Start the Semester Strong

Student in mask in sunshine

The start of the spring semester is a great time to "reset" and create new practices and routines to help support your well-being and academic success.

Consider the following tips to help you thrive – and not just survive – at Cornell. Many of the resources below have online opportunities you can participate in, even from your room.

And remember, if you ever find yourself needing support, help is available.

1. Create a time management strategy

If you need help figuring out what works best for you, meet with the staff at the Learning Strategies Center. This excellent resource can help you become more organized and efficient. 

2. Prioritize self-care

Maintain and build on your natural resilience by prioritizing self-care: nourish yourself with healthy food, get good sleep, move your body, and do something you enjoy every day. Resilience helps us bounce back from adversity, challenge, and setbacks. Learn more on our Building Resilience page.

3. Make time for sleep

When we’re busy, it can be tempting to skimp on sleep. But a lack of sleep can increase anxiety, irritability, inability to concentrate, and depression. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is one of the most important things you can do to protect your mental health and improve your academic performance. Learn about ways to improve your “sleep hygiene” on our Sleep page

4. Refuse to play the stress game

Sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor, and compete with each other about who’s more stressed. Remember that stress diminishes your performance level and ability to cope with the regular ups and downs of life. For more, check out our Stress Management page.

5. Get some exercise

Exercise directly affects the brain, and is a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health. In the short-term, exercise can improve our mood by stimulating the body’s feel-good hormones. Recent research shows that regular exercise can be highly effective at reducing depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Check out opportunities through Cornell Recreational Services, or try a free virtual fitness class from Cornell’s Fitness Centers.

6. Connect with others

Cultivating social connections – and avoiding social isolation – is one of the best ways to build resilience and thrive at Cornell. Positive peer relationships and supportive interaction with family, faculty, and staff are known to be important factors in students’ academic performance and emotional well-being. To get started, check out Cornell's diverse student groups, and keep an eye on the Campus Activities website for fun ways to connect online.

7. Learn to meditate

Meditation has numerous proven mental health benefits, including relaxation, stress management, and improved sense of well-being. You can learn to meditate through Cornell's free Let's Meditate program. Other resources for guided meditation practice can be found on our Meditation page.

8. Get out in nature

Research shows that spending time in nature can have real, tangible benefits for your health and well-being, including reducing stress, boosting your mood, and improving cognitive functioning. Find ways to explore nature right on campus at Nature RX @Cornell.  

9. Find meaning

Recent studies show that cultivating a sense of meaning in your life can contribute more to positive mental health than pursuing happiness. Finding one’s own definition of “meaning” is very personal, but two great places to start are 1) to notice what you appreciate and express gratitude; and 2) share a talent or strength. The Cornell Public Service Center and Cornell United Religious Work are two campus resources that can help you explore and find what is most meaningful to you.

10. Learn to ask for help

If you’re struggling – or just feel like you could benefit from talking to someone – support is available. Here are some places to start:

  • Call us 24/7 (607-255-5155) to consult with Cornell Health. When we're closed, you can speak with a mental health professional from our on-call service, ProtoCall.
  • Drop in to an online "Let's Talk" session to speak informally with a Cornell Health counselor. It's free, confidential, and available daily Monday–Friday. 
  • Check out our weekly CAPS-led workshops on topics like managing anxiety, perfectionism, and self-compassion.
  • Explore our group counseling and individual counseling options.
  • Those living in university housing can connect with your residential staff for support.
  • Speak with your academic advisors or professors if you need extra help, or anticipate difficulty meeting deadlines.
  • 24/7 support is also available through these local and national hotlines and text lines, with options especially for students of Color and LGBTQ students.

More resources for emotional, academic, and social support are available on the Mental Health at Cornell website.