About eight months ago, I injured my back while working out. I was working in the weight room at my gym, and while doing the back extensions, I moved too quickly and immediately my back felt odd, not painful, but definitely something was wrong. When I got up and found I could hardly bend over I decided cut my workout short and go home. An hour or so later, the pain kicked in and my lower back hurt for days after that. I decided to take some time off to rest and heal. About a week later I returned to the gym, and while my back felt better, it still hurt a little bit. Nevertheless, I continued on my heavy weight lifting routine, because I did not want to lose the progress I made over the previous months. A few weeks later, with my back still hurting, I went to visit my brother and his family. I have two young nieces, whom I babysat while my brother and his wife went to work during the day. The youngest wasn’t walking at the time, so I had to carry her a lot. For the week I was there, by the end of each day my back was in major pain. The day after I returned home from visiting my brother, I woke to discover I caught my youngest niece’s cold. I was in bed for nearly a week, as this turned out to be a particularly bad cold. I didn’t even think of working out. I only got out of bed to eat and use the bathroom.
After a week, I felt better and found myself moving around more and suddenly I realized, my back wasn’t hurting anymore. My body had gotten the rest it needed. I realized this had not been the first time this has happened either. The past few years have been challenging, and I have found myself having more and more colds than before. I have come to realize this is a sign from my body that I need to take a break or a rest. The old saying is true “the body takes what it needs.” Times when I have found myself up until 1 o’clock in the morning working, have all come at the expense of my health. We are not machines, and neither are our bodies. Self-care allows us to take time for ourselves to tend to our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
If we are in bed from a cold or illness because we got rundown, and weren’t taking care of ourselves, then we cannot be there for others. As women of color, it is practically ingrained into us, that we need to care for others. We tend to be the sole or main source of physical, emotional, and often times, financial care for our children, parents when they get older, family members and even our friends. We care for those at work, whether they be customers, colleagues, or clients. But, who takes care of us?
I have watched many women in my life take care of others, but neglect themselves. I have seen how the stress of self-neglect wears on the body and results in high blood pressure, anger and resentment, because our very spirits have been malnourished. Self-care is an essential part of everyday life, just as breathing and eating. How we take care of ourselves, is a testament to how we let others treat us. If we are unwilling to put aside time for ourselves for self-care, it goes to reason that others are unwilling to put in that kind of effort on our behalf.
Self-care manifests itself in a number of ways, from how and what we eat and physical activity, to the types of boundaries we set for ourselves in relationships. Self-care plays a role in every aspect of our lives, and only we can define it for ourselves. Self-care is an act of rebellion because it forces us to ask tough questions and make hard decisions in the name of our own best interests. It is not always easy, but once we begin to taking care of ourselves in little ways, it becomes easier to manage self-care in bigger ways. Self-care is not a choice, it is our duty, our covenant with ourselves, and if we fail or put off self-care, we are the ones who end up paying the consequences.
Why is self-care important to you? What are some ways in which to practice self-care? Leave a comment below.