Radical Self-Care

Radical Selfcare is the assertion that we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves first before attempting to take care of others. It’s necessary to fill our cups first, then to give to others from the overflow. This is what gives us the capacity to heal and to move forward into the next chapter of our lives.  God wants us to be energetic and to live with zeal and enthusiasm.  It’s impossible to serve God when we are depleted.

Globally, mental health care professionals are concerned about the mental health tsunami that is occurring because of the ravages of the pandemic. And selfcare is trending quite a bit because of the global pandemic’s devastation on our health, especially mental health (and particularly on communities of color).  Mental health distress is showing up in alarming rates of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.

Radical self-care is not a new concept. The term self-care has medical roots. It was coined in the 1950s to describe activities that allowed institutionalized patients to preserve some physical independence—simple tasks that helped nurture a sense of self-worth, such as exercising and personal grooming. The notion of radical self-care began as a way for patients to prevent or manage illnesses by eating well or exercising, Aisha Harris writes in Slate Magazine. The idea then moved over to the health professionals themselves, as it was found that to help others improve their mental and physical health, they needed to be taking care of themselves as well.

Harris argues that the need for self-care developed not just into a health and wellness movement but a political statement. The concept of self-care really took off when people of color started speaking about the importance of taking care of themselves when governments and health centers often denied or ignored their medical issues. The Black Panthers took on this cause with their wellness initiatives that brought together medical professionals, counselors, and other aid programs to help communities for free. Self-care elements were dubbed “survival programs” demonstrating how direly these communities needed aid.

The late activist Audre Lorde wrote the now-famous quote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the concept of self-care came on the rise again. With many people dealing with fear and anxiety in the wake of the traumatic event, self-care became a part of the national conversation around how to cope with the new and uneasy world.

Then in the 1960s, academics began taking a serious interest in post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders. Self-care was recommended for people in careers that involve repeated exposure to pain or trauma, such as firefighters, social workers and health-care providers. The advice of the day addressed physical needs (eating nutritional foods, getting adequate sleep and being proactive about medical care), psychological and emotional needs (doing activities such as journaling and self-reflection) and spiritual needs (engaging in pursuits like meditation, finding spiritual community and enjoying nature).

So, how are YOU taking care of yourself?  Are you a priority?  Are you putting yourself first unapologetically?  Here are 7 concepts to grab for your own radical self-care.

  1. Release Thoughts that Self-Care is Selfish.  Even Jesus took care of himself.  (Mark 1:35) Love on yourself unapologetically so you can love others.
  2. Be Gentle with Yourself. Do things that bring you joy. Pamper yourself. Don’t punish yourself for making mistakes, learn and move forward.  It’s not necessary to score 100 on the test every single time.  
  3. A Strong Start Changes the Odds.  Begin your mornings with the Creator to receive your orders.  Praise, prayer, and meditation changes our outlook.
  4. Stop Negative Self-Talk. We must be careful about what comes out of our mouths.  We attract what we believe.  As a man or woman thinketh so is he/she.  Speak life and healing into your life and into the lives of others.
  5. Know When Your Plate is Full.  We live in a culture that thrives on “doing,” and being busy. The brain is not equipped for 24-7 multitasking. Remove activities and people that are draining.  “No” is a complete sentence.
  6. Cultivate Silence. The world culture is going to give us noise, confusion, pain, and heartache but, we don’t have to sign up for it.  Silence allows us to center our thoughts.
  7. Rest.  Even a 10-minute nap is restorative. And resting doesn’t always mean sleeping. Curling up with a good book or movie, walking in a beautiful park; sitting by a lake – resting is intentionally disconnecting whereby the most important thing you’re doing is paying attention to you.

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