We are excited to welcome our guest blogger, Kimberly Lewis, with her amazing piece on self-care! Kimberly is a mom to 4 sons, as well as a former teacher and social worker.
I know very well the importance of self-care, I’ve been told about it, and I have read about it repeatedly. But, I’m not great at it. Why? Because I’ll admit it…I have guilt about taking time for myself.
For as long as I can remember May 25th was a day of celebration; it’s my mother’s birthday, after all.
A day full of cards, cake and well wishes from her children and grandchildren.
A day full of laughter, gratitude, and sharing a meal with those you love.
This year was different.
Celebration coupled with frustration
This year we still celebrated my mother, but I sat horrified as a video circulated showing the death of yet another, unarmed black man. I’ve seen the news coverage and edited versions of such inhumane acts, but never like this.
Could it be? In broad daylight, while lying on the ground?
How brazen! The lack of respect and dignity for a human life! I shook my head and wondered if police brutality had crossed the line, thereby reaching the point of NO return.
Same ole, same ole
“Wow,” I slowly muttered, “its 2020!” So—not only am I charged with nurturing, educating, and training my sons. Now, I would need to protect them (even in broad daylight, and in front of witnesses) because, yet again the police have openly displayed their inability to do just that.
Anger, trepidation, and I’ll admit hopelessness, overcame me.
Irked as ever, I wondered if the narrative would ever change. Yet, another layer of stress.
They won’t be little forever
Furthermore, one day these young boys will grow up to be black men. Men that’ll look remarkably similar to the man with the police’s knee on his neck. What would this mean for my husband, for my sons?
Now triggered, I had a choice
All the swarming questions and negative emotions initiated the journey of subtle anxiety up my chest, and into my throat.
I could feel my pulse increase.
I’d been triggered.
I know all too well what unchecked anxiety can do and let’s just say I wasn’t interested!
The bottom line: If I am going to continue the important work of preparing, providing, and protecting, I would need to incessantly protect my right to self-care.
It was relevant then; its relevant now
In 1970, the great black poet, Audre Lorde wrote, “I have come to believe that caring for my self is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
Like Ms. Lorde, I believe self-care is an act of survival for all women, but especially for women of color and even more so for women with children that have special needs.
Its specific to me (and you, too)
I’m a woman of color, raising four sons, one of which has special needs. Survival or self-indulgent, you ask? I’m smirking, now.
Seriously, though, there are great natural and systemic barriers to overcome; police brutality/insensitivity being just one.
Putting back in what’s being taken out
I expend tons of energy thinking, planning, deciding, avoiding, and protecting. All of these “ings” results in one tired and stretched momma. I simply can’t approach this craft of raising men of color, nonchalantly. But, really, though, regardless of race, I believe all mothers want the same thing for their children (more on that another time). And all moms put a lot into their children. Therefore, it’s imperative that you and I seek out daily ways to refill our cup…to survive!
Now to the heart of the matter
For years, I think self-care has been synonymous with activities like getting a massage, getting your nails “done”, yoga, shop therapy, and the like.
All of which cost money and great amounts of time.
It’s possible that women from marginalized ethnicities may not have access to spas near them or the resources to participate and support this definition of self-care. That’s why we need to expand the definition of self- care and explore self-care as a necessity.
Self-care has to do with self-love, with self-preservation.
Self-care is about the active exploration of specific activities that refuel you.
Going to the spa can serve as a refueling, but so can sitting outside under a tree.
Refueling and refilling is different for everyone, but certainly, it does not have to cost a cent!
Daily means daily
I’d like to suggest two self-care survival tactics, “that will refill our cups,” daily. It is particularly important that we care for ourselves daily, seeing that most of us are caring for others daily.
Your goal should be to not skip one day.
You are that important and remember what I mentioned earlier, you cannot effectively provide for others if you are not providing for yourself. We’ve all heard that phrase, but do we do it. It is a matter of survival; a matter of halting and reversing that anxiety. You see?
“Calgon, take me away,” far, far away…
These self-care tactics work well, even as we continue to remain homebound due to COVID-19. As you will shortly see they cost no money and do not require you to leave your home. What I’ve found to be very helpful is combining a technique with something that I already do daily. For example, we take a shower or bath daily (well, most days, right?!).
Uh, before the bath
So, after the third round of dominoes with my nine-year-old. I’m done.
I start to snap and notice my competitive nature has really surfaced.
I actually wanted him to loose!
I get up and head to the bathroom, resisting feelings of guilt. I need perspective and maybe a glass of wine. It’s time to transform my bath experience into a sanctuary of sorts.
Let’s make a deal
In order for this to work, I have to make a deal with my husband. So, make a deal with the kids or your significant other that bath time is alone time.
I mean the door remains locked and no one bangs on the door or screams through the door.
Agree to a time.
The dominoes night my goal was 30 minutes. I turned the lights down, lit a candle, played some soft music, and revved up up the “jets.” Refueled the proper way.
Label and release
I could feel my face soften and my shoulders relax.
Water has such a calming effect. And just to know I had the next 30 minutes to focus of me, prompted inner peace.
The physical relaxation of my body allowed me to be honest with my emotions (relating to dominoes and the day in general). Hence, the need for daily self-care.
Daily self-care allows you to deal with emotions daily, rather than a backlog of emotions. So, I let the guilt slide down the drain, along with a few pent-up tears. I’d be less competitive next time.
You could listen to your favorite pod cast, audio book or watch a movie.
Just be sure your device is in a waterproof case!
Next, something else that we do daily that we can incorporate in our self-care strategies is, don’t laugh— intentional breathing.
Most of us aren’t even aware of our breathing. We breathe too shallow or like me, at times you hold my breath, without even realizing it.
I remember watching 60 minutes. The segment was about a girl who had an incurable disease. I was so engrossed in the show, with my inner dialogue going. My mind raced, I wondered could that happen to me; to one of my kids? My heart started racing and I felt lightheaded. Exactly, how long had I been holding my breath? It took me several minutes of deep breathing, fresh air, and few cups of water to relax.
Oxygen, oh oxygen where art thou oxygen!
What if we trained ourselves as we are washing dishes, teaching the kids, sweeping the floor, or returning emails to breathe?
I mean to really breathe.
There are tons of different ideas on breathing techniques. One thing they all agree on is the powerful benefits of truly breathing can have mentally, emotionally, and physically.
An amazingly simple one that I use as I type is to breathe in for four seconds and hold my breath for four seconds; then I breathe out for four seconds and don’t breathe in for four seconds. Try it!
Do you have your answer? Is self-care a luxury or a necessity? Hopefully, after reading this, we can all agree that self- care is a necessity.
Here’s to self-care! Here’s to survival! Let’s change the narrative!
Mom of 4 sons, am a former teacher, and social worker. Houston, TX based. Connect with me at [email protected]
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