and wondering why the award committee didn’t choose you. Instead of asking why, re-frame your question to, “What could I have done differently to stand out to the committee?” and “What can I do differently in the next interview?”

Dr. Eurich’s research indicates that it may be best to change our why questions to what questions, because why questions tend to trap us in a negative mindset and may cause us to become stuck. On the other hand, what questions helps to shift our mindset from the red zone to blue zone and move us forward toward our future. The next time you experience a negative situation, consider looking at questions such as, what could I have done differently, what can I do to keep moving forward, or what are my resources for support. To cultivate true self-awareness and live a more fulfilled life, try a few of the strategies outlined in this article.