After the news hit that COVID-19 had reached the U.S., there suddenly was a demand quarantine-related items such as toilet paper and face masks. But the one “must-have” item to have in order to survive this period in time is our practice of self-care. For Black people, it is imperative that we add an additional layer of self-care in order to manage the traumatic experience of being Black in America.
Despite the progress made in some areas of our country, we still live under the constraints of a white-centered society. As an African American woman, I feel both the relief and stress that comes with this new found “wokeness” from some whites and non-Black people of color all over the world. These allies have provided a sense of relief that we don’t have to go at this fight alone anymore, and that the burden is not only on ourselves. But, unfortunately, it has not erased the damage America has inflicted on Black folk.
Due to the amount of time most of us have spent indoors, our mental health is being negatively impacted. As a working parent of two children under 10, there has been a list of practices I have added to my self-care in response to the load of vicarious and firsthand racial trauma I have experienced. Here are some of my most practiced rituals.
1. Practice daily affirmations
In my work as a youth counselor, I have learned the power of reading daily affirmations. Affirmations provide self-empowerment and a reminder to hold on to your strengths. Depending on the theme of your affirmation, it can have the ability to shift your schemas (way of thinking) if it becomes a daily practice. Just like the self-talk, we unconsciously practice when we critique ourselves. We have the same capability to congratulate ourselves when we succeed. (My favorite one, no matter my failures or wins: “I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams”).
2. Connect with your village
My circle of friends, whom I call my village, are made up of a solid set of mature, open-minded, revolutionary and diverse folk that have been there for my family through extremely hard times and during our most cherished and joyous moments. I also have a set of sister-friends that hold each other up. Having a community during this time is vital and necessary.
3. Find a therapist
When I need more insight that my circle can’t provide, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact a therapist. When it comes to addressing your mental health needs, there is absolutely no shame in requiring a trained mental health professional to be a member of your community. The importance of feeling emotionally safe and seen is a definite reason why some Black women seek out that support in their journey to healing.
4. Give back
The pandemic and everything that has come after this worldwide crisis affirms that giving back helps both the giver and the receiver. Joining or donating to racial justice organizations and groups advocating and empowering those under the fear of eviction and hunger, is good for the soul. Even as individuals, we all have some kind of skill that could improve someone else’s situation. Participating in local movements with other like-minded individuals has positively impacted my children.
This has also given me the boost I needed to get through the isolation of being a parent during quarantine. Car caravans and other socially-distant demonstrations are safe alternatives for families who want to support the movement and connect with others. It feels good to give and it feels empowering to engage civically with others who want to live in a world that sees their full humanity. There is nothing like being around people who are striving for the same kind of change needed for Black people to thrive and not just survive.
5. Create a sacred space
When I just want to center myself, my sacred space does the trick. This is a personal spot in our home that gives me a feeling of peace and serenity. I’ve heard a colleague refer to hers as a “woman cave.” It’s your space to name and claim. Your sacred space should have items that calm and ground you. Crystals, sage, candles, a journal, art books and a sound bowl are just a few of the items I have currently in mine. Whatever calms you and brings you back to your best self should be added to your sacred space.
6. Listen to sound therapy
During a scroll through my Instagram, I came across a video of Lizzo, showing off her flute playing skills alongside SZA, schooling all of us on the hypnotizing sounds of Tibetan sound bowls. I was in complete awe, and I immediately purchased a medium-sized version for my sacred space. I’ve used it to teach youth I work with and my own children on the healing properties of sound therapy. We are bombarded with noise from screens, the city and our inner thoughts. This can be the ultimate in a noise-cancelling, spiritual tune-up.
7. Learn about the “Trigger Protect Mantra”
Black mothers across the world are burdened with the overwhelming reality of feeling that their children are unsafe in a world designed to cater to the privileged. There are times when one needs words to help us along the way of soothing our worries. In my research for work, I came across Jhene Aiko’s “Trigger Protection Mantra” which provided my inner thoughts with the words I needed to decrease my anxiety.
It’s been especially helpful for me after the processing I needed to do after viewing George Floyd’s murder. The trauma that sometimes smothers the Black experience imprints a memory in our body. Connecting with our bodies through grounding, a mindful technique that commands one to be still and be present in one’s being, helps center us. If sitting is not your thing, mindful walking is the right move to make. The only control we have during this pandemic is our physical and mental response.
8. Follow uplifting content on social media
I know, I know, it’s hard to stay away from social media when we are housebound. Because of that, I have decided to combat the often toxic environment by “friending” and “following” uplifting social media content to my accounts. As much as I find it necessary to know what is happening in the world, to follow the debates happening around current events, not everyone has the same commitments to racial justice, and their words can be toxic. We have to remind ourselves that the only control we have is how we choose to respond to others.
9. Create a gratitude list
For my 42nd birthday, I wanted to do something that would remind myself that despite the new reality in which I must live, I am blessed beyond measure. I posted on my social media accounts a gratitude list of 42 memories that highlighted my journey as a human, as a person of African descent and as a woman. This was a celebration of my triumphs as well as my appreciation for my challenges. I gave myself flowers while improving my outlook on this new year of life.
There’s a cultural significance to how one heals themselves. I, along with many others, have found healing practices that are borrowed from our ancestors or other indigenous cultures. Some may have a religious origin, while others a spiritual one. No matter the position you are in in this world, you deserve to feel and experience positive energy during these challenging times.