A Five-Week Pathway to Growing Self-Care Practices

Spring Opara

Building on our Self-Care for Black Women in Leadership Program, we’re offering five weeks’ worth of ideas and approaches to help grow a self-care practice that nourishes mind, body, and spirit. These suggestions were curated primarily with Black women in mind, but anyone can draw inspiration from these practices and approaches.


Self-Care Bags

As we enter the end of the year, I’d like to offer that we declare our independence from extractive white-dominant habits and systems that drain and deplete us and that we prioritize our self-care and rejuvenation practices as we head into the slumber-embrace of fall and winter. This year has been extremely challenging, and in order to do our best to meet those challenges, we need to strategize from a place of rest and clarity. With an ongoing pandemic that has upended our lives, racial injustices front and center, and an upcoming election that is ratcheting up tensions and stressors, let us embrace this opportunity to hibernate and tend to ourselves in preparation for what’s next while calling in things we need and release things we don’t.

Self-care is a radical act of liberation because white supremacy forces everyone (Black folks are more acutely impacted)  to disconnect from Mind, Body, and Spirit/Source/Nature in order to survive oppressive systems. When you toss in capitalism and the expectation that we as humans, especially Black women, should be working all the time and making sacrifices for everyone except ourselves, then you understand the importance of intentionally reconnecting to our Mind, Body, and Spirit/Nature as a radical form of healing justice.

I would like to offer that we focus on ourselves and the daily self-care practices we need instead.


Five-Week Pathway to Growing Self-Care Practices
 

Before we share suggestions for this five-week practice, here are some suggestions on how to journal about your experience throughout. Journaling is a powerful way to reflect, digest what you’re learning, and make new practices. 

Choose one or more of the weekly activities [described in the blog below] and then based on the topics offered, journal about your experience using these prompts

  • What do/did you notice about the experience? 
  • Were there any “aha” moments and if so, what were they?
  • What were the smells you can recall? 
  • What did self-care taste like? 
  • Did you learn anything new about yourself and your wants and desires?

These are just a few prompts that can aid you in your journaling, and you’re not limited to these. The objective is to try something new and then journal to determine whether it worked for you or not. Simple! 

Remember, this is about choice. You don’t have to do everything or anything on this list—these are suggestions to spark your creative ideas! 

Also, I’ve included a category for each week titled,  “If You’re Feeling Adventurous”. These are activities that might take a little more time and energy for those who feel inclined! 

 

Week 1 – Reconnect with Nature
 

If we observe nature, we learn to time ourselves with its cycles so that we draw what we need, naturally. The animals begin to collect and store food, their bodies change to hold more fat so they can get through the lean, latter months of the year. I have always been a proponent of humans shutting work down for the last three months of the year to rest.  Even if that’s not fully possible, we can adapt and make the most out of nature’s cycles slowing down. Try these practices on: 

  • Nature-based, self-care modalities:
     
    • Earthing—walking barefoot in the grass. The earth will pull and recycle your energy to refresh you. You can walk on grass or concrete but not on plastic-based surfaces.
       
    • Gardening—there are microbes in the dirt that can help relieve stress and, as climate change impacts our food supply, gardening not only helps your mental health, but it can also help cut down your grocery expenses. It can also be fun and relaxing. (Check out container gardening for apartment living and Farming While Black by Leah Penniman.)
       
  • Take a 30-minute walk in nature (15 minutes to somewhere and 15 minutes back home). 
     
  • Research the benefits and lore of two essential herbs, such as thyme and bay leaf.
     

If You’re Feeling Adventurous—Use a gardening kit to start growing plants. (Find a local gardening store you can support, like Annie's Annuals and Perennials - Retail and Online Nursery, Buy Plants and Flowers.)
 

Week 2 – Reconnect with Mind

  • Read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Being impeccable with your word to yourself first is important to achieving your self-care commitment(s).
     
  • Try on some grounding techniques—I Feel Your Pain by Nikki Elliot has some wonderful tools for grounding energy out of your body so you can relax. 
     
  • Honor all of your emotions and thoughts by free writing for seven minutes a day during this week.
     
  • If You’re Feeling Adventurous—Make an Affirmation Board. Affirmation boards are a place where you can write notes to yourself that help you deprogram negative self-talk. You will need black chalk paint, brushes, glue, a small canvas or recyclable material to paint on (cardboard works), and any decorating crafts you have available (you can find most of these items at a craft store).
     
    • Use the black chalk paint and apply several even layers to the canvas or cardboard.
    • Once dry (a hand-held hair dryer can speed up drying time), use your crafts to decorate the outer rim of the cardboard or canvas, leaving room for you to place messages of love and inspiration to yourself—or hell, even a cute grocery list that reminds you to stay nourished. And since you’re using chalk, you can erase and use again!
    • Use some ribbon so that you can hang it up somewhere where it’s present and visible to you.


Week 3 – Reconnect with Body

  • Take two naps this week and check out The Nap Ministry for the benefits of resting as an act of liberation. 
  • Have a dance party indoors and sing in the shower (sound healing).
     
  • Take an Epsom salt bath infused with rose petals, a few drops of your favorite essential oil, and maybe some of the herbs you may have researched in Week 1.

If You’re Feeling Adventurous—Go on a plant-identifying walk around your neighborhood. “Picture This” is a free plant identification app: ‎PictureThis - Plant Identifier on the App Store.
 

Week 4 – Reconnect with Spirit

  • Do a seven-minute meditation to start your day (try the Morning Chant at the end of this blog).
     
  • Set an alarm and do ten cleansing breaths at least three times a day.
     
  • Hold ten minutes of silence to close your day (try the Evening Chant at the end of this blog).

If You’re Feeling Adventurous—Build a simple altar. It can be a simple table with your favorite quote, a plant, some water, and a candle. Fill it with things that are meaningful to you and that lift your spirit. Sit nearby and meditate on the stillness, the quiet, the simple beauty.

 

Week 5 – Reconnect with Our Ancestors (How did our Ancestors build their resilience?)

  • Read one book for pleasure —not for work, not for a class, and not for “self-improvement,” but for pleasure. 
     
  • Rituals of healing: 
    • Take a healing, herbal bath
      • This is a great place to get your baths and other services: Ebony Sage
    • Charge your crystals/gemstones in the light of the full moon as a way to recommit to renewing your own energy and to connect with the forces of nature. 
       
  • If You’re Feeling Adventurous—Make a juju bag (also called gris-gris bags):
    • Items needed: a muslin cloth bag; cowrie shells (represent abundance), a smudge stick (used to clear/cleanse energy), white and blue chime candles (represent Divine energy), Florida water (similar to a smudge stick - can be used for bathing and to add extra potency to your juju bag), matches (represent the element of Fire), and incense (it is said that the smoke from an incense stick carries messages to the Divine).
    • Use craft supplies you have on hand to decorate the outside.

Self-Care Bag


Below are two chants you can use—one to welcome the day and one to close your day. These chants are courtesy of Ancestral Spiritual Resistance Zine – For Our Collective Healing, which is an open-source document that is a wonderful resource for ideas on rituals and practices that honor and heal.

 

Morning Ritual/Morning Flow Chant
 

The following is a short practice of affirming your strength and setting intentions that can be used to begin your day.

  • Place your hands on your belly
  • Become present with your morning rhythm, sounds, and your body
  • Breathe in over that area with a slow, calming breath, inhaling for a count of three, and then release
  • Stand if you are comfortable doing so, and either in your mind or out loud, chant the following:
     

Good morning beautiful being of mine.

With these morning breaths, I rise.

I rise with love-filled vibrations.

I rise with power.

I rise with grounding energy.

I rise with gratitude for another day.

I rise for collective peace.

I rise for collective liberation.

I rise for collective existence in resistance/liberation.

I rise for those present and those to come.

I rise.


 

Evening Ritual/Evening Flow Chant

  • Breaths of affirmation to acknowledge and release the day.
  • Place your hands over your belly (or any part calling to you) and become present with your evening rhythms, sounds, and your body.
  • Breathe in over that area with a slow, calming breath, inhaling for a count of three, and then release. Either in your mind or out loud…chant the following:
     

I acknowledge this area of my being with gratitude for the day.

I acknowledge this area of my being with love and light.

I acknowledge this area of my being with strength.

I acknowledge this area and the emotions that it has carried throughout the day.

I thank my being for existing in this moment in time.

I thank my being for the movement of the day.

I thank my being for receiving wisdom and light from the land, water, and my ancestors.

I thank my being for Life
 

Wrap your arms around yourself and give a huge, loving, and affirming hug to yourself and those around you.


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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(1) Comments

Love this!! This came to my inbox just in time. I would add a 6th (for me) - Reconnect with relationships. -Nelson