How to Take a Break Right Now if You’re a Black Person in Need of Rest

Being Black in America requires an unbelievable amount of tenacity and, well, work. It’s practically a Black proverb that to succeed in this country, you must work twice as hard to get half as far. Many of us have been taught that showing up and overworking are the best ways to communicate our value. We might intuit that the onus is on us to prove our goodness, our humanness—our innocence. Then we learn that someone might kill us anyway.

If you were raised this way, it can be hard to permit yourself to take a break right now, because showing up—at work, at home, at protests, in conversations about race—is how many Black folks have been taught to survive. So if you’re Black, yearning to rest, and waiting for a sign, please know that this is it. (If you’re a white or non-Black person reading this, though, your self-care probably shouldn’t involve completely checking out right now.)

“The biggest thing I tell my clients is that it’s okay to unplug,” LaQuista Erinna, L.C.S.W., founder of T.H.R.I.V.E. Behavioral Health & Consulting, tells SELF. “We’re trying to process a lot of information in a relatively short period of time,” she says. Taking time away from the endless stream of news reports, check-in messages, and social media updates can give you space to figure out how you’re actually feeling.

There is immense power in believing that because Black lives matter, your individual needs are important. What’s more, allowing yourself the dignity of a break, taking the time to grieve, and processing your feelings can all have very real implications for your ability to challenge systemic racism (including police brutality), your productivity at home and at work, and, most importantly, your mental and emotional well-being.

Below, you’ll find a few helpful tips and reminders if you’re also a Black person who deals with guilt when you try to take a step back in times like these. This fight is long, friend. You’re allowed to recharge for the road ahead.

1. Remind yourself that simply existing in a Black body is part of the work.

Making the decision to sit out a protest, unplug from the news, or take a mental health day can feel like you’re abdicating responsibility, but the truth is that just moving through the world as a Black person can be taxing. Every additional day you do it is an accomplishment.

Chronic stress from racism has been proven to have deleterious effects on Black people’s health. There’s a strong chance that, if you’re Black, you didn’t need me to tell you that racism stresses you out. But let this fact serve as a reminder that you have every right to incorporate rest and stress-relief into your life.

2. If you’re going to take a mental health day, create a plan.

Let’s be honest, one mental health day isn’t going to be enough to overcome the suffering that often accompanies constantly fighting against racism, but taking a day (or several) can give you time and space to grieve and recharge a bit. If you’re able to take a mental health day, try to think of a few activities that might feel refreshing. “In periods of stress, we’re driven toward self-soothing behavior that might not be restorative for us,” Paul Lavella Jr., licensed professional counselor and training and development specialist at Delphi Behavioral Health Group, previously told SELF. Ask yourself what usually leaves you feeling refreshed and what leaves you feeling like a zombie.

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