8 Women of Color on What Self-Care Looks Like in a Racist Society

"My hopes for the future as a young Black woman? To be more than what people expect of me."

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.

As a Black child in a rural county in North Carolina, I watched the white supremacist drive through the Martin Luther King Day parade route every year waving Confederate flags and shouting racial slurs. As a teenager, I taught the younger kids about fire drills during Sunday school because Black churches were being set on fire again. As a college student, I voted for President Obama and marched in my first protest for the Jena 6. As a young adult woman, I’ve continued to educate, protest, sign petitions, and make phone calls to my representatives.

But at 31 years old, I’ve been around long enough to see social justice movements come and go. And with every new hashtag that’s been created to help Black lives, I watched the public outrage reach a fever pitch and fade, and Black and Brown people (especially women) continue to fight for equality alone while taking care of our families, friends, and communities.

As a Black photographer, I wanted to remind myself and my community that there is room for joy, peace, and rest in this work—especially in the middle of a global pandemic. I took a few road trips to visit, photograph, and interview (safely, of course!) some of the most important women in my life on how they are caring for themselves during this time. I hope these photos and anecdotes help us remember that while we are fighting and looking out for everyone, we also have to take time to care for ourselves.

Jasmine P., 31

photo essay

Title: Photo editor

Location: New York, NY

HelloGiggles (HG): As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time physically, mentally, and/or spiritually?

Jasmine P.: After spending three and a half months alone quarantining, I made the decision to go home. I knew that I needed a change in my mental health. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been making time to spend time with family. I’ve also taken the time to focus on hobbies.

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with that? Where do you find joy?

JP: I am not the type of person who spends time watching the news, but I will scroll for hours reading about it. I have set time limits on social media and started following more accounts that focus on positivity to balance my timelines. 

Right now, joy has been all about preparing for my new niece. There is nothing like buying tiny baby clothes to lift your spirits.

HG: How are you connecting and supporting your community right now?

JP: I’ve been keeping in touch with family and friends. My family is the type to get together every Sunday, and even when I’m not in town, I like to visit every few months. Weekly check-ins have been helping me stay connected.

HG: As a Black photographer, what have you learned is a form of self-care with your job?

JP: As a photographer and photo editor, I am often the only Black person on a set or creative team. This can become exhausting because you feel like the only voice for an entire group of people. I noticed that staying silent was not good for my mental health. I would spend weeks replaying the situation and going over what I could have said. It took a long time to realize that speaking up was a form of self-care. As I continue to grow in my career, I am developing the confidence to speak up and advocate for myself and others. 

JeNae J., 31

photo essay

Title: New mom and entrepreneur

Location: Fayetteville, NC 

Relationship: Best friend 

HG: What has being pregnant taught you about Black maternal health and advocating for yourself during your pregnancy and hospital stay?

JeNae J.: I always thought that pregnancy was nothing more than having a great excuse to sleep as much as I wanted, eat strange food combinations, and perhaps experience some discomfort while growing a small human inside of me before the “big day” of excruciating pain. It wasn’t until I lost my first baby that I became aware of the true dangers of pregnancy. With my second and most recent pregnancy, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and [was] admitted into the hospital. It was then that I discovered that not only is pregnancy a true stress on the body but that as a Black woman, I was three to four times more likely to [die from] pregnancy than white women. It was with further research that I became aware of the fact that due to systemic racism, I could be placed in a situation where I was not listened to by my doctor or other medical professionals whenever I voiced my concerns about my health. 

At first I felt as if the entire world was against me, and my pregnancy quickly began to feel like less of a blessing and more of a curse, but I decided to quickly drop the victim mentality and use my greatest weapon: knowledge. I began to educate myself on my condition, the medications, and the procedures that the doctors suggested. I learned to ask questions and advocate for myself when I felt as though something wasn’t right. I wasn’t afraid to seek the proper authorities if I felt like I wasn’t respected or listened to. I learned to become a part of the process and not just let the process happen to me. 

Learning to advocate for myself and becoming educated on how my race can play a critical role in my health became superpowers for me. These are superpowers that I suggest all women, especially Black women, add to their superhero resumes.

HG: As a new mom, what are your hopes and dreams for Black girls and women?

JJ: As a new mom of a beautiful Black girl, it’s my hope that Black girls and women are no longer afraid to be themselves. That they can feel safe in the sanctity of their inheritance of Blackness and no longer feel the need to conform to what we have been made to believe are societal norms. It is my hope that Black girls and women can look forward to their future because they are well educated about the truth and strength that lies in their past. I pray for a day where Black girls and women see a world of possibilities instead of a world of limitations.

HG: As a Black woman and new mom, how are you caring for yourself during this time?

JJ: Caring for myself is one of the greatest skills I had to learn. The first thing that I have to do every day is to remind myself that I can’t be good for my daughter if I’m not good to myself. Practicing gratitude, meditation, and yoga help me to nurture my physical, spiritual, and mental being. 

I also make sure that I eat well and always remember to treat myself at least once a day, even if it’s in a small way such as taking an extra-long nap with my favorite scents diffusing in the background.

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with that, and where do you find joy?

JJ: I noticed from a very young age that the news seemed to be geared towards whatever was going to get the biggest reaction from the audience, and typically those stories leaned towards the negative, so I often avoided the news.

With today’s events, especially those occurring in the Black community, I choose to engage myself with the news to stay educated, but instead of allowing the news to dictate to me what the truth of any situation is, I conduct my own research. One of the things that I’ve quickly become aware of is that watching videos of the injustices done to my people is a trigger for me. I often find myself angered by the inhumanity in which it is posted and replayed throughout the media as well as different social platforms. I believe that it’s important to remain informed but to remember not to immerse oneself so deeply into the information that it becomes a detriment to your mental health.

HG: How are you connecting to and supporting your community?

JJ: I connect with and support my community by starting exactly where I am. I do this by being a listening ear to those in my community who may need to vent about what weighs heavily on their heart during this time and teaching them healthy ways to cope and release anger and fear. I also choose to invest in the Black community by supporting Black-owned businesses and encouraging my friends and family to do the same. 

The biggest way that I choose to connect with and support my community is by using my voice to have an open and honest conversation with people of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities that I come into contact with so that they can gain a different perspective of how the recent events have always affected our communities—and how they can be a source of support for us in our journey towards equality.

Nailah C., 20

photo essay

Title: College student

Location: Raleigh, NC

Relationship: Godsister

HG: As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time?

Nailah C.: Mentally, I limited my social media and separated myself from others so that I could focus on myself. I kept TikTok because it is the only social media [platform] that is light and fun. 

HG: How are you connecting to and supporting your community?

NC: I’ve attended a protest, but mostly I’ve been sharing information on Black Lives Matter and spreading awareness about the social justice issues in America. I’ve also been having open conversations with my friends where we take the time to educate each other. On a personal level I’ve been making time to assist my friend with taking care of her son.  

HG: What is it like being a college student right now, and what are your hopes for the future as a young Black woman? 

NC: When we first made that transition to all online [classes], it was challenging mostly because of the global situation we’re in and trying to focus on school while doing so. But I managed to complete the semester, and I have used this time to prepare me for the following semester. My initial plan was to transfer out of my community college to a university in the fall, but I found it to be more reasonable to stay where I am considering most schools are staying online for the 2020 fall semester. The smarter and cheaper decision was to stay at my community college until I could be on physical campus, hopefully in the spring.

My hopes for the future as a young Black woman? To be more than what people expect of me. I like challenges. I’m currently in college studying mental health. I’d like to have a career dealing with child health, because a lot of trauma starts in the childhood and adolescent phases of life. 

Rosa B., 20 

photo essay

Title: College student and mother

Location: Durham, NC

Relationship: Family friend

HG: As a Latinx woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time?

Rosa B.: Physically I’ve been trying to be healthy, but sometimes I find that hard to regulate because of the type of birth control that I take. Mentally, as a single parent, I find myself overwhelmed and exhausted 24/7. Another day alive is another accomplished day. Spiritually, I work at a Christian-owned rose garden that has allowed me to be closer to God. I also pray and read scriptures at home.  

HG: How are you connecting to and supporting your community?

RB: I’ve been having open conversations with my friends to continue to educate myself about issues I don’t understand. I am learning about issues that affect my friends while also teaching them about issues that affect me. 

HG: How has religion helped you through this time especially being a Latinx who is a mother and young woman?

RB: I’ve been going over scriptures and really understanding what they mean, what the message is. I always pray for good health and peace for my family and friends. I recently realized there’s no exact proper way to pray but to give yourself willingly to the lord and he shall listen.

HG: What is it like being a college student right now?

RB: I feel like I’m a part of a big change. My parents didn’t graduate high school or attend college. Becoming a college graduate will achieve the goals they’ve set when they came to America; all their hard work would be paid off.

Felisha G., 52

photo essay

Title: Senior operations manager

Location: Raleigh, NC

Relationship: Godmother

HG: As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time?

Felisha G.: This downtime has allowed me to decompress. I’ve actually found myself focusing on detoxing my mind, body, and soul. Those things I never felt I had time to do before the pandemic I now have time for since I’m working remotely. I’m exercising, taking morning walks, giving myself facials more often, and deep-conditioning my natural hair. I feel free and not bound by the cosmetic controls of day-to-day life. I’m happier and healthier and blessed to still be employed during this uncertain time. 

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with that, and where do you find joy?

FG: Over the past several weeks, I have limited my exposure to TV and social media because I find myself stressed and angry by the state of the world and the fate of Black people. I find joy in meditation and reading self-help books. I recently acquired a sewing machine that I’m slowly teaching myself to use. Sewing is something I’ve always wanted to do, and now [that] the world is shut down, I have time for a hobby. 

HG: How are you connecting with family during this time? 

FG: I have a really big family that loves to get together for all occasions. We celebrate milestones and holidays with multiple generations coming together. During the pandemic, it has been an adjustment to find creative ways to make important moments special. Recently my niece graduated from high school and we still wanted to make her feel special, so we had a very small, socially distant celebration with our immediate family.

Chiquita J., 39

photo essay

Title: Audit program manager

Location: Fredericksburg, VA

Relationship: Family friend 

HG: As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time? 

Chiquita J.: Since birth, Black women are taught to get up every day and work twice as hard for half the respect. This quarantine has shown me just how detrimental that mindset is. During this time, I’ve had time away from the endless meetings that should have been emails, the four-hour daily commute, and the constant internal dialogue to do more with less. 

I’ve had a chance to discover myself through books, crafts, and home renovations as I caravan into my 40s. I never owned a power tool until quarantine but have discovered that, on top of making my house a home, the building has filled my soul with a sense of accomplishment and joy that I was missing in the mundane day-to-day activities, even in a high-powered career. This time has built a new me, and I’m committed to staying the course.

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with that? Where do you find joy? 

CJ: This cycle has been on loop for my entire life. Coping is what I’ve literally been taught to do since birth. As a mom of a 6-foot Black son, these times aren’t lost on me. I’ve marched, protested, met with police departments, participated in community events, and have almost daily discussions with my son about this topic, even at the age of 22. 

This quarantine has allowed me to do something I’ve never had time to do before, though: I’ve mourned. I’ve wept for his lost childhood and looted dreams that I’ve had to steal in order to train him on staying alive during police encounters. I’ve wept for his stolen innocence as he lives daily seeing a world that doesn’t value his gifts based on the skin they are wrapped in. This time of mourning surprisingly makes it easier for me to find extra joy in his laughter and more love in each second I get with him. This time reminds me of just how appreciative I am of each time I hear the word “Maaaaaaaaaaaa.”

HG: How are you connecting to and supporting your community?

CJ: During this time I’ve had to get creative with community support. Most importantly, I’ve worked hard to create a safe place for my community to virtually connect with me to talk, vent, cry, and learn during this time. I’ve spent time talking to white allies about how to be anti-racist, [to] family about issues life had robbed us of solving, [to] loved ones who have lost others to COVID or gun violence, and took on mentees to help navigate maintaining sanity and spiritual strength during these unprecedented times. Being home has allowed me to stop talking about being present on these matters but actually [make] it happen. Through these events, I found strength in the community’s resolve.

Barbara P., 53

photo essay

Title: Senior auditor

Location: Fredericksburg, VA

Relationship: Mother

HG: As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time? 

Barbara P.: Physically: To stay physically healthy, I try to exercise three times a week and eat clean and healthy. Sometimes, I fall off the wagon and I don’t reach my goal. During these times, I refocus, revisit my goals, and make a renewed commitment to myself to do better. I have learned to be gentle and give myself permission to make mistakes. I recognize I am not perfect and still a work in progress.

Mentally: To take care of my mental health, I have learned to practice the art of being grateful every day. I am learning to notice and appreciate the small things that I did not have time or was too tired to notice in the past: the dawning of a new day, flowers blooming, peace, the healing power of just being still and spending quality time with family.

I am recognizing that it is necessary for me to love, honor and take care of myself. It is okay to set boundaries and say no. It is okay not to be okay sometimes. It is okay to seek out help or advice when I am feeling overwhelmed and anxious. When I am not feeling my best self, it is in these moments that it is so important to reach out and ask for help, because I have learned that reaching out and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. 

Spiritually: I wake up every day thanking God for this special gift and journey we call Life. I am truly grateful to God for the blessing of waking up and seeing the dawning of a new day and just being alive. Prayer is an important part of my spiritual life. It is as important to me as breathing, eating and sleeping. When I feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just need guidance, I steal away and have a talk with God through prayer and listen to hear Him speak to me about the direction for my life. I know no matter what is going on in the world or my life, if I can pray, everything will be alright.  

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with this? What gives you joy? 

BP: The trauma surrounding Black people has truly broken my heart and caused me to experience a variety of emotions: anger, disbelief, sadness, confusion, hurt, grief, etc. The tears have come and gone and come back again. My mind is full of questions: Where do we go from here? How can someone hate another person for the color of his or her skin? What does the future hold? What can I do to help? My heart is grieving for the lives lost and the families that have been torn apart. During these uncertain and painful times, I cope by not censoring my feelings, talking with friends, and praying when I am overwhelmed. I have made a commitment to speak out when I see injustice anywhere and to donate to organizations that are committed to helping make a difference in Black communities. 

The unprecedented times we are living in have helped me clearly recognize that life is so short and it can change in the twinkle of an eye. This has helped me get clear about what is important in life. I have learned to find joy in the small, simple things and to be grateful for everything. Instead I have consciously made an effort to refocus on the things that bring me joy, peace, and happiness. I have also been tapping into my creative side and started to learn how to paint. 

I have faith that when our nation emerges from this unprecedented and historical time in our lives, we are stronger, wiser, more loving, and united. We will start to see our unique differences as our strength that can help to start honest conversations that can serve as the catalyst to bring change and progress. We must find a way to come together so that we can secure our future and the future of the next generation. What I know for sure is no matter the color of the skin or background, we are all human beings that need to be valued, appreciated, accepted, loved, and respected. Love has to be our weapon of choice if we are ever going to get rid of hate and racism.  I am committed to remaining hopeful for the future.  

HG: How has the current pandemic affected your work culture?

BP: During this time I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to telework. Working a high-pressure job with a long commute has taken a toll on my mental and physical health. Tele-working has given me the opportunity to focus on and improve those areas. I have also been fortunate enough to work in an organization where other Black and Brown women hold leadership positions. I know that I am being heard and supported at work.

Ruby B., 35

photo essay

Title: Hair salon owner

Location: Fredericksburg, VA

Relationship: Hair stylist

HG: As a business owner, how has the pandemic affected you?

Ruby B.: At first, I didn’t know what to expect of the shutdown of businesses. I anticipated at most it would be two weeks, but to my surprise, it was two months. Honestly, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for me. During my first week off, I had the best time relaxing and catching up on some much-needed tasks around the house. It was the opportune time to spend time enriching my four children and reconnecting with them. It’s so easy to overlook the value of quality time, and I’m so glad that was restored—even picking up new hobbies and self-care practices.

HG: For so many Black women, salons are so much more than just a place to get their hair done. How are you keeping that sense of community and care that Black women experience when coming to the salon during this time?

RB: One way that we try to reassure our clients at The Haven Salon & Beauty Bar is by our customer service practices of allotting time specifically for each appointment so we can focus on [each client’s] individual needs while reducing the contact and interactions with multiple clients at a time.

HG: As a Black woman, how are you caring for yourself during this time?

RB: I began learning to love taking my health more seriously, implementing juicing, and [taking] a more holistic approach to my eating habits in addition to journaling my feelings, thoughts, and plans. Writing my vision and making it plain. Completely resetting my heart, mind, and soul.

HG: The news cycle is full of trauma surrounding Black people. How are you processing and coping with that? Where do you find joy?

RB: With so much going on in the world, my refuge has been in knowing that God is my protection and strength. At times, it has gotten overwhelming, and in those moments, that’s when you have to learn how to disconnect. Disconnecting is also a form of self-care.

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