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Protect Your Peace

How Black women are unapologetically prioritizing their mental health.

Key points

  • Toughing out situations that aren’t beneficial to our mental health is no longer always seen as a measure of strength.
  • It may be helpful to journal about what needs to change in your life and what action you need to take to change it.
  • Protecting your energy isn’t just a saying; it’s a way of being.
Syda Productions/Canva
Source: Syda Productions/Canva

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about people—Black women especially—“protecting my peace” or “protecting my energy.” What they mean is to set healthy boundaries and to intentionally cultivate joy. They’re able to say, “This doesn’t feel good to me,” to walk away, and to make a change in order to preserve their mental wellness.

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka recently quit the French Open to care for her mental health after being fined and threatened with disqualification for not wanting to speak with the press. “I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it,“ she wrote in Time. And tennis superstar Venus Williams unapologetically told the media how she protects her peace by keeping in mind that she is the one who is the champ, not the people who write about her. In fact, she told them, they can’t hold a candle to her.

There are songs about protecting your energy, like Jhene Aiko’s “Trigger Protection Mantra,” which is intended to calm you down when you’re feeling upset, and Mary J. Blige’s classic “No More Drama,” where she sings passionately about cutting off toxic relationships.

On a personal level, some of my friends talk about how they took up hobbies like cooking or journaling through the pandemic because it put them in a positive and peaceful space. One colleague, Shawnee Benton Gibson, has done a lot of transformational work around how stressors in life can affect Black women’s health. She talks about how high vibrations leave you feeling uplifted and contribute to your happiness, while low vibrations can contribute to sadness and distress.

Toughing out situations that aren’t beneficial to our mental health used to be seen as a measure of strength. But these days, many of us recognize the changes we need to make in how we respond to life’s curveballs. Plus, responding to the pandemic in the last year or so led many of us to reflect on what really matters in life, and what no longer serves us. Many people are rethinking how they move through the world, and how they show up for themselves and for others.

This re-evaluation of values and priorities is leading us to search for better paying, more fulfilling work at places where our contributions and presence and presence of mind are valued. We’re scheduling time in nature, and time to rest and restore. We’re finding support to help us move through profound losses and change, and we’re finding accountability partners and no longer spending time with people who traffic in negativity. The person who is always complaining about stuff but never has solutions? She’s sitting off somewhere on the sidelines of our game.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her empowering 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Black women are the mules of the world. They carry the load that white men, white women, and Black men refuse to carry; they do the work no one wants to do, without praise or thanks.”

We’re finally putting those days behind us.

Take a moment to journal about what might need to change in your life and what action you need to take to change it in order to protect your peace. Pick up hobbies that bring you joy, or as Sister Shawnee might say, “raise your vibration.” Listen to music that lifts your mood, and most importantly, set your boundaries and remain firm in your intentions so that you can lead a positive and more fulfilled life. Protecting your energy isn’t just a saying; it’s a way of being.

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