How Taking Care of Yourself Helps You Take Care of Others
Take inventory. Cultivate. Water. Invest. Repeat.
These are all key concepts to nurturing one’s body to sustain the taxing demands of daily life and society. As Black Americans are reinvesting in our sense of community, we are also realizing that the best way to do this is to invest in ourselves, thus creating a greater capacity to support others. We are asking questions like: How can I heal? What is the true value of doing the internal work? How does helping myself help my family and community?
Nurturing our bodies from the inside out is one of the best kept secrets of Black Mental Health. Western society is and can be extremely taxing on the physical and mental health of Black men and women, and our offspring. From economic inequality, eco-terrorism, and of course, racism we are faced with a tremendous amount of trauma and weight on our bodies. Luckily for us, there is a major shift happening in our community that is causing us to prioritize our mental and physical health above the constraints of capitalism and many other things.
One of the ways we are taking back our claim to health is by being more intentional about what we are allowing into our bodies. While one may think this is directly related to food–and it is, it is also heavily related to the media, music, and relationships (both professional and personal). There are numerous ways that we are able to boost our quality of life, and they are primarily centered around how we nurture our bodies and minds.
Taking inventory means to ask yourself, “In what ways am I operating in a deficit and in what ways do I aspire to improve my life?” You may also ask yourself, “what is my ideal life and how does the ideal version of myself live?” The answer to these can and will be multifaceted. You may find things like a desire to move your body more, take better control of your mental health, and even the desire to eat healthier. Assessing the ways in which you want to nurture yourself is step one in making healthier lifestyle choices.
Cultivation is probably the most important aspect of nurturing yourself, because it looks like doing your research and determining what works best for where you are trying to land in life. The inaccessibility of information is one of the primary barriers to nourishment. Black and Brown communities are less likely to be able to access information and resources necessary to live a sustainable, healthy, and impactful life. However, that simply means that the information is harder to find, but not impossible. Taking the time to cultivate your desired lifestyle and means of nourishment, looks like researching ways that are accessible to you and make the most sense for your life. For example, because Black American are more likely to reside in areas impacted by Food Apartheid, cultivation would look like accessing a nutritionist who can help you develop a meal plan that can be obtained in your community or nearby areas. It may also look like going to your doctors to determine your health and where you can begin to implement changes for growth.
Watering yourself looks like actually taking all of the information you compiled while cultivating your path and implementing the steps to become engaged in practices that heal you rather than leave you stagnant and in unhealthy cycles. Watering yourself also includes setting boundaries for people in your life (yes, that includes with your mama), getting rid of toxic encounters (i.e., jobs who do not appreciate you), and of course, holding yourself accountable to eat right and move your body for at least 30 minutes a day (honey, that’s one episode of Harlem; you can do it!). Watering yourself is also learning to make decisions for yourself, despite what others may think is better for you. In this process you are looking to maintain your growth and continue to make it work for your long term goals.
Investing in yourself allows you to develop a greater capacity to invest in others. When you take the time to nourish yourself, you are growing and expanding into areas of yourself that you may not have known existed, or that you knew were present but always seemed out of reach. Investing in your personal growth, is also how you invest in the growth of your family, community, and the Black population as a whole. As the age old adage says, you cannot pour from an empty cup.