Black Lives Matter is not a new movement, at least not for Black people. It’s been a part of our world for years. Yet in the past couple of months, we’ve seen a huge socio-political shift in our society. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor have garnered global attention, and our country is experiencing a civil rights movement in protest against police brutality and violence against the Black community. As a result, self-care in the Black community has become more important than ever.
With all of this global attention came an onslaught of social media. I found myself struggling to keep up with the news. It seemed like every time I logged onto Instagram, a new viral video had surfaced of another person who looked like me being verbally or physically assaulted. I researched the victim, the perpetrator, and the situation every time I heard about a new case. Each name added to the list was a new person to fight for. I protested. I shared links. I posted educational content. I wanted more than anything to feel like I was contributing to the movement. Although I was motivated by this surge in the movement, I soon began to experience another feeling: exhaustion.
Everyday, Black people share content that contains explicit police brutality and racism in order to increase awareness. Although this is crucial to inspire people to stand in solidarity with us, it can be heavy and traumatic to be repeatedly exposed to this media. As a BIPOC person, I quickly felt overwhelmed and drained. The more I viewed, the higher my anxiety spiked. I started dealing with sporadic episodes of intense sadness. Witnessing consistent violence started to fill me with hopelessness and fear. It wasn’t until I connected with other Black people that I realized I wasn’t alone in this emotional experience.
In June, I participated in a panel discussion on gendered racism in the U.S. and the Black Lives Matter movement. We answered questions like “How are you practicing self-care during these times?” All of the women expressed the same emotions that I felt. They each offered their own solutions for practicing wellness. After hearing their stories, I realized that this is something all Black people should be incorporating into their lives right now. With that in mind, here are my favorite ways to practice wellness and support self-care in the Black community.
“We can’t fight systemic racism and oppression without tending to our own personal wellness.”
Take a break from social media
This seems easy, but it’s hard to do when you want to stay up to date on current events. I’m guilty of checking my phone as soon as I wake up and scrolling for an hour (or two), and it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole any time of day. Although it’s great to stay informed, you can’t forget about the physical world you’re inhabiting as well. Practice turning your phone off and taking a moment to be present with yourself. This will help tremendously with staying in tune with your emotional health.
Cook nourishing meals
Food is healing to me. Preparing a healthy meal for myself not only ensures my body is receiving the nourishment it needs, but it gives me something to focus on outside of social media. To make this experience even more wholesome, invite a friend over to share that meal with (in a safe and socially distant way of course). For me, staying isolated for too long can enhance those anxious and sad feelings, so sharing delicious food and conversation with a friend does wonders for my mental wellbeing.
Most of the time, we consume our media indoors, whether we’re scrolling on our phones in bed or staring at our laptops on the couch. I admittedly prefer the inside of my home more than nature. Even though it’s a little unlike me, one morning I decided to go watch the sunrise on the beach and to be honest, it made me feel amazing. I spent the rest of the day feeling energized and positive. Now I made it a point to go for a walk or even just lounge on my porch or in my backyard if I’m feeling down. It is is absolutely therapeutic to breathe fresh air and let sunlight hit your skin.
Ultimately, we can’t fight systemic racism and oppression without tending to our own personal wellness. Self-care in the Black community is essential, and I believe that integrating any of these practices into your life can help tremendously. Black people, we have to remember that our mental health matters just as much as our physical lives.