Be Intentional With Your Self-Care

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
-James Baldwin

Life has felt really heavy lately. Between the election and other curveballs life has seen fit to throw lately, I haven’t felt like my upbeat, optimistic self. In fact the other side of my Libra scale has been activated as I find myself, depending on the day, more easily aggravated by people and particularly sensitive. While I’m thankful for the many blessings in my life (like my career, my family, my friends, good health, etc.) the desire to tune the world out and all the headlines and reminders of things I’d rather not think about, while I stay wrapped up in my little safe cocoon has been particularly strong.

I don’t really want to get into politics on this page (not because that’s not something I think about, but because I have another form for that). But to say that I have been angry and disillusioned with people and society would be an understatement.  In general I’ve just been trying to process everything and find a way to not let everything (like I said, it’s not just the political stuff, there’s some personal things going on too) make me bitter but instead teach me and motivate me.  This is an on-going process, but it’s definitely a good one and I’m learning a lot already. For starters:

  1. There are no such thing as “bad” feelings. You feel how you feel – and all feelings are valid.

I’ve been listening to Solange’s album a lot since it dropped, and her song “Mad” (along with “Cranes in the Sky”) seem to have taken up permanent residence in my mind. In particular when I first started feeling myself sinking into this valley of feelings I’m in, I found “Cranes in the Sky” to be the first song I ran to and played on repeat (I think we all have songs like that – the ones that say everything we’re   feeling and we just play over and over until the need to hear it has subsided). You see that whole idea of trying to distract myself from my feelings and problems is my exact pattern. But one thing this past year has taught me is that I can’t keep trying to avoid or push aside feelings that don’t fit under that umbrella of “positivity.” If anything, I know that when I push something down, all it does it build up until I erupt and go off later because of all that I’ve been repressing and pushing aside. So the key thing I’ve been learning and grasping this past year or so has been that of really sitting in my feelings and allowing myself to be sad or be angry.  And also not calling anger or sadness “bad feelings.” All labeling an emotion does is make you either avoid or constantly seek one over the other when all are valid. The range of emotions that we as humans can feel are all a part of being alive.

And so I listen to “Mad” after “Cranes in the Sky” and get my mean head-nod on because I truly do have a lot to be mad about. And that’s okay. Because sometimes that’s life.

  1. Be intentional with your self-care

So I got this one from one of my close friends. We were talking about all that’s going on and how we’re processing it all.  I confided that I feel like I am slipping into a bit of depression (which is not a term I use lightly because I have struggled with that in the past and I know the signs of it for myself) and things I’ve been doing to try and deal. She in turn dropped this gem on me, saying to listen to your body and your feelings and be intentional with how you take care of yourself. That really resonated with my spirit and has since been ringing in my head.

I think sometimes when we talk about taking care of ourselves, for some of us we feel as though it is selfish because we have roles that require us to consider others. But truly, if you don’t take care of yourself first, what good will you be to others. In particular for me, that has meant that I have had to be vocal about not wanting to talk about certain topics and excusing myself from conversations that I don’t want to have. That’s meant limiting contact with some people. It’s also meant taking social media breaks accept for people, things, and subjects that make me laugh, smile, or just feel good. I love Twitter and IG, but as I basically have to take the good with the bad on there (unlike Pinterest and Tumblr which are my happy places because I only follow and see things that make my heart smile) I have to limit myself and be on there only in doses.

Even health wise, I have been listening to my body in terms of doing what I need to do that also is in alignment with my greater good. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately, but I know that starving myself isn’t a good look. So I’ve been doing meal replacement shakes. I have a membership to an awesome gym, but I know that getting outside to walk around the lake at the park near me always makes me feel good. So I bundle up and try to get there when I can instead. I always used to think it was hokey when people said stuff like that: “listen to your body” or threw around the word “self-care” – which seems to be a popular thing to say lately. But it’s real and its importance cannot be stressed enough.  Stop. Slow down. And listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It won’t steer you wrong.

  1. Joyfulness Is Its Own Resistance – Find It Where You Can and Hold Onto It

Lately whenever there’s something that makes me smile and feel good, I give that all of my attention. It doesn’t matter what it is – I find it and stay in that moment.  Because I know that just as quickly as I’m happy and in that moment, my mind can also turn the corner into something that will reverse that smile. So when Beyoncé come on the radio talking about “7-11” on my drive to work, I go ahead and do my driving/dancing/singing routine thing while I let myself feel all the goodness that washes over me when I hear a song I love.  Instead of watching the news as I get dressed in the morning, I pick whatever playlist or album on TIDAL that speaks to me (clearly music is big right now). It also means that when I feel like wandering around Barnes and Noble with coffee on a random night, the way I used to when I was a teenager (yup, bookworm through and through from way back), then that’s what I’ll do.

What I keep thinking lately is that identifying with being a Carefree Black Girl is one of the biggest forms of resistance and resilience there is. There is so much in this world that seems to be set up for Black women to not be happy or free. So many want to see us as only angry and hard, but strong. But there is so much more to us. And daring to try and be free, whole, humans – not fitting into this archetype set for us but instead finding joy even through the dark times – that’s its own revolution. It doesn’t mean, and never has meant, that life is perfect. If anything, it’s a decision to face what’s going on, but not yield to being brought down by it. I think finding joy in the dark times is one of the challenges in life that I’m learning to do. That’s what self care is to me. So being intentional is key.

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