We’ve had a particularly hectic January and February. Both of us had COVID and have had to step away to address family issues. As faculty who mentor students in professional development, we talk a lot about how important it is to tend to one’s mental health. Anxiety, depression, and other common mental health challenges can be exacerbated by physical symptoms like insomnia, IBS, and more. There’s nothing as humiliating as having to run out on a meeting because your body insists it is time to GO or yawning at an inopportune moment with a university administrator.
We’ve tried to implement a positive environment in our collaborations and workplaces that not only recognizes our individual mental health needs but also encourages our collaborators, managing editors, and others to step away without feelings of guilt. We both know this isn’t a simple process. In fact, women and scholars of color face higher demands on their professional life that can negatively impact their mental health and their physical being. Recovery from the physical and mental toll of daily life can take days, weeks, and months.
These are structural issues that individuals can’t solve alone. But, we aim to create cultures that are more humane than we see modeled in the academic worlds around us.
The most successful strategy we’ve put into place in our work with each other is the “hand-off.” Life happens and when it’s happening a bit too much, we pass work to the other so the one who needs to step away can without second thought or worry about the balls we’re trying to keep in the air.
We also try to inject humor and joy into our day wherever we can. Thus, we bring you 5 Things Keeping Us Sane: the things that we find joy in on a hard day.
If you run into us on Zoom, you’ll see us swilling our vices of choice. Roopika will be drinking a Dunkin (“Dunks” in New England) medium iced coffee with skim milk and caramel swirl, and Jennifer will be drinking a large fountain soda (it’s all about the water in the soda fountain).
Is there anything worse than agenda-free meetings? We had an agenda for our very first meeting about Reviews in Digital Humanities, when it was just the two of us and we weren’t even sure what to put on an agenda yet. Even better: agendas appended to calendar invites. Here’s how to do that in Outlook and Google calendars. (Bonus, add-ons in Google and Outlook calendars will let you create Zoom meeting links straight from your calendar. Use it to catch us in all our caffeinated glory.)
Stuck in a boring meeting you aren’t running? That’s what the group text was invented for. Just make sure you close the chat window before sharing your screen. Of course, we are professionals who have never ever accidentally shared a screen with the backchannel open on it. Nope.
Jennifer clued Roopika into LilaLue Sweets, run by Dr. Ashley Bouknight-Claybrooks, who currently serves as the Senior Manager of Professional Development for the American Association for State and Local History. Dr. Bouknight-Claybrooks is also the founder and baker of LilaLue Sweets, a small batch artisanal bakery that honors her grandmother who worked as a cook at the University of South Carolina and sold whiskey on the weekend. LilaLue cakes, cookies, and brownies celebrate that history by incorporating whiskey into every treat. LilaLue delivers locally around Nashville, Tennessee and ships nationally. Their gift certificates make great thank yous too.
We are both voracious readers — trashy romance, murder books, and psychological thrillers are always on tap. Latina writer Isabella Maldonado has an excellent mystery series about FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera that we’ve both read (soon to be a Netflix film starring Jennifer Lopez). Non-fiction makes an appearance as well. If you haven’t checked out All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles, order it now! It’s won a National Book Award and pretty much every major award in U.S. history.
~ Roopika & Jennifer