What radical self-care looks like to me as a Black woman

self-care practices dana oliver
As someone who thrives on structure, I can’t tell you how freeing it’s been surrender to the need to always have things in order. Photo: Beauty for Breakfast

At the beginning of 2020, I created a list of self-care practices I was committed to doing consistently. While life’s challenges, often hindered me from staying on track, I made sure to remain steadfast in my personal work. But I could not have imagined that a pandemic would force me to really lean into doing what’s best for ME.

Between the coronavirus outbreak, deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless other Black and brown people, swift closing of my son’s school and food insecurity that swept our communities, anything other than the survival of my very own family was not high on my list of priorities. And that included my own 9-to-5 (or I should say 7-to-3 then 5-to-7) job.

A monumental mental shift occurred when I began to take stock of what is important during these unprecedented times — this is largely thanks to self-discovery when connecting with my therapist. And I can truly say that I have a new perspective on what self-care looks like to me, especially as a Black woman.

Here are three “radical” self-care practices I’ve implemented that has changed my life for the better.

Working with a therapist that’s right for me. In spite of there being directories and resources like Therapy for Black Girls, finding a Black therapist (and one who accepts your health insurance, if you’re fortunate to have medical coverage) is not so easy. However, I was committed to researching, interviewing and choosing a therapist who I could grow with. After two weeks, I developed a relationship with a millennial, Black expectant mother who also shared a holistic approach to mental health. My first session I let out a massive cleansing cry — one that was long overdue for the weight and trauma I had been holding — and it felt good and almost surreal to have discovered a professional who not only aligned with my beliefs, but armed me with tools that led to the following breakthrough.

Not expecting me from others. Subconsciously I had allowed myself to believe that certain people in my life were capable of evolving with change. That in the midst of challenges, they were able to do as I do: jump into action and do whatever is necessary. I had an “ah-ha” moment, which my therapist was elated to learn, when I accepted that these individuals are OK with remaining stagnant. But that doesn’t mean I have to remain there with them. Being stuck in the muck during a pandemic forced me to acknowledge this and then take steps towards establishing boundaries and even planning exit strategies.

Letting go of “perfection.” As someone who thrives on structure, I can’t tell you how freeing it’s been to surrender to the need to always have things in order. This applies to several aspects of my life: raising a busy toddler who likes to clutter our living room floors with toys, books and snacks; preparing healthy vegan meals several days a week; getting dressed as if I were going into the office. Everything and everyone will be OK if our home isn’t sparkling clean (or if I have to hire extra help to tidy things), if we eat vegan fast food back to back or if I live in sweats and satin-lined bonnets. Putting to bed my inner critic when she doesn’t serve me well is self-care supreme.

Hey Beauties: How have you redefined self-care during the pandemic? Let’s discuss! Leave a comment.

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