The first time I heard the phrase “self-care” was in a workshop for first-year students at my divinity school. I had no idea what it meant, much less how to practice it, but I was too embarrassed to say anything.
This week I visited Duke Divinity School to deliver the Jill Raitt workshop for their annual Women’s Week. The theme was “Women Flourishing,” and together we unpacked the language of “self-care” and strategized ways to create more space for it in our lives.
From the beginning I confessed to the group that while I advocate strongly for the well-being of women and girls, I often deprioritize my own needs. I knew from the nods in the room that this is a common experience for graduate students, ministers, activists and other justice-seekers striving for a better world.
In 1988 Audre Lorde wrote, “Self-care is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” How do we best preserve ourselves in these challenging political times, so that we can continue our work of compassion and justice?
I did a lot of research on best self-care practices for my presentation at Duke, and now I want to share with you my top three resources for activists in search of more self-care.
- Healers of Color on Why Self-Care is Not Self-Indulgence. Miriam Zoila Pérez, gender columnist for Colorlines, interviews self-care advocates from different traditions on how we can apply Lorde’s words to today’s struggles. I love this quote from La Sarminento: “Know that in any given moment, our comrades are working for causes that matter. For one of us to take a break for a few minutes or a few days is totally OK.”
- Write a Wellness Prescription. Rosie Molinary, a radical self-acceptance champion, leads us through assessing the different aspects of our personal wellness–spiritual, mental, physical, emotional–and developing strategies and practices to meet our specific needs. Since I work from home one of the elements of my prescription is making social plans with a friend or colleague once a week. Instead of grabbing lunch or coffee I’ve started inviting people to do “walk and talks” when the weather is nice.
- A Deep Breathing Exercise to Do Anytime. This simple visualization can help us slow down and deepen our breathing. When I practice this I like to repeat to myself the mantra “I am enough” on in the inhale and on the exhale say “I am not all things.” I encouraged the students at Duke to try this next time they are in a group setting and tensions are high. Pausing business for a moment to take some communal deep breaths can help reset the energy in the room.
And here’s one last BONUS TIP from me: Try making a “not-to-do” list of things that you won’t spend time on that day or week. For me so much of self-care is about creating space for less effort. Having a “not-to-do” list helps .
What are your most important self-care practices?
Thanks, Katey. Very timely for me.
Katey Zeh says
I’m glad to hear it, Beth. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process!
Laura Dallas (@laurabdallas) says
I like that breathing mantra. Helpful for me today.
Katey Zeh says
I’m glad you to hear it! Sometimes the simple things are the most powerful.
Mary McClintock Fulkerson says
all of this is helpful!
Katey Zeh says
I’m so glad! Great to be with you all this week.