Tower Beach, Vancouver


Week 2: Finding my balance

The importance of mental and physical health

Terri E. Givens -
Published in
4 min readNov 29, 2023


After a quiet Thanksgiving with family, I’m spending this week as at fellow at Green College at the University of British Columbia, and I’ll be giving a talk on my book Radical Empathy. It is a beautiful campus and so far I’ve been lucky to see some sun. Having lived in Seattle for four years, I know how rainy and dark it can be in this part of the world during the winter. However, I love the beach, and weather rarely holds me back from getting into the outdoors. I’m grateful that I was able to walk down on the beach trail to spend some time breathing in the fresh sea air and enjoying the view of the mountains.

Panorama at Tower Beach, Vancouver

Getting up the stairs from the beach back to campus was a bit of a challenge, but I managed it, with just a bit of knee pain. I have arthritis in my knees that starts to kick in during cold weather. But it was worth it to spend some quality time by the ocean.

At this stage of my rehab, I’m still feeling some low level back pain, but I’m sticking with my workouts. I’m finding that balance is both a physical and mental exercise. On the physical side, I’ve struggled with balance ever since I had foot surgery 8 years ago. My left foot will always take a little extra effort when I’m trying to balance on one foot. On the mental health side, I have always struggled to find that elusive work/life balance. What I have remembered in the last two weeks of working with a personal trainer is that I respond well to coaching, and I’ll probably need to work with a trainer for the rest of my life. Left to my own devices, I will always have an excuse to skip or cut short a workout. There is always more work to be done as an academic, and I need help with having accountability for my personal health.

I have talked about the team I work with on the physical health front, but I’m realizing I need a team on the mental health front. I hope to eventually find a counselor or therapist who can help me get towards balance on the mental health front, but I also think it’s important to reach out to friends who have similar experiences. I’m also lucky to have sisters who I can rely on.

As I have been exploring ways to expand my support networks, I ran across an interview with Ashleigh-Ray Thomas where she states:

As a Black femme, I’ve been raised to be “the rock” in my relationships and friendships, especially with men and non-Black people. I’ve been told by others that being my friend has changed their lives. But I don’t always feel that the love and care is reciprocated. Sometimes my friendships can become one-sided.

I think this is not only true for friendships, but for professional relationships. Often we are mentors and advisors, but it’s hard to find those who can support us. Given that there are very few senior level Black women in my field of political science, let alone those who have been in leadership positions, it is hard to find peers or counselors who understand the journey. I spent some time last year working with a college president trying to figure out if we could create a support network for Black college presidents, but we gave up in the end because the reality is that we are all too busy to take the time to meet up or create a network.

So another area where I will be working on finding balance is in my professional relationships and reaching out to those who have some shared experiences. It is important that we get past the “superwoman” trope and find spaces where we can be vulnerable with each other.

Lots more to come on these topics, as I work my way through this important stage in life — I just turned 59 and life doesn’t get any easier! But there’s lots I know I can do to make it through and I’m grateful to my friends, colleagues and relatives who have been on this journey with me.

At the beach!



Terri E. Givens -

Professor of Political Science, McGill University. Higher Ed Leadership, Immigration & European politics. Author of Radical Empathy & The Roots of Racism