We’ve heard it again and again:
“Self-care isn’t selfish.”
But no matter how hard you try, it still feels this way. Yet the truth is, self-care isn’t a luxury. It isn’t simply treating ourselves to chocolate and bubble baths (although, we love those!).
Self-care is a necessity.
Self-care is filling your cup first. When you boarded that plane and flew across the country to start a new chapter as an expat, what did your flight attendant tell you to do?
“Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”
This is the foundation of self-care. It’s taking care of yourself first, so you have the time, energy, and capacity to help others. It’s ensuring your needs are met so you can be the best wife, mom, and woman you can be.
5 Self-Care Tips for Black Expats & Trailing Spouses
Self-care is critical for surviving and thriving in your journey as a Black expat and trailing spouse. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are up to you. Your spouse can support them — but only you can provide for them.
But what does self-care look like when you move abroad as a trailing spouse? In one of my YouTube videos, I sat down with my good friend Zethu Dlamini to discuss five self-care lessons I’ve discovered as a Black expat living abroad:
Watch the full YouTube episode, Trailing Spouses Talk Show Episode 2 | Self-Care Tips, here!
But what does self-care look like when you move abroad as a trailing spouse? Here are some other things to consider:
1. Find self-care that suits you.
What’s your self-care love language? Get to know what you need, love, and enjoy.
Personally, I love the relaxation of walking outdoors. I make a effort to walk 5k daily, there is nothing like fresh air and it helps you to familiarize yourself with new surroundings. I also love spa days, manicures, and pedicures. As an expat, I really love visiting a new museum or finding peace and quiet at a local park.
Some of us need peace and quiet to recharge, while others need excitement and energy. These needs will evolve throughout your life. Take time to figure out what you need, whether that’s more rest, play, or a bit of both.
2. Treating yourself and ‘me-time’ are acts of self-care.
Reminder: You don’t have to wait for others to give you the love and care you want to receive.
Get yourself the flowers! Buy yourself the fancy dinner! You can’t rely on your spouse to always know when and how you need a pick-me-up. While self-care goes beyond buying your favorite Starbucks drink, these little acts of self-love can go a long way.
Pampering yourself communicates to your mind and body that you matter. Treating yourself reminds you that the trailing spouse life can be filled with moments of joy, even on the hard days.
3. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself.
Do it right now! Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first.
Before you even move abroad, take time to sit down and ask: “What do I need?” and “Why will I give my permission to have this?”
Being a Black expat, I’ve dealt with some serious changes and challenges. I’ve navigated pain, difficulty, and grief. In order to survive and grow through it all, I’ve given myself permission to take care of myself first.
Why? Because it’s a necessity. I practice self-care, not just because I deserve it, but because I need it. If I want to help others, I’m going to need to help myself first.
Empower your journey as a trailing spouse and Black expat by giving yourself permission to take up space and take care of you.
4. Be intentional about self-care as a trailing spouse or expat.
Being a trailing spouse is no small feat. When you move for your spouse’s career, there’s a great sense of sacrifice and selflessness involved. You are investing in your partner’s career, leaving your world behind.
Moving is hard for everyone. But when it comes to motivation, the spouse moving for the job has a clear target: Their career. As a trailing spouse, this target is a bit unclear. Besides supporting them, the future seems a bit unknown. It’s up to you to find your own target and clarify your own purpose and direction.
And it’s easier said than done. It’s why Trailing Spouse Syndrome is an entirely real, painful experience for many of us. I navigated Trailing Spouse Syndrome myself when I moved to London (hear more about my experience on the full YouTube episode).
You are agreeing to starve certain aspects of yourself and at times the very essence of who you are for the greater good of your family and the season you are in. It is okay. You can actually grow to enjoy process and journey!
It was here that I also learned to be intentional about self-care. Self-care isn’t only for fun — it’s for healing. Self-care is therapy. It’s committing to your inner healing. It’s giving yourself the time, space, and support needed to mourn your past life, grieve your old memories, and embrace your new expat journey.
Find what you need, and set an intention to provide yourself with it.
Check out one of my many interviews on this topic for a deeper discussion.
5. Make your self-care a priority.
It’s one thing to know self-care is a priority — it’s another to make it one.
Schedule it. Book it. Do it! Create a self-care calendar or notebook, if you need. When you pencil in your family’s calendar events, pencil in moments for your own self-care. (Pro Tip: Schedule self-care aligning with your time of the month for the extra support and care you need.)
Find a way to stay accountable for your self-care. I like booking appointments for therapy, manicures, and pedicures so I can commit to it.
This shows you that you do matter. Make your mental and physical health top priorities.
Tune in! Trailing Spouses Talk Show: Episode 2, Self-Care Tips | Juanita's World
Fill your cup — and watch it overflow into your life and the life of others.
Put your oxygen mask on first, and watch how much easier it is to breathe, move, and grow through each day.
If you’re looking for a community of support as a Black expat or trailing spouse, welcome home. Together, we’ll learn how to put ourselves first. Together, we’ll get in touch with our inner voices and find the courage, strength, and power to live our best lives.
Don't miss one of my favorite episodes of my Trailing Spouses Talk Show, Episode 2: Self-Care Tips! Tune in to discover what it means to prioritize self-care so you can be the best version of yourself!