The events of 2020, and now into 2021, shined a spotlight on what racially marginalized people have known for years: Stress and trauma related to racism and discrimination—the result of racial bias, ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes—takes an enormous mental and emotional toll. If you’ve been feeling even more anxious, sad, angry, or frustrated, you’re not alone.
The truth is, we don’t just deserve self-care. We need it—to survive, thrive, and maintain our sense of well-being for ourselves, our family, and friends. Here are 6 ways to care for yourself in stressful, challenging, painful times:
1. Give yourself a break.
One look at the news can be enough to get your heart racing—and not in a good way. The same goes for social media. Although it can be a great way to stay in touch with friends, it can also be a significant source of stress, especially when your feed is filled with race-related traumatic events. Take a media break or set filters to control what you let in.
The same goes for you: Make sure you give yourself a break. The next time you find yourself thinking self-care is a nice-to-have not a must-have, repeat one of these statements instead: “I am worthy of self-care. I don’t have to earn it.” or “I will make time to take care of myself.” These affirmations, over time, will become embedded in your belief system.
2. Just say no.
Just because you belong to a certain ethnic group doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in it. Diversity, equity, and inclusion groups are worthwhile. But if leading or participating in them takes up too much emotional labor, take a pass — especially if you aren’t being compensated.
3. Celebrate your culture.
Depending on where you live and work, you might be the only one with your cultural background, which can be emotionally draining. Read a book, watch a movie or television series, attend a museum or festival, or simply listen to music and enjoy foods that celebrate your culture and affirm your identity.
4. Make the connection.
You can’t have self-care without community. Connecting with others doesn’t just foster a sense of belonging — it also actually triggers the release of “feel good” brain chemicals that boost your mood. So call friends and family. Get involved in support groups. Plan some fun activities like game nights, having brunch, or just going for a walk together. We do not need to do life alone.
5. Put it in writing.
You don’t have to keep a daily diary to reap the benefits of journaling. Pouring your emotions on paper can be cathartic and healing. Added bonus: Writing about racial aggressions can help you process the experience from a position of self-advocacy. It can help you honor your emotions, and construct a more positive narrative so that you don’t internalize the negative messages discrimination can bring.
6. Rest and recharge.
Far from being a sign of laziness, rest is a radical act of self-preservation. We live in productivity-obsessed culture that can chip away at our energy. Coupled with the emotional tax from experiences of discrimination, racial aggressions, and bias — it can very exhausting. Follow a sleep regimen that prepares your mind and body for rest, take your breaks, time off, and sneak in naps when possible.
It may not come naturally at first, but remember: Self-care is critical, especially when you’ve experienced race-based stress. Self-care is maintenance, prevention and protection from all that life throws at us. So keep practicing your affirmations and making time for yourself. Eventually, self-care will become a habit that will allow you to pour from your overflow and not your reserves.