It has been a heavy few months. Between the global coronavirus pandemic, lockdown, and Black Lives Matter protests, there are few people who can claim they are entirely 'fine' right now. For Black women here in the UK, it continues to be an emotionally taxing experience. While the ongoing conversations about race are important and essential – everyone from Alexandra Burke, Misha B, Leona Lewis, and Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock have shared their stories – it has been triggering to watch play out. And it feels like we still have a long way to go in supporting Black women and their mental health. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at how Black women are approaching self-care right now, and what's bringing them joy.
Alongside the protests, petitioning and anti-racist activism, now more than ever we're in need of a little guilt-free R&R. Switching off is just as necessary as staying up to date. From podcasts to reality TV, we speak to seven Black women to find out how they're doing.
Stephanie Yeboah: body image & self-love advocate, author, influencer
"As someone who has a pretty short attention span, I’ve found the use of audiobooks and podcasts to be a source of calm and joy for my mental health over the last few weeks or so. Not only do these resources help me greatly when it comes to falling asleep, but there’s something about the smooth, monotonous voices that make me feel incredibly tranquil while undertaking tasks or work at home.
"At the moment, I’ve been listening to Heroes by Stephen Fry and Natives by Akala on Audible. With regards to podcasts, I always do weekly catchup with The Read – a pop culture humour podcast – which I’ve been listening to consistently now for seven years, and never fails to put me in a great mood."
Yasmin Evans: BBC 1Xtra DJ, TV presenter
"I’ve been making sure I take advantage of this time — I see it as bonus time to make sure that I’m good. This includes sleeping way more (aka napping when I want), reading to take my mind away from social media, and too much of the news. I’ve also been making sure I get outside and spending a lot of time in my kitchen trying out new recipes — it has been a joy! I think it’s really important to find the joy in little moments right now, as a lot of us are losing it for many reasons; we miss family, we are committed to change and activism, we’re alone, we’re uncertain, we have lost someone close to us, lost motivation, lost hope... and we feel like we can’t enjoy our 'joy' because it seems selfish. But what’s more selfish is punishing and criticising ourselves.
"I created BBC 1Xtra's Good Vibes Radio as escapism, and also a place where we can be joyful without feeling like everything else we are doing is non-existent. Take the time to find your moments of joy in this madness; it’s the process of healing. The moments of joy keep me motivated because it takes a lot to find it, but once we grasp that it’s not unachievable, we can get to enjoy them more often."
Lauren Rae: writer & author
"Though I initially saw the pandemic as yet another ‘woe is me’ plot twist in my life story, I’ve quickly learned to love it. In my time being isolated from my loved ones and the world, I've found myself again. Living alone was lonely, but with it came a sense of, ‘if I can do this, I can do anything’. I’d love to be one of those people who bettered their cooking skills, learned to braid their own hair, or started daily workout routines, but my way of maintaining sanity in quarantine was far less so.
"Instead, I learned to appreciate sunset walks, worked a little harder at my job (than I already do), read the books gathering dust on my shelves and, don’t laugh, but cleaned on an almost hourly basis. I’ve learned more about myself, and the world (damning as it may be) in this time, than I have in my twenty-something years of life. And though I’d have loved it under different circumstances, I don't totally dislike it."
Rachy Lewis: lifestyle & disability awareness blogger
"Admittedly this year has been overwhelming in many ways but I’ve been finding comfort in the mundane things. I’ve been doing a lot of baking triggered by my desire to create something beautiful, despite knowing fully well that it won’t last forever. I’ve also been finding solace in the many scorching cups of tea I make on a daily basis, and time spent absent-mindedly laughing with friends and family about ordinary things.
"It’s been the walks around town, the melody of a song I can’t get out of my head, the little things — those have been the things bringing me joy lately."
Victoria Sanusi: co-host @blackgalslivin podcast, journalist
"It’s a draining time for Black people right now. I mean, it always has been, but now the world is learning that racism actually exists. It’s bittersweet. I’ve been taking breaks off social media as seeing trauma frequently, and conversations about racism, can be heavy and trigging. Walks have helped my mental health tremendously. I’ve been doing #dingastepchallenge by blogger Lydia Dinga! Would recommend. I’ve been listening to podcasts such as Made In Chafford, No Shade, and Yellow Cup. I’m watching Selling Sunset – sometimes I find peace watching shows I cannot relate too. It’s like entering another universe.
"I’ve also been playing with makeup – it’s something I wasn’t able to do as a teen because makeup brands didn’t make affordable products for my skin tone. I’ve recently brought Makeup Revolution X Tammi’s Deep face palette and it goes so deep, and it’s made me so happy."
Elizabeth Ogabi: founder of For Working Ladies, podcast host
"As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to drive on, and I hope it never stops, there can be moments of heaviness and even depression. It has been so important for me to tap out and find ways to fill myself up and keep my spirit high. As an introvert, I love my alone time to reflect, relax, and do literally nothing, but I also appreciate time with friends.
"Friendship plays a big part in my life and I have some amazing women that bring me much joy, spending time with them, although virtually, lifts my energy and brightens my day. They aren't many, but they are definitely good quality."
L'Oréal Blackett: journalist, presenter, podcaster
"Self-preservation kicked in a week or two after lockdown began, and I began to sniff out any whiffs of joy like a Basset Hound. For the most part, I run. According to my running app, I've run a total of 63 times and close to 200 miles in 3 months. Without being dramatic, it's the sole thing keeping me sane.
"There's nothing more liberating than hearing Beyoncé in my Airpods, as I'm pelting down empty streets as if I'm Flo-Jo. Daily runs help me run off disappointments, fears, and anxieties. On some runs I think things through, other times I think of sweet nothing at all. Every time, I feel free."