Supporting Your Well-being

During Times of Difficulty — April 3rd, 2020 Edition

Dear community,

We hope you are staying well, taking good care of yourselves, and are supporting each other. We know that the start of virtual classes this Monday may bring up a wide range of emotions for many members of our community; you may be nervous about teaching virtually through a medium you're less familiar with, maybe you're worried about balancing your workload with other responsibilities at home, or perhaps you are looking forward to resuming some of your favorite classes and getting into a routine again. Recognizing that this is another change within a period of already constant change, we want to share some resources surrounding resetting expectations and exercising compassion, managing stress, and building resilience, as well as guidelines for enjoying outdoor recreation responsibly to support your mental health and well-being.

Wishing you wellness,

The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health

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Resetting Expectations and Exercising Compassion

Navigating a massive life change like the one we are going through now is challenging; it requires flexibility, resilience, and compassion for ourselves and for others. We have all experienced disruption of our routines and adapting to our current reality may come along with stress, anxiety, and a host of other emotions. You may find that you're feeling all kinds of pressure: pressure to do well academically, pressure to be a support for loved ones, pressure to use this time to transform into the absolute best version of yourself. When feeling the weight of these pressures, it can be helpful to slow down, take a deep breath, and gently remind yourself of the following:

  • It is unrealistic to expect that we will be our most productive selves right now. Priorities have shifted, and to ask academic perfection or the utmost work efficiency of ourselves places additional stress on our already taxed mental and emotional resources. It's okay to not be operating at 100% right now.

  • It's important to maintain social connections and support each other during this time, but making yourself constantly emotionally available to support others can begin to take a toll on your own mental health. It is okay (and healthy!) to take a step back or set some boundaries if you need.

  • You don't need to emerge from this pandemic having written the next great novel, mastered classical piano, or become an Olympics-ready athlete. It is enough to simply care for yourself every day as we get through this.

  • You are not alone in feeling this way. All around the globe, others are with you in adapting to new challenges and learning new ways of being. It isn't easy, and we are struggling right alongside you to let go of some of the pressures we place on ourselves and to practice self-compassion.

It is important to give yourself grace during this time and extend that same understanding to others: to your professors who may be feeling pressure to teach at the same level as before while adapting to new technology, to your students who may be in situations not conducive to learning, to your loved ones who may be struggling to cope with these significant life changes, and to everyone. A little compassion can go a long way, especially in times like this.

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The CDC website offers information about taking care of your emotional health during and after a disaster or crisis that may be useful for individuals who are struggling right now. The CDC has also created a section of their website regarding stress and coping related to COVID-19 which offers tailored advice to parents, first responders/healthcare workers, and those who have been released from quarantine. This section also includes tips for helping to reduce stigma and stop the spread of rumors.

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Resilience: Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Disaster

Linda Graham, MFT, a psychotherapist, mindful self-compassion teacher, and author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being has created a wonderful compilation of mental and physical strategies for boosting resilience in the face of hardship. This resource discusses the importance of flexibility, mindset, and ways to use the wisdom of our bodies to reclaim and build our resilience.
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Recreate Responsibly

Spending time outdoors on a regular basis can be an excellent way to relieve stress and support your overall well-being while also maintaining safe physical distancing. If you're in Ithaca, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has announced that they're pleased to keep their trails through Sapsucker Woods open to the public from sunrise to sunset. They ask that in return, visitors observe physical distancing by avoiding gathering in groups, remaining six feet from other visitors, and refraining from interacting with the maintenance crew.

When planning to enjoy time outside in public natural areas, whether in Ithaca, New York State, or elsewhere around the world, be sure to observe the following guidance from New York State Parks:

  • Stay local and keep visits short.

  • Visit in small groups limited to immediate household members;

  • Maintain distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks;

  • Avoid games and activities that require close contact, such as basketball, football, or soccer;

  • Avoid playground equipment like slides and swings and other frequently touched surfaces;

  • Do not share equipment, such as bicycles, helmets, balls, or Frisbees;

  • If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail, or return another time/day to visit; and

  • If parking lots are full, please do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. To protect your safety and that of others, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

Bright Spot:

From Little Free Libraries to Little Free Pantries

All across the country, including right here in Ithaca, communities are converting their Little Free Libraries to Little Free Pantries and asking neighbors to “take what you need and if you can, please donate what you can spare.” You might notice one while you're out walking, or even spot one in your own neighborhood!

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Talk/Text Resources

If you find yourself struggling or in need of someone to talk to, know that you are not alone.

The following resources are here to support you:

Cornell Resources

  • Cornell Health phone consultation (24/7): 607-255-5155

Ithaca Resources (24/7)

  • Ithaca Crisisline: 800-273-8255
  • Advocacy Center (sexual/domestic violence): 607-277-5000

National Talk-Lines (24/7)

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • Trevor Project hotline (LGBTQ+): 866-488-7386
  • LGBT+ National Hotline: 888-843-4564
  • TransLifeline: 877-565-8860

National Text/Chat Services

  • National Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741
  • Steve Fund crisis text line: Text STEVE to 741741 (connects you to a crisis counselor of color)
  • Trevor Project text line (LGBTQ+): Text START to 678678
  • National Suicide Prevention "Lifeline CHAT" service:

Get in Touch

  • Contact Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, Mental Health Promotion Program Director, at
  • Contact Amber Pasha, Public Health Fellow, at
  • All Cornell students, regardless of location, can access medical and mental health services through FREE telehealth appointments with Cornell Health (appointments may be offered by video, phone, or online, depending on your location and need). Our in-person services are currently limited to pre-screened COVID-19 testing and select pharmacy services. As always, please refer to the Cornell Health website for the most up-to-date information regarding our services.