It saddens me to write again on the reoccurring theme of self-care so soon. Recently, several people I am aware of have passed on. Teyana Perry, a beloved, local natural hairstylist, and Domineque Banks, a natural hair guru I knew from following on YouTube, both of them passed away from Lupus, an insidious, hard to diagnose disease of the immune system. I have also been made aware of another young lady who took her own life in recent weeks. Her name was Karyn Washington and she was the creator of For Brown Girls, an internationally acclaimed movement to empower girls of all hues.
In the midst of all these tragic deaths it makes me wonder. When did we become so strong? When did we decide to hide our hurts and mask our pain? How did we learn to do it so well? When I say we I mean all women, Black women especially and myself particularly. I was diagnosed with severe anemia a few weeks ago. After being exhausted and almost passing out coming down from the choir stand I knew I had to go to the doctor. She made me stay home for an entire week. That's when I knew something was wrong. She's never allowed me to do that!
My blood pressure was 80/50, my fingers were purple, my hair was dry coming out (I have several bald spots) and I just felt drained - literally. There were signs. I wasn't sleeping well; I was eating little and was under extreme stress at my job. My son's school was not only costing me an arm and a leg, they were trying to tell me he needed to be evaluated for ADHD in not so subtle terms. Look. I was under pressure. I've never been one to back down from a fight, but it seemed like this time was different. My ability to bounce back had fallen flat and although I am involved in a relationship, he was of little assistance due to his own hectic lifestyle and schedule.
I was trying not to rehearse my problems. To stay positive in the midst of my trials. To let go and let God handle what I couldn't, but in the process, I almost lost my life. I have been known to drive myself so hard that I won't eat nor drink for hours after waking! That's not healthy. It's okay to be driven, but not at the expense of our very lives. I am getting my life and health in the proper perspective now, but it's a long road back from being Superwoman. Ladies. When you are in the presence of another woman who seems to have it all together, please don't discount the fact that she may be an expert at being super and not at taking care of herself.
We lose ourselves so easily to our communities, our children, our churches, and our significant others (or our lack of one) that we forget to stop and self evaluate. Here are a few simple questions that we can ask ourselves as a way to check in with our self-care daily:
1. Have I prayed and/or meditated today?
Praying and/or meditating are great ways to start the day focused and intentionally positive. It can set the tone for a positive day.
2. Have I eaten healthily?
People underestimate the power of a good breakfast! Eating small balanced meals throughout your day is a sure fire way to not only keep your blood sugar normalized, it's also a great way to maintain or even lose weight.
3. Have I affirmed myself?
Telling yourself how wonderful you are is not an exercise in narcissism. It's a way to boost your self-efficacy and get your mind and spirit on one accord about how wonderful you are! It is also a great way to stop self-defeating internal dialogue.
4. Have I hugged or been hugged today?
Hugging is a scientifically proven way to improve mood and stabilize emotional states. It has even been linked to growth in children! Not to mention, hugs feel AMAZING! I know I have a person or two that I love to hug - Do you?
5. Have I checked in with my inner circle today?
Calling and actually talking to our close friends is becoming a lost art. We have become digital in our ways of communicating and it's not the same. Facebook and Instagram are great, but do not take the place of face to face or even telephone conversation. Even texting is no way to replace the feeling of being present with someone you are connected to personally.
6. Have I been to the doctor lately for my annual check up? Did I follow up and follow through with their suggestions?
This one is two pronged because many of us will go to the doctor and they will tell us things that they would like for us to work on and then we don't follow through. They say we want you to watch your weight or change your eating habits or lose 20 pounds, but then we don't. They say we want you to get more rest, take more time for yourself, or take a vacation, but we think we don't have the time. Take the time. We only have a limited amount of it here.
All of these suggestions are doable! They all will also keep us connected to one another and to our own self-care. For the record, I am in no way saying that these ladies all suffered from these thought patterns and actions. Bu, I but I do know that they are gone too soon and we, the communities they came from and the people whose lives they touched, miss them dearly. In our mourning and missing we need to make sure we are reaching out to one another. Checking in and checking up on one another and ourselves.
We are all in pursuit of our purpose, but our first charge is to love one another as we love ourselves. So, let's love ourselves enough so that we can share the love.