ATLANTA — Well-meaning adults would tell Anana Johari Harris Parris when she was a young girl that she needed to take better care of herself.
"I was like, 'How?' I felt everybody else had it figured out and I didn't," Parris said. But years later, she would be forced to take a big step toward her own self-care.
After the birth of her son turned from a blissful journey to a traumatic C-section that left her feeling cautious and fearful, Parris knew she needed to care for herself emotionally and physically.
On a whim, she signed up for a triathlon with only two weeks to train. It was not the most informed action, but Parris knew she needed to do something to believe in herself and her body again.
The event was a struggle. Her training swims in the pool had not prepared her for swimming in the lake. She didn't even own a bicycle before she signed up, and during the 3.1-mile run, she barely outpaced several older women.
Parris cried when she crossed the finish line and then embarked on a journey to help other people around her who were in need of healing. In 2011, she founded the Self Care Agency, and has since offered a blueprint for creating customized self-care plans to corporations, individuals and nonprofits.
"I wanted to find a way to further politicize the idea that as a community, we have to be able to acknowledge what our crucial needs are. Our environment and society should support that," Parris said.
The term "self-care" has been used for decades to describe pursuits undertaken to preserve one's sense of wellness, but during the pandemic, focus on the self-care and wellness industry has reached unprecedented levels.
Google searches for "self-care" reached an all-time high during the height of the pandemic, according to some reports. Companies have hired wellness executives. Headspace, the popular meditation app, saw individual and corporate subscriptions doubling in number from 2018 to 2020, according to various sources.
But what gets lost in the highly commercialized and mainstreamed iteration of self-care — one that readily pushes television binges and scented candles as the key to coping with mental, emotional and physical stress — are the principles popularized by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s.