At a time when you might feel under siege due to the world around you, taking a moment to show yourself some love is important.
By Denise Clay-Murray
Even the most optimistic among us have got to admit that the last few years for people of color have been, well, a lot.
From an outwardly hostile presidential administration to the deaths of Black people at the hands of police against the backdrop of a global pandemic that hit Black and Brown communities disproportionately, finding ways to keep it together both physically and emotionally has become a priority for people of color.
Self-care isn’t a new concept. While the concept began as a medical term used to describe people engaging in such preventative healthcare as cancer screenings and checkups, its meaning was expanded through the Black Panther Party. According to the book “Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination,” the group’s 10 Point Plan recognized that mental health was just as important as physical.
“With COVID, and police killings, people are fearful,” said Dr. Ayo Gooden, president of the Delaware Valley Association of Black Psychologists. “I often wonder how our parents and grandparents coped with these kinds of stressors when what they had to deal with was much worse.”
So, it comes as no surprise to Gooden that people are looking for mental health support. Demand for counseling services has increased as people who were already dealing with things like job-related stress and what’s best for their children are now also forced to deal with possible job loss, a near constant barrage of bad news, and in some cases, an abusive partner they can’t escape.
“Often, people don’t have clear, healthy strategies to cope with these things and they wind up engaging in harmful behaviors such as drinking and drugs,” Gooden said.
“Should you make the decision to find a therapist, it’s important to find someone who can understand what you’re going through emotionally, physically and culturally.” She recommends that people of color find therapists from their own communities.
Whether in therapy or not, doing little things to make yourself feel better is also a form of self-care. In addition to meditating for 15 to 20 minutes, taking her vitamins and drinking more water, Vera Hill has made it a point to follow some of the daily rituals of her pre-pandemic workday.
“I actually get dressed every day,” Hill said. “I don’t sit around with sweats on unless it happens to be a sweatsuit and it is usually new. I put on a different outfit every day.”
Self-care for Richelle Payne, a branding and public relations consultant, has included setting boundaries. In addition to changing her diet, donating to charities she cares about, listening to GirlTrek podcasts while walking with her sisters, and doing yoga, she’s decided not to indulge in discussions on certain social issues unless she absolutely needs to.
“I made a decision to stop teaching others about racism, diversity and belonging,” Payne said. “unless it is a service that I have been engaged to deliver as a branding and PR consultant.”
For more information on ways you can keep your calm in a not so calm world, visit the Delaware Valley Association of Black Psychologist’s website at dvabpsi.org.
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Denise Clay-Murray is an independent journalist whose work appears in various national and international publications.