Reimagining Self-Care for Black Folks

What does self-care mean to you? Touted by influencers and all-inclusive resorts in balmy, impossibly beautiful locales, self-care is often aligned with “treating yourself” and enjoying some decadence.

Though it may be a trend in the wellness industry, civil rights activist, writer, and feminist Audre Lorde coined the term “self-care” as a means of self-preservation rather than self-indulgence. It’s about survival.

Black people must return to the roots of self-care – not the fancy resorts – as a form of resistance.

Mental Health Matters

COVID-19 and the events that took place throughout that time, including the Black Lives Matter protests, are a collective trauma underscored by generational trauma. Black people saw photos and videos of Black people being murdered and grieved. Now, it’s time to heal.

Everyone has their approach to self-care, and it’s not re-aligning Chakras in a desert retreat. Black people in the US are trying to navigate the system with historical trauma and survivorship – self-care is a tall order.

And it all starts with mental health.

Our culture rewards stoicism and shames selfishness – or perceived selfishness from caring for your own needs over those of others. Prioritizing your self-care isn’t as simple as it seems. It takes work and intuition to know what matters and what doesn’t.

Here are some considerations for your self-care.

Find Trustworthy People to Hold Space

People try, but not everyone is as supportive as they want or try to be. Reach out to the people in your life who allow you to be yourself – honestly and unapologetically yourself. Don’t get caught up in need to keep up appearances or be the “strong Black person.” It’s important to connect with yourself and those who support you most.

Connect with Your Joy

When you’re in pain, it can be difficult to find your joy and rediscover what energizes you. Maybe it’s a hobby you’ve given up amid your day-to-day hustle, music that feeds your soul, or a “guilty pleasure” TV show. Immerse yourself in the stories that broaden your perspective and help you find a happier place with less pain.

Discover Your Needs and Advocate for Them

Ask yourself what you need right now and advocate for it.

  • Do you need time away from work? Can you request time off or use paid time to get a break?
  • Are you looking for opportunities to share the emotions and pain of racism with others? Can you get into a healing circle or support group?
  • Do you need a break from conversations about racism? Do you need permission to “not care” for a bit?
  • Do you want more support from your friends and family? Can you ask them to check in and be there for you, even if it’s just for small talk?
  • Do you want to shut the world off for a while? Can you put your phone on silent and focus on some “you” time?

Communicate your needs, not just to others, but to yourself.

Allow Yourself Emotions

We’re often taught that expressing emotions outwardly is a weakness. Allow yourself to feel, really feel, and let those emotions out. Pay attention to what you’re feeling and what you need, whether it’s emotional or physical. It may take time, but burying your emotions and subjugating your own needs only causes unproductive outbursts when it all boils over.

Use Self-Care to Put Yourself First

Self-care isn’t an indulgence – it’s a survival tool. Give yourself the time and care you need to be your healthiest, happiest self and look after your mental health. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

What are your self-care techniques? We’d love to hear!

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