For the busy working WOC who needs some new ideas:
I secretly love New Year’s resolutions. I see it as a way to re-center and continue working on my areas of strength and growth (some positive psychology there). However, as I scroll through social media and chat with loved ones, I see so many of my friends and family members talking about losing weight for the New Year. Or having more “me time.” Or finally doing that thing they’ve always wanted to do. Or saving money.
As womxn of color, specifically professionals in academia, we are stretched and taxed in so many different spaces—from the classroom, to the lab, to the conference room, to the space we come home to. We’re asked to execute additional (free) labor, be spokespeople for our various racial and ethnic groups, and at the same time, perform greater than our counterparts. So New Year’s resolutions and time to focus on ourselves may seem impractical.
Well, with all the crap that is going to go down post-Obama (insert all of our nightmares), here are some practical resolutions to try this year that are focused on overall self-care and health—beyond just losing weight. Frankly, the idea of losing weight as a resolution is so deeply rooted in sexism. It’s time for some change. Let’s go.
1. Say no to additional (free) labor, and say yes to your “side hustle.”
You can bet that Becky isn’t being asked to mentor all the folks who look like her, or train an entire department about a specific “experience” on behalf of all Becky’s. Redirect that labor, if you can. Spend that energy you’ve saved to work on a project/“side hustle” that brings you joy. Make it unrelated to work if possible. Launch that blog you’ve always wanted to write (like what I’m doing!). Begin your online business. Pen the poetry that has been circling in your mind. Train other womxn of color how to save money. And totally related to this is resolution #2.
2. Read literature that will strengthen your soul.
Not the daily news articles in your feed, or latest celebrity gossip. And not just any literature, but literature written specifically by womxn of color authors. Check out my 2017 Womxn of Color Reading Challenge for 50 challenges that will keep you busy this upcoming year. Bonus: during your lunch break, move away from your desk and spend that time reading a chapter!
3. Pack your lunch, seriously.
I know, it’s so easy to pick up something at work. But when you’re hungry, crunched for time, and have limited options, you usually end up going for something that smells absolutely delicious and you will absolutely regret later. I’m not asking you to do a full-on meal prep on Sunday nights. Aim to prep your lunch at least 3 times a week. I also find it more fun to pack my own lunch when the packaging makes me feel like I got it from a restaurant. Get a set of 10 reusable lunch containers from Amazon for only $11.95.
4. Work out to make your body happy, not simply to lose weight.
I can’t emphasize this enough. An active body = an active mind and soul. Stress eats at our body and ultimately consumes our mental capacity. Invest in your physical wellness as much as you invest in your intellectual knowledge. If working out at the gym isn’t your thing, try working out at home. I like Cassey Ho of Blogilates; she has great challenges for beginners and intermediate fitness enthusiasts. Plus she’s a womxn of color who has started her own fitness company and is launching a new line of workout gear.
5. Get a “SnapBack” fitness buddy.
Okay, so a Snapback fitness buddy is something I completely made up just now, but it can work for you! This is for all the folks who want motivation and accountability for working out. Two things: Snapchat + positive reinforcement. What better way than connecting through social media? Set a realistic weekly goal, such as, “I’ll go to a fitness class three times this week after work.” Every time you go work out, send a snap to your designated SnapBack fitness buddies (closest friends in the area, friends across the nation, anyone who’s going to support you). Encourage them to also participate in the challenge with you.
6. Try that fitness class that intimidates you.
The first time I attempted yoga (outside of YouTube videos) was at this completely bougie gym that had multiple floors, saunas, indoor and outdoor pools, and so forth. Seriously, people are so busy judging themselves that they don’t have time to judge you. If you can, bring a friend with you. Arrive early and introduce yourself to the instructor so they can support you if you’re struggling. Spend the majority of the next visits in the back of the room so you can 1) learn from more experienced folks, 2) feel less judged, and 3) make faces at yourself without others seeing. People are going to police us womxn of color no matter what, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re at it.
7. Take the sick day, enjoy it, and be okay with it.
Need I say more? If you accrue sick days like the plague, use it. I’m all about the mental health days.
8. Eat a meatless meal once a day.
Lunch or dinner, that is. You’ll need all the protein to start off your day. There’s a reason why vegetarians and vegans live longer, because they fill their daily nutrition with plant-based foods instead of processed, hormone-injected meats. I was pescatarian (fish and veggies only) for 2 years, and I loved how not sluggish my body felt. Meats are heavy. If you can’t go full-on vegetarian or vegan, try replacing it for one meal a day. Replace your meat with plant-based proteins, like chickpeas, black beans, tofu, or go with seafood. I will say though, depending on which community of color you come from, it will be difficult. It’s kind of hard to enjoy a hearty, authentic bowl of pho without beef.
9. Write daily in your personal planner.
But don’t include any work-related items because that’s what Outlook is for. One of my favorites is Passion Planner, whose creator and CEO is a womxn of color in her 20s. #GOALS, anyone? I try to spend time every day to plan, reflect, and celebrate reaching small goals. I usually write things such as what I ate for breakfast, when I worked out, and whose wedding is coming up. I love it so much that I regularly buy these as gifts for friends—I even purchased a bunch for my students. There are always special offers happening so make sure you subscribe.
Take 10% off at checkout with code VCHAN10 (you’ll also support one of my friends, who is a Passion Planner representative).
10. Stop and reflect every time you consume social media.
If you’re looking at social media for hours and hours because you’re bored, try switching it up for something else. If you’re looking at social media because you don’t want to miss out, be mindful of why you’re feeling this way. I have tried doing “social media cleanses”, but just like that juice cleanse I tried, I never successfully went through with it. Instead, write in your personal planner (see #9) and reflect on what you were feeling when you looked at social media. I’ve also started doing resolution #11 to help with this.
11. “Do Not Disturb” your life.
Most phones nowadays have the “Do Not Disturb” function built in. “Do Not Disturb” doesn’t vibrate or flash your screen to show notifications. Think of it as pretending your phone is completely off. Some options include silencing phone calls too. My “Do Not Disturb” setting kicks in at 9:00 p.m. and goes until 6:15 a.m. While it silences notifications, I did set it up to where it allows phone calls in case of emergencies. Seriously, I’m “on” from the moment I wake up. It allows me to detach from my phone and enjoy the great things in life, such as catching up on all the episodes of Jane the Virgin.
12. Make it intentional to connect with long-distance friends and family.
While you’re successfully “Do Not Disturb”-ing your life, use that time to connect with friends and family who live far away from you. It’s almost sickening how much we put out there on social media, which causes us to not connect directly with each other anymore. The only person I speak to regularly on the phone is my partner, and most of the time I’m asking him when he’s leaving work. Or my mom, who mostly reminds me that I should be popping babies out by now. Try to Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout someone at least every two weeks. For every month, that is only 2 people who you’ve connected with, outside of the daily snaps of them walking to work (seriously, friends, change up your snaps).
13. Make work wait.
It’s like we don’t want to set a bad example on behalf of all [insert all the marginalized identities you’ve been tasked to represent], so we’re always on. We check and respond to e-mails after work or on our days off. Meh. In 2017, I’m all about “if it can wait, it can wait.” If you can’t delete your work email off your personal phone, either because you really can’t or you don’t want to, at least put the icon away from your main home screen. And turn off push notifications. That way you’ll have to manually scroll through your home pages and refresh it. That’ll give you time to reflect on why you’re checking it in the first place.
14. Start minimizing your favorite beauty items.
Okay, stay with me here. I’m going to eventually devote an entire post to this. As much as I love beauty items and makeup, I can honestly say that some makeup products are used purely to mask a specific insecurity of mine. Whose standards am I not fitting? What is perceived as “ugly” in today’s standards? For all the WOC who love makeup: here’s a challenge. To condition yourself to love and embrace your insecurities, can you go a full work week without your favorite beauty item? I went from wearing full-coverage foundation + powder just about every day since I was 13 to *gasp* a sheer BB cream. For real, for all my sisters who have/had painful cystic acne, you understand. Post forthcoming…stay tuned.
15. Take advantage of your health care and utilize services covered by your insurance.
Especially for state employees, like if you work at public institution/university/college/government office, etc. Historically, womxn of color have been systemically disenfranchised, and frankly, abused, in health care. It’s typical that we don’t ask a lot of questions because we have not been informed that there were questions to ask in the first place. It is also typical that certain services are not offered to us because of health care providers’ lack of training on working with communities of color. Well, for all my WOC who have the privilege of health insurance through your employer, I encourage you to learn the in’s and out’s of your benefits, and utilize the services you’ve earned!
Through my insurance, my IUD birth control was 100% covered. I’ll do an entire series about getting my IUD (had it since May 2015!). Additionally, most employers offer an Employee Assistance Program, which is a counseling-based program that assists employees with issues related to personal life or work. I used it when I was going through a difficult time managing a crisis at work. Furthermore, if counseling and therapy services are offered, take it!
So there you go! Which resolutions will you attempt in 2017? Comment below!