These days, with many unknowns in the world around us, I’m asked both inside and outside of the exam room, “How can I take care of myself? How do I focus my energy in the right place to prevent illness and stay healthy and well? How can I make a difference in the world around me?”
This fall, there are three things that immediately come to mind: Get your flu shot, register to vote and be kind to yourself.
Number 1: Get Your Flu Shot
A yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step to prevent the flu and its complications, like missed work or school, time out of your busy schedule for clinic visits or more serious consequences like hospitalizations. The fall — preferably before the end of October — is the best time to get a flu shot. It protects you from getting the flu and lessens the severity of symptoms if you get the virus. What’s more, our community as a whole is protected for flu season when more people get vaccinated in the fall. Herd immunity makes it possible for those who are more vulnerable — anyone with chronic illnesses or who are unable to get the vaccine — to get through the flu season with a diminished chance of getting sick. Each year, we at Cornell Health set a goal to vaccinate as many people as we can by the end of the calendar year. This year, we have set our goal to administer 15,000 vaccines by the end of 2019, and as of this week, we have administered over 4,000 vaccines to the Cornell community. Help us meet our goal to protect our whole community this season. The flu shot is free and is offered at several more on-campus clinics this semester. You can also ask for a flu shot at any medical visit at Cornell Health. Protect yourself and those around you by doing your part. Get your flu shot as soon as you can.
Number 2: Register To Vote
If you are eligible to vote in this year’s election on Nov. 5, I strongly encourage you to do it. Voting is a distinct and specific action that you can take to make your voice heard in the local and national political landscape. Many students become eligible to vote while in college, and voting in your first election can be an exciting and energizing experience. Engaging in the political process has long been shown to correlate positively with feelings of personal control and empowerment, self-efficacy and connectedness to one’s community; many people talk about feeling a boost of positivity after voting. In the state of New York, voter registration applications must be received by a Board of Elections location by Wednesday, Oct. 16. Look for the voter registration tables around campus — there is one right by Willard Straight Hall on Ho Plaza — with information, forms and people who can help you register and decide how you will participate this year.
Number 3: Be Kind to Yourself
With how busy our lives can become, it is important to focus on what you need to do to be fully present to your work, to engage with those around you and to care for yourself. Getting enough sleep, adequate nutrition and managing your workload to minimize stress are key factors in giving yourself what you need to be successful. If you have a setback or a stumble, remember that failure is a part of the learning process. If you make a mistake, talk to yourself with the kindness that you would counsel a good friend. Tell yourself that just because you got something wrong does not make you a bad person. We all make it okay to ask for help when we uplift vulnerability as a sign of strength. Know that it is a strength to ask for help, and that the first step in asking for help is recognizing that you need it. Let yourself be vulnerable in front of others. Be kind to yourself when you make the brave choice to be vulnerable with others, and be kind to others when they have the courage to be vulnerable with you.
The choices we make about how to care for ourselves, how we protect ourselves and how we engage with those around us are among the most important determinants of our health and wellbeing. Take a few — maybe three — moments to do something for your health this season. It will pay off in ways that could make a difference in your world and the world around you.
Anne C. Jones ’04, D.O., MPH is director of medical services at Cornell Health. She can be reached at email@example.com.