#7D4H - Guest Blogger Chae LaBouvier #MentalHealth

7 DRESSES 4 HEALTH: Day 329 - Day 335 ~ November 25th - December 1st ~ 

Guest Blogger Bio: Chaédria LaBouvier covers culture and politics as a contributing writer for Elle and Medium. Her work covers the intersections of race and class in police brutality, feminism and pop culture in America and the world at large. She is based in Los Angeles and New York and is working on a media project about police brutality to be released in 2016. She tweets @chaedria

Self Care & Mental Health

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”  - Audre Lorde.

This is an extraordinary sentence. And in the political times – to say nothing of the holiday season that is now upon us – this is a most necessary sentence. 

I often repeat this to friends, activists, writers, even myself when it all seems too much. As a Black woman that writes and that writes about the intersection of race and class in culture and politics, the load can be heavy. I can not survive without understanding how essential self-care is to my journey. For me, it varies. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking a luxurious bath where I can think and remove myself from the emails, calls, texts, Facebook messages, drafts, articles that are always there or making sure that I’m on top of my appointments with my therapists.

In the Black community and in other communities of colors, there’s often a silence to talking – and treating – issues of mental health. And given that the weight of oppression and inequality so disproportionately affects those communities it makes them both enormously vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression as well as standing to benefit hugely from mental health treatment. And often, because of the income inequality that affects communities of color- the pay gap for Black and Latina women is 64% and 54% of what a White male earns, respectively- the access to mental health care and other necessities of self care (exercise, good nutrition, time away from responsibilities) can be harder to come by and to integrate consistently. 

For those in social justice movements and works, the stress can be hard. Often the work is overwhelming, backbreaking and poorly paid – and appreciated. And the people that are drawn to social justice movements in the first place – the sensitive, those with the lived experiences of being marginalized – are more likely to be vulnerable to mental health issues or stress factors to begin with. Joined by the fact that people that suffer from depression often do so because they see the world more realistically, the clarity of vision that often leads people to addressing the world’s problems is also the thing which can make those problems seem inescapable. It’s doubly important that they are vigilant about their mental health and their self-care.

There a number of ways to be vigilant about those ends. Therapy is an important resort. If your insurance (or lack thereof) doesn’t adequately cover the expenses, look for psychology Ph.D students at research universities that will see and treat patients in the community as a part of their program. Many therapists have sliding scales and will adjust their rates to your income. Setting aside time to stretch, to breathe deeply and removing yourself from social media can go a very long way in reducing stress. Investing in a membership to a gym that you actually like is half the battle of making the gym a consistent part of your life, which can do everything from release depression battling endorphins to getting you in shape. If a gym membership isn’t a part of the budget, commit to a walk. Everyone from Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs regularly incorporated the the anxiety reducing benefits of walking into their lives. As I mentioned earlier, taking baths can be a huge stress reliever. Think about ways that you can make that experience more enjoyable, whether that’s buying nicer towels or splurging on a bath gel. 

For many people that often have the world’s weight and bigotry on their shoulders, doing things for your benefit and your benefit alone can seem indulgent and trigger feelings of guilt. But it should not. Caring and protecting for yourself is revolutionary in that, so often, you were meant to be there in the first place, much less with presence and agency. When you look at the fact that almost everyone besides White men were somewhere on the spectrum of being owned for most of America’s history, the idea that women and people of color have agency over their bodies and their lives is a very radical and political thing. Self-care is validating not only one’s life, but one’s right to protect it, to assert its importance and to demand more than survival, which is to say, thrive. To not apologize for that is perhaps the most loving thing that we can do for ourselves. 

Call to action: Do you have important information around one of our seven causes: HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Nutrition, Heart Disease, Maternal Child Health, Cancer, Disability, that you want to share with a wider audience? Do you or a loved one currently live and/or struggle with one of these causes? Do you work in research, advocacy, prevention, treatment or care? We want to hear from YOU! Write to us today: 7dresses@artsconnectinternational.org to become a featured blog writer. Another way to get involved is to wear the color of the day in solidarity. Take a picture of yourself in the color of the day and Tweet it @ArtsConnectInt, tag us on Instagram @ArtsConnectInt, or send it to us on Facebook.

About 7 Dresses 4 Health (7D4H): 7D4H is a year-long arts and health education campaign lead by visual artist, Marian Brown, in conjunction with Arts Connect International. The objective of the campaign is to promote inclusive community practices through adDRESSing health artistically and collaboratively. To learn more about the genesis of the project, read Marian’s New Year Blog

About this week's look & location: All of the dresses for 7 Dresses 4 Health were designed and sewn by Kim's Fashion Design. Love the look? Visit Kim at 100 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02116, call her at (617) 267-9299 or email her: info@kimsfashion.com. Mention 7 Dresses 4 Health for a special discount! 

Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team