In Pursuit of Self-Care: Unmasking the Realities of Self-Care for Black Women

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already aware of one critical truth – Black women are incredibly and undeniably deserving of self-care. This understanding isn’t a shiny new revelation. Black feminist civil rights activist Audre Lorde said it way back in the 80s: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Lorde’s concept of self-care, though radical by today’s standards (especially when compared to the current, whitewashed, and commercially overcooked interpretations of the term), fueled her fight for change while she battled cancer. It was much more than a radical act; it was a lifeline.

There’s a reason this powerful quote has become a manifesto for self-care among Black women. We might not all be activists, but the harsh reality is that enduring the stress of persistent racist and sexist discrimination takes a hefty toll on our health. Self-care isn’t some luxury we treat ourselves to every now and then; it’s how we survive. Lorde knew it, and so do the folks at EXHALE.

The State of Self-Care for Black Women

Black woman typing on laptopIn June 2023, EXHALE dropped ‘The State of Self-Care for Black Women’, a report that paints an intimate portrait of Black Women’s experiences with mental, emotional, and physical health. Gathering responses from 1,005 Black Women in the United States, the study helps to confirm what’s widely known but often sidelined – the health of Black women is inextricably tied up in the struggles they face. But the true eye-opener? While mental health awareness is growing in our community, and stigma is on the decline, a whopping 77% of the Black women surveyed expressed a desire for more well-being tools and resources specifically tailored to nurture our unique needs.

EXHALE’s findings are as sobering as they are enlightening, so let’s delve into the truths, challenges, and change-makers within the realm of self-care for Black women.


The Unseen Battle of the Black Superwoman

Society often casts Black women as unyielding towers of strength, cramming us into a ‘Superwoman’ stereotype. Yet, the EXHALE report illuminates the heavy shadow that this stereotype casts on the well-being of Black women. Unsurprisingly, 76% of respondents reported that people believe Black Women are stronger than most people and should be able to manage more stress than others. The relentless pressure to persevere through discrimination and microaggressions only heightens our stress levels, leading to chronic health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and a heightened risk of mental health disorders.

Racial Trauma? It’s Not Just in Our Heads

We simply can’t separate the health and well-being of Black women from the experiences of racial trauma. Whether it’s in the workplace or in our personal lives, discrimination, systemic racism, and microaggressions act as super stressors. The report gives a firm nod to this truth, revealing that a staggering 25% of Black women have been hospitalized or needed medical care due to stress. It’s further proof that our daily struggles don’t just disrupt our mental peace – they manifest in our bodies.


our daily struggles don’t just disrupt our mental peace – they manifest in our bodies


The Uphill Battle

Black Women have to overcome many barriers to gain better access to mental health resources. 60% of Black women find formal mental health resources, like therapy, inaccessible. But it’s not just about the sky-high costs. We’re often juggling the roles of caregivers, financial providers, and so much more, leaving us scraping for time, let alone the headspace for therapy sessions. And let’s not forget about the very real and prevalent issue of discrimination in healthcare today. 37% of the respondents have experienced provider bias in a healthcare setting.

The Appetite for Self-Care

Young black woman sitting and drinking smoothie outdoors

But despite these obstacles, the report unearths a powerful narrative – Black women aren’t just surviving, we’re striving! We know that self-care is a radical and imperative act of self-preservation and we’re ready to go all in. 40% of respondents expressed a desire to spend 1-4 hours per day practicing self-care. What’s the missing piece of the puzzle? The self-care resources that truly get us, resources that aren’t cost-prohibitive, resources that speak to our lived experiences, and safe spaces where we can unmask and talk it out.

Getting culturally appropriate support shouldn’t feel like climbing Everest, yet it does. Disappointingly, only 16% of respondents said their workplaces have stepped up and created workgroups for Black women, and a mere 19% reported that policies are in place to tackle workplace stress. These are some sobering stats, especially considering that for many Black women, the workplace is the source of much of the stress we experience.

So, where does this leave us? Are we stranded at the crossroads, bearing the weight of racial trauma and discrimination, with no recourse? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. While the journey is fraught, there is hope.


there’s a wave of  resources surging, spearheaded by Black women, for Black women


Hope on the Horizon

In the digital space, there’s a wave of resources surging, spearheaded by Black women, for Black women. Of course, there’s the amazing organization that brought us this data; EXHALE, an organization committed to centering Black Women, providing unique tools and resources to help us destress, get grounded and breathe.

Other mental health platforms include Therapy for Black Girls, a renowned podcast and database that connects Black women with culturally competent therapists. Scroll your ‘For You Page’ and you’re bound to stumble across one of the many online wellness communities that exist. One such gem is Black Girl In Om, who offer everything from yoga workshops to guided meditations and live conversations with wellness experts.

Right here at Stress Less Press, we’re championing the cause of making self-care accessible to Black women everywhere. As a Black woman-owned publisher, we craft workbooks, guided journals, and planners that foster our inner growth and help us thrive. Our goal is to provide tools that help you manage stress, identify your needs, and cultivate a sustainable self-care routine as you navigate your path through life.

Self-care is Your Right

Black woman getting a massageWhile the barriers holding many Black women back from accessing mental health care are tangible and daunting, it’s worth recognizing that self-care isn’t an exclusive club. Every single one of us can make the decision to take steps toward enhancing our well-being. It could be as basic as taking a shower on a day when your bed seems like the only safe haven, or going for a mindful walk around the block. Maybe it’s pouring your thoughts into a journal or decluttering your living space to declutter your mind.

Self-care, at its core, is anything that uplifts your quality of life, and it doesn’t need to cost a dime. You can embark on your self-care journey at this very moment, right within your means. Remember, it isn’t a luxury, it’s a fundamental right – a necessary part of your survival kit.

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