What you need to know:
Regularly incorporating self-care practices prevents burnout and breakdowns.
You can have—and deserve—all the types of self-care.
Self-care isn’t selfish. As many times as I’ve heard this statement—and as many times as I’ve said it to others—it’s been really hard for me to believe and put into practice because so much of my upbringing centered around putting others first. With that in mind, taking even a moment for myself has always felt greedy. But over the last year, I have been more intentional about making sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can continue to pour into others. I haven’t been focused so much on the mani/pedis and bubble baths and wine nights, but rather the harder choices to exercise and eat vegetables and get to bed at a reasonable time. These categories of self-care have always been presented to me as mutually exclusive and on opposite ends of the self-care spectrum. As I’ve been committed to creating a life that I do not have to escape from, I tend to lean more towards the non-commercial end of the self-care spectrum. But as this extra long and tumultuous election, and subsequent transition, season has confirmed for me, these things are not mutually exclusive. I—we—need all the self-care. The facials and the financial limits. The brunches and the boundaries. The yoga, and the YOLO (I know we’re not really on the YOLO mentality anymore, but you know what I mean).
While this is true on a normal day (whatever “normal” even means anymore), it is especially true in the middle of multiple crises. With so many of us engaging in organizing and activism work to fight against police brutality, securing democracy again and again, and ensuring health in the midst of a global pandemic, taking care of ourselves has to be a priority. And even if none of these social justice or political areas are your ministry, you should be engaging in self-care practices on a regular basis anyway. Because you deserve it. The particulars of your self-care will naturally be different from anyone else’s, but I do think there are a few overarching practices that we can all benefit from.
Establish routines in your life. Routines have been shown to eliminate stress and improve both mental and physical health. Morning routines, nighttime routines...my therapist even has a midday routine. It’s about whatever will work for you. Create routines that center and nourish you, that move your body, and that allows you to plan your day. This is not to take the spontaneity out of your life (if that’s your thing), but rather to ensure that the little things are always taken care of and you can focus your energy where it is actually needed.
If you are going to engage in organizing and activism, do it in a way that works for you. Dr. Marcuetta Sims, a licensed psychologist and founder of the Worth, Wisdom, and Wellness Center in Atlanta suggests a cycle of unplugging, resting, gathering, engaging, and evaluating so that your work is sustainable. You’ll avoid burnout and bitterness, and be able to carry on for your cause (which is the whole point, right?).
Create rejuvenating spaces in your life. Fill specific spaces where you spend time (or your entire home) with things that make you happy, bring you peace and comfort, and allow you to relax and recharge. The Nile List has a whole category for home and garden that will allow you to curate these rejuvenating spaces with everything you need. Aside from the physical spaces, make sure to create space on your calendar to regularly connect with the people who re-energize you and remind you to protect your peace. Set aside a day and time to regularly FaceTime your family or have coffee (or wine) with your friends. Allow space for the conversations that motivate and inspire you.
What I have learned over the last year or so is that if you don’t prioritize taking care of your health and wellness, it will slowly break down until you are forced to address it. Let’s not wait until we get to that point to realize that self-care isn’t selfish.
Jamie Gray is an adopted Atlantan, licensed attorney, and social advocate. As the founder of Black Girl Buying, Jamie works to connect Black businesses and consumers, remove the stigma around buying Black, and help Black-owned businesses reach their target audiences. You can read more about her experiences at blackgirlbuying.com and connect with Black Girl Buying on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest @blackgirlbuying.