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by Roselande Louis, Program Associate, Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls

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

Extending and giving ourselves grace in 2020 is a necessary act of survival and solidarity. In the midst of a pandemic, racial justice reckoning, and disorienting upcoming U.S. election, 2020 has been an unprecedented time of crisis. This has been a particularly devastating time for Indigenous, and communities of color who due to systemic racism have disproportionately been impacted by the rising deaths caused by COVID-19, state sanctioned violence, economic uncertainty and widespread trauma.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Center for Global Development, women make up 76% of the health care and 75% of the non-profit sector. They lead the charge of simultaneously caring for their communities at work and families at home. It is not surprising that according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent mental health study, women increasingly reported symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to men. As they continue to build up their communities, lead social justice movements and care for loved ones; time for self-care and centering wellness seems impossible to fit in.

For the Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls taking time to support the restoration of our leaders is just as important as supporting the policies and programs they lead. During our recent virtual convenings we’ve found that there is much power in dedicated time for our Fellows to be in a community of care and sacred space that is filled with radical listening, affirming applause and joy through dance and taking collective breaths.

Below are some tips that I took from our abundant conversations that you too can use as a daily practice of resilience in 2020 and beyond.

  • Community of Care: Create your own community of care. Our partner and Program Director at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Lola Adedokun spoke to our fellows about the importance of centering themselves and the “freedom of being undisciplined”. The feeling to perform, even when we are not okay, does not allow us to be our whole authentic selves. Whether it is with family or friends, it is important to create a circle of care for yourself. This circle can serve as a reminder that you are doing well, just as you are.

  • Exhale and Rest: When stressed, we often are not breathing in the frequency that our brain needs to properly operate. Taking the time to catch your breath and take breaks allows you to be present and centered. Think of each breath and time taken for rest as a point of renewal and healing for your body.

  • Get Your Dose of Love, Daily: Ascend Fellow and President and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury shared the importance of experiencing love and joy as a daily practice. From dancing to your favorite song to taking a walk to get fresh air, make time for the things that feel good to you.

  • Joyful Nos: Saying no, can be difficult but is a gift that goes under-utilized. Aisha Nyandoro, CEO of Springboard To Opportunities, spoke to the joy that comes from saying no to where she does not necessarily need to be, balanced with the joyful yeses to support the transformative work she does to build power for Black mamas. Recognizing that we cannot do and be all things, saying no gives us the space and time to prioritize the people and work that require our energy the most.

  • Celebrate: Every day brings new opportunities and the ability to start fresh. Celebrate you, for making it this far, with deep gratitude for your personal wins, big and small. You deserve the joy that each day brings.

Lucille Clifton said it best in her poem, won’t you celebrate with me: “come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” In 2021, let’s not just survive but thrive, as we collectively reimagine and actualize what justice and grace need to look like for ourselves and our communities.