We are constantly bombarded with images and headlines of the senseless mistreatment and murdering of our brothers and sisters. We wake up to notifications of the latest foolery coming from the White House. Our jobs are stressful. Our obligations to our partners, spouses, children, and families are endless. Our days are packed with things to do and people to see. And by the time we’ve completed our tasks-we’re left drained and with very little to give ourselves. We climb into bed- and before we know it, we’ve spent hours scrolling through the time-line (TL) in search of something to lift our spirits- eventually drifting off to sleep and then waking the next day, only to repeat the same exact cycle. What did we do to nourish our temple- mentally, physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually? Where was the self-care?
What does self-care even mean?
If you’ve ever searched the self-care hashtag, you’d likely encounter thousands, if not millions, of images of white women in spa robes and/or bathtubs. We’ve come to equate self-care with taking a bubble bath and while baths are great- they aren’t the end all be all of self-care.
Self-care is any action whose intention is to preserve or improve one’s health and wellness. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives- we’ve become disconnected from ourselves; self-care is what restores the connection between our mind, body, and spirit.
To be quite honest, restoring that lost connection is sometimes uncomfortable. It requires us to be intentional. Intentional with our time, or even, with our finances. It may require that we draw firm boundaries with those around us to allow us the space to give back to ourselves.
As Black women, we are socialized from a very young age to feel that our existence is solely to serve others. We’re loving, we’re giving, we’re nurturing, and we’re fiercely loyal- often at our own detriment. The act of making time for yourself may feel foreign and very selfish. But, it’s so necessary, sis.
My late mother-in-law, Debra (may she rest peacefully), always begged me to make time for myself. “Cass,” she’d say, “you can’t pour from an empty vessel”. It wasn’t until she passed, and I felt like I was drowning from all my responsibilities, struggling to allow myself to properly grieve, and feeling emotionally/mentally depleted – that I finally understood that I had to make myself a priority. It took being burnt out and severely depressed for me to realize that I am equally as important as everyone and everything in my life. And I must treat myself as such. It’s impossible to be my best self if I don’t care for myself.
If you’re accustomed to always putting yourself last, prioritizing yourself may seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be, sis. A small, yet consistent, change can be very impactful in your overall wellness journey.
Below are five ways to honor yourself with self-care. Please don’t attack all of them at once- that’s a recipe for discouragement and disappointment. Instead, choose one that you feel would be an easy addition to your routine, and make a promise to yourself that you’ll incorporate that into your life for at least 4 weeks. I’m confident you’ll be glad you did.
This one has been a game-changer in my journey. I decided to start seeing a therapist when the shock of suddenly losing my mother-in-law wore off. Once I came to grips with the fact that I had actually lost one of my best friends, I felt paralyzed. This feeling was heightened because I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my sorrow to her son- my spouse- who, in my mind, felt her loss a million times more than I did. I needed an ear. I needed a safe space to be my most vulnerable without fear that I was undermining his loss. While my therapist provided a ton of tools to help me grieve, she immediately sensed that a lot of my burnout stemmed from the fact that I lacked a self-care routine. I gave and gave and GAVE to others and left nothing for myself. Now, therapy is a foundational aspect of my self-care because it’s a place where I’m learning the tools to unlearn many of the damaging thoughts and practices that were fed to me since childhood.
Our bodies were made to move. Sadly, many of us spend most of our days sitting in an office and then come home only to sit on a couch and channel surf. Many of us don’t have an exercise routine and are intimidated by the thought of going to a gym or joining a yoga studio. And, that’s ok, sis. Those aren’t the only ways to incorporate more movement into your life.
I might be the only Black girl on planet Earth who can’t dance but I LOVE to dance! Moving your body can be as simple as dancing in the mirror as you prep for the day ahead. It may also be choosing a spot at the end of the parking lot instead of near the store/building entrance. If you’re like me- you don’t have Meg THE Stallion’s knees and you’re a Stiff Sally- stretch those aches away. Spending 15-20 minutes stretching before you sleep is another great way to care for yourself.
Honestly, the possibilities are endless. Whatever gets your blood pumping and you find tolerable for at least 30 mins/day 5 days a week- do it!
I LOVE TO EAT. The fattier, the saltier- the better but that isn’t what my body needs. After I eat an indulgent meal, my body is usually unhappy with me. After a few days of eating mindlessly- my brain is foggy, my stomach is uneasy, and I feel sluggish. Consistently feeding yourself the nutrients that it needs to function optimally is an act of self-care. One of the best ways to honor yourself by providing what it needs is by preparing your own meals. Also, reducing the number of processed foods in your diet, committing to having more fruits and vegetables in your diet, and drinking more water- can have major impacts on your physical wellness.
The melanin in our skin highlights the fact that we are designed with the ability to absorb the sun’s rays. This is proof that we belong outside in nature. Go outside, let the Sun wrap you its warmth. Walk barefooted outside- feel the blades of grass between your toes and the soil cushion your steps. Reconnect with which from where you came. Take deep belly breaths – filling your lungs with fresh air. You’d be surprised how refreshed you’ll feel after spending some time in nature.
One of the simplest ways to care for yourself is to release whatever is taking up space in your mind. Write it down. Pray and meditate. Connect with your five-year old self by coloring. There are tons of activities that allow your mind to rest and restore the mind-body connection. The options are endless.
I truly encourage you to pick an act of self-care and truly embrace it. Self-care isn’t selfish. Take care of yourself, sis. Not only do you deserve it, but your life depends on it. Be well, sis.
With love, Cassandre