Jennifer Gauthier has noticed a new focus on self-care since the pandemic.
Social media influencers promote it to their followers on a regular basis, and high-profile athletes like gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka have both spoken out about the importance of self-care and mental health issues.
“People seemed to be more aware of the need to take better care of themselves,” said Gauthier, a Randolph professor of media and culture.
Gauthier is interested in how self-care factors into the daily lives of a specific population—women ages 22 and older—and, this summer, she’s using a Davidson Summer Stipend, an internal College award, to research it.
She chose that age range based on research showing many women are still working a “second shift,” carrying the primary responsibilities for childcare and home management in addition to their day jobs. They know the importance of taking care of themselves as well, but can’t always take the time for it.
Self-care is something Gauthier has made time for herself over the last two years—doing yoga and writing as part of her daily routine.
She’s also encouraged her students to do the same. This year, Gauthier started some of her classes with self-care activities. She’d give students a writing prompt or lead a meditation or chair yoga exercise.
“This project is more personal, and I like that it’s grown out of my own self-reflection,” she said. “It’s rooted in my experience.”
The project marks a shift for Gauthier, whose research usually focuses on textual analysis of film, media, and culture.
She will look at media coverage of the topic, but most of her work will be conducting focus groups, interviews, and surveys.
“I want to ask people if they do self-care, what they do, and if they don’t, why not? I want to know what prevents people from engaging in it, then look at changes that can be made structurally, systemically, in the workplace,” she said.
It will be a new experience for her, one she can then bring back to students who take one of her Research Methods courses.
“I’m excited to delve into a different methodology and be more well-rounded in what I teach my students,” she said. “I want to bring that expertise back to them.”
Gauthier got her feet wet with a few focus groups last summer and is ready to jump back in. She will do some interviews and focus groups in person, and others through Zoom.
“People have really enjoyed just hearing from each other,” she said. “It’s inspirational. Everyone engages in self-care differently.”
Eventually, she’d like to write a book featuring the results of her research along with self-care tips, writing prompts, and more.
“I really want it to be real,” she said. “Small things you can do every day.”Tags: Davidson Award, Davidson Summer Stipend, media and culture