Give Back Virtually by Lending a Helping Hand

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

Time is flying by! Can you believe that the fourth term is already coming to an end? Many of you, will be graduating this month and embarking upon – yet another journey. For the past few weeks, I’ve shared strategies on how to navigate the current crisis and manage your personal wellness – to help ensure that each of you, remain on the path of academic excellence. 

I’ve shared tips on how to remain social while social distancing and suggested virtual activities, such as connecting with loved ones, joining a virtual book club or attending a virtual dance party.  To help support your mental wellness and stay in tuned with your emotions, I shared strategies on how to journal through your journey. As a reminder, figure out which journaling a method is best for you (paper or electronic), be consistent and don’t stress! You can journal about your academic accomplishments, personal challenges, or even use free journal prompts. Lastly, I encouraged you to create a survival toolkit and fill it with resources that align with the seven dimensions of wellness. The strategies you’ve learned will help you while at Hopkins and beyond.

Since this is my last blog post for this term, I wanted to share one final strategy, on how to giveback virtually, by lending a helping hand. Research shows that, volunteering “helps connects you to others” and “brings fun and fulfillment to your life.”  Who can’t use a little fun right now?

Photo by lalesh aldarwish from Pexels.

Here’s three simple, yet effective ways that you can give back virtually and lend a helping hand:

Serve as a mentor, by positively connecting with students, who are stuck at home due to the recent crisis. You can sign up to be a HeartSmiles “Success Sessions” speaker and share your personal success story. For additional information, click here to review the sign-up form.

Make a financial contribution to a local community organization, to help support their programming efforts; no donation amount is too small.

Sew Face Masks, believe it or not, there is still a shortage of face masks for essential employees and the homeless. Mask donations are needed to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. You do not need to be an expert to sew. For DIY masks tutorials, supplies and donation drop offs, check out Jo-Ann’s Fabric Store.  

For additional information on how you can lend a hand, please check out SOURCE or the United Way, for virtual volunteer opportunities.

The Power of Public Health


When it starts to feel scary, you know you are headed in the right direction.


We made it to end of the academic year! Can you believe it? It seems like orientation was just a couple of weeks ago.

As I sit and reflect on all the things from this past year, I am incredibly grateful for the amazing classmates I met, the wonderful classes I took, and the incredible lessons I learned. I now understand why the JHSPH is the number one School of Public Health: because of people like you! 

Over the past year, you have made incredible contributions to the school, research, and your field of study. We want you to be proud of your growth as a scholar, researcher and most importantly as a person. Although sometimes we think we have not come very far and it may seem like we are in the same place than a few months ago, please know that you have accomplished so much more than you think. Be proud of yourself!

Whether you are finishing your degree or have a few more years left at the school, we (JHSPH) are extremely lucky to have you. If you are graduating, congratulations and remember that you will always be a part of the JHSPH family, now as an alumnus. If you have a couple more years at the school, there are so many more opportunities waiting for you. The important thing is to continue to move forward, continue our work as public health leaders, and continue to better ourselves. 

The world needs us more than ever. It sure feels scary, but it is probably because we are heading in the right direction. Remember that there is so much power behind public health and there is so much power within you. Use it well.

Thank you for all your contributions to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and thank you for allowing me to be your JHSPH Office of Student Life Graduate Assistant. 

Thank you by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0 

-Paul Delgado, ScM 20’ 

Develop an Exit Strategy

by Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

Fourth term often marks a time of transition whether it’s moving one year closer to completion, graduating, or job hunting (or all of the above at the same time!).  Whatever your transition, we encourage you to pause and engage thoughtfully to prepare for what’s next. Download our Exit Strategy PDF and work through the questions. While the document is geared toward graduating students, continuing students may still find the questions useful. If you need support, Student Life is still here for you! 


Find Your Step Forward

Two people hiking. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

By Jessica Harrington, Director

Moving forward in a season of uncertainty will look different for everyone. It requires resilience and curiosity about what the future holds. Moving forward doesn’t eliminate fear, but allows us the courage to persevere in the face of fear.

Think of moving forward as a small, intentional action toward a goal.

What does forward look like for you today? Forward might involve some (or all) of the following:

  1. Small and great acts of self care as shared in today’s earlier posts.
  2. Leveraging inner strengths to connect with yourself and others. Consider taking the VIA Character Strengths assessment. It’s free and insightful.
  3. Remaining optimistic about future prospects for employment. The field of public health is expanding. See how alumni are actively putting their skills and education to use around the world.
  4. Confronting and exploring fear.
  5. Reaching out for help if you need to air your concerns. JHSAP and Student Life are here to listen and support your overall wellbeing. Career Services is here to support you in navigating the employment landscape.

Whatever forward looks like for you, take it a small step at a time. Keep going!

What’s in Your Survival Toolkit?

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

The transition from in-person activities to self-quarantine and social distancing is challenging. This unprecedented change within our nation and around the world happened so quickly, that many of us did not have time to prepare. As graduate students, many of you are still pressing forward with your studies, to make it to the finish line! I know it’s hard, but I encourage you to continue to move forward and discover beneficial ways to navigate your new normal. Find fun, yet creative ways to manage your self-care and connection to others, as doing so is very beneficial for your emotional and social wellbeing.

In a previous post, I shared tips on how to Stay Social While Distancing, which highlighted several virtual activities. In addition to social activities, identify other activities that align with the seven dimensions of wellness. I encourage you to create a survival toolkit and fill it with resources to support your overall well-being, during this time.

To help you get a jump start with ideas, here’s a few items that are in my survival kit:

Photo taken by Shekeitha L. Jeffries
  • Bible: To help maintain my spiritual well-being, I read my bible daily for guidance.
  • Gratitude jar: To help maintain my emotional and mental well-being, I write down one good thing that happens each day and place them in a jar.
  • Gratitude journal: To also help maintain my emotional and mental well-being, I journal daily and take note of different things that happen in my life.
  • Coffee: I can’t live without my coffee! LOL. To help me stay energized, I jump start my day with a fresh cup coffee sweetened with my favorite creamer.

So, what’s in your survival kit?

Need more ideas for your survival toolkit? Click here. Reminder! 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 if you need additional support. 

For more information about the Coronavirus, visit the and

Practicing Self-Care During a Pandemic


At the beginning of every year, one of my personal goals is to practice more self-care, connect with myself and dedicate quality personal time. Although it was a goal for 2020, I never thought I would have to spend so much time practicing social distancing and having so much time for myself.  

Can you believe we have been physically distancing for 6 weeks now? Yet, how much time have you actually spent practicing self-care? 

I recently realized that many of my “self-care” activities are instead defined as “self-soothing” because they provide distraction and/or comfort in difficult times. Those may include TV bingeing, bubble baths, fancy beverages, eating an entire pizza and/or cake. Although they bring comfort in moments of darkness (like many of us are experiencing right now), they do not address the root of our feelings. 

So what is really self-care and how can we practice it during a pandemic? 

Self-care means taking action to hit the problem at its root. It is a multidimensional concept in which the interdependency of mental and physical well-being creates an enhanced quality of life and sense of personal fulfillment. Ideally, self-care is practiced in seven functional domains: emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, relational, and safety/security.

Doing activities that will help you find meaning and support your growth during this pandemic is essential. Some of those practices may include: 

1. Taking care of your body: By being physically active, eating well, drinking water, and getting a good night’s rest your body will respond in a positive way (and your days will be filled with more energy).

2. Calming your thoughts: Notice and accept how you feel. These are very confusing times. Treat yourself with compassion and talk to someone if you need to. You can also try journaling to write your feelings, praying and/or meditating. 

3. Renegotiating boundaries: It is usually not a good outcome if you use your bed for sleeping, eating, working, relaxing, etc. Working from home can become invasive to your personal space and time. Designate places/times for specific things and say “yes” and “no” when you mean it.

4. Being nice to yourself: 🙂 Just a reminder that there is nothing wrong about practicing self-soothing activities, I do them too to relax. Just make sure that once you’ve soothed yourself, you know that you’re not finished. Take it day by day and you will allow yourself to reach your full potential. 

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