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November YFCS Blog: The Importance of Self-Care During Difficult and Uncertain Times

The Youth, Family, and Community Sciences graduate program publishes a monthly blog written by students and alumni sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the field of family science. In the November blog post, Niambi Ivery shares key takeaways to prioritize and balance self-care during uncertain times like COVID-19, racial tensions, elections and more. 

Are you worn out just hearing the phrase “we are facing unprecedented times”? Me too! The term is so ominous and creates angst in me. From the Coronavirus pandemic and racial tensions to virtual/remote learning and the 2020 election process…coupled with everyday life and a fair share of loss — many of us feel that 2020 has run its course and overstayed its welcome.  

Niambi Ivery pictured with glasses on.
Niambi Ivery.

So what now? Well, there is still more 2020 to go and the reality is this is life…at times it has been extreme, difficult, and uncertain, but it is life nonetheless.  

So how do we find balance and center self-care during times like these?

Well, first we must acknowledge that self-care is necessary, it isn’t a selfish luxury, but instead a lifesaving necessity. Often when we hear the term “self-care” we think of spa days and lighting candles, while those can be beneficial self-care practices, self-care encompasses so much more. Self-care is the act of filling and refilling your cup. A full cup allows you to share your happiness and energy with those around you. Self-care can include breathing exercises, a morning walk to start the day, an afternoon nap, or making your favorite meal when you are experiencing tense moments in life. Self-care can be declining an engagement, taking an extra-long hot shower, starting a new hobby (I became a plant mom during quarantine) and lastly, leaning into your support system (your village) — you don’t have to do this alone.  

Self-care is centering your needs and attending to them and it requires self-awareness. In order to determine what you need in any moment of your life, you must first be able to tune in and assess what is going on. Identify when you may be feeling anxious, overwhelmed, down, or uncertain and become familiar with how these things show up in your body. Does your stomach begin to ache, do you find yourself becoming impatient, do your palms get sweaty? These are all indicators that WE need attention and that we need to take some self-care action. 

Next, it is important to extend grace towards ourselves and those around us. In difficult and uncertain times, especially times that last over an extended period of time, we can begin to feel out of control and begin grabbing for and holding on to whatever control we can. That can manifest itself in ways like having limited patience with ourselves and others or getting frustrated when answers are not readily available. This is where grace can come in and turn things around. I like to say we should act from a “benefit of the doubt” kind of space whenever possible. Believe that you are doing your best given the current circumstances and so are the people around you. If either of you could do better, respond quicker, and/or differently, you would.

For most of us, the Coronavirus pandemic started in mid-March and here we are in mid-November, we have been at this thing for eight months. We must maintain perspective and decide which perspective we will choose! We faced school ending unexpectedly, courses resuming remotely, the holidays are quickly approaching and soon it will be a new year, but the common thread is that WE HAVE GOTTEN THROUGH. It may not look how we would have liked, but we did it, and keeping that perspective helps when angst and tension try to creep in. 

So here are a few self-care takeaways as you continue to move forward…

  1. Self-care is NOT selfish…it’s selfless!
  2. You cannot give what you do not have (Fill up your cup.)
  3. Extend GRACE…to yourself and others! 
  4. You can only do what you can do (Say “yes” when you can, say “no” when you can’t.)
  5. Keep your head to the sky…Keep pressing forward but rest when you need to! 


Breathing Exercise

This post was originally published in Online and Distance Education News.