Self-Care for Women of Color At Work

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  -- Audre Lorde

The unfortunate reality for many women working outside of the home is that dynamics within the home still require that many women shoulder the burden of household chores and caregiving responsibilities, including, caring for children and elderly relatives and contributing/managing household finances. Most women are essentially working at least two jobs -- one that is paid and another one unpaid within the home (and the latter usually doesn’t come with pay increases, bonuses, days off or promotions; hopefully it does come with some gratitude!). Between navigating law firm culture, networking, and professional development, all while tackling an increasing workload, it’s easy to see how lawyers, particularly women, can tire pretty quickly. Both jobs require an inordinate amount of time and leave very few hours for women to take care of themselves.

As Audre Lorde notes in her oft-cited quote above, self-care is a particularly radical concept for black women. Historically, black women have been taught to put the well-being of others before themselves, whereas a focus on self-care requires women to place their own needs above the needs of others. What many women fail to realize is that not making space for self-care not only affects peace of mind, but can have drastic health consequences, as well. By the end of last week, I desperately was in need of a bit of time off to recharge, so I marked “Spa Day” on my calendar for Saturday at 7 p.m. I knew if I didn’t make the reservation and mark it prominently on my calendar, I probably wouldn’t have gone, and would have instead filled the time with my usual parade of excuses. But when my husband agreed to entertain our two-year old for the day outside of the house, and I realized that I didn’t have any legitimate excuse, off to the spa I went. Just those two hours enabled me to emerge feeling rejuvenated and ready for the week ahead.

I do know that while balancing work life and home life is often a challenge, I am blessed to have a partner who shares responsibilities with me. I know that’s not true for everyone reading this, but I do think the following tips are helpful for finding time for self-care in a way that makes sense for each of us:

  1. Daily affirmations of self-love can feel silly sometimes, but try this while looking into the mirror:  "I am important. My health, desires, and needs matter. I cannot be of any use to others if I am not taking care of myself. I will put myself first today.”
  2. Do something you enjoy. This can be anything from planning a solo vacation to picking up that bottle of wine you like from Trader Joe’s.
  3. Exercise is important because it not only keeps you fit and healthy, but is often a good way to clear your mind.
  4. Share your feelings openly with others. Many women feel they have to suffer in silence, or that they’re the only ones experiencing a particular struggle. That’s never true. In those moments, try to remind yourself of this and empower yourself to talk to your spouse, friends, confidantes, or a therapist. It does not matter who; just talk.

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