Self Care & QPOC Students

Academia can be a very complicated thing for many people, but especially for QPOC. The influx of new knowledge and ideas can help grow and shape communities. Unfortunately, QPOC students can often feel that their needs are not being met, or that they are being asked to deny certain parts of themselves in order to succeed. Often many of these institutions can replicate and emulate systems of oppression through their policies, and structures. That is why many marginalized communities came together to create spaces, in forms such as HBCUs and Women’s Colleges and Universities, where we can expand our knowledge but leave behind many oppressive policies and structures.

It can be easy for QPOC in academia to begin to determine their worth based on how well they are able to exist in, achieve, and meet the demands of these spaces. They are often expected to give all of themselves, while forsaking self-care, family and friends, and community in order to achieve. It is important to remember that our worth, our value, and the light and power within us is not determined by how much of ourselves we give up; that we can succeed, and even thrive in these spaces without having to wear ourselves out. Not existing in these spaces as oppressors expect us to is not a sign of weakness or fault, it is a sign of power — even our presence in many of these spaces is revolutionary.

So, in order to support QPOC students in our communities maintain the light and power within them during the time they spend in academia, we have gathered this list of resources. This is not by any means an exhaustive list. It is a starting point and a place for us to begin to think critically about QPOC self-care in academia.

Don’t Hurt Yourself: A Survival Guide for Graduate Students of Color in Their First Year.

This article by Shaunda Brown talks about the needs of graduate students of color and some ways to practice self-care during a time where many people, especially POC, feel as though there is not the time, energy, or ability to look after your personal well-being.

Self-care List: How to take care of yourself while learning about oppression (with unaware people)

This list by Fabian Romero has shown up in our blog before. It’s a great resource to learn about some ways to practice self-care when you are around people with little-to-no world analysis.

Self-care Tips for Radical Social Media Users

While this list by Dom Chatterjee is not specifically about students, it does offer some pretty great ideas around social media. At a time where study groups, professors, and classmates use Facebook and other social media sites to stay in contact and share class information, it can be difficult to try to disconnect from the internet. While the internet can be a place of recuperative care for some, it can also be a place of violence and trauma for QPOC. It’s important that we be able to participate within these spaces while practicing self-care and minimizing the amount of violence you experience online.

Saving Your Grades from a Mental Health Crisis

This post is not specifically about POC, but can help some people know where to start when experiencing a mental health crisis and worried about trying to maintain their grades.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s important to recognize that your self-care and wellbeing are important. Let’s make time to allow ourselves to heal from the spaces we occupy.

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Dealing With Allergies

It’s almost that time of year again, where the leaves begin to change color, the weather gets colder, and where fall allergies come back to haunt us. Some people spend all year waiting and wishing for this time of year, while others look to this time of year with displeasure. I think we can all agree that allergies are not fun. They can give you headaches, stuffy noses, and make it difficult to breathe, which can complicate existing conditions. Studies have shown that POC are not only at higher risk for having conditions that lead to difficult breathing such as asthma and COPD, but that those chances are increasing. It’s important to know how we might reduce the effects allergies have on us so that we do not complicate existing conditions and so that we can live more comfortably.

Here are some things you can do this season to help reduce the effect these allergens have on you. These things can be done year-round to help with other seasonal allergies as well.

Know what you are allergic to:

The first place to start is to know what allergies are affecting you. Some allergens are seasonal, some are year round. It’s a good idea to know what is in the air and what you are sensitive to. Of course, there are always outliers, but a quick breakdown looks something like this: trees tend to be spring, grasses in the summer, weeds in the fall, and mold is pretty much all year. But as leaves fall and decompose, the amount of mold in the air increases. Other year-round allergies can be caused by dust mites, pets, and bugs.

By knowing what you are allergic to, we can better focus on what might help alleviate your symptoms. First, recognize when you are experiencing the worst allergies. Then, you can check local news sources to see what allergens are particularly high at that time or if there is a new allergen in the air.

Bed, clothes, and pets:

Change your pillowcase and your bedsheets often! Many places recommend that you change your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week. And if you are someone with particularly strong allergies it might be a good idea to change your pillowcase more often than that, depending on what allergens are around. Think of your bed and pillow as large sponges that hold onto the things they come into contact with. It might be worthwhile to get a pillow cover that will go between your pillow and pillowcase to keep your pillow from absorbing as much while you sleep. If possible don’t hang bedsheets and pillowcases outside to dry where they will be covered in allergens.

Take off clothes you wore outside and, if possible, rinse your body or shower before laying in bed. This will help remove some of the allergens off your skin and ensure that you are not transferring those allergens onto your bed from your clothes and body.

As much as we may love sleeping next to our fur friends, their fur is like an allergen magnet. If we take our pets outside and they run around, then come in and jump on the bed, they are covering your bed in not just allergens, but all types of things they might have picked up outside. It may not be possible or recommended to wash your pets too often, but it might be a good idea to give your pet a quick brushing after coming home from being outside, just to knock off all the things that might be stuck in their fur. By keeping our beds as allergen-free as possible, we allow our bodies to take better advantage of the time we are asleep or resting.

Food:

It is important when we are talking about allergies that we also talk about food. There are some foods that can increase your bodies response to allergens such as processed sugar, dairy products, gluten, and trans fats/partially hydrogenated oils. Many people think that if they are not feeling discomfort after eating these items then that means that they do not have an allergy or reaction to these foods. But often times these foods can cause slight inflammation within the body, that can be exacerbated and be attributed to other allergens. It may be a good idea when trying to look at reducing symptoms of allergies to also look into the types of foods that you are eating.

There are some foods that might help with relieving allergies.

Local honey and bee pollen can help your body build up immunities and may reduce your reaction to local allergens. You can use honey as a sweetener, and bee pollen can be added to smoothies or shakes. Be aware that if you have severe allergies, eating honey and bee pollen can cause you to have an allergic reaction. Also, people who are pregnant, or breastfeeding, should not consume bee pollen, and children under the age of 1 should not be given honey. It is best to check with your local healer or health care provider beforehand and to begin with a small amount first.

Peppers, onions, and garlic can help you open the sinuses and provide some relief from symptoms. Garlic and peppers especially have been shown to assist in relieving symptoms of allergies. And foods high in Vitamin C, such as peppers, pineapple, and kiwi, can help your body to better deal with allergies.

These are just a few things that we can do to help alleviate some allergies. Hopefully, these things will help you! Do you have any suggestions about how to help with allergies? Let us know! To read more content like this, and to hear about what we are doing follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

On being a QPOC in gaming spaces

I remember being a kid and playing the Legend of Zelda for the first time. I remember sitting by and watching my cousins beat the final boss in Super Metroid and the feeling of my heart racing in my chest as we made the race against time to exit the planet. I remember the shock and joy I felt when, after escaping the planet, I learned that Samus was a woman. I used to beg my mom while in line at the store to buy me the newest pack of Pokemon cards, and the feeling I had when I got my first holographic card. The first boy I ever kissed was the same boy I used to trade Pokemon cards with at summer camp. I cried for a full day after my mom told me that she wouldn’t buy me the new Gameboy color. I remember my first Dungeons and Dragons campaign, how I was told I could be anyone I wanted.

And I remember the point at which I decided that I didn’t want to play as a white person anymore. When I began to consciously see people who looked like me be powerful, save kingdoms and fight monsters. Being a person of color in these spaces isn’t easy. My friends, who were so willing to accept me for my sexuality, my interests, my uniqueness, those same friends who, when I came out to them, didn’t bat an eyelash, had such a hard time seeing me and accepting me as a person of color. It wasn’t that they didn’t see me as brown, but they were uncomfortable acknowledging my experiences as a person of color in the real world. To them, characters in video games, movies, and books were white because it was “easier” for people to insert themselves over those characters. And my family, to them, things like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings were white people things. To them my interests in these things were a sign that I was losing touch with my culture, or that I was “becoming white.”

Over the years I have found these spaces to be both places of great healing, where I can be around creative, fun, awesome people, and also places of pain, where I rarely if ever see people that look like me. Tabletop games like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons let me not only create playable characters who look like me, but who are powerful and strong. By playing these characters, who defeat giants and save kingdoms, I am reminded me of my own power. I may not be able to cast fire bolt at my enemies or thunder wave people out of the way, but the people in power and the system itself have done everything in their power to bring me down. But they can’t.  

And the idea that I can’t like these things without losing my POC-ness, as though the melanin in my skin fades with each episode of Star Trek, is not only untrue, it’s insulting. I still face racism and violence, regardless of the interests I have.

How do we navigate these spaces? For me, the answer is the same as it is for any other space. Be critical of the things you enjoy. Make sure you hold creators and community members accountable for the things they do and say. Find creators and community members that have already done the work to be better people. Stop accepting mediocrity. For a long time, I told myself “At least this game doesn’t do ____” or “ At least this is better than ____.” As people of color, we often look at people, entertainment, and media and celebrate that “At least this isn’t completely horrible,” When we should be thinking “let’s stop celebrating mediocrity and start demanding excellence!”

Let’s come together to embrace our QTPOC nerds, geeks, and gamers. Let’s create spaces for our community members to come together and be who they are!