"With COVID-19 and the uprising, I’ve had to make overall wellness a priority."

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Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.

Ever since the pandemic began, every day has felt like a Sunday for singer—she's debuted two singles on Spotify—and an artist who makes anxiety-reducing products that draw on African spirituality, Erockfor Ayuk. And while the days' repetitive nature has negatively affected her mental health, the 32-year old artist decided to center her daily routine around doing self-care rituals to feel better. "With COVID-19 and the uprising, I’ve had to make overall wellness a priority. I felt powerless," she says. "I started journaling using prompts from Deepak Chopra's 21-day abundance challenge and was thus able to pinpoint my trauma."

This ritual has not only helped Ayuk transform her mindset, but it's led her to explore African spirituality and create her own journaling method from scratch. "As I learned more about Yoruba goddesses Oyá, Oshun, and Yemaya, I got inspired to write 99 prompts based on the lessons I’ve learned from them." According to Ayuk, these prompts are a mix of questions that will "help journalers identify wounds, promote healing, uncover the god within, and imagine a new world."

"I started using the prompts, and they've been reminding me of my divine nature while helping me recognize the ways in which I am like the people I find most annoying," Ayuk says laughing. "Journaling has brought me closer to embodying my higher self."

That's why for July's Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Ayuk is publishing her 99 journal prompts as an ebook for her community to use as a resource for their own mental health. "My focus has been on creating offerings for my community. That, to me, is a form of self-care," Ayuk says. "We are communal creatures, and my ancestors embodied that truth very well. The ill of one is the ill of all."

For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Ayuk to learn more about her current routine and priorities. Here, in her own words, are her go-to Sunday activities, plus advice for people who want to start journaling.

Mental Health

These days, I’ve been feeling good. Really, I owe part of my peace to West African spirituality. 

Go-to mental health practices

Journaling, dance meditations, guided meditations, singing and saying affirmations.

Wind-down practices to combat Sunday scaries

In the evening, I like lighting candles and burning incense. Drinking tea is also comforting. 

Physical Practices

Adventures during quarantine

Before coronavirus (when I lived in Korea), Sundays were my days to go out for food with my boyfriend, watch movies, and nap. After coronavirus, I moved in with him. We started going for walks and cooking together on Sundays. Last Sunday was actually our first one without each other. I went for a walk with my bro- and sis-in-law, and our family pet, Jaz.

At-home upgrades

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’d like to get plants and start planting veggies and herbs. I also plan on setting up an altar for my ancestors.

Community Care

Staying connected with loved ones

I just moved to Atlanta after spending the greater part of the last six years in Korea. In Korea, I would usually FaceTime my family. My boyfriend has relocated to Arizona (and he’ll be in Texas in two months). I’ve therefore created an Instagram carousel on how to adapt the five languages to long-distance relationships. It can also apply to people practicing social distancing. We’re going to start going on virtual dates, as opposed to simply FaceTiming. Date ideas include: watching movies together, answering prompts, and meditating together.

Pre-quarantine experiences

What I miss the most is performing! 

Connecting with the community

I went live [on Instagram] every day for a month, singing and chatting about a variety of topics. I also started facilitating journaling sessions and creating wellness offerings.

@tim.vandermerwe

Personal Joys

Self-care routine

I wake up and give thanks to God, my higher self, my ancestors, and my spirit guides. I then meditate. I usually do guided meditations on YouTube and the app Insight Timer. As of late, though, I’ve been using my own imagination to guide myself into meditation. 

I bless my water with good intentions and drink up. I then exercise (i.e. weights or West African dancing) and do hip-opening stretches, as I’m extremely stiff. One day, I’d like to do the splits during one of my performances.

Next, it’s time to eat. If it’s a Sunday, I’ll indulge in something sweet. I’ve been enjoying cooking these days—for myself and my loved ones.

I then work on my projects (i.e. writing songs, writing articles, coming up with burlesque outfits, working on my new course, and Instagram posts). I always make sure to read a book on African spirituality or watch some videos on the topic.

Mid-day, I’ll do a dance meditation. I also journal using the prompts I’ve come up with. I’ve come to value community and fellowship all the more, so I make sure to chit-chat with the family and my boyfriend.

Quarantine silver linings 

I actually enjoy staying at home. My partner and I used to eat out every weekend. But, we started cooking more. As a result, I’ve become a better cook. 

Advice for people who want to begin journaling

Identifying your values is a good starting point. You can do so by writing down what happens during your perfect day, from morning to night. From there, you can group the happenings into value groups. You can then determine whether or not the life you’re currently living honors your values, and make changes accordingly. 

I’ve also created an ebook composed of 99 prompts to help you unearth your divine nature, identify familial patterns and heal. You can do the prompts with a circle of peers and heal together. I really do recommend communal journaling. One thing COVID-19 has taught us is how much we actually need each other.