A table with a container of colored pencils, in the background a Black woman with an afro holds a coloring book.

As a mental health professional who works with her clients to help them manage their stressors, Oludara Adeeyo knows the importance of self-care, particularly for those who have been historically marginalized.  

She also has personal experiences that inform her work. Adeeyo became a mental health professional after facing burnout and combating discrimination in the White-dominated journalism industry. She saw her mother die a premature death of an autoimmune disease after not adequately caring for herself. She knows—and has seen firsthand—that often Black women are taught to put their own needs on the back burner.

In a world that does not prioritize Black women caring for themselves, Adeeyo wants to help them to do just that. In her recently released book, Mind, Body, & Soul: A Self-Care Coloring Book for Black Women, Adeeyo encourages Black women to take time for themselves. 

Throughout the book are affirmations like “I will break generational curses,” “I am gentle with myself through life’s transitions,” and “I don’t need to justify my need for rest.” 

In this interview with NPQ, Adeeyo explains how the idea of the coloring book came to be, how her own personal experiences shaped the book, and what she is most hoping Black women will get from using the coloring book.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity

Rebekah Barber: How did the idea of the coloring book come to be?

Oludara Adeeyo: I’ve written two other self-care/self-help books for Black women. My first book was a book called Self-Care for Black Women and that was just 150 realistic, actionable tips to help Black women actually practice self-care.

“It’s not often Black women have representation in coloring books.…I wanted to add to that space.”

The second book was trying to put into action some of the self-care tips I had talked about in the first book. It was a journal filled with affirmations. It touched on self-care practices I love—affirmations, journaling, meditating on the affirmations, and also sitting and processing your thoughts.

I felt like the third book should be another self-care practice activity. This time we incorporated affirmations. I worked with [Tess Armstrong,] the same designer of my first two covers. She’s a great artist.

“After going through a bit of burnout…I am trying to embody a new phase in my life where I’m really trying to be stressless.”

We decided it would be great if the affirmations were still involved, but then we had images that felt that Black women could relate to and see themselves in. It’s not often Black women have representation in coloring books, although there has been a recent increase. I wanted to add to that space.

RB: As you were creating the coloring book and writing the affirmations, were there any particular affirmations that resonated with you?

OA: I would say all of them do. But it depends on where I feel like I am in my life right now with trying to take care of myself and prioritize my mental health. For me, after going through a bit of burnout, which was kind of traumatizing to my body and my mind, I am trying to embody a new phase in my life where I’m really trying to be stressless. One affirmation is “Moving through life with ease is my ancestral right.” That is something I try to move forward with, just because I believe I am breaking generational patterns by trying to live a more stressless life.

About 10 years ago I lost my mom to an autoimmune disease. She just wasn’t taking care of herself. She was a woman who lived a very stress-filled life like many Black women in this world. My mom was a Nigerian immigrant; so many other Black women immigrant women experience all types of stressors in this country. It’s already stressful to be a Black person in the United States and then when you add in being a person from a different culture as well and trying to [figure out] the way society moves in this part of the world, it’s very stressful. There’s also the pressures that people put on women.

In my culture, we’re a very patriarchal society and women have certain expectations, but we also live in a world now where women can have more freedom. So, “Moving through life with ease is my ancestral right” feels like what I’m embodying now, simply because I’m trying to shift things for the next generation in my family.

RB: You were previously a journalist. Can you talk about how that experience shaped you and continues to shape your work?

OA: It traumatized me if I’m being real. It also prepared me to be a great writer. There’s no better school for writing than active journalism because you’re forced to write at a fast pace or forced to be able to edit quicker. You almost have to sharpen your skills.

In one sense that’s great. It made a very quick writer. I am able to write these books. On the other hand, it made me very tired and burnt out. I experienced a lot of discrimination, which I didn’t realize at the time I was being discriminated against. I didn’t realize that people would treat me differently because I’m Black and different. Also, it’s a very White-dominated field so it’s almost hard to move up sometimes if you don’t know the right people.

In one sense, it made me a better writer. It made me more skilled. Then in the other sense, it gave me a lot of stress. Because I had a lot of stress, it shaped my perspective on life. Instead of being so work-focused, now I’m more life- and wellbeing-focused.

RB: In addition to the books you’ve written, you’re also popular on TikTok. You’re using innovative methods to reach people. Why do you think it’s important for mental health professionals to be creative with their approaches?

OA: As the digital age evolved, we’ve had to try to reach people differently. What’s going on in the current generation is that the internet has become the third space for a lot of people. While I believe we should also be outside and doing other things and finding other…spaces, I think it’s one of the most dominant third spaces for people.

“My hope is that Black women get peace, make time for themselves.”

It’s a great place to make community, to meet other people who may be looking for resources, to meet other therapists. It can also provide education. On TikTok, when I first joined a couple years ago, there was constant talk about ADHD and autism. As a clinician it forces me to listen to these people and hear about their diagnoses, symptoms, and how they show up for them.

Everyone’s mental health is different. Everyone’s diagnosis shows up differently. It can provide education for diagnoses I’ve never interacted with, which I think is great.

RB: What are you most hoping for Black women to get out of using your coloring book?

OA: My hope is that Black women get peace, make time for themselves. I think that’s the number one thing I’ve noticed among my friends, family, clients I’ve worked with in the past. A lot of Black women don’t know how to make time for themselves because they don’t feel like they can make time for themselves. I just hope my coloring book makes Black women feel like they can make time for themselves and want to make time for themselves.