One of my favs Kadie, wanted me to explore black women within the wellness industry for one of my topics for my Black History Month series #BHMWithSaabirah. There are so many conversations to be had within the community regarding looking after ourselves, and not just in a physical sense, but in all areas of our lives.
I have spoken to the founder of Good To Me UK, Shanley. Shanley created ‘Good To Me UK‘ as a subscription service and a safe space to Discuss wellness and mental health. I had the pleasure of meeting Shanley last year prior to the launch of her subscription service and also had the opportunity to speak at the Good To Me UK Launch.
As well as having a self-care box that focuses on all five senses. Shanley works as an Assistant psychologist, hosts workshops, and has recently introduced a coaching service to her Good To Me UK platform.
Let’s explore black women and wellness with Shanley:
Everyone should practice looking after themselves and prioritise self-care. However, why do you think it is important for black women specifically to incorporate this into their lives?
Self-care is key to good wellbeing and being the best versions of ourselves when you prioritise your self-care this ensures that you are keeping yourself at the top of your things to-do list so that you are able to have a full battery or recharge your battery so you can do great things in this world.
These are great attributes to have and withhold. However, the problem with this is if you put others first and yourself last, you take care of others and take care of yourself last soon enough you will have more of a negative attitude and you will burnout. When you are not taking care of yourself, your body, mind and soul will surely let you know.
This is a new concept for many people, especially black women. I recommend taking time out to look after yourself, and practice it daily because it is a journey and that journey is different for everyone. This will ensure that you do not burn out or you’re not running on a low battery. Working on your time management skills and scheduling in small chunks of self-care into your day and week will ensure this will not happen. I would also recommend, listing out a few self-care activities each week, and scheduling them into your diary or planner, and protecting that time.
Self-care gives you the energy, fuel and strength for you to be the best version of yourself. Through maintaining good mental health, you help yourself bounce back during stressful times, and whatever life may throw at you. This is what is going to help you to be a STRONG BLACK WOMAN.
Working as a mental health care professional, many say that when it comes to mental health and especially in the black community it is treated at crisis point is this something you see often?
Yes, there’s lots of research to support that person from black ethnic minority groups a highly represented within mental health institutions usually when they have become severely unwell (Last point). Also, there is research that supports that people from the black community have poor help-seeking behaviour compared to other groups.
From my experience of working in various different areas of mental health, I have witnessed this myself this does support the research and shows that as a community we are not seeking help at the right time and waiting until things get really bad in order for us to get some sort of help usually at the last point. This is why it is important that we reduce the stigma around mental health and develop skills in taking care of ourselves so that we can identify problems and difficulties sooner rather than later.
Why do you think there is still an issue with getting black women to seek help and adopt a more holistic approach to looking after themselves?
There can be many reasons why black women do not seek help. Due to the stigma and negative attitudes towards and around mental health, There are studies which suggest that black people have poor help seeking behaviour. There is also our pretence of self-reliance.
A personal experience of mine was when my dad was experiencing severe depressive symptoms and I encouraged him to go and see if he could get any help and his response was ‘there isn’t anybody there to help me’. My father felt that there was not going to be professionals from his ethnic background that he could talk to that understand what he is experiencing, which was quite difficult to hear and see. There is a slight increase in the black professionals working in the field however they still not enough.
The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network – BAATN
When we are looking at why black women are not adopting a holistic approach in looking after themselves, this is because there are not enough role models, this is something that we have not been taught. There are not many black women who represent within that space which does not encourage others to feel as though this is something for them. This is for everybody including black women we need more role models who are demonstrating self-care wellness to encourage and improve that help seeking behaviour and self-help attitude.
We learn a lot from those around us, more so our friends and family, there has been a lot of talk on social media around breaking generational trauma and health related issues? Practically how does one even start to do this?
The one way that you can practically do this is by starting a selfcare journey identifying areas where self-care is lacking and make practical steps to look after those areas. Go through self care audit, this is something I do with many of my clients. I get them to identify the different areas of self care that they need to work on, self-care is making an effort to do some healing from any trauma and observing current or consistent themes that happened to people within their family or around them. You also have to be proactive and get checked out for these things. By taking care of yourself through eating right, doing the basics such as exercising you prevent these health issues from coming up.
The season is changing, do you think there is anything black people need to do in order to manage seasonal depression and low moods during the colder months?
Here are somethings that you can do in around this time to reduce how often much you may be affected by this:
- Ensure you are getting enough time out in the daylight and nature although that day – Go for regular short walks.
- Be intentional about your happiness, do things that you enjoy – Plan pleasure activities in advance is important and not waiting for things to happen.
- Re-vamp or create a new winter routine one that fits your lifestyle. Ensureing that you’re doing things that you enjoy.
- Remember the basics – Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and stay hydrated, even though it is cold.
If you feel like you have been affected and that things may be difficult go and visit you GP.
What are some of your tips for those who want to be more intentional with their mental health, general health and wellbeing? Are there things people can do without it costing a lot of money?
This is an awesome question, in order to for you to be more intention about your mental health, intentional health and wellbeing, you need to do a mini audit on yourself. You need to identify where you are currently on the spectrum, are you in good or poor health. What has and has not been working? What do you need right now? These are some important questions to answer yourself before taking any action, and then plan it out according to your life.
There are so many things that you can do for free that ensure you are looking after ourselves a lot of the time I say to start with the basics.
There is definitely a huge need for more black mental health professionals and just health care professionals in general. What impact do you think an increase of black mental health professionals will have on the black community?
This will be an awesome improvement one this could help improve the lack of help-seeking behaviours within the black community who may be struggling. This will help the workforce to be more diverse, this is their reason why I am working in this field, because I want to represent and be a relatable face.
Thank you so much Shanley for your words of wisdom. Have a look at Good To Me UK, there are many tools and encouraging posts across their socials, there is also Live discussions which are always interesting to get involved in. This interesting post for my #BHMWITHSAABIRAH series, let me know your thoughts in the comments and let’s continue the conversation.