It’s easy for Black women to neglect their health when we’re doing so many things to get ahead. I get it, we all want to break generational curses, pay off our student loan debt, and maybe have enough to invest in a business, too.
But in doing all that, it’s very easy to neglect our health and wellbeing when they should be a priority.
Working hard is in our veins. Our ancestors had no choice but to work and fight so we could have the opportunities they were not afforded. Despite the gains, we still battle with certain experiences like microaggressions, covert racism, and unconscious and conscious bias. These things all have the same effect—the disheartening reminder of a Black women’s place in society at the intersection of race and gender. Meanwhile, money or higher degrees cannot save us from the health disparities that exist.
But, all hope is not lost. Here are five tips on how to prioritize your health:
You must rest.
Rest does not come easy because there’s always work to do. As a Black woman, you’re constantly working (and fighting) to an extent that others are not. You’re doing extra work. And not taking out the proper time to rest. This makes rest revolutionary, and just as Audre Lorde said, self-care is revolutionary too.
As millennials, we’ve been convinced that we need to achieve so many things in a short amount of time. But, we have more time than we realize.
With this being said, take your PTO, take breaks whether you're working out of the office or from home, or even take naps if you like. Remember that these are moments that you need and deserve. And when you get to pause, then you can really dream and come up with the best ideas.
Keep your boundaries in order.
Boundaries serve the greater good for our relationships, including our relationship to work. So, keep that work-life balance in check.
If you feel as though you are being overworked and it's showing detrimental signs to your health, sis...it's time to take a step back.
Remember, to your employer, you are replaceable. But know that you also have power too, so seek out the best options for your health and wellbeing.
Don't hesitate to ask for support.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at work, the first thing you should do is talk to your boss or managers. Because they won't know unless you tell them. When going into the convo, be specific and clearly describe the problem. Start with a statement that lets them know you are both on the same page.
"I know one of our top goals for this quarter is..." or
"I know we have a culture of valuing support..."
Make sure you're requesting support, if more support is necessary. Make your propositions viable solutions. For instance, if more is expected of you and you need more isolated time to focus, ask for a work-from-home day. Schedule a meeting so your request doesn't get swept under the rug. Make sure you document the conversation. Don't ask via email, but be sure to finish with one (as a follow-up measure and a receipt).
Remember that health is the real wealth.
Reframing your mentality and taking action towards a healthier life can add more joy and more years! The truth is, there are many illnesses and stressors that we can't control, but there are some that we can.
Decolonize your mind to believe you have to be working all the time.
How do you do this?
- Determine the "why" behind the reasons you work so hard. For example, are you working so much because of a perceived or real threat (layoffs, budget cuts, new management, etc.)
- Remember you are more than the work you do in exchange for money! Do the things that bring you joy and value outside of a salary, like making time for family and friends, volunteering, joining a community sports or making art.
- Set up the best parameters to hold yourself accountable. Get off social media at specific times of the day. Being on social media can set off reminders of work you could be doing or the pressure from viewing others' work can set in. Mandate weekends off and put a cut-off time for responding to emails in a day.
Stop operating out of fear.
Fear is a constant in the lives of Black people. In our professional lives, this fear is often that we will lose opportunities and access that we've worked so hard for if we don't constantly perform at a high level. However, overworking can cause health problems and make us lose sight of the things that really matter.
Don't fear the loss of a job, project, or salary when it can be replaced with something better. Instead, recognize your value and advocate for what you need or getting the salary that comes with the time and energy you expend in the workplace. What's for you is for you. And any company is lucky to have you. Not the other way around.
One thing I hope you're taking away from our week-long recognition of Black Women's Equal Pay Day is that you have much more power and leverage than you think. use it wisely by honoring your body and your mind.
Keep your health and wellness first!