Identity plays an integral role in our health and wellness as we navigate the world as individuals. Within their personal lives, community members may be caretakers, live with mental and/or chronic illnesses, or maybe managing situations that may exacerbate their stress levels. These factors may contribute negatively to the health and wellness of community members. In addition, members of underrepresented communities are more likely to experience stress and illness due to the various forms of social stratification. Due to these playing a role in determinants of health several of our self-care, health, and wellness advocacy series and programs are population-specific.
Clear Mind | Calm Heart: Self-Care Series
The Clear Mind | Calm Heart Self-Care Series offers us the opportunity to take well-needed breaks through various activities (e.g. meditation, self-care, arts and crafts, massages, etc.) designed to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and increase dopamine levels. All of us experience stress at some point in our lives. Did you know that stress can actually kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain? In fact, chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory retention and learning. What can you do? Studies show that breaks are an essential part of learning. High levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly. Stress can have negative effects on the body and have serious health consequences, such as increasing the chances of serious chronic health conditions such as heart disease, anxiety, and depression. However, there are actions we can take as individuals to relieve stress. Breaks keep our brains healthy and play a key role in improving cognitive abilities such as reading comprehension and divergent thinking (being able to generate and make sense of new ideas). We can all benefit from using unstructured breaks. Take a break! It’s on us.
Pawsitive Bodies & Minds (PBM): Health
Pawsitive Bodies & Minds was inspired by the field of medical sociology, which provides an analytical framework for understanding the social contexts of health, illness, and health care. Big research areas in the field include the subjective experience of health and illness, political, economic, and environmental circumstances fostering ill health; and societal forces constraining the medical care system and individuals’ responses to illness. Pawsitive Bodies & Minds was created to engage community members whose interests include medicine, health, and wellness. The Pawsitive Bodies & Minds series is composed of multidisciplinary programming, highlighting the intersections between cross-cultural diversity, identity, health, medicine, and medical research. The goal of Pawsitive Bodies & Minds is for community members to think critically on the important role that power privilege, oppression, and identity play in our mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as our day-to-day relationships with medical health professionals and experiences with chronic illness. Those who are interested in entering fields related to health, health administration, counseling, or medicine are highly encouraged to attend.
[Re]fresh Fridays: Personal-Care and Wellness Series
This monthly program is designed to provide students, faculty, and staff with an opportunity to refresh, renew, and connect through culturally responsive self-care and wellness activities. This series is hosted by UMBC community members and beyond.
Retriever Immigrants United (RIU): Immigrant Self-Care and Advocacy Discussion Group
Originally a social action and service student organization, Retriever Immigrants United (RIU) transitioned to our department. RIU is now a self-care and advocacy discussion-based program that centers on the experiences of UMBC undergraduate students, graduate students, and staff who identify as first, 1.5, or second-generation immigrants regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality, and/or citizenship status.* This semi-structured, topic-based program discusses the diverse immigrant experience with a focus on the role identity plays on intersectionality, community building, and social justice, while also providing a safe/brave space for UMBC immigrant community members to share their feelings, experiences, and engage in vulnerable dialogue with other community members. Sessions may include ice-breaker activities and an opportunity to listen to how our department can better support and empower the wider immigrant community.
*Please note that this group centers on immigrants and on the immigrant experience. This is subject to change according to attendees and potential future event opportunities and initiatives for allies. For clarification on the language used, please refer to the definitions below:
- First-generation immigrant: Immigrants who were born outside the United States and have immigrated sometime within their lifetime.
- 1.5-generation immigrant: Can also self-identify as a first-generation immigrant. One-and-a-half-generation immigrants are defined as an immigrant who is born outside the United States but who immigrated as a minor. In some cases, this occurs at an early enough age that they become assimilated enough to the dominant culture making it difficult to distinguish them from first or second-generation immigrants.
- Second-generation immigrant: Natural born citizens of the United States and the children of first-generation immigrants. May also identify as first-generation American.
SistaCare: Black Women’s Discussion Group
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
SistaCare is a self-care and a community-building group that centers undergraduate and graduate students who identify as Black/Africana women (e.g. transgender, cisgender) and femmes, regardless of their gender expression.* The opening quote, penned by writer Audre Lorde in 1988, illuminates the necessity of Black women to intentionally cultivate, grow, and maintain practices of self-care as both a personal and political act. In doing so, we directly challenge systems of oppression that seek to dehumanize and devalue Black Women.
*Please note that this group centers the named population. This is subject to change according to attendees and potential future event opportunities and initiatives. For clarification on the language used, please refer to the definitions below:
- Transgender: Also “trans” people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from social expectations for the gender that they were assigned at birth. One must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (e.g. genitals, chromosomes, secondary sexual characteristics.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing, however, this is inaccurate. For example, someone who identifies as a trans man would have been assigned female at birth but identify as a man.
- Cisgender: Also “cis” refers to people whose sex and gender are congruent by predominant cultural standards: women who have female sexual characteristics, men who have male sexual characteristics. This term was created to challenge the privileging of such people relative to those who are transgender. People who are not transgender and who have only ever experienced their subconscious and sexually-specific physical characteristics as being aligned
- Femme: A descriptor for a queer person who presents and acts in a traditionally feminine manner. This person may or may not identify themselves within the gender binary.
- Gender expression: An expression of one’s own gender or gender identity. This can include but is not limited to, personality traits, behaviors, appearance, mannerisms, interests, hobbies, values, etc. Gender can be expressed in many forms and can also be culturally specific. For example, long hair may be appropriate for men of specific cultures but not all of them.