It goes without saying that we’ve all been through a lot over the past two years. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, focus on racial injustice, civil unrest, economic and political uncertainty, it’s safe to say that we’ve been going through it. Surviving the past 9257299 . . oh, actually it’s only been 11, months means you’ve been met with grief, isolation, neglect, fear, and rage all while being courageous, resourceful, and hopeful (most of the time, anyway). Now that the year is wrapping up and the holidays approach, it is time to tune in and listen to what your body and your mind need. As sexual wellness educators, we want to encourage you to give yourself a little bit more tender, loving care this season. You deserve it.
Here are 5 areas of your life that we bet could use a little bit more TLC.
Yes, we mean sex. The pandemic may have upended your daily routines, lifestyle, and future but it doesn’t have to completely change your sex life. You are still deserving of sexual experiences that lead to self-discovery, joy, and pleasure. In some ways safer sex in the era of COVID-19 looks a lot like it did before:
- Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections
- Practicing affirmative consent
- Setting and respecting sexual boundaries
- Having a birth control plan and back-up plan
- Cleaning your toys
The only difference is now, your safer sex plan should also include:
- Avoiding sex if you or your partner(s) are not feeling well
- Getting a COVID-19 RT-PCR Test if you have exposure concerns.
- Having a mask and hand sanitizer handy
- Stocking up on a 3-month supply of birth control or switching to a mail-order service
- Socially-distant sex like phone or video sex, and solo or mutual masturbation.
Because it’s still 2020 we have to say it: You are your safest sex partner.
You don’t have to let social distancing take away from the important relationships in your life. You just have to reimagine what quality time looks and feels like from your community and loved ones. Decide on what social support looks like for you in this season. Has it been a while since you hopped on a video call with your close friends? Planned and went on a quarantine-friendly date? Checked in on your elders? Had quality “me time”? Make it a priority to nurture the relationships you have in your life.
Remember, relationships evolve and nurturing them might look different over time.
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been traumatic and it is getting more difficult to cope by the day — with short winter days, pandemic fatigue, and possibly spending holidays apart from loved ones. Be gentle with yourself and don’t hesitate to take the extra step to take care of you. That might look like participating in online support groups or getting professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. Know that you don’t have to process this alone and that there is free online and phone support available to you. If you haven’t taken a social media break yet (especially post-election), now is the time. You don’t necessarily need another news update to get through today or tomorrow. It’s important that you have a daily grounding routine (and stick to it!) and make space to process what is happening.
Remember, your friends are not your therapists.
This may be the most we’ve heard the words “healthcare” since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. You may have been spending considerable amounts of time trying to stay healthy this year, whether that be washing your hands, taking a daily multivitamin, or using the symptom checker on your phone. While we are all doing the best we can, it is still very important that we keep up our healthcare routines.
- Don’t skip needed health screenings or appointments with your primary care physician — many providers are offering telehealth visits.
- If you’re a student, get familiar with the hours and location of your campus center and the services they offer, it’s always great to be prepared before you get sick.
- Make a list of your health history, allergies, prescription drugs, and emergency contacts.
- Get your Comfort Kit together in case you get under-the-weather. Items in your kit may include soft tissues, vapor rub, cough drops, and throat lozenges, tea, a thermometer, hold/cold packs, acetaminophen, cough syrup. Pro tip: No need to spend all your money on a brand name cough syrup – the active ingredients are the same and the prices are better for your budget.
- If you don’t have health insurance, consider enrolling in a 2021 Marketplace plan. Open enrollment ends Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
This section is especially written for Black women (but we think it’s good advice for all humans): As Black women, we know the term “self-care” is everywhere you turn these days, but it’s not a cliche— having the audacity to build a self-care routine practice and stick with it is a life’s work. Everyone has something different that makes them feel like they are coming home to their self — we all need to figure out what that is for us. When Black women practice self-care we are unapologetically putting our health first and proclaiming that we unapologetically love ourselves. There are many practices you can add to a self-care routine but here are a few you can try:
- Listen to meditation for Black women and girls, or a meditation based on your mood. We really love the Shine App!
- Make a playlist inspired by your most joyous or relaxed day. Think of the theme songs and anthems for that day, and get to listening.
- Say no. Drawing boundaries and being realistic about your capacity to take on emotional and physical work is necessary to take care of yourself.
- Explore masturbation. It is a great self-care practice for your overall sexual wellness and allows you to get in tune with yourself, explore your body, and unlock new possibilities for pleasure.
- Move your body. Whether that means a HIIT workout, a walk around your neighborhood, or a solo dance party to Megan Thee Stallion. Moving our bodies in a way that is joyous and comfortable is really good for our spirits.
We hope these pointers and reminders are helpful, and wish you a healthy and peaceful holiday season!
About the Authors
Kimberly Huggins, LSW, MPH, MEd, and Brittany Brathwaite, MSW, MPH, are the Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Kimbritive, a New York-based company focused on creating real, empowering conversations and sexual wellness workshops for Black women and girls. Kimberly is a licensed social worker and human sexuality educator who is passionate about reproductive health and the emotional wellbeing for people living with HIV and stigmatized health conditions. Brittany is a reproductive justice activist, youth worker and community accountable scholar with a deep commitment to supporting the leadership, organizing, and healing of girls of color.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.