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Tips for Social Distance for Graduate Students

Tips for Social Distancing: Graduate Student Version

What is social distancing? 

Social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease. This means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (~6 feet) from others when possible. Social distancing is an effective way to limit the spread of the virus, as the virus spreads through aerosol droplets that can only travel ~6 feet. This is especially important with people who have had different environments of exposure than yourself.

But social distancing does NOT mean social isolation. Practice distant socializing and stay connected with those who are important to you. Below are some tips for maintaining your wellbeing during periods of social distancing:

Working from home: 

  • Get dressed and stick with your routines. Do the things you normally do and plan out your day deliberately.
  • Try to have separate “work” and “life” spaces.
  • Take lots of breaks to stretch,
  • Take lots of breaks to stretch, breathe, or meditate.
  • Manage expectations and be kind to yourself! It’s likely that you won’t be as productive as usual, so make sure you set reasonable expectations for yourself and others.
  • See here for more WFH tips and check out this scientist’s guide to COVID-19.

Staying connected: 

  • Make dates to have actual conversations online. Video call with friends and family. Talk with people you trust about how you are feeling.

Staying active: 

  • Take a walk outside (but pay attention to the 6-feet rule).
  • Go on a hike!
  • Do a home workout video.

Trying new things: 

  • Try new recipes! Here are some ideas for pantry staple meals.

Fighting boredom: 

  • Read a book (just for fun!)
  • Missing the night life? Check out online concerts!
  • Want to nerd out? Download Steam and play some video games on your computer! Bonus points for playing online with friends and staying connected!
  • Consider keeping a journal to write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.
  • Vanderbilt students also get free access to the NYTimes and its online games.

Making a difference: 

  • Select “Other” and enter “Graduate Student Council” in #1, select “Family member interested in providing childcare/babysitting” in #2, provide your own contact information in both #3 and #4.
  • Consider donating or volunteering with the Second Harvest Food Bank to help at-risk families during school closures.
  • Think of others. Sign up HERE to share resources with your fellow students, neighbors, and friends who might need assistance with obtaining food and housing.

Taking care of your mental health:

  • Create a sense of safety for yourself through a prevention approach. 
  • Keep your hands clean using soap and water or hand sanitizer containing > 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Choose a hands-free greeting instead of a handshake.
  • Engage in self-care. 
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Relax your body often—take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  • Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do activities you enjoy.
  • Reduce media exposure if you find yourself on information overload which can trigger anxiety. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Think of others, stay connected with people, and keep in touch with your networks. Let people in your support system know if you need help.
  • Resist the stigma. Try to avoid stigmatizing yourself or others who may get sick. Remember that we are all going through this together, and it’s important to practice kindness.
  • Remain reality-based using trusted sources of accurate, up-to-date information such as:
  • Check in with your feelings and thoughts. Recognize that it’s normal to have an emotional response, and your feelings might be typical reactions to a stressful situation. Check out the following resources for more advice on coping with social distancing and COVID-19:
  • Reach out if you need help; the following campus resources are available for your mental health needs:


If you feel sick, follow established health guidelines. Finally, be sure to stay up to date with University announcements regarding COVID-19 HERE.