We are only two months into 2017 and I feel that we are in some strange times with everything that is occurring nowadays. According to 'Ol' Boy in the White House (I refuse to call that man my President), drugs costs are becoming cheaper than candy bars out here, the "Cash Me Outside" Girl is flourishing by displaying bad behavior and exploiting AAVE and Migos just scored a #1 album for the culture. It's easy to get lost in the constant stream of media overload and forget about your own self-care as a person of color, especially as a black man. When I speak to some of my black male mentees, they express their concerns about the situations taking place and want to take action. I urge them to take the action that they feel is necessary and even point them to resources in addition to reminding them to tend to their own self-care. As a black male, I feel that we aren't always given the space to just express how we feel or opportunities to reflect on how situations affect us. Here are just a few tips that I believe are helpful for self-care for a black male in a strange world:
1) Seek therapy (even when there isn't anything wrong).
This year, I decided to add mental health to my vision board and decided that I would seek therapy on a monthly basis (especially because its covered in my benefits!) which garners confused looks on the faces on some of my mentees and family members. When I tell people that I'm going to counseling, the questions "what's wrong with you?" or "you're paying someone to talk to you?" usually come up. I talk about counseling with my peers and mentees to try to normalize this once taboo subject. I've heard the narratives about our community not seeking counseling because its a "white thing," yet sometimes you need to challenge these old tropes. Honestly, its one of the best investments I made this year. I've been challenged to "own my ish" and come to terms with some pretty uncool things. Despite the tough conversations, I do feel that I'm moving in a much more positive direction in life. Racial Battle Fatigue is real, y'all!
When I was coming up, my mother always used to say, "get out of Jacksonville. There's more to life than just Florida." I am so indebted to my mother for many things, yet this is a jewel that I continue to live during adulthood. In recent years, we've been inundated with IG photos and videos depicting the black travel movement that show people who look like me traveling the world. It doesn't need to be exotic locales as domestic travel is just as important as traveling internationally. There's something about changing your scenery and exposing yourself as a black man in this world that is invigorating and enlightening. Just don't book a flight on Spirit!
Despite being a doctoral student who has a lot to read between classes, I find time to squeeze in a few minutes of leisurely reading on a daily basis. Currently, I'm reading Dr. Michael Eric Dyson's Tears We Cannot Stop and just finished scouring Cupcake Brown's A Piece of Cake. Whether it's the news (not you, fake news!) or a great article posted on one of your favorite websites, reading really is fundamental out here. Every morning before work, I take about 30-45 minutes to read what's happening in domestically, internationally, musically, and in my field of higher education. Not only do I read this information, I have discussions about it with my students, peers, and partner. Just be careful about who you share your information with, because not everyone wants to know about Migos' song, "T-Shirt."
4) Laugh and Smile
Not too long ago, I got hipped to a movement called #blackmensmile which brings me joy every single day. Learn more about the movement here. One quick review of their IG, you'll see many photos of brothers smiling or caught in mid laugh. It offers a needed counternarrative to Black men only being stone faced or scowling. The Mayo Clinic notes that laughing has long term benefits such as: increased personal satisfaction, improved mood, and an overall improvement to your immune system. In my opinion, these long-term benefits can lead to an increase in overall life satisfaction. We are in strange times and there is too much foolishness happening to not laugh at the ridiculousness.
5) Find your life Board of Directors
When I look around at my friend group, I must say that I'm more than humbled by the people who the Most High decided to put into my life. These are the people who are truly ABOUT ME and FOR ME! You have to find people in your life that are about your success and growth during a period where many of us are trying to figure it out. My Board of Directors challenge me and hold me accountable for my actions and dreams. If I say that I'm going to do something (i.e. go get my doctorate), I have someone calling me out to see if I submitted the application. And it works vice versa for them. This isn't a large group of people, just a select few that will push you to your limits.
Mind you, I do understand that there is some privilege in a few of the tips, however, I am open to helping other brothers find the resources necessary to support their self-care. No one man can be an island out here no matter what messages are being pushed out to us.