It Feels Personal

By: Kristina Rodriguez, Psy.D.

I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

I have the right to be happy.

I have the right to be safe.

I have the right to say no to anything if I feel that I am not ready, if it is unsafe, or if it conflicts with my values.

From: Therapist’s Guide to Clinical Intervention, Sharon L. Johnson, Academic Press, 2004

These statements are just a few of the personal rights developed by Sharon Johnson (2004). In recognition of Women’s History Month, I am reminded of these personal rights and the struggle, perseverance, and resiliency of others to obtain them. In a world where war, pandemic, inflation, inequality, climate change, and political turmoil have become part of our everyday existence, these personal rights may be lacking for many individuals today. It may be difficult to feel safe, respected, and have the right to say “no” to things that make the self-uncomfortable. For Gen Z folks, (individuals aged 18-23), many stressors may be impacting feeling safe and certain in this world. According to the American Psychological Association and Harris Poll (2020), a study demonstrated that 58% percent of individuals identified widespread sexual harassment/assault reports in the news as a source of stress, 81% reported being impacted by school closures due to the pandemic, 47% reported difficulty with concentration in school, and 43% of individuals reported an overall increase in their stress level. Aside from the above stressors, changes in occupation, family, social, and health status may also contribute to the degree of safety, happiness, and dignity we may experience.

It may be hard to mobilize the self to recharge, focus on the positive, and find gratitude in an ever-changing world. These days, we may find that our regular routine of self-care may not be adequate or feel like it is enough to manage all this stress. During these times, it is important to acknowledge that we are all going to experience waves of energy, positivity, productivity, and self-worth and experiences days of sadness, frustration, low energy, and despair. In order to navigate these highs and lows, it is important to surround ourselves with the people, places, things, and experiences that help us enhance our self-care. Below are some reminders of how we can all take care of ourselves.

It's okay to not be okay-With so much uncertainty in the present state of the world, it is okay to not be okay. Sometimes saying “I am not okay” or “I am not fine” in this moment can be a helpful start in acknowledging how we feel and being better able to understand how to cope with whatever feelings may be present.

Let in light- Although this time of the year brings seasonal allergies and adjustment to time, it can be important to make room in your schedule for time spent outdoors. Exposure to natural light has been known to have positive impacts on our well-being. Check out this article to learn more about the science behind light and well-being. 5 Ways the Sun Impacts your Mental and Physical Health.

Set reasonable expectations for yourself-Contextual factors such as employment changes, loss, changes in relationship, socio-economic status, housing, and food security may significantly impact our sense of routine and sense of self. It is important to be reasonable with self-imposed expectations and those that others may impose. Acknowledge that some of the contextual factors may be impacting the expectations you or others may be carrying and practice kindness towards the self as you balance expectations with changes in your life.

Talk to someone-In these uncertain times, it may be common to experience lack of sleep, racing thoughts, anxiety, and/or depression all of which can impact our ability to effectively problem-solve. Talk to a supportive friend, family member, partner or mental health care provider to address concerns about changes in well-being. We can all benefit from the support of others.

These days, it can be difficult to develop and uphold our personal rights. If you or anyone you know would benefit from talking to someone about how to develop and maintain your own personal rights, contact CAPS at CAPS or 805-437-2088. CAPS provides individual, group, couples, and urgent care counseling.

The University and CAPS encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation, or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Disability Accommodations and Support Services 805-437-3331 or as soon as possible, but no later than 7 business days prior to the event.

This article does not constitute treatment or replace the provision of mental health professional service. The links and articles above are not affiliated with CAPS and for user discretion.

Johnson, S.L. (2004). Therapist’s Guide to Clinical Intervention, Academic Press.

American Psychological Association, Harris Poll. (2020). Stress in America. Retrieved from:

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