Self Care After Foster Care by Rachel S.: What does it look like?

Finding ways to take care of yourself amidst the demands and stress of college is very important to success! Rachel S. knows what this is all about...and is not afraid to break it down to you in a honest and real way! Check out Part TWO of Rachel's three part blog series on Self Care After Foster Care!

If you’ve read the first installment of what I’ve begun to endearingly refer to as “that self-care thing”, thanks for sticking around!  If you haven’t – welcome!  You can access my previous post here.  We’ve covered the broad introduction to self-care and why it might be useful for those who have experienced time in the child welfare system.  If you need a refresher, here’s a basic rundown:

  1. Spending time in foster care often generates persisting trauma to mental and emotional wellbeing
  2. Such psychological trauma challenges the ability to transition to a “thrive” mentality, and we are frequently stuck in “survive” mode
  3. These survival instincts create significant barriers to building and maintaining productive habits, and, ultimately, in constructing stable, secure , and prosperous lives
  4. The first step in overcoming these difficulties is to develop successful and consistent self-care practices
  5.  Effective self-care provides the foundation for tending to our basic needs, and empowers us to become the absolute badasses we were born to be

That last bullet point sounds great, right? Kind of like the campaign promises of your favorite politicians – wonderful in theory, but much more difficult to implement practically.  Thankfully for you, I’ve taken it upon myself to become the resident expert.

To establish effective self-care (and achieve our inherent badass potential), we must first break down what self-care looks like, determine whether and to what extent we currently engage in self-care practices, and develop a plan that ultimately leads us to comprehensive,  habitual self-care.  Within this post, we’ll focus on the first portion - what self-care looks like. 

Essentially, our basic needs encompass five main categories; physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and financial.  It’s important that we acknowledge the importance of these areas, and continue to assess and build upon our strength in each.  Also recognize that some practices may help one person and not another – self-care is highly individualized, and we must pay attention to the things that make us feel good, and, ideally, replenished.

Physical Self-Care
Physical self-care can be described as maintaining all aspects of your physical wellbeing, including a balanced diet, physical activity, good sleep, and regular check-ins with your doctor.  Additionally, practices in this area can involve anything that addresses your comfortability within your physical environment. Some examples are listed below.

  • Get physically active: stretch, play a sport, bike, do yoga , walk the mall
  • Meditate
  • Get enough sun (Vitamin D)
  • Take a shower
  • Walk in nature
  • Listen to your body: take a nap when you need one, eat when you’re hungry
  • Take time off work when you’re sick
  • Turn off electronics one hour before bed
  • Watch your caffeine, alcohol, and smoke intake
  • Take your medication as prescribed
  • Wear comfortable clothes that you like, get your hair cut
  • Clean your room or your car, do your dishes and your laundry

Emotional Self-Care
Emotional self-care involves being able identify and communicate your emotions, practicing healthy coping mechanisms, increasing self-compassion, and managing stress (along with many others).  Most individuals who have experienced time in foster care deal with longstanding emotional trauma, and it is important to begin recognize and address emotional triggers, set boundaries with family members and others, allow yourself to feel your emotions without judgement, and reach out for support when you need it.  Commitment to emotional self-care can be as small as naming your feelings out loud, or as significant as attending regular sessions with a trauma-informed mental health counselor.

  • Write your feelings down, journal
  • Let yourself cry
  • Laugh with your friends or watch a comedy
  • Keep a gratitude jar
  • Say “no” to extra responsibilities
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Meditate, practice emotional mindfulness
  • Spend time with people you love
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Compliment yourself, list your strengths

Spiritual Self-Care
Spiritual self-care does not necessarily have religious roots (though it can, if that’s your thing).  Rather, spiritual self-care is about giving recognition to your beliefs and value systems – it’s about “feeding your soul”.  Spiritual self-care can involve helping others, finding and attending groups with like-minded people, connecting with a ‘higher purpose’, listening to or reading inspirational stories, or observing nature.

  • Practice mindfulness – give a focused awareness to your body, thoughts, feelings
  • Go to church, temple, mosque, or any other gathering place that connects you with your spiritual community
  • Attend a poetry slam or open mic night
  • Volunteer or donate to a cause you believe in
  • Write down your values and beliefs

Social Self-Care
Social self-care includes building and allowing yourself to access a network of relationships you can reach out to when you need support.  This means developing connections that create a sense of belonging or community and maintaining (healthy) friendships, (healthy) family bonds, and (healthy) romantic relationships.

  • Call a friend or family member
  • Join an interesting club or support group
  • Attend local MYOI meetings when you can, and connect with other foster youth organizations
  • Make time to see your friends
  • Express to others what they mean to you
  • Go to a local show or event
  • Ask for help
  • Take time for yourself when you need it

Financial Self-Care (also known as practical self-care)
Financial – or practical – self-care involves managing the financial foundation of your life.  This entails being responsible with spending, resolving debt and establishing savings, maintaining income flow (holding down a steady job), paying rent and bills on time, keeping up with insurance (health, vehicle, renters, etc.) and basically making sure that you can afford to do everything else that I’ve listed in this blog thus far.  I would be completely naïve (and wrong) to think that this area of self-care isn’t incredibly challenging – but it is extremely important to develop a solid financial structure, and utilize resources to aid you in this endeavor should you need them.

  • Apply for qualifying scholarships (such as TIP and ETV) and reach out to your college’s financial aid department for other potential awards
  • Set up a savings account
  • Make note of all due dates for bills
  • Communicate with your supervisors in advance if you need time off
  • Enroll for health insurance – check your Medicaid eligibility
  • Create and stick to a budget
  • Keep track of your spending

These examples are by no means exhaustive, but should provide a quick picture of what self-care might look like for you.  Join me on the next and final installment to explore how to assess your current self-care needs and create a plan to make self-care a part of your everyday life.

Stay tuned for segment three of Rachel's Self Care Blog Series!

About Rachel S....

Rachel S. is an Administrative Assistant at the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design and President of the Youth Advisory Board for Our House – a Washtenaw County based nonprofit dedicated to helping young people transition from foster care to adulthood.

Between the 2014 and 2016, Rachel attempted to establish a successful post-secondary education.  It was not until her move to Washtenaw County, and subsequent involvement in the REACH program at Washtenaw Community College, that Rachel was able to link to educational supports specifically geared toward students with a background in foster care.  This holistic support program, as well as connecting to trauma-informed mental health care services, allowed Rachel to build a stable foundation for her educational career and begin to bring her academic goals to fruition.

Rachel is currently a transfer candidate at Washtenaw Community College with plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Wayne State University, and her Master’s degree in Social Work thereafter.  Rachel’s interest areas include child welfare policy and advocacy, as well as program development and analysis.


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