I probably broke out in hives twice in one week over my career before realizing I needed to prioritize self-care…and quickly.
Finding myself in professional environments where I’m one of the few, if not the only, person of color is something I’ve become used to. It started when I landed my first internship, and I was the only black girl. Then in my next one, and the one after that.
I was more than mentally prepared for the daily grind of a 9-to-5…or so I thought. Even though I was evolving as a full-time worker, and finding myself in amazing places, not seeing enough reflections of yourself on a daily basis gets old.
As USA Today’sstrategic HR business partner, Patrick Colvin, explains, “Working as a person of color in a predominantly white environment can be mentally and emotionally draining. It is good to practice self-care, but it becomes increasingly important in response to problematic work situations, whether it is dealing with microaggressions, being frustrated, or feeling unvalued, isolated and alone.”
Here’s what I’ve learned about practicing self-care while navigating my career as a person of color. Plus, some strategies I recommend for other peace-seekers out there.
As the only person of color in the office, I knew I had to find my bliss, so meditation was my first step. “Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things,” says HR leader and managing partner at HBA, LLC, Arquella Hargrove.
“This allows for a moment of balance, acceptance, joy and peace, sometimes in the midst of chaos or uncertainty. “
Finding the right form of meditation for myself was a task within itself. Guided or not guided? Sitting or lying down? Transcendental or whatever the next one is called?
It’s a maze, but I ultimately decided that taking the time to connect to my truest self was worth figuring it all out. 10 minutes of guided meditation (while sitting!) is what works best for me. Being able to do it from your desk is a bonus.
Speak your worth
Positive affirmations are sometimes the only thing that get me through my loneliest days. Fully acknowledging your worth and understanding that the space you take up is well-deserved and valuable is powerful.
A little self-love never hurt anyone. Far from it. Find an affirmation that speaks to your soul and say it over and over again. One of my favorites is from Queen Serena Williams: “No one can tell you who you are except for you.” Repeat.
Find little escapes
I’ve pretty much mastered finding little ways to connect to my identity while I’m at work. The main way I do this is by listening to podcasts. The F.U.B.U. (For us, by us) mentality can make the world of a difference.
Shout out to Black Girl In Om, a podcast dedicated to “all things wellness, self-care, and self-love for women of color” for giving me all the melanin magic I need in my life. But even going for a walk and taking in fresh air can help.
“Practicing consistent self-care habits such as taking sporadic or intermittent breaks reduces the chances of overextending oneself while ensuring you stay focused, alert and motivated throughout the day,” explains Colvin.
“These breaks can have positive impacts on someone’s day by cutting the effects of stress a work day can bring, boosting our energy and confidence levels, which has a direct correlation to our physical health.”
I have a habit of picking up a journal, writing in it, and never picking it up again until a year later. Alas, entering the full-time workforce forced me to dust off my journal and take it a bit more seriously.
“Believe it or not, journaling can make you feel good, it helps you take inventory of the day’s events in a safe environment where we can process without fear or stress,” says Hargrove.
I write in my journal every day, but do what works best for you. Taking the time to decompress and get all your thoughts out of your head can help you feel less overwhelmed.
Build a support system
Someone once told me that meeting with other people of color at least once a week made it easier to handle predominantly white work environments. I took that advice to heart. Finding someone who can relate to your experience can have a profound impact on how you feel at work.
Hargrove elaborates, “The key to coping and making it work in an office environment that may be tough is to have a circle of friends to go to as a sounding board. This may be during dinner, over tea/coffee or glass of wine…whatever the medium, it’s an opportunity to connect with others who have similar experiences to be available when needed.”
There are always, always people in your corner, so find your community and hold onto that.