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.

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! 



Manage the Overwhelm

by Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Buried, defeated, and inundated are three words to describe what it means to feel overwhelmed. Given the many requirements of masters and doctoral programs, students often express their feelings of overwhelm during the academic year. The following tips are adapted from an article on what to do when feeling overwhelmed. See what resonates with you today.

  1. Practice self-acceptance and speak with compassion toward yourself.  An example from the article, “I would prefer to be able to get more done in a day, but I’m going to accept what I’m realistically able to do.”
  2. Regain a sense of your time. How are you spending it in ways that reflect your priorities or not?
  3. Manage assumptions and expectations. The article asserts that we often create rules about what others expect of us that may or may not exist (ie I must return emails immediately, someone will be angry if I say no).
  4. If your definition of success is based in perfectionism, consider redefining it based on what’s reasonable.
  5. Find time for self to unpack mental overwhelm and reflect without pressure.

Remember to reach out to JHSAP and/or Student Life whenever support is needed!

Be Healthy & Spread Love Through Random Acts of Kindness

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director

The month of February marks the 2nd month of this decade as well as the start of the 3rd term for students at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Did you know that this month is known as Black History Month? All across the world the achievements of black people will be honored to commemorate the positive impact they’ve made through history.  This month is also dedicated to Heart Health, an initiative coined by the American Heart Association to encourage individuals to learn about risk factors for heart disease and to encourage healthy lifestyle.  We’ll also celebrate love on February 14th, and we’ll embrace Random Acts of Kindness day, on February 17th

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels.

Random Acts of Kindness day, also known as RAK, started in 1995. It is celebrated by many individuals, groups and organizations worldwide to encourage acts of kindness.  Research shows that by being kind to others, increases your overall happiness, reduces stress and helps to improves heart health. Stay healthy this month and spread love through random acts of kindness, which can include:

  • Sending someone a handwritten note, thanking them for being in your life
  • Buying coffee/tea for the person ahead or behind you in line
  • Helping a classmate, colleague with a project or assignment
  • Making dinner for a family in need
  • Volunteering at a local food bank or shelter

To help you get started with your acts of kindness, print out the kindness bingo card. Mark off your act of kindness, by completing a line vertically, horizontally or diagonally – you choose. When you have completed four acts of kindness in a row, pat yourself on the back! You just made a difference in someone’s life!

Be sure to snap a photo of your acts of kindness, and tag the Office of Student Life on Instagram and use hashtag #RandomActsofKindnessDay.  

Relax with a Good Book

By Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay

Some books leave us free and some books make us free.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reading has been proven to help reduce stress.  During the academic year, students may forgo their love of reading due to hectic schedules. Winter break is a great opportunity to read something other than textbooks and articles. For ideas, visit NPR’s Book Concierge and Good Reads Best Books of 2019.

In addition, here are some of my favorite books: 

  • Self Help: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” (Brene Brown)
  • Motivational: Enjoy Every Sandwhich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last ( Lee Lipsenthal)
  • Memoir: Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America (C. Nicole Mason)
  • Suspense/Sci-Fi: Dark Matter (Blake Crouch)
  • Creativity Workbook: Hand Lettering for Relaxation: An Inspirational Workbook for Creating Beautiful Lettered Art (Amy Latta)

Whether you choose to relax through reading or some other means, we encourage you to make self-care a priority! We look forward to connecting with you in third term. 

Navigate Holiday Stress

Sheila Brown has released this “Happy Holidays Christmas Ornament 3” image under Public Domain license.

Congrats! You made it through the first two terms and now it’s time to celebrate. It is that wonderful time of the year where you may get to spend time at home with loved ones, eat delicious food, and hang out with old friends. It is also that time of the year when people around ask, “How is your research going?” and “What’s next after you graduate” or “Why don’t you visit more often?” And so it begins… Trust me, you are not the only one feeling overwhelmed with all these questions. Although most of the time we appreciate family members and friends caring about our progress, there are times when we appreciate having a physical and mental break from school. Some of us are still working on an answer to, “What is next after you graduate?” It’s ok not to have all the answers. We may want to make our friends and family proud, but it’s important to take care of our mental well-being. Here are some recommendations on how to navigate and handle holiday stress:

1. If you are experiencing grad school guilt: It is okay to take time away from work. We understand some things need to be done such as working on your thesis, applying for fellowships/grants, working on a publication. Yet, taking a break is okay. Whether it is a few hours, days, or even more than a week. You deserve it. You have worked non-stop for two entire terms. Enjoy your time off. 

2. If you are experiencing stress from overwhelming questions: Maybe some of your loved ones do not understand your research and/or the process of graduate school. However, you do know that they care about you and want to know how you are doing. While it can be difficult to not find those questions annoying or hard to answer, try to remain calm. Most of the time they are trying their best to connect with you and understand your life as a graduate student. Be patient and don’t take your stress on those you love the most. 

3. If you are experiencing stress from doing “too much”: Set time aside for yourself. Yes, we understand this is the time your family and friends want to do everything with you and include you in all the plans. However, it is okay to say “no” to an invitation. The holidays are a great opportunity to enjoy quality time with others but also time with yourself. Please remember to relax, recharge, refocus. 

Try to enjoy your holiday and destress. There will always be work that needs to be done and questions that need to be answered. Enjoy your time off, don’t feel guilty, and take care of your wellbeing. For additional suggestions, check out JHSAP’s 10 tips for holiday stress management.


Cultivating Gratitude

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

Gratitude is having a deep appreciation for the people and things in our lives. It allows us to intentionally focus on the positive aspects of our lives, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.  When was the last time you paused to celebrate your recent accomplishments? When was the last time you reflected upon the relationships you have with your family, friends and colleagues?  When was the last time you stepped away from your computer and cell phone to appreciate nature’s beauty?

As a student at JHSPH, you may have a busy schedule with a demanding class load, infused with other pertinent school and personal matters such as a teaching assistant position, an internship, and/or family commitments. However, it is important to find time to express gratitude, by appreciating the people and things in your life. Research suggests that those who experience gratitude, encounter more happiness and love. Additionally, those who practice gratitude, can reduce their lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. 

To help cultivate an environment filled with gratitude, consider these three tips:

  • Create a gratitude journal. Grab a notebook or download the Penzu app and begin keeping a log of things you are grateful for each day.
  • Listen to a podcast. Download the JHU calm app for free and check out Tamara Levitt’s Masterclass on Gratitude.
  • Mediate. Take 10-15 minutes before you start your day to mediate. Mindfulness mediation helps you to focus on the present as well as gratefulness.

For additional tips to help you on your gratitude journey, click here.