Self-Care and Mothers of Color: What Does it Mean for Us?
I wish that “self-care” was not such a hot buzz-word. Buzz-words, by their very nature, are associated with the “right now” as opposed to a concept that is sustainable over time. It’s so imperative to learn to develop an intentional practice around caring for yourself that is imbedded in our day-to-day lives. The concept of self-care shouldn’t be just a hot topic.
Every day we are bombarded with stories and images and horrible news. We are navigating through layers of toxic stress and systemic gender and racial barriers. And we haven’t even gotten inside of our own family structures yet! Our partners need our support, the kids literally depend on you for life (no pressure!), and we are managing the millions of dynamics associated with our households.
Society (and Instagram) says we should treat ourselves to a bubble bath when we are “stressed”, but I instead ask how can mothers preserve their wellness by prioritizing it on an intentional, meaningful and regular basis in an effort to minimize or prevent elevated stress levels in the first place? I believe the answer lies somewhere within the concepts of ritualization and routine.
I have found the most important aspects of my self-care regimen have been creating a morning and evening routine. Doing so allows me to:
A) Know that I will get around to doing it 95% of time, as opposed to just hoping I find time to squeeze it in during the day.
B) Create a routine so that practicing self-care becomes both an expected and welcomed part of my daily life. Since the inception of my routine, I have yet to look back.
In essence, we do what we commit to doing. Not a novel concept, but important to point out.
My morning routine consists of a 10 minute energizing yoga session, 10-20 minutes of meditation, and a devotional reading. Taking those 30 minutes to care for myself before the kids are awake is EVERYTHING. It's literally life changing.
In the evening, my wind-down routine is less planned, but usually consists of reading in bed with my husband and enjoying an occasional glass of wine. I love to burn a candle on my nightstand and apply some lavender essential oil to my wrists to remind myself to chill out before the race starts again tomorrow.
In my journey I’ve also learned that what you decide NOT to do can impact your well being just as much as what you decide to incorporate. As someone who used to start my day with CNN, I’ve now committed to tuning out of the cable news world first thing. It just wasn’t serving me or helping me stay in line with my intention for the day. If I need to know what’s going on nationally and globally, I’ll read the Skimm or check out the days top headlines on another print format later in the day.
Self-care is the most important form of health care out there. The data tells us that it is a key strategy for health promotion and disease prevention (per the World Health Organization). Empowering ourselves and others to perform self-care should be a core policy message, since we really can’t afford to NOT be doing it.
As mothers, we have to be super intentional around our self-care practices simply because our sanity and well-being demands it. I realize that many of us (myself included) will struggle with giving ourselves permission to go there. To just "be" instead of "doing" for others may feel odd, initially. What I am learning is that it is OK to let go of the notion that our kids are “everything”, our sole purpose for existence. That our primary role is that of "caregiver". It's an important role, certainly, but let's ask ourselves how well we can show up for others if we continue to not pour into ourselves. Is this even sustainable? I'm learning that we have to give ourselves permission to be sustained by our passions (which can certainly include our families) and by taking time for us.
Know that our kids will live if we take time to ourselves. In fact, I am of the thought that they will thrive if we take the time to do so.
There are SO many ways to hop on the self-care bandwagon with out making it feel like another chore to add to your never ending list of to-do’s. Need some ideas? Check it out, mama’s:
1. Watch the sunrise each day in prayer or mediation.
2. Finally get around to reading the book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf (audiobooks do the trick as well).
3. Burn a naturally scented candle while you journal.
4. Tap into your creativity through your preferred outlet (drawing, photography, writing, gardening etc)
5. Immerse yourself (don't just dabble) in a new passion project or interest.
6. Take a dance break (I know you probably do this anyway. At least I hope you do!)
7. Cook your favorite meal for yourself.
8. Grab a warm bath enriched with essential oils at the end of a long week.
9. Go out on a date night with your partner.
10. Go for a long solo walk or run.
11. Take a moment to breath in, and then, as you breath out, release anything that doesn’t serve you.
12. Commit to community. Nurture your friendships and practice vulnerability in such a way that you are able to rely on your village for support. We don't have to do this alone.
It is especially important that mothers of color take time to connect with what makes us come alive as we navigate the world around us. Moving from survival mode to thriving mode just starts with one small (and intentional) step forward.
You got this:
1. Get out of your head and about what you think self-care should be. It can be anything you want it to be!
2. Give yourself permission to do you.
3. Just start. Even if you’re not ready.
“My needs are as important as anyone else’s. I am aloud to say “no” to others and “yes” to myself”