“Take Care of Yourself First. Always.”: Advice from a State Adolescent Health Coordinator
December 17, 2020

Happy holidays #ScreenToInterveneForAYAs blog readers! First and foremost, thank you for your readership this year—we hope you’ve found the posts to be informative and helpful for your work. While thinking about how we wanted to wrap up our blog in 2020, we realized the importance of pausing to promote the value of self-care for our readers. Understanding that we can’t take care of others if we are not well ourselves, the AMCHP team wanted to learn what you do to take care of yourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, to bring your best self to this important work. Tina Palmer, Adolescent Health Coordinator for the state of Iowa, has graciously shared her reflections (below) on the importance of self-care and how she practiced it this year. A million thanks to Tina for sharing her story—we hope you all find some inspiration for yourselves. For additional ideas, check out the Association of State and Territorial Health Official’s self-care strategies and tools for public health professionals.

The year 2020 began as any other. Life was chugging along as usual and I was in the midst of planning graduation for my step-daughter. The typical Iowa graduation open house…food, guests, and pictures galore. The date was set and the invitations were ordered. Spring Break hit and suddenly the first cases of COVID-19 began popping up a little too close to home. And then, March 17th. Restaurants were suddenly closed down, school was put on hold, and gatherings were limited. My work pivoted to temporary telework from home. This will be short-lived, right? We have senior trip in April, and then Prom, Graduation, and then her senior season of softball (we play summer ball in Iowa). And anyone that knows me knows how much I LOVE SOFTBALL! We cannot miss our softball season! There were other family plans happening as well, as my oldest daughter was in the early stages of planning her November wedding. November is forever away, we will be fine then. Certain of it!

I sat in my “home office” every day and tuned in to the Governor’s press conferences for updates. Every. Single. Day. March came and went. Schools remained closed. Senior trip was postponed. Track season cancelled. April came and went. Graduation is virtual with a town parade to celebrate the graduates. A much smaller graduation open house was held. It’s now May. Softball practice should be starting. We will make a repeat appearance at the state tournament this year, so the season has to happen. There is talk that Iowa could be the first state to allow high school sports. There will be new protocols and mitigation strategies, but they will get to play. And that our girls did! In fact, they took every advantage of being able to play their last season together and not only made that repeat appearance to state, but WON! Well, there’s some good news amongst all this chaos.

Chaos. That’s what I call it. Yes, we won the state championship. But what about the rest of my life? I continued to work from home. Loving my commute, but missing the day-to-day interactions with people. I NEED people. Conversations with the dog just don’t quite fill the gap. Those daily press conferences continue, maybe not daily, but I’m still watching. Every. Single. Time. I’m still watching the news. Every. Single. Day. It’s taking a toll.

Here we are in December. The pandemic continues. The wedding happened. Not the way it was originally planned, but still absolutely PERFECT and the bride was absolutely stunning. I might be a bit biased. Work from home continues, but you know what? I don’t have to worry about traffic and winter driving. I am listening to music…without earbuds. I couldn’t do that in my cubicle! Video calls give me the people interaction that I need. I can take a quick break and do some yoga poses to stretch and re-center in the privacy of my living room. I can look out my front window right next to my desk and see the beauty of the bright white snow that fell over the weekend.

I have always been a very optimistic person, but that can be very difficult in the uncertain times that we are living. Seeking the positivity every day has helped. Oh, and so has turning off the news. I don’t watch the press conferences anymore. I don’t watch the news every day. I seek the information I need to know and let the rest go. I breathe, I laugh…loudly, I find refuge in music and sing along…loudly, I craft, I seek inspiration, I give a lot of grace to others and myself, and I focus on the positives that exist. There are a lot of them when you look. Nothing has become more important and there has been much to learn. My eternal optimism persists like never before. Take care of yourself first. Always. 

Person walking across the stage to accept diploma in blue graduation gown.

Softball team holding medals and smiling in from of Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union sign

Two women smiling together, one in a wedding dress the other in a gray gown.