Stop where you are. Pause for a moment and take inventory of your body. Notice where your shoulders are right now. Are they relaxed, or are they up by your ears? If they are, indeed, up by your ears: Take a deep breath, do a few shoulder rolls and allow your shoulders to relax naturally.
Tension in your shoulders is just one example of how you might carry stress in your body without even realizing it. Most of us walk around with some permanent level of stress — a lower level and a higher level. Even though we’re not living in primitive times where we’re being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, we are still on high alert because of the perceived dangers in the world we live in today. The only way to relieve this stress is to take better care of ourselves – something we know, but don’t do nearly enough.
It’s time to get serious about self-care – for ourselves and for the world.
When we take care of ourselves we treat other people better – we are a better partner, we are a better coworker, we are a better friend. This is because we feel good inside. Let’s be real: when we don’t feel good, we treat other people like shit.
Self-care is also a tool of social justice. Practicing it could drive a world that’s more just and equitable for all. Think about racism. I believe, if white people who choose hatred were happier and took care of themselves more, they wouldn’t mistreat Black folks and other non-white folks so badly.
So, you might be asking: Where do we start in this journey to self-care? Here are some suggestions for practicing self-care throughout the day.
Start with the foundation: How you start your day often sets the tone of your day, and the energy with which you engage with people throughout the day. This is why you need a healthy, intentional morning routine. Use this guided breathing exercise that I created to help you start your day.
Show yourself some (self) love: In my book, Black People Breathe, I have a chapter called “A Journey to Self Love” and an exercise called:
“What do I love about myself?”
Set a timer for five minutes and answer this question in your journal. It might feel weird at first or make you feel as though you’re bragging; but you’re not. Plus, this is just for you – no one is going to read this but you. Write the first things that come to mind. Don’t think too hard about it. If it comes to you, write it down. It counts. It matters. If you can’t come up with anything, just start writing anyway. The act of moving your pen and getting started, even if it’s to write, “I have no idea what I love about myself,” will build momentum to get your ideas flowing.
When the five-minute timer is up, take a moment to read what you wrote. Close your eyes and experience what it feels like to know, and appreciate all of the amazing things that are a part of you!
Give yourself a break: Take breathers throughout the day. Don’t book those back-to-back meetings. Get up to stretch in between, go outside for three minutes and allow the sun to shine on your face or enjoy what I call “conscious dance relief.” Put on your headphones, play your favorite song and dance around for three minutes like no one is watching! It’ll get your blood flowing and probably make you smile.
Be your own cheerleader: At the end of your day, celebrate yo’self. Something as simple as giving yourself props for 10 seconds can help alleviate your stress. What did you do that you’re proud of? It could be something simple like finally crossing an item off your to-do list that’s been nagging you for way too long. Celebrate that! You deserve it!
Zee Clarke is the author of the book, Black People Breathe (Penguin Random House). She has been featured in many leading publications including ABC, Fortune, Forbes, CNBC, Ebony, Essence, and Fast Company. She is a Harvard Business School graduate who applies holistic healing practices to corporate environments. Zee leads transformative workshops on mindfulness, breathwork and stress management tools for BIPOC employees at organizations such as Google, Visa, AMC Networks and more. Learn more at https://www.zeeclarke.com/