Note: this post was updated in February 2023 to reflect increased accessibility of certain resources.
Over the past several days, we have all watched with considerable alarm as Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, precipitating a tragedy that has upended lives and displaced millions of Ukrainians, and is destabilizing the international order.
It is undoubtedly a stressful time for everyone impacted by these global events, and particularly for students with ties to Ukraine and/or Russia.
While our administration works to support students on an institutional scale, we hope that at a personal level, you are taking good care of yourself and making use of every resource available to you to navigate these difficult and uncertain times.
In this post we’ve assembled a list of Hopkins-sponsored resources for mental health and student services and coping strategies adapted from Psychology Tools.
JOHNS HOPKINS RESOURCES
Calm. Free premium access to this award-winning meditation and sleep app is available to all Hopkins affiliates. Sleep is critical to mental health, especially during periods of uncertainty and trauma. Go to calm.com/jhu to register for free access; do not download directly from the App Store or Google Play.
Free access to Mental Telehealth, powered by TimelyMD, for all students and trainees. Mental Telehealth offers a 24/7 phone line, as well as providers licensed in all 50 states for virtual therapy appointments. Note: telehealth therapy appointments are only available to people physically located in the United States. Your citizenship doesn’t matter, but your physical location does. Students in the U.S. and in countries that permit web access can use the 24/7 hotline service. If neither of these options is available to you, please contact your Hopkins mental health office (see below) for support.
Free access to the SilverCloud platform, for all full-time students over the age of 18. SilverCloud is a self-directed online learning program that teaches cognitive behavioral therapy skills, which can help to relieve mild-to-moderate anxiety and depression. Learning about the thought-feeling-behavior cycle and how to break it can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed. The “Challenging Times” module has advice on how to create or maintain a sense of equilibrium during chaotic periods.
Homewood Counseling Center (410-516-8278). This office provides mental health and well-being services to Homewood and Peabody students, and on-campus SOE students.
University Health Services(UHS). This office serves the physical and mental health needs of BSPH, SOM, and SON students and trainees.
Mental Health Primer for International Learners. This recorded webinar from May 2020 provides a working definition of mental health, explores common mental health problems for academics and researchers, recommends coping strategies, and details Hopkins-sponsored resources for mental well-being.
The following strategies are adapted from the “Free Guide to Living with Worry and Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty,” a resource created by Psychology Tools and available in 40 different languages including Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian. The guides, available as PDFs, also include exercises and worksheets that may be helpful to students experiencing anxiety and worry.
Offer care and compassion to yourself and to those around you. It is natural to struggle when times are uncertain. Worry and anxiety are completely natural reactions to ambiguous and unpredictable situations.
Establish a routine that creates balance in your life. Routine gives your day structure. Have set times for waking up, getting dressed, eating, working, relaxing, and going to bed. Continue (or start) to do activities that give you feelings of pleasure, achievement, and closeness with others.
Stay physically active. Exercise promotes health, boosts mood, and provides a break from stress. If you’re in Baltimore, explore the options at O’Connor Rec Center (Homewood) and the Cooley Center (East Baltimore). Additionally, both the Calm app and the TimelyMD platform offer a wide variety of movement and exercise classes.
Stay mentally active. Trying something new can keep you mentally stimulated and reduce boredom, fatigue, and restlessness. Give your brain something to do besides worrying.
Practice identifying whether your worry is real problem worry, or hypothetical worry. Mental health professionals often distinguish between worries concerning real problems versus hypothetical problems. Real problem worries are actual problems that affect you right now. Common examples in this moment might be “I can’t afford to pay this utility bill” or “My roommate is angry with me.” Hypothetical problems are about things that do not exist, but which might happen in the future. Thinking about worst-case scenarios is sometimes called catastrophizing, and it can make you feel demoralized, upset, or exhausted. Common examples for an international student in this moment might be “What if I can never go home again?” or “If my studies are interrupted, I’ll never be successful.” If you’re experiencing hypothetical worry, remind yourself that your mind is focusing on a problem that it cannot solve right now, and find ways to let the worry go and focus on something else.
Notice and limit things that provoke worry. If the news or social media heightens your anxiety, try to limit your intake to no more than 30 minutes per day and stick to reliable news sources. If there are other activities that make you anxious, try to limit or avoid them, too.
Practice postponing your worry. Worry is insistent. It can make you feel as though you have to engage with it right now. But you can experiment with postponing hypothetical worry, and many people find that this allows them to have a different relationship with their concerns. Deliberately set aside time each day to let yourself worry (e.g. 30 minutes at the end of each day). It can feel odd to do at first, but it means that for the other 23.5 hours in the day you try to let go of the worry until you get to your “worry time.” This practice can help you to focus on things you enjoy, like work and hobbies. It also promotes restful, restorative sleep.
Practice gratitude. This idea can seem counterintuitive at such a tough time, but at the end of each day, make a short list of things for which you are thankful. You can write it down in a journal, or use the gratitude journal function on your Calm app. Be specific, and try to find new ones each day. This practice will help you connect better with your moments of joy and pleasure, even during periods of uncertainty.