‘Small steps’ key to self-care for diverse communities


Exercising, getting your nails done, and eating comfort foods are quick and common self-care habits that can temporarily relieve stress. However, these habits alone may not be sustainable or accessible for everyone who wants to manage their stress over the long term.

Portia A. Jackson Preston, assistant professor of public health at Cal State Fullerton, studies stress management and wellness practices for various populations. She has published research on practices that promote the well-being of black women and public health workers. She has also presented two TEDx talks on topics including self-care, gardening, and resilience.

Self-care should also involve nurturing work that goes beyond the superficial layer. A sustainable self-care and wellness plan that can effectively manage stress must respect personal experiences and individual backgrounds, says Jackson Preston.

“It’s really about teaching people systems that are relevant to their background and that embrace their culture rather than shaming it,” Jackson Preston explained.

Jackson Preston has created a Wellness Journey Framework that provides starting points for developing a personalized wellness plan. She recently discussed what sustainable self-care can look like, especially for people from historically underrepresented groups.

Step One: Start Small

In Jackson Preston’s research, study participants said introspection, exploration, and reconnection were among the most helpful facets of their self-care journeys. Jackson Preston says it’s important to take time and learn what holistic activities your body and mind respond to.

“You don’t have to look like you’re doing it perfectly,” says Jackson Preston. “As a person with a disease, I am aware of my limits. My physical well-being is different from that of others.

At first, small but effective actions might include turning off or silencing your phone for two minutes, drinking a cup of water, and noticing the color of the sky.

“Small steps, small steps,” Jackson Preston said. “I’m not trying to introduce rituals that take you out of your life. It is an intentional journey. I want people to know that being messy and unorganized is not only important, but also necessary.

Step Two: Customize Your Plan

Jackson Preston says practicing wellness doesn’t require being rich, having lots of extra time, or learning unfamiliar new age rituals. Everyone’s journey to wellness should be unique and feel unique, says Jackson Preston.

“Maybe I have these cultural foods that really mean a lot to me because they remind me of family ties, but how often I eat them, how much I eat them or what habits we have are really doesn’t serve my highest good,” says Jackson Preston.

Jackson Preston encourages creating a wellness plan that incorporates meaningful traditions. It is about prioritizing and valuing what matters most to the individual.

“For example, my mother and I would like to talk every day, but I also have so many things to do.” said Jackson Preston. “I told her, ‘Call anytime. I’ll answer the phone if I can. But, I’ll try to make sure that at least once a week we have a conversation where she can talk about whatever. she wants as long as she wants, and I won’t interrupt her. It’s been lasting.

Third step: taking care of your community starts with yourself

Jackson Preston said many people, such as first-generation college students, are vulnerable to stress when pursuing an education or career because they see it as a pathway to transforming the lives of their entire family.

“It’s a really significant investment of their time and energy,” Jackson Preston said.

Jackson Preston said she promotes self-care as community care, noting that people skilled in self-care can eventually help others take care of themselves and find resources. As someone living with a chronic illness, her goal is to teach others the importance of protecting their health and well-being.

“I think I’m a much kinder teacher now than when I was accessible all the time,” Jackson Preston said. “Now that my students know that they will receive answers within 24 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends, I present myself better. I have a much better understanding of the things they are dealing with during this pandemic.

“My boundaries taught my students that it’s okay to have boundaries,” she says.


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