Your Winter Health Message: 6 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During Finals and Winter Break

Make sure you know about ways you can take care of yourself during finals and winter break, as well as the Columbia Health resources available to support your health and well-being throughout.

Melanie J. Bernitz, M.D., M.P.H.  Senior Vice President, Columbia Health and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine) 
December 06, 2022

Winter recess and holiday gatherings will soon be upon us even as multiple respiratory viruses including COVID-19, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are co-circulating at higher than usual levels across the country.  

Take care of yourself by:

1. Taking a break

Though this time of year tends to be busy with personal and academic demands, penciling in time for breaks can help you better cope with stress and give you a moment to recharge before moving on to the next task.  

2. Prioritizing rest and meals

Getting enough quality sleep, the type that leaves you feeling rested when you wake up, is a key component to academic performance (among other parts of life). Additionally, eating balanced meals that fuel your body are key to maintaining energy levels.

Struggling to juggle academic responsibilities with sleep, meals, and breaks? The 1440 worksheet or virtual drop-in hours with Alice! Health Promotion are available to help you balance and prioritize your schedule. 

3. Talking to someone

If you feel overwhelmed, you might consider asking a classmate, faculty member, adviser, or a Columbia Health provider to lend an ear – we’re here to help each other. Check out virtual drop-in with an Alice! Health Promotion specialist, Wellness Coaching, urgent mental health concerns drop-in and problem-solving/coping skills drop-in with a CPS provider, or free online resources for coping with distress. 

4. Getting the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster

In light of holiday gatherings and increased time indoors due to cold weather, cases of flu and COVID-19 are expected to rise. If you haven’t yet, get the flu vaccine (flu season typically runs from November to May) and a bivalent COVID-19 booster from a nearby pharmacy, city-run vaccination center, or at Columbia Health (limited availability).

5. Continue practicing essential prevention hygiene, especially during travel and holiday gatherings

Wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face, cough/sneeze into your elbow, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. Wearing a face covering effectively prevents transmission of the various respiratory viruses currently circulating. We encourage you to wear one when traveling or in crowded indoor space to ensure your safety, and always respect others’ choices regarding face covering.

Traveling? Make sure you have all travel-related needs and resources (e.g. medications, vaccinations, health insurance, etc.). It’s a good idea to take a COVID-19 test prior to traveling or participating in indoor gatherings, and upon your return.

6. Getting help when you need it

In New York:
Columbia Health is open through most of winter break. Please check for up-to-date schedules or to make an appointment. 24/7 phone support is also available for urgent concerns, even during holidays:

Wherever you are in the U.S. or across the globe:
All full-time students, international students, and students on the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan have support across the U.S. and around the world. Check out the Coverage While Traveling page for more details.

Thank you for the steps you continue to take to keep yourselves and our community safe and healthy. We wish everyone continued success at the close of the fall term and a safe and healthy winter season. 

Message adapted from an email sent by Dr. Melanie Bernitz to the Columbia student body on Monday, December 5, 2022.