Sustainable Self-Care: Finding Serenity in Times of Stress

By Gabrielle Bonifacio, Communications Assistant & Elydah Joyce, Research Assistant

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to reflect on how best we can take care of ourselves and each other. It is also important to recognize how racism causes additional trauma and has immense impacts on IBPOC communities, particularly with the recent deaths of George Floyd and countless other Black individuals due to police brutality and violent, systemic anti-Black racism. 

The term ‘self-care’ is everywhere. Companies and influencers have been quick to brand popular treats like spa days and scenic retreats as #selfcare for the masses. However, these methods are not always accessible or helpful for everyone, nor do they necessarily represent a history that goes much deeper than what pops up on your Instagram feed.

Historically, self-care has been a survival strategy for Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) who were particularly vulnerable to inadequate care and support from the government. As systems routinely failed the community, organizations like the Black Panther Party stepped in to establish their own strategies of care. In one instance, the US healthcare system actively harmed and refused to serve the Black community, so the Black Panther Party established free health clinics. In the words of the activist and writer Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

If you’re looking for methods that go beyond purchasing a bath bomb, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Reach out to your community.

Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean having to do everything alone, nor does it mean living only for yourself. For many IBPOC folks, isolation is already an issue that is prevalent in the community, so it is important to work out new strategies of communication and contact to help maintain daily strength and support.

2. Do what you can and don’t stress the rest.

In times of crises, many of us struggle with feeling overwhelmed and powerless. This is particularly true for historically, systemically, and persistently marginalized communities who are often the first and hardest hit. Rather than blaming yourself, acknowledge that it is okay to feel frustrated and that there are many factors that will always be out of our control. Meditation, journaling, and organizing your priorities can help you stay focused and present.

3. Make time to do something you love.

A big part of wellness is about checking in with yourself and figuring out your needs, so try your best to carve out a consistent space and time every week to do something that sparks joy. Whether it’s painting, taking walks or, even something as simple as watching funny videos on Youtube, it’s important to remember that our self worth is not defined by our so-called productivity. Doing activities that truly make you happy, particularly during stressful times, is extremely valuable and integral to your health.

4. Find healthy ways to deal with toxicity.

This can mean anything from unfollowing people who post negative or triggering content, to setting firm boundaries with friends, cutting certain people off completely, or taking professional actions such as filing an HR complaint. When you find yourself dealing with toxicity, whether it be on or offline, take the time to reflect on whether it is better for you to engage or step back and get extra support. After dealing with hurtful comments or people, it can be helpful to find outlets that allow us to release our emotions in a healthy way, such as exercising, art making or telling a trusted confidant. Unfortunately, sometimes certain circumstances keep us from being able to completely dissociate with conflict; if this is the case, try to find external help that can offer support or intervene on your behalf.

5. Seek extra help.

While much progress has been made over the years, many folks still face stigma and other barriers when it comes to getting treatment for their mental health or just in general. No matter what your situation is, it’s important to remember that your feelings and experiences are valid, and that asking for help can be the best thing that we do for ourselves. If you or someone you know needs more support, these campus resources are available and here to help.

Self-care can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s drawing or taking care of their bodies; for others, it’s cooking with their neighbours or talking to a therapist. Regardless of what you choose to do, genuine self-care is about finding ways to maintain your health in the present while also learning sustainable coping strategies that ensure you stay healthy in the future. At its best, self-care allows us to truly better ourselves and, in turn, the world around us. Its focus on the value of kindness, generosity, and community are valuable lessons that we can take with us and use, not only during this pandemic, but for the rest of our lives.

For IBPOC folks looking to come together, IBPOC Connections will be hosting many more exciting events that are designed to create a safe space for the community to connect and open up powerful, thought provoking conversations.