Soul-Care is a three-part series about ways Black women can practice self-care when it comes to resting their souls, with input from experts in medicine, psychology and theology.
As we continue the conversation centered around the importance of resting our souls, especially as Black women taxed with playing superwoman in our day-to-day lives, we wanted to look at spiritual weariness from the perspective of a theologist. Rev. Lakeesha Walrond, Ph.D., the first woman president in the more than hundred-year history of the New York Theological Seminary, spoke with us about the ways in which the weariness within us can come about.
“Spiritual or soul fatigue shows up when we’re carrying things that we shouldn’t be carrying,” she tells ESSENCE, noting the prevalence of such feelings during the pandemic. “So, whether it is just anger about having to be stuck in the house or disappointment about not being able to travel or worry, consumed with, Am I going to catch this? Am I going to give it to my grandmother? Just carrying the emotional weight affects us spiritually and affects our souls.”
Add those concerns to efforts to tend to the many responsibilities people have and soul fatigue is inevitable. As previously mentioned, the term “burnout” is one that’s been everywhere since last year as overburdened people hit their breaking point. But Rev. Dr. Walrond says we can cope by getting some rest in the form of meditation, a mental rest.
“When you sit with yourself, those things that come to you are those things that are still unresolved,” she says. “And those unresolved issues, emotional feelings, people, are really what weigh us down and really what cause us to be fatigued in our souls.”
She adds, “We know that The Creator wants us to have joy, gives us joy, gives us joy abundantly, but sometimes when we’re so consumed with the worries and the cares of the world, that joy is unable to emerge and live and thrive.”
In addition to meditating, she says check your “joy barometer.” Ensure that you’re doing the work necessary so you can say that you’re not just floating through every day simply existing unhappily, but rather, truly living.
“We can exist, just like a fake plant sits in the corner. It exists, it’s not growing, it isn’t dying, it’s just sitting there. And that’s sometimes where we find ourselves when we are so weary, is that we’re just existing,” she says. “We’re going through the motions, waking up at the same time, doing the same thing, going to the same places, but not dealing with the internal strife, the internal struggle, the internal imbalance. And that prevents us from really leaning into the joy and living our best life.”
And sometimes, getting to the bottom of what is holding us back and truly dealing with it requires some help. As a person of faith, Rev. Dr. Walrond has heard time and again about those who believe in God shirking therapy because they see it as some sort of sign of unbelief. But she says faith and therapy shouldn’t be in opposition, as they can certainly work together.
“If you break your arm accidentally, are you going to go to the hospital, or are you going to come church?” she recalls telling someone who didn’t believe in therapy. “So why is it then that people of faith will go to doctors for the physical ailments, but are hesitant to go for the emotional and psychological elements?”
She adds, “As a Christian, I would say I have even greater responsibility to seek the help, whether it’s physical, mental, psychological, emotional, spiritual, that I need in order to be healthy. Because I believe that God wants us all to be whole, not just healthy, but whole.”
In a time where so many people are looking to prioritize their mental health and overall well-being, from the everyday 9 to 5 worker to world-class athletes, Rev. Dr. Walrond says it’s essential that these conversations, of how to not live with spiritual weariness but prioritize actions that help us heal, continue.
“I think it’s really critical that we are having these conversations and to recognize that the same things that we’re thinking are not isolated incidences. I’m thinking the same thing that you’re thinking, the same thing that someone else is thinking, because we’ve all gone through this pandemic together. We may not have been physically in the same home, but we experienced the same separation, the same isolation the same anxiety. And so, in a lot of ways, in a world where there’s so much division, we miss the opportunities of unity and of collective presence. And that’s what we’ve experienced through this pandemic,” she says. “I would say, don’t be afraid to speak your truth, don’t be afraid to say what you were feeling or what you went through, because if we don’t get it out, then we keep it in.”
She adds, “When we keep it in, that’s when we find ourselves even more fatigued, because now we’re trying to hide ourselves from others and, inadvertently, hide ourselves from ourselves.”