The holidays can be a stressful time, even for some of America’s most powerful.
For Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it’s been especially tough. She has been chronicling the challenges of starting a new job in a new city on social media. She has struggled to find affordable housing and had to stretch her limited savings until her first paycheck.
So the incoming lawmaker plans to take a bit of a break before things kick into gear — and she’s encouraging other Americans to do the same.
“I am starting a week of self-care where I am taking the week off and taking care of me,” she told constituents in an Instagram video. “I don’t know how to do that though, so I would appreciate any and all self-care tips.”
In an accompanying post, she wrote:
"Before the campaign, I used to practice yoga 3-4x/week, eat nutritiously, read and write for leisure. As soon as everything kicked up, that all went out the window. I went from doing yoga and making wild rice and salmon dinners to eating fast food for dinner and falling asleep in my jeans and makeup.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she’s speaking about this, in part, because too few Americans take time for themselves. And people living in working-class, inner-city communities are especially vulnerable.
“For working people, immigrants, & the poor, self-care is political — not because we want it to be, but bc of the inevitable shaming of someone doing a face mask while financially stressed,” she tweeted. “So I’ve decided to take others along with me on IG as I learn what self-care even means and why it’s important.”
The incoming lawmaker is correct. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, people earning low incomes are much less likely to take time off — and many don’t have even have the option. The report said:
“About one-in-six adults (16 percent) who have been employed in the past two years say there was a time during this period when they needed or wanted to take time off from work following the birth or adoption of their child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to deal with their own serious health condition, but were unable to do so. This figure rises to 30 percent among those with household incomes under $30,000.”
A January study from the American Psychological Association highlights why that’s a problem. Higher stress levels among people of color and low-income populations can have devastating effects. According to the report:
“Good health is not equally distributed. Socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity affect health status and are associated with substantial disparities in health outcomes across the lifespan. Specifically, in comparison to those with higher incomes, individuals living below the poverty level have poorer mental health, are diagnosed with more chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, hypertension), and have a shorter lifespan. A recent analysis indicates that men whose income is in the top 1% live almost 15 years longer than men with incomes in the bottom 1 percent; for women, income differentials are associated with almost 10 years’ difference in life expectancy.”
Her posts are not being so well received in some corners. As has been the case since she won her primary, conservatives criticized her for taking time off.
A Fox News story about the lawmaker’s need for self-care began, “Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t yet started her new job, but she’s already taking a break.”
Missing from that story was any reference to President Trump, who has made headlines for how much time he spends out of the office. Trump will spend more than two weeks at his oceanside resort in Florida this month, even as a government shutdown looms. This comes after a year of taking a record-breaking amount of time to golf, something Trump pledged he would have no time for when he was campaigning.