5 Non-Performative Acts of Self-Care

By Jewell Singletary | February 17, 2022

Flat-tummy teas and mani-pedi makeovers might garner likes in the highlight reel, but they can't cut it when it comes to getting to the root of caring for ourselves on a spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical level. In today's "show me" society, we perform self-care on social media instead of logging off to do the real work—myself included as a perfectly imperfect human. But in recent years, I have been more successful at leaning into my toolbox of non-performative practices that put more love and care into myself. Here are five of them.

In today's "show me" society, we perform self-care on social media instead of logging off to do the real work. –Jewell Singletary

1. Journaling
I started journaling in 6th grade. Our English teacher assigned a five-minute, free-write at the end of each class. Almost thirty years later, writing is still one of my most sustainable self-care practices. I use pen and paper as my go-to place to process my feelings and unproductive thoughts. Sometimes I’m very thoughtful and deliberate in what I write. Other times it's a more intuitively guided practice. I shared with Heidi Sander of Authority Magazine that journaling helped me to be more calm, mindful, and resilient. Free-writes are my fav form. My pages have also been a sacred spiritual space to record scripture references, sermon notes, prayer, and gratitude lists.

Writing is one of the tools therapists recommend for patients who experience depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Journaling also helps alleviate the impact of anxiety, and other mental health issues. Studies show that people who write for just two, 20-minute sessions per week have a lower risk of developing heart disease. 

2. Sustenance
I’m not a nutritionist, functional doctor, or fad dieter. I have, however, been living with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past three decades. Millions of people around the world are living with illness or injury-related inflammation. Sometimes our favorite foods can cause an unintended inflammatory response. For me, inflammation manifests as achy joints, face and chest rashes, and muscle pains in my body. I experienced marked improvement in my moods, mobility, and inflammation once I converted to a predominately plant-based diet and dramatically increased my water intake. 

Being more aware of physical and emotional health before, after, during meals and snacks is the first step in sustenance self-care. Incorporating mindful eating practices like post-meal meditations or food journaling can help you figure out which foods you need to eliminate to improve energetic and emotional health. For example: If you consistently note you feel lethargic and sluggish, or your belly is bloated after bouts with dairy, then it may be time to cut the cheese curds and ice cream cones.

3. Talk Therapy
I experienced multiple childhood traumas and developed Lupus before I turned twelve years old. In addition to my own traumatic events, I vividly remember living through the AIDS crisis, the Rodney King beating, and the Gulf War. I was terrified and depressed. The adults in my life assumed that because I was excelling academically and had all my material needs met that I was “okay.” Inside, my anxiety was activated and I was suffering socially. It wasn't until my senior year of university that I discovered therapy after attending student support services sessions.

We now know that adverse childhood experiences often lead to adulthood stress, anxiety, depression and  negative health outcomes. Leading pain researchers like Bessel Van der Kolk MD, Maggie Phillips and Peter A. Levine verify the effectiveness of trauma-informed care techniques that combine mental health therapy, physical movement practices, and breathwork to process pent-up trauma. It took trial and error, fifteen years and six therapists before I built a relationship with a trusted therapist. Every week I meet with my mental health professional to unpack my feelings and responses related to chronic illness, childhood trauma, race-based stress. My provider has helped to put into perspective learned behavior. I've dug deep into generational trauma patterns to purposefully reprogram my psyche to subconsciously choose healthier habits and coping tools. 

4. Spiritual Detox Baths
There’s been a lot of social media slander against baths as self-care so I wanted give a special shout-out to the soak. Spiritual detox baths are a staple in my self-love rituals. I create my own self-care spa and soak for at least an hour in a steaming hot tub with Epsom salt scrubs, essential oils, mood music, or a mental health podcast. I turn my bathroom into a sacred space with sage, incense, candles and crystals. If I'm short on time, I'll draw a quick foot bath.

Epsom salt aids in eliminating toxins by supporting smooth bowl moves while magnesium sulfate relieves muscle stress and tension. Essential oils like lavender and chamomile both can help calm the mind and soothe the senses. 

5. Body Scan 
Set a 5-minute timer and begin with an easy breath. Start at the crown of your head and scan through your entire body down to the souls of your feet. With each breath acknowledge every crevice of your vessel. INHALE Gratitude for each body part. EXHALE LOVE. This might be challenging for some people. We often don't take the time to explore our bodies in this way or to even appreciate ourselves as we are. As the practice progresses, allow space for all feelings to flow without judgment. Pleasant or unpleasant, it is all part of acknowledging yourself and your experiences without judgment.

The most substantive self-care doesn’t exist on the social media streets. The blueprint for breakthroughs is buried in the benefits of all-natural, holistic health remedies that our ancestors knew. Neither elaborate nor expensive, these non-performative self-care tools are accessible, adaptable, sustainable. Creating a personalized pathway to self-care is one of the most loving, nourishing things we can for ourselves. Take your self-care off social media and make make consistent, incremental improvements, and you'll begin to tap into profound, multilayered transformation. 

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This article mentions: Self-Care, Mindfulness, Journaling

About the Author:

Jewell Singletary

Jewell Singletary is a meditation and yoga instructor, creative entrepreneur, educator, and multidisciplinary artist behind Thee Be Well blog, Gratitude Griot YouTube channel, and Yoga Wit the Ohmies Podcast, the h[ohm]e of healing conversations around all things mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Read more articles by Jewell Singletary
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Access thousands of live and on-demand classes for mind, body, and emotional wellbeing with a WellSet membership.

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