After years of fighting to provide more meaningful platforms to help increase awareness of racism in government, academia, and philanthropy, I was beaten. The choice seemed simple. I would ditch my social justice career for something light and fun. I needed more joy and less pain in my life. As I relayed these sentiments to my executive coach, she challenged me to consider how my calling to justice could be balanced, not abandoned. She was doubtful that I could avoid the call anyway.
Right then and there on the phone, she had me close my eyes, take deep breaths and reach back in my memory to identify a buried dream. It didn’t take very long for the family-run bed and breakfast idea from my teenage years to surface. As soon as the dream was unleashed, the universe responded and led me to Jamaica, the county of my birth. Exactly one year later, I became the co-owner of Point of View Villa & Spa in Montego Bay.
Because Point of View is tucked away in the hills above Montego Bay, the view of the bay with its varying shades of blue is nothing short of magical. I visit every quarter to work with the staff on our cooperatively run venture, but before anyone arrives each morning, I make my way to the verandah just to sit and soak up the views. There is a reason I feel calm whenever I am there. Studies show that increased views of blue space are significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress.
In addition to the expansive blue views, brightly colored bougainvilleas punctuate the lush green gardens, fruit can be seen ripening on trees, and at least one hummingbird (Jamaica’s national bird) always makes an appearance. I cannot get enough of this respite and neither can our guests, most of whom are Black women traveling as a squad.
Some come for deep reflection, reading, and writing and maybe a yoga lesson or a spa treatment or two. Others come to eat tasty Jamaican dishes prepared by our caretaker Cordella. One guest said that Cordella’s food not only nourishes the body but also feeds the soul. Still, others come to the party and celebrate milestones with their “girls.” A dancehall lesson with our dance instructor adds to the fun. Regardless of why women come, they get the self-care that they need to go back to their heroic lives. As one guest posted on Instagram with a picture of her arms outstretched to the heavens, “I ain’t felt like this in years.”
Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” If you are Black and a woman in America, you understand very intimately the personal cost of living at this intersection. Therefore, self-care becomes not a choice but a necessity for us, as well as our families and our communities.
A Morgan State University study found that stress and self-rated health are the top predictors of whether Black women will practice self-care. When Black women self-rate their health to be bad, they will practice self-care more; but when Black women experience higher levels of stress, we may practice self-care less frequently.
We can’t wait until we “think” our health is bad. By then, it may be too late! Given the impact of chronic stress on Black women, it is imperative that we practice consistent and routine self-care.
For the rest of this year, I hope you will commit to finding spaces on vacay or in your workday that will give you what you need to replenish. As I write this blog, I am recommitting to my own self-care: No skimping on myself. No running on fumes.
Point of View Villa & Spa has donated a free a 4-night stay at the resort is support of BWHI’s $35 x 35 Campaign and the self-care of women! Visit BWHI’s $35 x 35 Campaign site to learn more.
Yanique Redwood, PhD, MPH is the co-owner of Point of View Villa & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is also the president of a health foundation based in Washington, DC.