Identity & Self-Care

By Catherine Okafor

Self - Care for the Grieving Soul

Identity can be defined and explained in so many different ways. It can bring up various emotions and feelings when folks take the time to allow themselves to become vulnerable and dig deep into their identities. That’s exactly what I asked the participants in my first workshop at Community Well to do.

To respect the privacy of the participants, I’ll only divulge my identity. I began the workshop with the question, “Who are You?” Taking a step outside of the facilitator’s role, I began discussing my multiple identities. The one that carried so much pain and meaning is, a motherless daughter. This can sometimes be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation to have. Especially with strangers who aren’t aware of your story. For me, recognizing and acknowledging my identity as a motherless daughter has helped me tremendously on my journey to healing.

After dealing with the sudden death of my mother in early-2014, and a year later, the death of my aunt, I’ve had to re-develop a plan of self-care. Everyone knows that death isn’t the easiest thing to deal with. However, I refuse to allow it to claim me as its next victim. Which is why it’s very important for me to practice self-care in my daily routine. I dealt with double grief, depression and anxiety after both deaths. Initially it was very overwhelming and I wasn’t able to focus at work and didn’t maintain a healthy social life. Self-care has saved me in so many ways. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with work stress, death, divorce, rowdy children, etc., it’s important that you take care of yourself.

New to the self-care game? I’ll drop some of my favorites for you to try out. These tips have helped me deal with my bouts with depression, anxiety and grief and I use them as my self-care tools to navigate through my day-to- day life.

Journaling // Writing

Writing has always been a passion of mine and something that I enjoy. I’ve been keeping a journal for quite some time now ever since my teenage years. I’m 28 so not too long but, long enough, right? For me, journaling is a way that I can non-verbally express myself when I’m stressed, frustrated or down right pissed at something or someone. It’s a way to release any negative energy. This is also a good alternative to drowning your bestie with negative thoughts, tone or feelings. I try to be mindful of other folks and what they may be going through as well.  With journaling, I can say whatever I want in my journal. My journal won’t judge me nor spill any secrets that may bleed out from my pen. It’s my safe haven. Journaling is helpful when trying to practice being mindful and aware of myself. I’m able to go back and read my thoughts from a previous post and understand my triggers, emotions, reactions and more. Writing helped me tremendously after my mom passed away. I was able to hold space for myself and let it all out on paper.

Support Network

If you are struggling or down on your luck, reach out to your support network. This can consist of anyone that you trust and is there for you no matter what. Friends, family, significant others and mentors all play integral part in your overall well-being. Leaning on them in your time of need can be that something that can help you bounce back. I would recommend forming a strong, supportive network of people that you can depend on. Let them know in what ways they can support you and how you can support them as well. The key is to remember that this is a two-way relationship. One-sided relationships aren’t healthy at all. So, please keep that in mind. This is a good alternative to counseling if you aren’t too comfortable confiding with a stranger. Also, if going to counseling is too much on your monthly budget.

Positive Affirmations

Lastly, a positive mindset sets the tone for a more positive mood. Trust me, this one works wonders. I try my best to do this on a daily. I know we all have had to deal with a difficult boss, co-worker, friend, lover or a random person in the Starbucks line. When that annoyance comes my way, I try to keep in mind my positive affirmations and tune into my intentions that I’ve set in the morning. My routine consists of waking up, giving thanks to God, praying, and setting positive intentions for my day. Sometimes I say them aloud and at other times, I write them down. They might sound a bit like this, “Today will be a great day full of laughter, enjoyment, peace and joy. I will not allow any annoyance knock the inner and outer smile off of me.” Yours can be something more unique and creative. But, for me, I like to keep it short, sweet and to the point. Writing this down somewhere in my home and/or office helps me stay accountable to my daily intentions.

As mentioned earlier these are a quick peek into some of my self-care weapons. Trust me, I have a laundry list of them. But I know that these are the ones that most people can easily relate to. I would love to continue to keep the self-care exchange going. Feel free to share some of your favorite ones as well. Always remember, you’re not alone in the struggle to stay healthy and strong. Want to talk more about self-care? Want to utilize writing as a way to practice self-care? Check out my self-care workshop offerings at Community Well! I’m thrilled to offer various workshops focused on self-care and wellness while mixing my passion for writing. I know writing doesn’t always come easy for folks, but what a great way to try something new while taking time out to take care of a special, beautiful person, YOU!