Point Scholar Mirandy Li, who is working on an M.D.-Ph.D. in Public Health at Louisiana State University, wants you to know that if there has ever been a right time to take care of yourself, that time is now. With the anxiety and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and a volatile political and social situation around us, It is more important than ever to ensure that we are looking after our health on a daily basis.
“Things are really hard right now,” she says. “Social distancing is really important, but it’s only the physical part that needs to happen. Keep the connections you have with those around you – you need them now more than ever.”
Li, who grew up in New Orleans and survived Hurricane Katrina, was already studying the effects of stress on LGBTQ individuals before the pandemic hit – particularly related to smoking habits in our community.
“Definitely what I’ve heard from queer folks is that they smoke as a coping mechanism to deal with the prejudice and internalized stigma they face. Now that times are so much more stressful with COVID, I see some people smoking more to deal with it,” she says.
A former smoker herself, Li knows that it can be tough to find constructive ways to deal with stress and to practice better habits.
“Telling people to exercise instead of having a cigarette is hard,” she says. “The change has to come from inside.”
For Li, who is currently working on a dissertation on the Louisiana Tobacco Control Initiative, she deals with stress by exploring healthier coping mechanisms. Even having a dog is an enormous help. “He takes all my stress away!” she says.
Li is also looking to the future to keep herself motivated. She will graduate in a year and a half, and eventually go into a residency program. She intends to remain in New Orleans, a city where she feels a deep personal connection.
“The healthcare infrastructure here needs a lot of work. I feel a strong obligation to stay in Louisiana and give back to the state that has given so much to me,” she says.
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