Originally featured on BlackGirlBliss.com
As if we weren’t dealing with enough pain, anxiety, grief, trauma, and loss in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more state-sanctioned violence against Black people has forced us once again to demand to be treated like human beings. We have been fighting this fight for over 400 years and we are tired. Tired of grieving, tired of fighting for respect and human decency, tired of our bodies being used, abused, and discarded, tired of our oppressors and abusers not being held accountable.
As Black womxn, we feel even more tired as we find ourselves time and time again providing our labor, our support, and our love for movements that don’t love us back the same way. The way we have to beg men to care for us, to march for us, to support and love us the way we do for them at every turn – this is doubly exhausting.
Now, more than ever, we must remember and fight for our joy.
Bliss. Satisfaction. Pleasure. Joy. These are the tools that will help us to reclaim our bodies, the same bodies that have consistently been sites of violence across time. Prioritizing and pursing pleasure whenever and however we can is how we grow the small seed of hope and optimism that still lives in many of us. As we lean into bliss, finding and clinging to the things that make us feel restored, uplifted, and at ease, we grow our hopeful seed into abundance, creating a supply from which to harvest and use when we need it most.
Caring for ourselves is resistance. As Audre Lorde said, it is an act of political warfare. Below are ten ways to start prioritizing and cultivating your joy so that you can sustain yourself through this moment in time and in the future.
When we are stressed, our breathing gets more shallow. Shallow breathing does not allow enough life-giving oxygen to our bodies. Make it a point to breathe deeply, in through the nose, expanding the belly, pausing for a moment or two, then fully exhaling out through the mouth. Set a reminder on your phone to do five deep breaths every hour, or create a cue for yourself as a reminder to breathe deeply (ex. every time your phone buzzes with an alert, take one deep breath.
Another way to return life-giving sustenance to our bodies is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Nothing on Earth functions properly without water, including you. Combine your reminders for deep breathing with a reminder to hydrate. Aim for at least a liter of water each day (that’s just a little over four eight-ounce glasses).
In a society where we have been taught that we are not valuable if we are not working, rest is revolutionary. Many of us are dealing with insomnia and other disruptions to our sleep schedules because of anxiety, grief, trauma, rage, and fear. Take every available moment to rest. This may not look like laying in a bed and sleeping eight hours, but it could look like simply doing nothing for a while. Look into messages and resources by The Nap Ministry for more ideas on what your version rest could look like.
UNPLUG COMPLETELY OR ADJUST YOUR MEDIA INTAKE.
We don’t want to miss the play-by-play on social media. We don’t want to miss the news reports. We don’t want to be out of the loop. However, for our own wellbeing, we must take steps to rest our minds and step away from the constant loop of triggering messages and images. Decide to log off of social media and/or turn off the television every now and then, or make it a point to as often as possible consume media that makes you feel good.
SET AND MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES.
Boundaries help us to determine what we will and will not allow for the purposes of our health and wellbeing. In a time where there is so much that we can’t control, we have to stand firm in our boundaries and let ourselves and others know what we can and cannot do. If you can’t keep talking about what’s going on because it sends you into a spiral or you’re just tired of being sad and angry, let people know. If you are unavailable for front line work (and any reason for that is valid), be honest with yourself and anyone who asks you to go out there. Everyone has their role to play, and no role is less important than another. Do what you can, and get comfortable saying no to anything that falls outside of that.
Laughter is healing. Do not feel guilty for laughing and experiencing joy during this time as this is also resistance. Watch a funny movie, call a friend or family member to reminisce and tell stories, take silly pictures, play with children or animals, and anything else that will bring a smile to your face.
Trauma, anger, fear, grief, and anxiety can all manifest physically in different places in your body. Movement can be an effective way to help process and feel your feelings. Run, jump, stretch, dance, walk, play, clean, cook, etc. – all these can allow emotions to move through the body so that they can be acknowledged so that you can move on to thinking about the next steps you want to take.
CONNECT WITH YOUR COMMUNITY.
Humans need other humans, even the most introverted and socially avoidant of us. Stay in touch with the people who love you and who make you feel loved. A socially-distanced physical gathering, an online chat, a phone call, a text – anything to remind yourself and your loved ones that you are not alone, that you are seen, that you matter, that you are loved and supported, and that you all are in this together.
Whatever makes you feel safe and secure, do more of that. That could involve turning to your spiritual traditions and practices, reciting affirmations, putting your hands and feet in the earth (this is a great time to garden!), meditating, exercising, or standing against a wall or beside another person and feeling that strength and support. Do anything that can get you out of your head and into your body for a while.
Celebrate the resilience and brilliance of Black people. Find joy in the fact that we have not become complacent, that we are still fighting despite our exhaustion. Find bliss in the beauty of Black people around the world. Find satisfaction in the ways that communities have come together for the purpose of liberation. Take pleasure in knowing that people are doing all that they can to help. Looking for the positive aspects to celebrate can sometimes feel inappropriate or inauthentic in relation to the deep hurt we are also feeling, but sometimes that duality is what we need for perspective and balance.
We can only continue to mobilize and activate for Black lives if we take steps to sustain our own Black life first.
Take care of yourself. Fight for your joy.