In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month we spent some time with Sabrina Coleman, Founder
and Managing Principal of Mahoghany Coaching & Development. Sabrina's coaching and development practice is committed to helping women thrive in the workplace and beyond; with an emphasis on underrepresented women who are often the least supported. Sabrina has also led many Professional Development Workshops at Tapia Conferences.
What is self-care? I define self-care as the intersection between selfishness and selflessness. Many women, particularly women of color feel guilty about doing things for ourselves because we have so many competing priorities with family, work, community, etc. So, it's easier to let this go; because this is how many of us have been socialized as women. And somehow, self-care seems to have become a synonym with selfishness. However, selfishness is an unhealthy, while self-care is healthy. And most times, we simply just don't give ourselves permission or take time out of our busy schedules to practice self-care; believing always being busy is being productive (once again, not synonymous) and that; when we're always busy and taking on more, this is what's required to be successful. In today's world, it's almost impossible for us not to be busy; however, it's because of this, that its more important than ever, that we make time to integrate self-care into our daily practices. This is what's truly required for success health, sustainability and personal well-being.
Why is self-care an issue in our community? Catalyst published a research report in 2018 on the emotional tax levied on Asian, Black, Latinx, and multiracial professionals in the United States as they aspire to advance and contribute to their organizations. An important aspect of the emotional tax is the state of being on guard-consciously preparing to deal with potential bias or discrimination. (Dnika J. Travis and Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, Day-to-day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace (Catalyst, 2018). The report also showed that people anticipate bias based on their gender, physical appearance, physical ability, age, parental status, sexual orientation and religious beliefs; and this phenomenon is even more heightened with black professionals. The study shows that emotional tax has a direct impact on people's well-being with a negative impact on sleep and other aspects of mental and physical health.
Culturally there is also a stigma against self-care amongst many of us, particularly women of color with many of us playing multiple roles in our communities, and may not have the luxury of asking for help or displaying vulnerability; especially in the workplace, where quite frankly, it isn't always safe to do so. Self-care is often perceived as something white women do, although this is starting to shift; the shift isn't happening quick enough.
What can we do on a personal level to make self-care part of our lives? We need to recognize that self-care is our responsibility, and commit to it. There are things that leaders can do within organizations to improve inclusion, but ultimately, we are responsible for taking care of ourselves.
What are some self-care things we can do?
I've given this a lot of thought. Here are my recommendations of things you can do.
Choose to respond. If someone interrupts you in a meeting or cuts you off when you're already running late for work in commuter traffic. You can get upset, cussing, yelling and gesturing, which is one reaction; or you can instead choose to respond (or not); through controlled breathing. Breathe in to a count of 4 and out to a count of 4. When we engage our breathing, we have the opportunity to respond vs react to the stimulus which engages a higher part of our brain that can serve us better in these situations.
Develop and build resilience. I do this through mindfulness, prayer and exercise. Mindfulness has huge benefits. The mind-body-spirit connection is super important. When you've built up resistance through spiritual practices and physical release, you're less likely to carry stress in mind-body, able to be fully present and grounded which again enables us to be less reactive to negative stimuli.
Set time aside for self-reflection. Give yourself a mental break and to check in with yourself. I do at least 30 minutes of self-reflection before I get out of bed every morning. I also give myself time to think about my day ahead and get in touch with how I'm feeling. This is more to get myself organized, and not about rumination. I have found this to be one of my best practices, because it makes space for creativity; as some of my best ideas come to me first thing in the morning. So, I also keep a journal next to my bed so I can capture them; because when I don't, I lose them. Of course, it doesn't have to be 30-minutes, as many of us would prefer to get extra rest, but any extra time that isn't rushed will do.
Take time to do an emotion
al audit. Commit to 1-3 days of paying a
ttention to your emotions and how they're impacting you and your environment. Do a simple practice of capturing the emotions you've felt during the last three hours and what triggered these emotions. Can't do something about something you don't know about. This practice gives you really good insight and provides you with emotional intelligence for self-management.
Don't grab your phone first thing. Don't look at your calendar, check your email or read your texts before you get out of bed in the morning. Slow things down.
Take a 10-minute walk at lunch. Try and take a break a few times a day to walk and release stressful energy. The Energy Project recommends our brains work best when you take a renewal break - 10-15 minutes every 90 minutes.
Take mental he
alth days, don't wait till you are sick to call in sick.