Self-care isn't only about facial masks, relaxing in the tub, or doing difficult yoga postures. It's not something you do every once in a while. To be a better activist, feminist, and friend, you need to check in with yourself and commit to your own healing and find ways to feel appreciated.
Find things that make you feel alive, keep you going, and give you a sense of rejuvenation. This could be getting your nails painted by a pro. It could be getting a massage or having your hair done. It could be getting into the ice-cold sea early in the morning. It could just be getting up from your desk and lying in corpse pose on the floor for 30 mins of relaxation.
Or it could be connecting with like-minded friends and finding allies you can trust and rely on. Over the years I’ve investigated a great many different therapies and treatments. I’ve trained in reiki, oneness, meditation, yoga… I’ve had NLP, EFT, RTT. I’ve tried acupuncture, astrology, crystal therapy, art therapy, dance therapy and psychotherapy. I’ve done shamanic rituals, fire rituals, hugged trees, twelve hour gong baths and had full-on cosmic experiences all over the world. Yet still, I need reminders to practice basic self-care. (artist: Samya Arif)
A first step is blocking out the time to spend on you. Sometimes I struggle to find the time even to refill my glass with water! I know I’ll start getting snappy or over-tired if I don’t make space to eat some good green food, or talk to my friends, or get some exercise. Recognising when you’ve stopped doing those simple things that keep you feeling good, is the first part of the process of staying on track.
Self-care for women of colour is clearly crucial now, as we are engaged in the labour of ongoing social, political and cultural struggle. Dismantling the patriarchy and achieving fundamental human rights relies on not getting burnout. Black and brown women are often the ones who keep things together for extended and chosen families and friends, at the same time as working multiple jobs and taking on voluntary community commitments.
I’ve learnt that it’s okay to put aside projects or work for a short time. It’s okay to take a break and come back later to do some important work. It’s important to acknowledge if things are becoming stressful — instead of feeling guilty or giving up altogether. Now, I know that I can pause. I start again when the energy is back, the momentum is flowing and the stars have aligned. I start again when the time is right.
Systemic racism affects women of colour continually, with significant research revealing long-term negative experiences are often deeply stressful and painfully impacts on life. The lack of support from local services, work colleagues, plus constant media hatred or complacency, has a detrimental effect. Just going about your daily life can be exhausting. You have to prioritise the construction of your own ways of receiving support from people who understand. You also have to protect yourself and learn who your allies are, and not put yourself in situations that can be harmful to your state of mind.
You can be a better person for others, only if you can help yourself. Start by improving your physical, mental, and emotional health. Don't just use your self-care toolkit when things aren't going well. Make self-care a part of your everyday life, even when things are going super fantastic.
Here are a few ways to take good care of your precious self:
1- Practice Self-Love
Stop speaking or thinking negatively about yourself. Practice treating yourself with kindness and talking to yourself as if you are your closest friend. Don’t say things to yourself that you wouldn't say to your worst enemy. Turn your knowledge, love, and acceptance inward to practice loving kindness.
Try saying to yourself in the mirror:
‘I am beautiful and everybody loves me.’
Say it a few times. Say it every day. Say it all day.
Forgive yourself for what you don't know yet. Accept that you aren’t always perfect. You will make mistakes sometimes. Life can be annoying or painful — it’s how you deal with those experiences, how you cultivate resilience and find solutions and support when you need to.
2- Speak Up
Stop tolerating pain in silence. You might keep quiet about what's actually going on with you because you’ve been taught to keep it together, keep strong and keep going. As a result, you can turn your grief within and allow it to overwhelm you. Emotional suffering can be very detrimental to your long-term mental health and wellbeing.
Seek out people of colour to get the support you need. You could try various therapies from yoga, meditation or healing, for trauma and anxiety to mentoring, counselling or psychotherapy.
Working with a therapist who is also a person of colour can help you to unlock and heal in a multitude of ways. See point 6 below.
3- Check Yourself
How much sleep are you getting? Have you been stress-eating junk? Are you overdoing it with alcohol, smoking or other narcotics? Adopting a healthy lifestyle will make a massive difference. Drinking extra water can help you become more alert, clear up your skin, and enhance your mood. Getting eight hours of sleep per night is so important and helps you feel less anxious and frazzled. This may be difficult for women who just can’t stop working but it's critical to schedule time for rest so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day.
I struggle with getting to bed before midnight, eating properly and drinking enough water. I often spend too long at my computer. Now I set a timer to make sure I stop and get up and move around, stretch and get hydrated. I try hard to make time for fun and for exercise. Put your health first.
4- Find your people
Surrounding yourself with individuals who nourish your soul is key to your self-care. I have monthly check-ins with the amazing Alison Coward — a Black woman, business owner and kind friend. Are you part of the Women Of Colour Brighton Facebook group? We meet every month online or in person. Others in the group organise walking groups across the Downs, or meet for evening drinks and daytime picnics.
The group is full of all ages and people with different needs (students, professionals working in all different fields) but are often isolated as the only POC in their organisation. We are just volunteers and we try and support everyone — from activism, to hair care, to support for parents or finding work….there’s crossover with local Black groups, LGBTQ groups and a lot of space to share inspiring articles and local resources. It’s OK to promote yourself and use the group to rant too.
5. Educate yourself
You are not alone. Find book clubs, Black History walks, people of colour only spaces to connect and meet like-minded folk. You can dip in and out of groups, you don’t always have to be the one facilitating and giving. I found some interesting events on my doorstep — creative spaces such as poetry workshops and creative make-up sessions, run by young activists and non-binary people of colour, the Black Joy Sessions run by QTIPOC groups in Brighton. Finding spaces to share experiences when work or education structures are not open to hearing your opinions or your pain, can be key to expressing and releasing trauma.
6. Treat Yourself
Join a retreat or session, or get a treatment from a woman of colour. You could try offering a swap if you’re on a tight budget. The Women of Colour Brighton group ran a Self-Love one day festival online during lockdown with workshops run by the talented women in the group including poetry, dance, meditation and yoga. We felt connected, inspired and energised by the end of the day.
Here’s a list of therapies and services from women of colour who have helped me over the last year:
7. Get Inspired
Living in a white dominated society, it’s easy for our cultural life to be ‘colonised’. We all know how rare it was in the past to see someone who looked like us on film or on the TV, except in very specific roles. Now that is improving, it’s important to take advantage of the improvement and decolonise our cultural habits.
Read uplifting books by women of colour — there are more than ever to choose from. Fiction, self-help, starting your own business. Listen to podcasts and on social media follow artists, musicians, activists, authors of colour, to help constantly remind yourself that you are not alone.
Watch incredible creative women of colour in movies and TV series — written for and starring women of colour, telling their stories and educating others. It’s truly wonderful to be seen in popular culture.
Here are just a handful of the books that have inspired me recently:
If you'd like to have a session with me, find out more about how I can help you please contact me today.