How to Conquer Black Fatigue in this War for Justice

By Khiree T. Smith

Photo by Arvia D. Walker

Remember back when your bones didn’t ache? Young and immortal, you didn’t conceive of energy as energy because it was your default setting. You didn’t think of things like health or happiness or purpose. They were air. You didn’t have to think of normal things. But the moment they left, you noticed. Remember when the bad things didn’t matter? When the world was at war but it wasn’t your problem? Tragedy couldn’t infiltrate the fortress of glee that protected you as a child. You knew the world had issues but they couldn’t dull your glow or kill your vibe.

“Adult” — while unfortunate for all — is a thing that happens sooner to Black people. One day you’re a child and then you just aren’t. Not to the policeman who slaughters you in the park, or the family friend who undresses your maturing but still juvenile figure. Not to the world when it’s hauling you into the court of public opinion or actual prosecution. And not to your own body either. You wake up one day and suddenly energy is a finite resource, happiness is a perpetual succession of checkpoints and health & purpose become like peace & justice — often, you can only choose one. One night you go to bed carefree and the next day you can barely get up with anxiety weighing you down.

Overnight, the heft of things that matter is unleashed on you. Suddenly, you care that the president is a troll. You hurt when other humans are treated horrifically. You tire when you give yourself to causes. Your knees ache as you march. Your voice strains as you chant. You begin to notice your own mortality and feel anger when it’s toyed with. Time is a sadistic master. She gave your thoughts cause and conviction while taking from your body the limitless fuel for execution. So for better and for worse, you are not a kid anymore. It seems like the end of magic. It feels like the death of wonder. Like life is now nothing but a long corridor painted with once breathtaking patterns that quickly became bland and predictable. You feel like “extraordinary” has gone and living is something you just put up with because it’s better than the alternative.

But what if there’s a way to win? To reclaim your vitality so you can boldly and energetically address the global issues that occupy your now experienced mind? No, this is not a drug pitch or an invitation to a seminar. Yes, this is another piece about self-care. This is about beating Black fatigue. You know, the depression, anxiety, boredom, complacence, rage and frustration that come from being forced to grow up and carry the weight of injustice. No one told you how to do more than maintain, but now, with these habits you can win the battle with yourself so you can help win the war for this nation. It starts with “Spirit Tuning.”

Spirit Tuning is when you let your body heal and center itself. This happens when you build habits that stimulate your brain’s production of Serotonin. You’ve heard of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, but you probably think it’s just “the happiness chemical” right? Wrong! Serotonin is also linked to concentration, memory, learning, sexual appetite, and mood. A lack of Serotonin or an imbalance can lead to depression, mood swings, anger, complacence, and poor intellectual performance. See where I’m going with this? The first step to restoring balance in the world is maintaining balance within (in my grandmaster Khiree voice). So here are 5 essential habits for conquering Black fatigue:

1. “Earthing” — A movement grounded in the discovery that we get energy from barefoot contact with the earth (grass, dirt, sand, mud, water etc). Make weekly time to let the soles of your feet touch the ground and watch your happiness grow while your ailments fade. Look it up!

2. Water — Eight cups by eight o’clock! Your brain is 85% water. One of it’s main functions is allowing your brain to produce hormones and neurotransmitters. The second you don’t get enough, your brain speed, memory and all other functions are impacted. For every 1% of dehydration you lose 5% of your brain function. Look it up!

3. Meditation– Stop for a moment a few times a day and focus on nothing but your breathing. Give the old cranium a rest and let it sort itself out every now and then.

4. Fun — Turn up! If you let the struggle keep you from ever enjoying life, you’ve already lost. Don’t let injustice anywhere ruin a good time everywhere!

5. Diet — Proven brain foods and Serotonin builders include: Avocados, Blueberries, Nuts & Seeds, Salmon, and whole grains! Look it up!

Build these habits to build your stamina, cognitive capacity, and your appetite for advocacy and activism. The mountaintop is a high climb, can’t burn out on the way!