There’s never a bad time to quote black American writer, poet and womanist, Audre Lorde, who stated: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Black women are experts at nurturing others while living busy lives and hustling harder than any other group of people to make ends meet, despite the odds being against us.
We have to build lives for ourselves amidst the struggles of everyday life and the added struggles of societal oppression, such as racism, colorism and featurism. Additionally, we face health issues at a higher rate than most other groups of people. Therefore, as black women, it is not simply a suggestion—but a vital need – that we take phenomenal care of ourselves both mentally and physically. Here are seven ways to do just that:
1. Allow Yourself To Feel
Society places a lot of pressure on black women to withstand extensive abuse and suffering, without expressing ourselves or the pain we go through. As a result, there are a lot of black women who struggle to allow ourselves to express and feel the full, typical range of emotions. We are allowed to feel weak, vulnerable and sad.
We are not obligated to bottle up our emotions or to block off our hearts to protect ourselves. This is not to say that there aren’t moments in which holding back can benefit us, but for the most part, don’t allow society to harden you. At the end of a day, a hardened heart only harms you and closes you off to the wonderful things and experiences life has to offer.
2. Have A Spa Day
Spa days might sound obvious when it comes to self-care, but there’s a good reason why: they leave you feeling refreshed and give you an important boost. My personal preference is to get my nails done professionally, but if you want to save money, don’t be afraid to pamper yourself at home. Light up some great-smelling candles, soothing music and take a long, hot bath. When you’re done, put on a facial, paint your nails and lather up with some wonderful-smelling skin moisturizers. You can also do a treatment on your hair and feel your locs softening. Your hair, skin and nails will thank you—trust me.
3. Use A Journal To Practice Daily Affirmations
Going through a breakup? Lost your job? Feeling hopeless, sad or even ecstatic? Journaling is a fantastic way to help work through the emotions that you are harboring. It will help you develop a sense of who you are…if you do it right. Don’t just use your journal to record the mundane things that happened in your day, but use it to reframe your thoughts positively and show self-love. Start your journal entries with the following affirmative sentences:
If you journal in the mornings, you can write this: “Today, I will show myself love by_______” or list 10 things you love about yourself and write kind notes that show self-love.
If you journal in the evenings, you can write: “Tomorrow, I will create a better day by_____” or “Two (or more) positive things that happened today are______”
4. Exercise and Get Enough Sleep
I know what you’re thinking: how is exercise on a list of pampering? Well, while a sweaty night in a gym on the treadmill may not be your favorite way to spend a Friday night, it will benefit and pamper your body and mind in the long run! Likewise, by taking yourself to bed earlier you can prevent or lessen depression, anxiety and irritability, as well as increase memory retention. Moreover, you will feel better equipped to face the day the next morning. Ways to help ensure that you get a good night of sleep include putting away your phone one hour before bed time, taking a shower, drinking a cup of tea or doing some meditation practices to help slow and control your breathing.
5. Get In Touch With Your Spirit
There are all types of ways to build a tradition of spiritual practices to keep you grounded, happy and loving life. Remember, being religious is not the only way to be spiritual. Listening to a philosophy video or reading some philosophy, meditation, doing yoga, Pilates, praying or going to church – even meeting with a group of other like-minded people is a great way to establish some peace and fulfill yourself.
6. Find Your Purpose
For me, my life didn’t really begin until I discovered my purpose: helping other black women. But for you, your purpose may be working with kids, helping the elderly, creating art or music, or anything else. You can’t have hope and feel fulfilled in life without finding something that makes your heart sing, so to speak. Try and find your purpose by putting yourself out there, exploring new hobbies and even volunteering—all of which can help you discover why you’ve been placed on this Earth.
7. Get Some Therapy
Yes, we may all be a little crazy and messed up, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from some professional counselling. Your mental health comes first and if there is anything standing in the way of you feeling great about yourself and your life, consider getting some professional help!
The black community has a history of pushing mental health to the backburner and “praying depression away”, but let’s turn this around in 2019. If you’re sick (whether mentally or physically), go see a doctor. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it. Even if you can’t afford a private therapist, there are public counselling resources available. Moreover, if you’re not struggling with mental health issues but need a boost in your life, look into getting a life coach to help push you to the next level.
All in all, self-love is a process of defining and working towards your ideal life by prioritizing your personal aspirations. It’s more than just spa days and rest—it’s also about living your best life, however that may be possible.
"Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law."