It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. – Lena Horne
“Love you.” “Take care of yourself.”
How many times have we said this to our loved ones? Countless times a day, right? Now ask yourself this question: how many times do you say those words to YOU? Don’t worry. We’ll wait…
We spend an average of 16 to 20 hours a day—every day—caring for folks, loving on folks, nurturing, encouraging, healing, helping, inspiring…(the list is endless), but how do you find time to fit yourself into the schedule without leaving someone (or something) out? The answer is that usually, we don’t. And that’s a problem.
African-American females born between 1965ish and 1980ish (the flyest demographic of Generation X, if you ask us), were born into a unique set of circumstances. We are the original “latchkey kids”. Since many of us—due to growing divorce rates, changing economies and the need for our moms to work—had to stand in for absent parents, we not only found ourselves taking care ourselves and our siblings, we also were left with the task of running a household well before we possessed the experience, emotional maturity and/or the resources to do so. But make no mistake: we did that.
Combine those factors with a religious upbringing that taught us from a young age that our main goal in life should be to emulate the “Proverbs 31” woman, and you have a recipe for creating a generation of women who were groomed and primed to be lifetime caretakers. Not that there’s anything wrong with the “Proverbs 31” woman, but look—Sis was busy busy. But that’s a post for another day…
The point we’re trying to make is this: even the great philosophers and teachers of the world had to begin their work with a singular focus. Before they could fulfill their destinies, they had to acknowledge and consider the fact that one can not love others without first learning to love oneself. It is arguable that this is how we learn to love in the first place. Taking care of yourself is one of the best gifts you can give to the people you love. We’re sure you’ve heard the saying: “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s time to re-fill yours, Ma’am.
As with any other discipline, Self-Love requires practice. Rest is imperative, although proper nutrition, exercise, and some form of meditation/prayer are also necessary. But these are just the basics. We here at Fearless Black Woman have come up with 10 ways you can put yourself at the top of your list…
1. Begin each day with some form of positive affirmation. Whether it’s a mantra you repeat to yourself, a few minutes spent looking at your vision board or deep breathing while remembering 10 things you’re grateful for, begin each day by affirming the good things in your life. Bonus points for finding things to look forward to that day.
2. Reserve at least 15 minutes each day for some form of exercise. More time is great, if you have it, but even if you don’t have time for an entire work-out routine, a walk, a good stretch, a little yoga…anything you can do to move your body will improve your mood and lift your spirits. Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning any exercise or fitness routine.
3. Do not hesitate to find yourself a good therapist if you need to. We can’t stress this enough: your mental health matters! Even if you can only afford to go once or twice a month, there is nothing more freeing than discussing your life and challenges with a qualified professional who can offer you the objectivity and support you need.
4. Keep a journal. We know…we know…but hear us out. Whether you use an old-fashioned diary, an electronic tablet, your laptop, or the notes app on your phone—it will help more than you can imagine to get all of those jumbled thoughts and overwhelming emotions out of your head and into a place where you can actually LOOK at them. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it will be to get a handle on some of your problems when you can see them in front of you, as opposed to having to deal with them while they are swimming around inside of you. Don’t try to stick to a schedule or hold yourself to some unrealistic expectation of writing every day. You can journal during particularly trying times, really happy times, or any time in between. The point is to get it out.
5. Make (and keep) a regular appointment for a beauty service. If you’re not the type of girl to spend hours in the nail or hair salon, schedule a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly massage, facial or eyebrow/eyelash appointment. It doesn’t matter what the service is, but the most important part of this practice to keep in mind: No children allowed! Even if it’s only one hour a month, knowing that you will have this time for yourself will help you make it through those trying times when you really just want to start punching folks.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
– Audre Lorde
6. Set up a regular time to watch a movie, call a friend, listen to music, or just sit and stare out of a window. Whatever you do to decompress, schedule it (in PEN) into your planner as often as need be. Block out the time, arrange childcare, pet care, husband care….just make sure you have uninterrupted time to engage in activities for yourself in the home you work so hard to provide/take care of.
7. Take control of your diet and nutrition. Consult with a professional dietician or nutritionist to figure out how to eat in a way that supports your health, enables you to feel and look your best and allows you to perform at the highest levels.
8. Consider adopting a pet. We know not every living situation allows for pets, but if it’s possible, having a furry or feathery friend has been shown to decrease stress levels, increase happiness and even prolong life. Also, they’re just so darn cute!
9. Try aromatherapy. If you don’t suffer from allergies, we absolutely recommend investing in an essential oil diffuser, wax warmer…(there are many options for infusing your environment with calming and/or invigorating scents). The right scent can relieve stress, promote healing, encourage happiness and clear negative energies.
10. Find a reason to laugh EVERY DAY. Nothing diffuses tension like laughter. Many days, laughing can mean the difference between making it through and catching a case. If you don’t do anything else on this list: find a reason to laugh. Every. Single. Day.
It our goal here at fearlessblackwoman.com to uplift, inspire, educate and empower our readers. Be sure to check out our “Write For Fearless Black Woman” submission guidelines in the footer. You may just be our next contributor!