It’s weird that self-love is trending at a time when most of the Black women I know are struggling so acutely. On the flip side, some of the most toxic people on my timeline are boasting about their ability to cut out people who don’t “spark joy”. It feels like Black women aren’t allowed to be depressed or vulnerable. There’s so much filler out there, but how can we truly practice self-care and self-love with the weight of the world on our shoulders.
Here are 5 tips for self-care. These self-care tips are broken down into the physical projection, spiritual healing, intellectual release, mental deflating, and aromatherapy. These are small, actionable steps that can lead to a much healthier disposition.
1. Hit something: There is so much going on. And for those of us in the corporate space, we have to code switch so many times a day, it can literally make us sick. Between juggling a career, a family, and a dream, there are so many instances where we want to slap someone but have to repress the urge. That energy doesn’t just disappear though. Instead of letting it fester, just hit something. Kickboxing is an excellent way to let that stress go. This sort of physical projection can be really fun too. You can even tape a phrase (or face) to a punching bag and hit it. Maybe it helps you to growl out your racist supervisor’s name with your tennis racket hits the ball. Regardless of what it actually represents, I encourage you to hit something. Hit it hard and hit it often.
2. Say “AH”: When I lived in DC, singer Tamika Love Jones taught a toddler class for Black children in Anacostia Park. One thing she said to me years ago when my son was in her class was this: “Just about every spiritual practice says “ah”. That ‘ah’ sound is in every God’s name I can think of. Allah, God, Buddha, Jah, Ra. Chanting the sound can bring you to a place of peace. Let it serve as an anchor.” Sometimes the world’s insanity is raining down and hitting you harder than a hail storm. It may take everything in you not to break. In those moments, sometimes you call on your God, your ancestors, the universe, and whatever centers you by just saying “AH”. Allow yourself the room to meditate on the sound. Whether you do it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you owe it to yourself to say “ah.”
3. Write it out: You know on Insecure when Issa gets in that mirror and pumps herself up or has one-sided rap battles in the bathroom? Well, you too can stretch out those tired latent gangster muscles with a verse, prose, poem, song, or limerick—yes, I said limerick. I’m a nerd. It doesn’t stop there though. Journaling is an excellent way to practice self-care. Doing it before you sleep can help ease anxiety. Dr. Joy of the Black Girl Therapy podcast even has a breakup journal! If you write it out, you’re one step closer to working it out.
4. Tune out: Black women—and marginalized people in general—tend to compare ourselves to others with the added burden of racial trauma. We get on social media and compare/contrast our lives. Thoughts like “She’s so much lighter than me” or “a guy like him would never be attracted to me” or “why is everyone else married?” can creep in and multiply like cancerous cells. Tuning out of social media and even your phone can help you get some perspective. At the very least, try to wait until lunch before you check social media. It’s not the best idea to start off your day with an app that puts you at odds with your goals of better self-care and self-love.
5. Breathe in: That’s right. Just breathe. If you breathe in deep and it’s hard to take a good hearty breath, you could be dehydrated, so drink some water. If you try to take that deep breath and your anxiety rears its ugly head, take another slow deep breath. This is something you can do no matter where you are. Take the time to take a deep breath and walk around the block if you can. Give your lungs the space to open up. You do so much. At the very least, you deserve time for deep breaths.
Here’s the thing. Self-love is not a new concept. Self-care just happens to be trending. It’s just that Black women have only recently been given permission to publicly express it. The social media vent groups and Black women brunches and the like are great and needed, but so many of us (myself included) are prone to do it for the gram rather than do it for self. There is a pressure to seem like we have it together when most of us are just not okay. On the surface, it seems like the world is ready for Black women to take a break from saving the world, but the truth is we are still judged for using PTO to cover a mental health day. We are still talking about each other’s shortcomings the way Gabrielle Union described in her book ‘We’re Going to Need More Wine”. We still have a tendency to only see our flaws when we look in the mirror or at pictures.