7 Ways Black Therapists Prioritize Their Own Mental HealthIncluding "Parks and Rec," Everything Showers, and ignoring the news.
As much as we love a bubble bath, the root of self-care has an origin story that goes deeper than bath bombs and candles.
The ubiquitous, Instagram-friendly concept has roots in what Black and Latinx feminists (such as bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Gloria Anzaldua) called radical self-care, according to a paper published in the Community Mental Health Journal. This framing sets self-care up as a tool for activists to, “to propel social justice efforts while preserving their wellbeing,” the authors write. “When examined through a historical and socio-political lens,” the authors write, “self-care is, and has always been, a tool for social justice in efforts to resist the oppressive systems that threaten the health and wellness of Black people.”
That means, in its truest form, self-care is all about finding ways to restore and preserve yourself and your community in the face of unjust systems—and that’s especially true for folks in the Black community, says therapist Keanu M. Jackson, LCSW. “I believe that self-care is an integral act of resistance for those of us from communities that have historically been pushed to the margins,” he explains.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with taking a soak after a long day, but there are so many more healing self-care options out there that can help you protect your peace. That could look like participating in community activities such as church or yoga. You might also try some solo ventures like meditating with a culturally affirming app like The Village!, being purposefully unproductive, or just recognizing when you’ve reached your limit (see: ~self-awareness~). As long as your self-care feels accessible, sustainable, supportive, and healing in some way, you’re doing it right!
To help you get a better sense of all the options out there, we spoke to Black mental health pros about the ways they practice self-care. Feel free to copy theirs or use them as inspo for your own self-preservation journey.
1. Live by your own rules.
“The way I structure my personal and professional life works for me but is absolutely crazy to others. I work three days a week, two 12-hour days and one 6-hour day and then I have four days off. I use those four days to sit still and spend time in my own mind. I enjoy my home and my neighborhood and connect with friends and family. Through years of trial and error, I paid attention to which schedule and activities made me feel the most alive and the most calm and secure and I landed on this formula that works for me.” —Tiffany C. Miller, PhD, clinical psychologist
2. Take care of your inner child.
“Without a doubt, nestling in on the couch and playing Pokémon on my Nintendo Switch is my favorite way to take care of my mental health. Connecting with and giving voice to my inner child has always been integral to how I exist and move through the world. I've been playing Pokémon since I was around 6 years old or so, on my Gameboy Color. Although the franchise has changed so much since I was a kid, it's not lost on me how newer versions of this game can still evoke a similar sense of wonder and exploration. When folks ask me why I love Pokémon, cartoons, and anime so much, I tell them that they allow me to express a more innocent and whimsical side of myself that hasn't always been allowed to exist. I get to be more imaginative, less serious, and just overall passionate about things that are ultimately non-consequential.” —Keanu M. Jackson, LCSW, therapist
3. Practice self-awareness.
“My favorite way to take care of my own mental health starts with reminding myself to observe, not absorb. Personally as a Black woman and professionally as a therapist, there are always things on my proverbial plate that take an emotional toll; whether that is being constantly reminded of racial trauma, working to eliminate barriers to mental health access for vulnerable populations, or even holding space for folks to process their lived experiences. I've learned that to regulate my mental health while showing up in the space, I need to process, enforce boundaries on what kinds of content I am engaging in, and check in with my emotions regularly.” —Aaliyah Nurideen, LCSW, therapist
4. Take walks.
“Going on a walk and listening to music is my favorite way to take care of my mental health. It allows me to step away from work and everything else and simply enjoy the act of movement, the simple beauty of my surroundings, and listen to soothing sounds. It makes me feel peaceful and gives me calm energy to keep going.” —Nathilee Caldeira, PhD, clinical psychologist
5. Listen to the news more mindfully.
“I don’t watch a lot of news and if it pops up on my timeline I usually hit ‘not interested.’ I prefer to choose when I take in this information. Sometimes my friends will update me and then I will go and look up sources to validate or learn more. I give myself grace and remember that I don’t need to be informed about everything all the time because it’s impossible.” —Shani Tran, LPCC, therapist
6. Watch mindless TV.
“One of my methods of self-care is watching mindless TV or comfort shows, something that doesn’t require me to use brain power and that won’t incur strong emotions. Sometimes, this means an action movie or rewatching Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Parks and Recreation. After a long day of using mental and emotional energy, stuff like this lets me decompress, power down my mind, and get to sleep.” —Christopher Lynn-Logue, LMSW, therapist
7. Take an Everything Shower.
“I’ve started taking ‘Everything Showers’—a trend I learned about through TikTok—once a week. I start by setting the mood with a candle and music and let rosemary hair oil sit on my scalp for ten minutes. Afterward, I do all my hair and body care in a 15-minute shower. When I’m done, I like to use body oil to moisturize and brew myself a cup of herbal tea. It’s a great way to release any emotional energy I’ve been holding onto from my week.” —Noni Vaughn-Pollard, MHC-LP, licensed counselor
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.