Sometimes all the things that happen at work can feel like too much to handle. We can feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and even defeated. In these moments I utilize two very different approaches for picking myself back up. The first I like to refer to as “Black Love as Medicine.” Sometimes immersing myself in a community of people that look like me can be just the medicine that I need to feel better, because they understand what I’m going through, because I don’t need to put on an act around them. In the workplace this can come in the form of Black employee resource groups. It can also come in the form of Black mentors or friends, either at your company or externally. I have been leading mindfulness groups for Black and brown communities for the past few years, and being in these safe spaces with people with open hearts and an intention for mutual support can be incredibly powerful, even when they are online. Black Love as Medicine can also be used in the same way that we think about vitamins: Don’t wait until it gets so bad that you feel overwhelmed. If you ensure that you have just a little bit on a regular basis, you have a higher likelihood of remaining healthy and happy, regardless of the challenges that arise. 

The second approach I take is very physical, and it involves a practice our ancestors have been engaging in for generations: dance.

Dance has been used throughout the African diaspora as a tool to heal from trauma. Nicole Monteiro, psychologist and owner of the Center for Healing and Development, explains that “dance is a physical behavior that embodies many curative properties that are released through movement, rhythms, self-expression, and communion, as well as the mechanisms of cathartic release. These properties allow individuals to shift emotional states, oftentimes creating an experience of wholeness.” 

When you’ve had a hard day, when you feel like you just can’t handle it anymore, I invite you to do what I call a Conscious Dance Release. Choose some fast-paced music that you know will get you moving. For me, that’s something with lots of percussion and energetic rhythms. Ideally the music doesn’t have too many lyrics, which might tempt you to sing along. However, choose some music that you love that you know will get you dancing. I like to put on headphones so I can blast the music and be fully immersed in it without bothering anyone else in the building.

Close your eyes, and start by shaking every part of your body. Shake your hands, your arms, your legs. For me this eventually leads to a sort of jumping around, in which my body is shaking all on its own to its own natural rhythms merging with the music’s. Shake for about a minute or two, and when you’re ready, with your eyes still closed, begin to dance. There’s no science to this. There is no proper form. This is your body doing what it needs to do, doing what it is drawn to do. No one is watching. It is a complete surrender to what the body needs to do, wants to do, right here, right now. Sometimes your body might go straight into really big motions. Allow yourself to take up space. Sometimes you might need to work up to it with smaller movements, but, regardless of where you start, eventually get big and take up space! When I do this, it feels amazing. It’s me letting me fully be me in this moment. I feel how it feels to move. I’m not trying to stay in control. I’m letting it be just as it is, dancing to the beats, letting my heart and my soul guide me. After five to ten minutes of dancing (I’m usually exhausted after five, but that’s just me), and with your eyes still closed, lie down for another five to ten minutes and let your entire body melt into the floor. Notice how you feel.

When I do this, my heart rate slows down. I feel at peace. I feel like I got something out, something that really needed to come out. When I get up, I immediately feel lighter. I feel like I have shed all the weight that was bringing me down. I come up from this resting position with the deep knowledge that I am bold, I am fierce, and I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Finally, when work life gets me down, Dr. Maya Angelou’s words are always with me: “Still I rise.”

Reprinted with permission from Black People Breathe: A Mindfulness Guide to Racial Healing, by Zee Clarke, 2023. Illustrations by Princella Seripenah 2023. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.