Reparations: Self-Care

Reparations (n): a repairing or keeping in repair.

Look at reparations in its most basic form – a reduction of harm. From this perspective, through wellness and self-care have become increasingly more commoditized for communities with access and wealth, these concepts and practices are things that we can take back – for the future of ourselves and our communities, by ourselves and for free.

Reparations and self-care are both processes that are restorative, that transform us within our communities as well as the communities we function within.

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Self-Care and Self-Love. They’re just buzzwords until they’re practiced but it's important that we do.

Self-love is about finding small moments, whenever you can, that say, “I’m ok. I’m right here. I’m supposed to be here.” It’s accepting the good things because you deserve them and accepting the challenging things because you deserve to hold the lessons you will learn from them.

My self-love journey has looked like being proud of what I offer when people wanted me to be small, not letting stereotypes held against me exist as barriers to expressing my anger or frustration, loving when all I wanted to do was cry. My self-care journey has looked like yoga in studios and the living room, breath, and allowing myself to feel whatever I felt and not letting anyone tell me that it wasn’t okay.

It isn’t easy -- sometimes I’ll be perplexed by how much self-love is a wrestling match with pain or a high-tempo tango with healing, but now I look in the mirror and what I once considered wounds now look like a story that I helped write. I see the younger me that I have the power to make a beautiful life for. I see an unfolding future that I get to step into.

Self-care and self-love look different for everyone. Self-care doesn’t need to cost any money, but it will take some valuable time -- a real self-care practice isn’t passive, it takes effort and intention to change the direction of your heart. Self-care takes practice. Self-care will not always feel good or convenient. Self-care takes trust in your self to do what’s right for you and to notice and name when something just isn’t. Self-love is forgiving yourself when you inevitably screw it all up -- you definitely will and that's ok. It’s reclaiming humanity and realizing that you are an important part of the whole and reacting accordingly. Here are some easy self-care tips for your self-love journey:

Make a list of things that you love about yourself

Maybe keep it in the notes of your phone. When you feel like life is being tough on you (or someone is, or YOU are) take a look. This has changed a breakdown to a breakthrough for me more than once.

Pay attention to your breath 

Is it aligned with how you’re feeling right now? Are you breathing fast because you’re upset or scared? Notice that. Then notice how if you change your breath, your mind and body will align with it instead of the other way around. Google “breathing exercises” and press play.

Make a traffic light list 

It could be about your friends, your habits, the activities you do. Now organize them into three separate lists. Red light means you leave these things feeling worse than when you arrived. Yellow light means you leave these things feeling the same as when you arrived. Green light means you leave these things feeling better than when you arrived. People and things can move up and down the ranks over time but it's helpful to be aware of what people or activities are bringing to you or taking away.

Get off the internet

Set a time (an hour, an evening, a day per week) and stay away from the internet. Don’t check social media and don’t look at your work emails -- find something else to do to keep you grounded. Exist offline and download important messages from things that happen in your real life.

Get some sleep

Make a sleep routine and stick to it. Even if you aren’t sleeping, get in bed and get comfy, because you’re going to be there for the time you said you would. Don’t pick up your phone when you feel like you won’t fall asleep — read a book or write in your journal until you’re ready to drift off.

There are a million ways to do self-care (some that we can explore here) and only you know what’s right for you. Plug a few things into your week that you know you’ll thank yourself for and engage in it diligently. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn't go right, or if it doesn't immediately fix your problems, or if you mess it up – self-love is a process filled with lots of self-care. It won’t come naturally at first, but it will come. Sometimes just knowing you have the tools is enough.

To reduce harm in our communities starts with reducing harm in our own lives; it’s building the stability and peace within ourselves so that our tanks are full when we step up to bat for our communities. Learn to put yourself first for the greater good.

You got this.

Words: Lisa Nwankwo