By Sydney Turner
May is mental health awareness month, and as Black women, I think we need to prioritize ours more, especially right now. Black women are taught to take care of everyone else before ourselves, but we cannot pour into others when we don’t have anything to give due to burnout. It may seem difficult to focus on our mental health right now, being in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and police brutality still hurting our communities, but that is why it is more important than ever. Here are ten ways to protect your mental health right now as a Black woman.
- Surround yourself with a loving support system
During this time where we are already being worn so thin, having people around you who add value to your life and support you is important. Your friends and family are supposed to support and uplift you, not be another challenge you must face. Your friends and family should also be asking you how you are occasionally. They should support you and motivate you to be better. Surround yourself with people that make you feel happy after spending time with them. The people you allow in your life must understand it is a privilege to be in it!
2. Learn what your boundaries are and enforce them
I think as Black women, the word boundary can often scare us because we were not taught to have them. For your mental health’s sake, you must learn what they are. No one can respect your boundaries if you do not communicate with them, so tell the people in your life what bothers you even if you think it’s stupid. Those who care about you will listen because nothing real can be broken by communicating how you feel. And if others cross your boundaries, let them know and consider removing them from your life. If you continue to allow people to cross your boundaries to “keep the peace,” you will ruin your own.
3. Treat yourself, you deserve it
I think we collectively need a spa day. So, whenever you can find a way to treat yourself and let yourself know you are appreciated, do so. You require the people in your life to be kind and gentle with you, so do the same for yourself. Find out what your love language is and practice on yourself.
4. Make time for the things you want to do
Somehow even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, there still feel like there are a million things to do! However, you should still find time to do the things that you want to do. Think about whether something must get done right now and if it does not make time for yourself. Plan a socially distanced brunch with some friends. Take a day off and catch up on the show you are behind on. Get reacquainted with a hobby you haven’t had time for or thought you grew outgrew.
5. Treat your body and mind like the temple they are
One of the best ways to feel good mentally is to treat yourself well physically. That doesn’t mean to enter a 5k or go on a ridiculous diet. That means eating food that makes you feel good and that you want to eat, whether that be a salad or a burger because your body needs both. Go outside with a mask, and connect with nature, whether running, yoga, or just sitting and reading a book. Try to keep a good sleep schedule because your body needs rest. Treat your body like a home instead of a temporary place that must change or maintain a certain shape for you to feel happy. Your body has gotten you through not only your entire life but also the last year. Be gentle with it and show it some appreciation.
6. Limit your social media usage
Almost every time I go online, I see something is happening somewhere, and we must act right now! Or I see something that makes me feel like I am not accomplishing enough. We must stay updated on the world and try to help one another during this challenging time. However, going online every day first thing in the morning and seeing videos of cops killing Black people, how out of control the world is right now, or comparing yourself to someone else is not how you should start the day. Try to do one thing before going on social media. Personally, I try to listen to music, a podcast or eat first before I check my phone in the morning. Some people do yoga, read, shower, and get ready, etc. Taking frequent breaks from social media will also allow you to remember an entire world offline. So, whenever you can log out for a bit.
7. Allow yourself to have a bad day, week, etc.
Mental health is more than just yoga, crystals, and feel-good speeches. Mental health is also being realistic because some of us are not wired to feel good all the time and that all of us are going to have a bad day, week, month now and then. It is important to let yourself have a bad day and allow the emotions you are feeling to exist to see why they are there. It is also important to remember that we are not that emotional while we may feel an emotion. We may feel sad, frustrated, annoyed, etc., but we are not just those emotions, and we have more control over them than we think.
8. Stop settling just because you’re lonely
Black women, more than anyone else, need to hear that you shouldn’t settle. This goes for every person in your life, but it is especially important to hear romantically. We are taught that being single is something to be ashamed of, but being single, happy, and not settling is far superior to dating people who are not good enough for us. It is okay to say that someone is not good enough for us. If you keep settling for the bare minimum people who stress you out, and as Megan, The Stallion says, bring nothing to the table but their plate, you will not be happy. Wait for something better and expect people to treat you like the goddess you are.
9. Start going after your dreams
Right now, there is a white man with half your qualifications applying to your dream job, and you’re still hesitating. As Black women we expect the world to be harder for us because it is we expect to work not just 2 but 4 times as hard for the same amount of respect, but that is not a reason to quit. Half the reason why people tell us the world is so hard for us is to discourage us from going after what we really want because they know how powerful we are. Going after your dreams, even when it’s hard, is necessary for your mental health.
10. Therapy, go to therapy in whatever way you can access
A 10-step list cannot solve some issues, some are deeper and have to do with depression, anxiety, and other issues with mental health. It is okay for us to admit when we need help from others. I resisted heavily against therapy until my life depended on me going, but if I had just admitted I needed help earlier, my life might have been easier. There is nothing weak about admitting you need help. In fact, it is incredibly strong to admit you need it. Even if you don’t need it, having time, that is just about you is something every Black woman deserves. Black women shouldn’t have to be so strong and hold ourselves up all the time, and some issues are beyond what our friends can handle especially right now. I think everyone should be in therapy, however; it is not accessible for everyone. So, if therapy is not an option for you right now, there are other options that are therapeutic. Journaling is a great way to allow yourself to talk about what’s wrong, meditating a calming activity once a week that is just about you, working out, YouTube has a lot of free advice for those who cannot see a therapist, and of course, having the support of friends.
If you cannot access therapy here are some resources that might help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)
Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
Better help can help those who may not be able to afford a traditional therapist find one.
The Trevor Project is committed to helping save LGBTQ+ lives. If you need immediate support, you can call them at 1-866-488-7386.
Trans Lifeline is a support hotline for trans and questioning people at 1-877-330-6366.
Black Girls Smile collects resources for Black girls’ mental health.
The Dear Black women project also collects resources more centered towards Black women instead of young girls.
Sydney Turner is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Sydney believes in the power of Black women of every background and is invested in bringing attention to our unique perspective on important topics. You can follow Sydney on instagram @syd_pie11.