The U.S. celebrates Labor Day on Monday, September 3rd, which means that millions of Americans will have the day off work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works about 44 hours per week. What’s more, a report from the nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research, funded by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, states Black women work longer and harder than any other demographic. This means we’re working way too many hours!
Ladies, unless you’re super rich, you’re probably working way too hard (and still not making enough money, but that’s a post for another day). And our labor doesn’t end at 5:00 – we’re also working just as hard in our private lives. Think about it: Black women are often the primary caregivers for both our parents and other older relatives, as well as for our children. Even in two-parent households, the bulk of child-rearing and housework falls on our shoulders.
And Black women, more than any other demographic, spend a lot of time caring for others. Whether it’s through our churches (where, let’s face it, we do the lion’s share of the hands-on work), our community organizations or our clubs, we’re out here doing thangs.
So, if anyone deserves a day free of labor, Black women do!
Why, then, is it so hard for us to take the time we need to care for ourselves? Why is self-care so difficult for us? Why do we feel guilty when we take some of our precious time for ourselves?
Because women in general, and Black women in particular, have been socialized to be caretakers! That’s why they call us the “mules of the world”, because too often, we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. At the very least, we’re carrying the weight of our Black communities. And the moment we turn our attention inward and focus on ourselves, we feel guilty. The minute we start demanding more leisure time, we’re called lazy. When we want someone to take care of us for a change, we’re called gold-diggers.
But, as the late, great Audre Lorde once said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” In other words, in order to be our best selves and thrive, we must care for ourselves, even when doing so seems at odds with our life missions and the needs of those who depend on us. After all, you can’t pour from an empty vessel.
We MUST do a better job of getting taking care of ourselves, Sisters! Mind you, self-care isn’t all mani/pedis, massages, and Caribbean vacations with our girlfriends. Self-care can also mean sticking to a reasonable and attainable health regimen; getting our mental health in order; engaging in more healthy relationships, and ridding our lives of toxic people and situations.
Because it’s so hard for us to come up with ways we can better serve ourselves, I’ve developed a short list for you. Hopefully, you’ll be able to spend at least part of this Labor Day engaging in some kind of self-care practice. You’ve certainly earned the right to radically take care of YOU
1. Sleep In or Better Yet, Stay in Bed All Day: When was the last time you slept past 10 AM? Or had a Pajama Day? Girl, sleep as long as you want, and then spend the day in your nightie watching bad daytime television, catching up on all your DVR’d shows, or binge watching something binge-worthy.
2. Take Some Time to Meal Plan for the Week Ahead: Let’s be honest. Despite your best intentions and your New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier, you’ve been too busy to actually meal plan. You’ve been eating out too often, grabbing the most convenient thing you can find. Which means you’re probably eating fast food or carryout. This Labor Day, take a few hours to actually plan your meals for the week. Stock your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies. Bake a chicken, make a pot of healthy soup, or cook something else that you can nibble on all week. Taking just one day to do this can make a huge difference in your health and your wallet.
3. Say “No” to Anything That Doesn’t Serve You: Sisters, we have got to get better at saying to “no” to things we don’t want to do and things that actually may be harmful to us. Tell that relative that always borrows money “No”. Tell that co-worker you’re always helping “No”. You don’t have to offer any explanations, either. “No” can be a complete sentence all by itself. Get better at saying “No”, and focus only on what serves YOU.
4. Research Mental Health Care for Yourself: As it is a national holiday, most therapists’ and doctors’ offices will be closed. However, Google is always open! Take an hour or two to do some online research on the mental health care options available to you. No matter how happy you may be right now, your mental health requires the same diligent maintenance as your physical health. However, chances are, you already know you could use some help. One barrier to your getting the help you need (besides the stigma and cost) may have been that you just haven’t had time to look into it. Well, now you have an entire day to see what’s out there, see what your insurance will cover, etc. Don’t squander this chance to do what you know you need to do.
5. Exercise: If you’re anything like me, you haven’t exercised enough, lately. A day off of work is the perfect time to get back on track. Keep it simple, though. Don’t over plan or overdo it. That will only set you up for failure. Instead, maybe walk for 20 minutes in the morning, and then another 20 minutes in the evening. Starting on a day when you’re relaxed will help you realize how easy it can be to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.
6. Catch Up On Your Reading: That book sitting on your nightstand? Take some time to at least start it! Those books pilling up on your E-reader? Go ahead and get started on them. Reading is relaxing and therapeutic, but we’re often too busy to indulge. Use this holiday to read and allow yourself to be transported to another world.
7. Start a Journal: Many women find journaling to be a great way to work through their problems. At the very least, journaling allows you a chance to vent. Keeping all those feelings inside just isn’t healthy, Sis. They need to come out. Starting and keeping a journal may be just the thing you need to help you get through whatever it is you’re going through. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can always buy one of those fancy diaries that lock. Or simply keep it password safe on your computer.
I hope this list helps! However you choose to spend Labor Day, I hope you have a fabulously, healthy good day!