illustration of people doing self-care activities

4 Black Women Reveal Self-Care Strategies That Work For Them

By Stephanie Barnes
April 12, 2022

In 1988, Audre Lorde, the late civil and feminist rights activist and writer, declared the act of self-care for Black women to be a radical thing, a political thing. Lorde’s declaration came in “A Burst of Light,” a collection of essays that offered a peek into her struggle with cancer, years of emotional turmoil, and life in an oppressive world where Black women are often overlooked and diminished by a system that was built on their backs yet ultimately stands against them.

If self-care is the practice of protecting one's own well‑being and happiness, particularly during periods of stress, then during these days of pandemic and outrage and protest, it has never been more important to engage in acts that replenish and uplift. But where do Black women turn when the most basic feel-good activities—taking a nap, relaxing with their kids at a hotel pool, sitting on a park bench, or going on a train trip through Napa with girlfriends—has led to being treated with suspicion, at best, or, at worst, being subjected to police investigation and detention?

We asked four Black women, all experts in uplifting and empowering women, how they’re practicing self-care in the current socio-political climate. Here, they share what has worked for them—and what you can add to your own care routines.

Protect Your Inner Space

These days, Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a therapist and counselor in Murrieta, California, says she’s been spending a lot more time alone, but realizes how easy it can be to find herself in a tailspin by consuming too much information. “I am definitely being a lot more mindful about who I talk to, what I consume on social media, what types of conversations I have, as well as what information I consume,” she says. “I’ve also become a lot more picky about who I allow into my emotional space. In this season, I choose people who will build me up, encourage me, and accept me for who I am.”

Create Community

When it comes to preserving energy, Gennette Cordova, a grant writer and founder of The Lorraine House, an organization focused on empowering art, philanthropy, and activism, suggests establishing your own community of supportive individuals. In other words, find your tribe and hold on tight. Cordova says this led her to starting a book club in Brooklyn, New York. “Our first meeting ended up lasting seven hours. It was such a positive, motivating experience. And it resulted in a group of women who understood and supported one another constantly,” she says. “My best tip is to create and cultivate networks that function as support systems that you both consistently benefit from and contribute to.”

Prioritize Your Health

While not all health issues are preventable, an early diagnosis could be the difference between life and death. This is why it is vital to prioritize our health. That means getting regular tests and checkups—and not just when we already feel something is wrong. It also means making lifestyle choices that support, rather than compromise, your health.

“Make sure you are eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and getting sufficient sleep,” Mahlet Endale, Ph.D., an Atlanta-area psychologist, says. “These three factors are key in ensuring your body is prepared to deal with both physical and psychological stress. When any of these things are not where they should be, you are more likely to get sick or have difficulty dealing with emotional stress.”

Get Outside, But Be Mindful

Given the seemingly weekly incidents of Black people being harassed and hounded for doing normal things while out in public, Osibodu-Onyali says that practicing self-care outside of her home can feel fraught with danger, but, “I have had to push through the fear and pain, in order to reclaim my power.” Black women, she goes on to say, need to tell themselves “over and over again, ‘I am a valuable part of this society and the world at large.’” And for this reason, she encourages everyone to go for walks.

“We underestimate the importance of sunlight and fresh air, so I’ve been making it a point to go on long walks around my neighborhood,” she explains. “I soak in the fresh air, wave at my neighbors, and try to go back to old times. It's the little things that really make me feel rejuvenated.”

But no matter how regular her sojourns, Osibodu-Onyali says she’s a lot more safety conscious than she’s ever been. “I’m very mindful about what time I walk, where I go, what I wear, and what vibe my demeanor might bring,” she says. “There are certain neighborhoods I absolutely will not go to just to avoid any trouble, and I’m not spending as much time as I used to doing simple things like going to the store.”

Stay Busy, If That Works For You

For some women, including Olecia Christie, a certified life coach and owner of Optix Communications in San Antonio, TX, staying busy has been tremendously helpful for her mental health. While she acknowledges that trying to fill each moment of the day sounds like a lot, she says it works for her. “We are experiencing uncertain times, and it's easy to fall into a lull because we have pockets of time on our hands,” says Christie. “Being productive and using my time for meaningful activities is my way to elevate my best self.”

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