For nearly three years, I’ve taught an exercise class every Monday morning at 9.
It’s a high-intensity interval training class. We jump, crunch, run in place, push-up, plank and lift weights. All within 45 minutes. By the time we leave, we’re drenched in sweat. However, we’re rejuvenated, alert and ready to attack the rest of the day.
During the first two years, I taught the class, I would, often, rush from the training room to the locker room to shower, get dressed and move on to the next thing. As a person who enjoys being around people, my schedule would often get altered as I made my way through the fitness center. I had to stop and talk to my people. I had to give and receive hugs. And I had to follow up on previous conversations.
By the time I would arrive at the showers, the feeling of frustration would begin to rise because being who I am had caused me to get “off track.” My frustration was never with the people I had just spent time with, I was more so wishing there was enough time to get it all done without being in a hurry.
One day after class, I told myself to take a deep breath and simply enjoy the moments. Life can change in a second, so the time I spent chatting and loving was worth it. These are the moments I would remember years from now. All the time I spent rushing to the next thing would be a moot point in the grandeur of life.
As I incorporated this mindset on Mondays, I noticed how relaxed I felt the rest of the day. And you know what? I still accomplished everything I needed to on those days. Go me!
Taking this approach was much needed. I’ve been on a quest for years to improve how I take care of me. As far as my physical health is concerned, it’s been a priority since I was a child. I’ve always been active. Healthy living has been a lifestyle for me since I was in my teens. I’m also very conscious of what I consume.
However, for all the ways I take care of my body, there were still areas of opportunity I needed to address. I’m a huge advocate of self-care, and as a woman, I know what that encompasses varies across backgrounds, races, socioeconomic classes and neighborhoods.
In some spaces, it looks like spa days, weekly massages, monthly vacations and shopping sprees. In others, it looks like stepping outside for fresh air at least once a day, social media breaks, not engaging in political debates and not watching the news. As I’ve talked with women over the years, I’ve taken note of the fact that those of us who have to incorporate the latter-mentioned methods of self-care are often minority women.
I’m an avid reader and I enjoy perusing articles about the topic. I’ve encountered many suggestions I’ve incorporated into my own life. However, in my readings, I often don’t find recommendations that center around self-care from a mental and emotional standpoint.
As a black woman, I know the importance of protecting the sanctity of your mind, especially in this divisive climate. Yes, the days of pampering are great, but we also must be mindful of what we allow ourselves to consume. Our mind is a battlefield, and if it’s constantly filled with negativity, albeit it could not be of our own doing, it can cause us to become trapped in a headspace that’s not productive.
Years ago, my mind would race constantly. Meditating was something I couldn’t get the hang of because I could never get my mind to “turn off.” It was constantly processing something. Due to this fact, I thought what I was experiencing was normal. When I learned it wasn’t, I began my journey to learning how to just be, at times.
It took years to master it but I’ve arrived! I could write another article about the steps I took to get here. However, I will say one of the most important things I did was think about what I was thinking about. When I was still and my mind would start racing, I focused on what I was thinking about. If it was negative, I worked on redirecting my thoughts. If it was positive, I embraced it. At the same time, I worked on just taking time to not think. Again, to just be.
Even after getting a grasp on this technique, I still incorporate additional practices to ensure I stay here.
One day last year, I decided after my class to go sit in the sauna. I’ve always delighted in the experience, and it dawned on me that I had one available I rarely used because I was always trying to get to the next activity once I arrived in the locker room.
When I left there, I felt so free that I now go to the sauna at least once a week. It’s a necessity. And it’s something I do for me.
To keep my mind quiet. To keep my peace. And to protect my sanity.
What are you doing for you?
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.