Generating ideas, connections, and action

Self-Care: Actualizing Freedom, Asserting Presence, Cultivating Power

In the nonprofit sector, it’s common to hear about burnout and lack of self-care. Though highly important to our work, with demanding deadlines and lack of resources, including time, self-care can feel like an added chore that never gets done. However, not taking care of ourselves can lead the sector astray and lead to the same problems within the field we are trying to combat, including but not limited to systemic racism. When people do not feel cared for, they can lose their sense of empathy and connection to others. Therefore, self-care is a leadership competency.

At EWOCC last month,  Yolo Akili Robinson and Cole McDaniel anchored the session “Building Non-Violent Intimacies In a Violent Society.” They were there representing Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). They spoke about the importance of mental health in healing from trauma. People of color, specifically, many times find themselves outside of the circle of human concern when it comes to the mental health field. Not only is there stigma within communities, but it can be difficult to relate on the intimate level needed to heal if someone that cannot truly understand  generations of oppression and racism on top of other emotional traumas. Yolo Akili Robinson founded BEAM to create liberating spaces where Black people could heal together.


Yolo and Cole, along with other panelists, asked us to think of how can we engage authentically in spaces where we do not feel like ourselves? How can we engage with people when we are hurt? Typically, humans use coping mechanisms to deal with their trauma and it is best to name it and heal. Yolo and Cole stressed the importance of understanding the context of our backgrounds, which is not the same as getting a pass on our damaging behaviours. Rather, context can diagnose the problem, but nothing can substitute for the work that healing entails.


This dynamic duo introduced two concrete tools anyone can use to create healthy relationships. They presented the BEAM Healing & Accountability Wheel to be used with partners, family, friends, and colleagues to name behaviours not in criticism, but in self-reflection to name behaviours and start addressing them. They spoke about everybody’s need for love and healthy relationships and how to develop them.


They also presented The Feelings Wheel, which they adapted to reflect a wider depth of emotions. This wheel can be used for self reflection and to think about what our bodies are feeling and how that is embodied in everyone differently. This can be a conversation piece or something that can be referred to throughout the day to be present and acknowledge the complexity of emotions we all carry.

They encouraged the use of these tools to constantly reflect on our behaviour and emotions through journaling. This is the first step towards healing because it means making space for self-care and building endurance.


This is part 2 of 2. Last month, I wrote on “Actualizing Freedom, Asserting Presence, Cultivating Power” and the lessons from Empowering Womxn of Color Conference (EWOCC).