well being

the top 3 lessons from my #blackgirlsabbatical

my sundays used to be filled with anxiety. all i could think about was work — the insecurities i’d released on saturday would climb my back like demons determined to steal my peace. much of my anxiety came from the fear that i was missing something or wasn’t performing up to par professionally. this fear forced me to obsessively brood over mental to do lists. i suffer from a type of self-induced stress that only people who’ve been told (and believe) they’re not good enough can understand.

i couldn’t keep navigating constant stress this way. not only was i fighting demons, but i was fighting myself. after a 30 day sabbatical, i believe now more than ever, that peace is mine to claim.

i marched into my sabbatical like it had stole something. armed with reading material, two scheduled trips, a major event to host and two family visits, i was ready to focus on me. or so i thought. it wasn’t until we returned from costa rica that i realized i planned way too much. it was 30 days, not six months, and my type a personality had made my sabbatical a project to manage, not an experience to explore.

SPRINGTIME#blackgirlsabbaticals lesson one: trust the process.  dedicating space to self care is hard. be proud of yourself for taking the first step, but challenge your normal work habits to truly get the most from it. growth requires us to dismantle old habits and interrogate our current paradigms.

despite doing a lot to start, i wouldn’t trade the time i spent with my family for the world. i’m known as the hard to reach family member living a crazy (and weird) life far away from home.  i hadn’t realized how much that somewhat true distinction separated me from the ones i love.

i’ve missed the jokes, lazy days, family meals, softball games and more without knowing how much i’ve missed them.  being around family reminded me of these moments’ significance and how much i need home for comfort, healing and affirmation. #blackgirlsabbaticals lesson two: whether a person, place or thing, home feels like the safest place you’ll ever know. honor that place and turn to it often.SPRINGTIME (1)

my sabbatical opened up suppressed feelings and gave me a sense of awareness that a daily grind can stifle. not only did i recognize how much i’ve missed my family, but i also recognized how quickly time is passing.

my cousins are growing up, my grandparents are getting old, shit, i’m getting old and long-term friendships aren’t as strong as i’d remembered. this realization wasn’t easy — it caused me to spend an entire day crying. reality was just too much. in the end, my tears brought a much-needed lesson about vulnerability and growth. #blackgirlsabbaticals lesson three: tears aren’t a sign of weakness. since birth, they’ve been a sign that we’re alive.Copy of SPRINGTIME

after 30 days off from work, i’m a little lighter, a little wiser and vibrate a little higher.  however, while i celebrate my growth, i can also recognize the professional and financial privilege that allowed me to take a sabbatical. in fact, this is the first time in my life that not working was a choice.

how can we support sisters who don’t have the privilege of taking time off from work, especially those navigating parenthood, poverty and toxic relationships? one systemic support is to join the national fight for $15, a movement calling for better pay and stronger benefits for underpaid workers.

politics & fashion is holding space for a self-care movement among black women. we all deserve to claim our peace.

black girl sabbaticals: amina’s story

it felt as though i’d been tired for days, for months…maybe i’d been tired all year, maybe even longer.

i remember waking up one morning in the middle of june, in a flood of tears. the migraine i had struggled with the night before still raging like a storm in my head, and my chest still skipping off-beat from the panic attack i’d fought with the week before. as i rolled over in bed, sobbing uncontrollably at the thought of having to face another day, another dozen or more emails, hundreds of texts and several other “urgent” demands on my time, i realized that i needed to make some very *urgent* and intentional energetic shifts in order to regain a sense of balance in my life. i knew then that for the sake of my own well-being – and life – i needed to slow down, stop and catch my breath.  i needed to do things differently.

Amina4as an activist and someone that’s been involved in social-justice-community organizing for many years, it’s hard to explain what it means to suffer from “systematic exhaustion.” though my body and mind felt weak and drained almost daily, i often felt shrouded by feelings of guilt for my tiredness. the moment i would start admitting the need to rest, i would hear myself saying really quite, destructive things like – “there are so many other people out there who have things a whole lot worse than you do,” “just keep going” and “you can do it.”  being relatively young made it even more complicated – because who the hell was i to be feeling so tired at 30?

…and that’s when i decided to take a moment to pause.

i needed to be with myself alone in the cool, dark, quiet of dawn, outside among the trees and flowers, in the ocean, in my kitchen boiling ginger and lemongrass and chopping garlic. i needed to be in all of these places in order to release myself of all of the guilt, pain and anguish that i was feeling – and the ridiculous need to compare myself to others.

…and it was in those moments of revolutionary quiet that i found myself making decisions such as taking time off from work (and being unavailable and offline), shifting to part-time work to give my creative self the time and space that it needed, learning to say things like “no” (thank you) and being able to respond with “yes, but i will need some time for that.” i found myself reaching out to my various communities of care and sister circles saying– “i need your support” and “i need to be held.”

there is no shame in creating the space, and making time in order to allow yourself to heal. admitting the need for rest and prioritizing wellness does not make you any less of a “great” human being (or an activist). in fact, it speaks to the heart of self-preservation and revolutionary love, something that black women like toni cade bambara and audre lorde wrote so fiercely about.

taking the time out to heal and be well is one of the greatest gifts we could ever give ourselves and our communities. truth be told, i’m still figuring out what true balance looks and feels like – but these days i’ve been waking up feeling lighter, and with more of the sun in my eyes.

photo (iphone) credit: sabriya simon and amina doherty | graphic credit: politics & fashion


amina doherty is a nigerian feminist artivist whose work focuses on feminist philanthropy and creative arts for advocacy. she is passionate about art, travel, photography, fashion and writing. she lives and works from kingston, jamaica. you can tweet her at @sheroxlox.

black girl sabbaticals

i’ve been in a season of self-care. after making a conscious decision to stop normalizing anxiety and stress, i’m seeking a simpler life — one that’s judged by the quality of my experiences, not the quantity of my possessions. thankfully, i’m not doing the work of re-evaluting my position in the american rat race alone — sisters of the yam by bell hooks has been my bible and sister’s circle dc has become my congregation.