C4 Innovations

Self-Care, Mental Health, and Geography

An episode of “Changing the Conversation” podcast

DaVonti’ Haynes and Daryl McGraw discuss self-care and what it looks and feels like for people of diverse races living in different regions and environments with host Ashley Stewart.

May 2, 2022


Ashley Stewart, Host (00:05): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Changing the Conversation. I’m your host, Ashley Stewart. And I am a curriculum and training specialist at C4 Innovations. Today, our topic is self-care, mental health, and geography, and we are delighted and honored two amazing guests with us today. Our first guest is DaVonti’ Haynes, assistant professor of social work at Temple University and founder of the nonprofit, Faces of Access, joining us from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Welcome, DaVonti’.

DaVonti’ Haynes, Guest (00:35): Thank you, Ashley. Happy to be here with you all today.

Ashley (00:38): We also have joining us, Daryl McGraw, subject matter expert for C4 Innovations, joining us from Connecticut.

Daryl McGraw, Guest (00:46): Ashley, how are you? It’s great to be here, I’m happy and excited to be with you and DaVonti’. Let’s get it, let’s get this conversation going.

Ashley (00:53): All right. We have a super excited topic to go through today. This is something that I haven’t really heard us talk about before, we’re talking about self-care, mental health, and the importance of region and geography in consideration when we have this much broader conversation about self-care. I think I want to start by having each of you tell me, what does self-care mean to you and how do you define it?

Daryl (01:17): Sure, I’ll jump right in. I love this topic, I love that we talk about self-care, especially from where I come from. I grew up in an urban environment, I grew up on the west side of Stanford, Connecticut. Shout out to my people from Connecticut. Self-care is something that I heard when I started working in the field and working with professionals, but I didn’t really know what it meant. As I learned in the early days, it sounded like something like yoga or meditation, it sounded real cushy, but for me, especially when we come in, I’m a formerly incarcerated person too, so a lot of times people would talk about self-care was important and I don’t need yoga when I need housing or we going to get this cranking, right? Yoga’s nice, but if I’m homeless or if I’m hungry and I need employment, self-care’s not going to work for me.

Daryl (02:10): I learned early that self-care meant really taking care of self, meaning finding that job, getting that employment, feeding self, and not finding myself back up either in the grips of addiction and/or incarceration. I love this topic, because we going to go someplace I don’t think too many people really realize when we talk about self-care.

Ashley (02:29): I love that, so good.

DaVonti’ (02:32): Perfect, yeah. For me, self-care has really evolved over the years of what it truly means to me. Similar to Daryl, my first understanding of self-care was really thinking of it in this concept and this view of it being yoga or going for a run. As I’ve gotten older, as I’ve gotten more into my career field, especially doing social services work, that definition of self-care has really evolved for me.

DaVonti’ (03:03): I really look at self-care as having that chance to take a step back from the things that I do daily, whether that be work or family and friends, just finding some time for myself. For me, it looks different every week. Sometimes it’s just laying on my couch and taking a nap, sometimes it’s just going to the gym or having a movie date by myself, but just finding that time to find some peace and to recharge myself, to get myself back to a place where I know I can be supportive of others and really thinking about the work and things that I do.

DaVonti’ (03:37): Really, for me, self-care is just my peace time, my time alone, and my time to really just have some time with myself and reevaluate a few things.

Ashley (03:47): Yeah. You know what I think is particularly interesting as we talk about self-care, the same ideas or the same concepts of what it looks like come to surface for so many of us. It’s almost to suggest that the concept of self-care is the same across regions as well. What are some of the factors that you think are important to consider when thinking about self-care regionally or geographically and how maybe self-care in a rural area or an urban area or suburban area could look really different and really, honestly, based on what kind of community you’re living in.

DaVonti’ (04:19): I know for me, when I think about these geographical places, and even in a context of not just being geographically different from urban and rural, but even geographically different within our urban spaces in and of itself, it’s really thinking about that access to some of these things. I know both of us mentioned earlier that when we think about self-care, we think about yoga and these different things, and so thinking about people having access to these different spaces to be able to practice into some of these things.

DaVonti’ (04:47): But then also that financial piece to it, not everyone can afford to be able to have a gym membership or not everyone is lucky to even have a gym in their community that they can go to, and being able to get to those places. That’s why it’s really big for me, is that when we talk about self-care is that we really show people and make sure that people understand that there’s a lot of different ways in what self-care can be. It’s not just these traditional things that you may see in the media, that you see people doing in the movies, going to yoga, going jogging and different things like that, and so finding what’s in your space that you can utilize to help you find that peace.

Daryl (05:24): Oh really, man. DaVonti’, let’s go. Let’s get it, man. I really appreciate this and where we’re going in the direction. Ashley, it’s crazy because they promote self-care and sometimes it’s even cultural. I love what we’re talking about, where you live at. Everybody can’t go for a jog because we live in certain communities, whether it be the neighborhood is not safe for people to be jogging. I grew up in the hood, you running, you running from somebody, mainly the police. Well, that’s a whole different conversation. But if you’re running and you’re jogging, you know what I mean, that’s not something that’s common, that you would see in a lot of urban environments. Not saying that urban people are not looking for fitness, but that’s just not the way we go about it, jogging, just for so many different reasons. I don’t feel like the environment is set up for a healthy jog.

Daryl (06:16): Some people do what they can do to get where they’re at, but in urban and rural areas too, I mean, we see so many similarities with urban and rural communities, whether it be safety, whether it be lack of resources, so many things that mirror each other when we start to talk about these communities.

Daryl (06:34): But the one thing that I really think about for me is coming up and really not seeing my parents talk about self-care, not seeing family members, community members, even mentioning self-care, because it was always about survival. It’s always about survival, so promoting self-care was not something… Now, I’m in a different place in life. I live in little bit different community. Self-care could be just relaxing, but I’ve been in places where there was never a moment to relax, whether it was incarceration. There was times that you could, but you couldn’t really take your eyes off of people or the environment, you always had to be on guard.

Daryl (07:16): Self-care is almost like a fantasy, it’s almost like a fantasy for those that grow up in a certain way. I think that we need to teach individuals that self-care does look different for each and everybody. Self-care is that sense of security, not just the sense of luxury of going to yoga or being some place. And Ashley, man, come on, you the moderator, but you’re going to get in this man. We ain’t going to let you out. Jump on in, the water is nice.

DaVonti’ (07:48): I think I also wanted to kind of jump in and piggyback off something that Daryl mentioned. He talked a little bit about the safety of jogging. And so both of us being two black males on here, I know for me, I’m not going to go outside and go for a jog in my neighborhood. And so taking into that context too, of how race plays into these different geographical spaces of what you can do for self-care and what you can’t do. I know for me personally, I feel like going to take a jog out, it’s going to be more of a hassle than it will be for self-care. So I feel more safe going to a gym and doing a jog, just because as we’ve seen a lot of things that’s happening in our country, even taking that into context about how your race also plays into that spaces that you’re in, into what you can and can’t do for self-care.

Ashley (08:33): Ooh, that’s so good. That’s so important. We’re always talking about what we can get from self-care, but we don’t talk about what’s left out when we are being real about what it looks like for different people. It reminds me of taking a walk around the block in my neighborhood, and I’m looking around, people are wondering if I’m supposed to be in this neighborhood or seeing people run their grandkids wagon up and down driveways and thinking, I could never.

Ashley (09:01): So what is supposed to be a walk, that’s supposed to be clearing my mind, I’m actually thinking about and processing systemic and structural racism while I’m walking around the neighborhood. And those are the types of things that have my mind activated and going. Is that necessarily going to be what looks like self-care to me? Or is this something that I have to do more intentionally. And DaVonti’, I love the fact that you just brought an identity, because that’s actually where I wanted us to go next. I want to talk about intersectionality, not only intersectionality with geography, but intersectionality as it relates to identity and how that plays a role in self-care.

Daryl (09:36): DaVonti’, I don’t want to overstep, but the one thing that you left off and you led us right here, and we must be cognizant of the fact that Ahmaud Arbery was in a community of his own, where he felt comfortable to jog and he was murdered. And that would’ve been a sense of self care. So for all of us, we look at that and we see that happen right in front of us, right on the news. And this was something that happened to a brother who was taking care of health or what have you. So I think a lot of people don’t understand when we say that we don’t have the luxury or the privilege to do certain things based off the color of our skin. So we start to talk about the intersectionality of that transition phase.

Daryl (10:16): Okay. So you might live in a suburban community. You might have a really good job. You might have all these things going, but still the same things that plagued me when I didn’t have these things, or I didn’t live in these areas, still affect me to this day. And some of those fears and we didn’t even talk, we got to jump on a whole other podcast once you start talking about trauma because the trauma plays a significant role in how self-care looks to us. And I’ll let you answer this intersectionality question, brother.

DaVonti’ (10:49): Yeah, no, I would pretty much echo everything that you say as we think about the intersectionality of race and self-care and different spaces. But I also think it’s also that economic part comes into it too, of being able to afford some of these things and being able to, again, as I mentioned earlier, afford those gym memberships, being able to afford to go on some of these different retreats. Some people, for them, self-care looks like going to get a massage, being able to afford some of those things. And so I know for me growing up low income in inner city Detroit, when I saw self care and I saw these things on movies and in the news and things like that, people doing these massages and things like that, I never really saw myself in that and being able to do something like that.

DaVonti’ (11:33): And so I think too, for a lot of people who grow up like that, it sets you back a little bit as you grow older because you’re still learning some of these things a little bit late, a little bit delayed. And so for me, I know some things that some of my peers or my coworkers have been doing for self-care for years, I’m just now getting into this reality, like, oh, I can do that. Or, oh, I should be doing that. Or, oh, this is a space for me and something that I can do, but I just really never saw myself in that space.

DaVonti’ (11:59): And so I think helping people, especially people who come from marginalized and minority identities, be able to see themselves in those spaces and be able to understand how they can access those things and kind of why it’s important too. Cause I think that’s a big piece of self-care, we talk a lot about self-care, we tell people to practice self-care, but we don’t really tell people why it’s important. We tell them, oh, it’s good for your well-being and things like that, but we don’t get down to the essence of why self-care is important and really how to go about it.

Daryl (12:29): And being able to, if I could just add this piece to it. Cause you just took these some place. I was thinking about colleagues and everyone was talking about vacations and vacationing and so on and so forth. And then I think about, I know families never vacation, they didn’t vacation, but we did do cookouts. We did get together as families and that, we were excited it to do that. So being able to, as a professional, being able to identify that cookout being just as important as that vacation being to someone else. And to be able to identify that, what do you do? If I tell you I’m having a cookout or you know what I mean? You coming from where I come from, or you understand me, you know that we had a good time.

Daryl (13:17): Cause that’s communing. If somebody says, “Oh, we went to the Cape today,” I hear that all the time. I’ve never been to the Cape. I don’t know where the Cape’s at, but I know a lot of people go there. You know what I mean? And I always like, man, everybody, “Oh, we went to the Cape, we went to the Cape.” I’m like, damn, I got to get my money up, I guess, because I haven’t been to the Cape yet. So that’s what we talking about. Let’s go man, let’s get it.

Ashley (13:39): Ooh. So, that’s so good. The idea of the cookout being self-care right, because what I was thinking about, I was like, well, where is self-care to me? And I started thinking about it as a Black woman, some of the things that feel very self-care to me actually draw more attention to my racial identity and are things that I might experience more oppression around. So I think about the way that I wear my nails or my hair or the way that I dress. That’s a big part of self-care for me. But a lot of that is absolutely tied to my identity as a Black woman. And some of the things that I tend to experience the marginalization around based on how I look or how I dress or how I talk.

Ashley (14:14): And so when I think about the cookout, folks get the police called on them all the time for having a cookout, for getting together, for laughing in that high, deep, robust, that energy that comes with celebration in some cultures, and specifically a lot of communities of color, that can also be tied in that form of self-care to a form of oppression as well, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard people talk on that. So that’s a huge, huge point.

Ashley (14:46): This kind of gets to the next question that I have, which is about this idea of radical self-care. And there’s a lot of scholarship around radical self-care and what we can learn in self-care from people who have experienced oppression. And so it takes us to this conversation about what is a culturally appropriate self-care and what can we learn from folks who have been able to endure and find self-care in unique ways while experiencing oppression?

Daryl (15:13): I love the idea. I think we’ve been practicing, at least myself and many people that are in my network, have been practicing radical self-care for a long time, just didn’t have a label for it. So that radical self-care, I’d be going to education, so I’m not hanging at the club. I’m going to school every, I went to school straight four years straight, no parties, no clubs, no nothing. That was a radical form of self-care to put me in a different space. After having spent 10 years, 20 years on the street, 10 years incarcerated, that self-care, that radical self-care, was a shift in behavior. So that was a shift in behavior and making it so that I can do this. This is important to me. And even in my own network, people ridicule me. They was like, “You going to school for a while, aren’t you too old to go to school. Why would you do that?”

Daryl (16:04): And they didn’t understand why it was important for me to make this shift because when I make this shift, I made a shift not only for me, but for all those that come behind me now, I’ve made a space for my kids to live a different life by that radical sense of self-care. So when we can really push the idea of radical self-care, meaning really moving the needle and changing the pathway of, life for me, and then I’ll go right back to me, and I’ll pass to mic to DaVonti’, is the fact that I sold drugs and I was in the street hardcore, but the necessary need to make a shift from the street life to a more professional, safe and healthy life was a radical change, but necessary in order for me to be in the space that I’m in, where I could be here on a podcast instead of standing on somebody’s corner today, if you guys understand what I’m saying.

Daryl (16:59): So that radical self-care can be huge and drastic and really important. And I know many people, whether they do it with weight loss, they do it with a job change, it’s radical, but it’s necessary in order for them to move to the next level. Let’s go, man. Ooh, why you bringing radical self-care? I’m feeling radical right now. Let’s go.

DaVonti’ (17:23): So I think I’m going to keep it short actually. So I think I just love to tell people, you have the responsibility to take care of yourself. So no matter how radical may view your self-care techniques or how different that others may see it, no one else knows you more than you. And so, you know what you need, you know what that self-care looks like for you, you know when you need that, how you need it, and what it may be. So I just really try to tell people, take care of yourself first. And you know what that looks like. Don’t let no one tell you it’s radical. Don’t let no one tells you it’s different. Do what you need.

Daryl (17:58): To the flip side of that. A lot of times people want the success, but don’t want to go through the process. So we make sure that people understand in radical self-care, however you choose to go about it, there’s a process. The end result is success. And whatever that looks like to you, but always understanding there’s a process. And a lot of times, especially in certain cultures, our culture, a lot of times people see the end result, but they don’t see that there was a process for you to get here. And this is why we have these conversations about self-care, it was necessary for me to take certain steps in this radical self-care movement. It don’t just happen. It’s not add sugar and water and stir it and all of a sudden you got some success. You got to have to put the work in.

Ashley (18:43): Wow. I really wish we could have this conversation all day long, because so many things are coming to mind, and we are going to link an article particularly about radical self-care and ways that people have been navigating self-care as a form of resistance, as a form of nourishment among and within and as part of oppressive systems in order to ensure wellness. And I think it’s such an important pivot to begin to examine and say, this has been something that folks of color and folks who have been experiencing systemic and structural marginalization have been doing to endure, to persevere, to thrive in different spaces.

Ashley (19:22): And so as we’re talking about self care in different places, we also have to be mindful of where people are located and identity and race as a critical part of the conversation. So just to take us home to some of these points, what would you say to practitioners? What is some advice you would give to practitioners about how to be mindful and thoughtful and considerate, culturally considerate, about self-care?

DaVonti’ (19:47): I would say taking into context kind of where we’re at right now. It’s April 2022. The world has reopened. So that has put a lot of stress on a lot of people, that’s put us kind of in this space to re-determine what our capacity is for a lot of things and what things we really don’t have that capacity for anymore. And so I would really just kind of advise people, just really determine how you adjust into this new space and ultimately really take care of yourself. And so I saw this thing on Twitter. So, Twitter surprisingly for a lot of people, twitter is not self-care, but Twitter is kind of one of those self-care things for me. I love to just scroll through Twitter and see some things. Sometimes you see some crazy things and sometimes you see some plain things, but there was this really cool thing I saw on Twitter and it was this card.

DaVonti’ (20:39): It was like 10 little squares on there. It was called a Say No Card, every time you said no 10 times, you rewarded yourself with something. And so that’s something that I’ve been doing lately. Being able to tell people no, because at one point I used to be a person where yes, yes, yes. And just take on so much. And so as I think about this capacity I’m in now, I’ve actually printed out some of those cards and I check them off. Like, oh yeah, I told them no, I ain’t doing that. Not this week. And so checking off those things and kind of rewarding yourself, that’s just a different way of self-care. Really trying to be creative in what your self-care looks like, is what I would leave them with.

Daryl (21:15): Yeah. Wow, I need one of those cards, make sure you shoot me one of those cards. I need that. Cause I find myself in those situations as well. But also I think what we would be telling clinicians is that self-care, especially in these days and times, is no longer traditional. We don’t want you to look at self-care as being traditional anymore. We want you to look at self-care as being individual, being a more individualized thing. So even from a radical piece, I can’t wait till the article comes out. And I want to make sure you guys get it because a sense of that radical self-care is even attending the Black Lives Matter movements. When you see so much pain and hurt, you want to do something, you want to shift, you don’t want to just be a social media activist. You want to actually get out there and do something.

Daryl (22:02): So whether it be Black Lives Matter or whatever it be, whatever that thing that is that you support, that is a sense of self-care, that sense of belonging. When I go to a group, a rally and participate in, when we see wrongdoing, that is a sense of self-care. So we need people to understand if nothing else that it’s no longer traditional. And we need to be able to articulate that to people that that self-care that you’re talking about or that thing that you’re talking about is self-care for you. And I support you in that space.

Daryl (22:36): And that’s where we need to be at with it. Because a lot of times it could be really European looking as we spoke about earlier, where people with wealth talk about self-care and it looks different, but those that do not have the same resources can still enjoy and acknowledge the fact that man, I was at the cookout last week and Grandma brought her banana pudding, man, I don’t know what y’all talking about cause that was self-care to me. You know what I mean? So that’s what we’re at, and we are excited to have these conversations and all, and feel free to reach out. I’m excited to just start to take self-care in this direction because I don’t think a lot of people think about it like that. In my world, it seems to be really exclusive, more so than inclusive.

DaVonti’ (23:23): Daryl, I really feel you on the cookout piece. So I have my family coming into town this weekend. So, that is going to be my self-care. Looking forward to that, having been in this city for six months without my family. So. But the other piece that I wanted to add for practitioners is talk to your employer, your supervisor, or those organizations. A lot of them preach self-care to us, but make sure that they are part of that. Make sure they understand what your self-care looks like. Be open and willing to let them know when you just need to take a break. Cause I think oftentimes our employers tell us self-care, self-care, practice self-care, but in reality, their actions don’t really show us that they really care that much about our self-care. So being able to advocate for yourself in those spaces during those times with your employer is going to be really important too.

Ashley (24:08): There is no shortage of ways to engage in self-care. And so, as practitioners are listening and thinking about this, just be mindful and realize that self-care also can be rooted in dominant ideology and culture imperialism. And listen to people’s narratives about what self-care feels like for them in their bodies. And honor that because that is what’s most important as we begin to navigate through this amazing and complex conversation. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to host Dr. DaVonti’ Haynes and Daryl McGraw. Y’all are amazing, amazing. Thank you for your time today and thank you for being willing to share your knowledge, your lived expertise with us on this podcast.

DaVonti’ (24:54): Thank you very much for having us, greatly appreciated this conversation.

Daryl (24:57): DaVonti’, do you see how Dr. Stewart dropped the mic on us? Blew the mic up real quick. Boom. Mic is broken. It’s broken.

Daryl (25:08): Always thank you, thank you, thank you for having us and DaVonti’, man, it was a pleasure, a pleasure sharing this space with you. Dr. Stewart, Ashley, always, always a pleasure. Let’s keep it going, man. Let’s keep inspiring people. Let’s do it.

Ashley (25:22): Yes. Amazing. And to our listeners, please join us next time and thank you for tuning into Changing the Conversation. We’ve got more amazing content coming up for you, and we will definitely be having DaVonti’ and Daryl with us again.

Erika Simon, Producer (25:39): Visit C4innovates.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube for more resources to grow your impact. Thank you for joining us. This episode was produced by Erika Simon and Christina Murphy. Our theme song was written and performed by Peter Hanlon. Join us next time on Changing the Conversation.


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