#CalmTip: Make Sure Your Cup Overflows

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As many of you know, this past weekend, I attended the 2016 Self-Care Retreat (#HereWeGrow16) in Virginia Beach, which was hosted by Tara Pringle Jefferson, self-care coach and creator of The Self-Care Box. I attended to lead meditation and yoga, but I ended up learning a lot (blog post about the amazingness coming soon)!

In the first session, Tara suggested that instead of filling our cups just enough, just so we can give to others, that we allow our cups to overflow. That way, when we give from the overflow, we’ll still have something left for ourselves, and we won’t be drained, burned out, frustrated, etc.

After her talk, she had us come up with 20 things that fill our cups (without thinking too much about it) and we posted our lists in our phones so we’d have the lists whenever we need them. For this week’s #CalmTip, I’m encouraging you to try it yourself and create your own Fill My Cup list: Use your note app (or an app like Evernote) and take about five minutes to write down 20 things that make you happy or that you can do to practice self-care. When you finish, you’ll have several activities to choose from when you need them and/or to practice daily (or at least a few days a week) to make sure you’re good. A few of mine are:

  1. Yoga/meditation.
  2. Listening to the 2 Dope Queens podcast.
  3. Reading.
  4. Lifting weights at the gym.
  5. Watching ratchet TV.

What are some of the things on your “Fill My Cup” list? Let me know by leaving a comment! 🙂

“My cup should overflow.” – Tara Pringle Jefferson

#HappyTip: Pamper Yourself

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

For me, taking time to pamper myself weekly not only brings me joy, it’s also a way that I create calm and make sure I’m practicing self-care. And contrary to what you may believe, you can pamper yourself without spending a ton of cash — or any. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a bubble bath or a detox bath.
  • Massage (professional or personal). I go here.
  • Give yourself a mani or pedi (or go to the nail salon).
  • Get in bed (or on the couch) with your blanket and catch up on TV or binge-watch a show you’ve been missing.
  • Give yourself a facial.
  • Read (or re-read) a novel, and get lost in someone else’s world.
  • Do some restorative yoga.
  • Take a social media break for the weekend.
  • Nap. (20 or 90 minutes is ideal — I say go for 90).
  • Try reflexology.

What’s your favorite way to pamper yourself? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

7 Reasons You Should Start Doing Yoga

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

I’m sure by now y’all know how much I love yoga. I’m always encouraging people to give it a try because it’s been a life-changing practice for me. Here a few reasons I think you should start doing yoga — like right now (after you finish reading this, of course):

Reason #1: Yoga improves your flexibility

This is probably the most obvious benefit of doing yoga. You might not be able to reach your toes in your first class or feel very flexible, but as you practice more often, you’ll see that you’re able to do poses you never thought you could. And with your increased flexibility, you’ll likely notice your aches and pains disappearing, too.

Reason #2: It perfects your posture.

Not only can poor posture make your tired, it can also cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. When your head is balanced directly over an erect spine, your neck and back muscles don’t have to do as much work to support it.

Reason #3: Yoga makes you happier.

According to one study, a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels (which is believed to affect your mood) and a decrease in levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters, which communicate information throughout the brain and body) and cortisol (the stress hormone).

Reason #4: Yoga brings you peace of mind.

Practicing regularly slows the mental loops of things like fear, disappointment, desire, and frustration, which can cause stress. And if you learn how to quiet your mind, you’ll likely live longer, too, since stress is connected to several health problems like migraines, high blood pressure, lupus, and heart attacks.

Reason #5: Yoga can ease physical pain.

Several studies have shown that asana (yoga poses) and meditation, or a combo of the two, reduced pain in individuals with back pain, arthritis, and other chronic conditions. Plus, when your pain is relieved, your mood improves, you’re more likely to be active, and you don’t need as much medicine.

Reason #6: It helps you release tension in your limbs.

Stop, and notice your body now. Is your face scrunched? Are your shoulders up by your ears? (Confession: Mine were). Is your jaw clenched? These habits, that we’re basically unconscious of, can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in your shoulders, neck, arms, wrists, and face. And this can make you more stressed and make your mood worse. By practicing yoga, you’ll notice where you hold tension (for me, it’s mainly my shoulder area) and ultimately learn how to relax those areas.

Reason #7: It gives you inner strength.

A regular yoga practice can help you make positive changes in your life. Personally, it’s made me more self-aware, which has made me more kind, less judgmental, more optimistic, and just an overall better version of me. And I’m continuing to evolve.

“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.”

 

#CalmTip: Practice Camel Pose

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Heeey! It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose. This one is a favorite of mine: camel. According to YogaOutlet.com, camel pose (ustrasana) can be emotionally moving and energizing.

Benefits of this pose:

  • Stretches your neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, hip flexors, groin, and ankles
  • Strengthens your back, gluteal muscles, and triceps
  • Massages and stimulates your organs and chakras of the abdomen

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor.
  • Rest your hands on the lower part of your back, letting your head come back if it feels okay for your neck.
  • You can stay there, or you can take the full expression of the pose by reaching back and grabbing a hold of your ankles or feet (you also have the option of doing one side at a time). Your palms should rest on your heels with your fingers pointing toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot.
  • Keep your thighs in line with the floor with your hips directly over your knees. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
  • After releasing, immediately come into child’s pose so you don’t get lightheaded or dizzy.

Tips

  • Don’t force yourself into the pose; practice a modified version until you can get into the pose safely. If it’s difficult for your hands to reach your feet, tuck your toes to elevate your heels.
  • If it’s still difficult to reach your feet or ankles, place yoga blocks on the outside of each foot and put your hands on them.
  • Create length in your vertebra; don’t collapse or crunch into the pose.
  • Move into it slowly and move within a pain-free range.
  • Don’t bring your head so far back that you strain your neck. Keep it extended and comfortable throughout the pose.

“If you don’t bend, you’ll break.” – Unknown

Overview of the 7 Chakras

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

According to chopra.com, the Sanskrit word ‘chakra’ translates to wheel or disk. This term refers to wheels of energy throughout the body in yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda. There are seven main chakras, and they align the spine, starting at its base and through to the crown of the head. The swirling wheels of energy correspond to large nerve centers in the body. Each chakra has bundle of nerves and major organs in addition to our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being. It’s important that the seven chakras stay open, fluid, and aligned, because if there’s a blockage, energy can’t flow.

Here’s an overview of the chakras, plus affirmations to help you unblock and heal them:

1. Root Chakra
Located at the base of the spine; connects to our sense of groundedness and instincts of survival
When off-balance: You might experience low energy, become alienated from yourself and others, and be easily angered.
When balanced: You feel secure, stable, and full of health, energy, and vitality.
Affirmations
I am safe and secure.
I trust in the goodness of life.
I have everything I need.

2. Sacral Chakra
Located in the reproductive area; connects to our feelings, emotions, sexuality, and creativity
When off-balance: You might experience jealousy, guilt, possessiveness, and shame of body/sexuality.
When balanced: You experience grace, flexibility, depth of feeling, sexual fulfillment, and creativity.
Affirmations
I acknowledge my uniqueness.
I love and enjoy my body.
I allow myself to experience pleasure.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra 
Located in the stomach; connects to our ego, will, personal power, and autonomy
When off-balance: Your self-confidence might be threatened, and you might experience confusion and depression.
When balanced: You have harmony and protection and feel comfortable with yourself and others.
Affirmations
I love and accept myself.
I feel and own my power.
I am authentic.

4. Heart Chakra 
Located in the heart region; connects to our emotional self and brings harmony, forgiveness, sincerity, and love
When off-balance: You may over-love and experience jealousy, abandonment, anger, loneliness, and bitterness.
When balanced: You feel joy, love, gratitude, and compassion.
Affirmations
I deeply and completely love myself.
I am open to love and kindness.
I am loved.

5. Throat Chakra
Located in the throat region; connects to our expressive self, reinforces communication, speech, and healing
When off-balance: You may have issues surrounding self-expression and have fear of no power or control.
When balanced: You can express your truth without worrying what others will think.
Affirmations
I have the right to speak my truth.
I live an authentic life.
I express my feelings easily and freely.

6. Third Eye Chakra
Located in between the eyebrows; connects to our intuition
When off-balance: You might experience moodiness, excessive daydreaming, and distrust.
When balanced: You feel open and focused, and have a deep spiritual connection, strong morality, and can easily discern between truth and illusion.
Affirmations
I am in touch with my inner wisdom.
I trust and listen to my intuition.
I know that all is well in my world.

7. Crown Chakra
Located at the top of the head; connects to our higher consciousness
When off-balance: You can experience depression, the inability to learn, rigid thoughts on religion, constant confusion, and fear of alienation.
When balanced: You live in the moment and strongly trust in your inner guidance.
Affirmations
I honor the divine within me.
My life is divinely guided.
I live in the present moment.

BONUS: Click for yor Chakra affirmation download.

#CalmTip: Communicate

Black Girl's Guide to Calmm

The other day, I was feeling frustrated with my husband (hey, it happens), so I wrote about it in my journal to get my feelings out and to explore solutions. I discovered that the source of my stress with him is that I often fail to communicate how I feel and what I need. Here’s a little of what I wrote:

I can’t keep keeping stuff inside. I have to say how I feel and tell him what I need from him. Period. For a while now (or a lot of the time), I’ve just let stuff slide without saying anything, just to keep the peace…

Here’s the epiphany I had as I kept writing (bolded for emphasis): But I’m not keeping peace with myself, which is the most important thing. 

Growing up, I used to ask my mama why she never, or rarely, said anything to my daddy about his lack of help around the house (by the way, I love my parents, think they’re amazing, and have been married almost 32 years ; I’m telling this story to make a point). She said that most of the time she didn’t (because trust me, there are plenty of times when she does speak her mind) because she wants to keep the peace. When she would say that, I’d always think to myself, I’m never  gonna be like that. (HA!)

I now recognize that I probably do the same because of what she told me and because of who society tells women they’re supposed to be. However, here’s what I’ve come to realize: Not saying what’s on your mind (and I’m talking about the big stuff, the stuff that actually causes you to “feel some type of way” and that creates issues within your relationship) is not actually keeping the peace. It’s only giving you the illusion of peace. How can you have peace in your relationship and in your home if you don’t have it within? Yeah, you might appear or pretend to be at peace, happy, going with the flow, but is that the reality? More than likely, no. So my #calmtip is to communicate. Say how you feel. Own how you feel. Start your statements with “I feel…”

If you’re a woman who’s not used to really speaking up and likes to be “non-confrontational” *raises hand* this will probably be a bit challenging for you. My suggestions are:

  1. Work on your throat chakra. A few affirmations:
    – I speak my truth. I have the right to.
    – My voice is strong and clear.
    – I communicate my feelings with ease.
    – I am open, clear, and honest in my communication.
  2. Do it afraid. Because that’s the only way to keep your inner peace and to actually enjoy your relationship. If you don’t, you’re going to be resentful and disappointed and frustrated, and one day, it’s going to come to ahead. And you don’t want that. Let it out now in a rational, calm, direct manner.

“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn

#HappyTip: Practice Positive Self-talk

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

The way you talk to yourself — positively or negatively — has an impact on your life and how you live. Practicing positive self-talk uplifts you, increases your confidence, lessens your stress, and helps you manifest your desires.

While it does take time to go from being a negative self-talker to a positive one, it is possible do so (I’ve done it myself). Here are four ways to get started:

1. Become aware of your thoughts. We literally think thousands of thoughts per day, so it’s impossible to catch every thought. But one way to become more aware of how you think is to pay attention to how you feel since your feelings indicate what you’re thinking. Once you check in with how you feel (which I recommend doing several times a day), see if you can figure out what you were thinking to make you feel that way, which leads me to the second point…

2. Change your negative thoughts to positive ones. When you become aware of the negative self-talk, turn it into something positive. For example, if I didn’t check everything off of my intentions list, I might tell myself something like, Ugh, what’s wrong with you? Why couldn’t you get everything done? Then I’ll catch myself and say something like, You did the best you could; tomorrow’s a new day; it’s not the end of the world. The more you do this, you’ll notices that the negative voice becomes quieter and quieter.

3. Use affirmations. These are a great way to re-program your mind to expect the best and look on the bright side. You can write your own that reflect how you want you and your life to be; for example: I am a success; I am worthy; I am enough, I have enough, I do enough. Or you can find them on sites like Pinterest.

4. Look on the bright side. Focus on the good in your life with a daily gratitude practice (like keeping a gratitude journal). Another idea: Before going to bed, write down 3-5 things that brought you joy during the day. With consistency, this trains your brain to always be looking for the good in your days, which makes your more optimistic and happy.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” – Eckart Tolle

How do you make sure you positively talk to yourself? Let us know by leaving a comment! : )

8 Spiritual Practices That Keep Me Grounded & Centered

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

About a month ago, I posted a photo on Instagram with my spiritual practices. I’d been feeling off mentally and emotionally, and I realized it was because I’d been neglecting to do those things. I wanted to share what I did to counter that off-feeling in case someone else could use the info. So, I decided to write a post about it; here goes — these are the eight spiritual practices I do daily and/or on a regular basis to stay grounded and centered:

1. Meditation & Yoga

Most mornings, I go to my meditation/yoga space and do a 10 minute meditation, and I try to at least quiet my mind and take a few deep breaths before going to bed. I recently bought some crystals from Third Eye Naga, and I’ve been using those while meditating. Sometimes, I’ll visualize and/or recite some affirmations as well. Also, I usually listen to meditation music or binaural beats from YouTube while meditating. (Here’s my current playlist).

When it comes to yoga, some days, I practice in the morning, and others, I practice in the afternoon or at night. Nowadays I mostly do my own flow, but when I don’t, I do a video from Yoga By Candace.

How often I do this: Meditation — daily; yoga — 5-6 days a week

2. Gratitude

In the morning, I write five things I’m grateful for in my gratitude journal. It might be something specific that happened or as simple as “a new day.” I also use the app Bliss to record three things that happened during the day that I’m thankful for or that brought me joy.

How often I do this: Daily

3. Visualization

This is my daily visualizing practice: After writing what I’m thankful for in the morning, I basically write down how my day went as if it was the end of that day. For example, I wrote today’s (Sunday’s) vision — what happened during the day —  from Sunday night’s perspective (hopefully, this makes sense). Basically, I write how I want to feel and what I want to do and accomplish that day. And although everything doesn’t happen the way I write it, doing this leaves me feeling optimistic and I feel it helps set the tone for creating an amazing day.

How often I do this: daily

4. Affirmations/Prayer

Usually, after I do the above items, I read my affirmations. I created a folder in my phone’s image gallery, and I either go through and read all of them or a few of them. I might also recite some of my favorite ones in the morning and throughout the day like “I am calm and centered,” or “I let go and allow the universe to do her thing.” One of my favorite places to find affirmations is Pinterest (and here’s my board with some).

When it comes to prayer, I use an e-book I bought from Ra Sehki Store called Speaking with Spirit that includes prayers from the Diaspora.

How often I do this: Almost daily

5. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping

According to the Energy Therapy Centre, “the technique works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort.” The blocks in our energy system can challenge us emotionally and lead to limiting beliefs and not being able to live harmoniously. I especially like to use EFT when I’m feeling super stressed or worried, or if I want to release blocks around money or abundance. I primarily use Brad Yates’s YouTube channel, and I love this video from Abiola Abrams.

How often I do this: 1-2 times a week

6. Smudging

Smudging is burning herbs, like sage, to clear negative energy from yourself and/or your space. You can find sticks at new age stores (Third Eye Naga, which I mentioned above sells them) or even make your own. Here’s how to use it:

Light the stick, and let it catch fire.

Let the fire out, letting the smoke billow from the stick.

If you’re smudging your home, walk around along each wall (or close to each wall), allowing the smoke to go everywhere. If you’re smudging yourself, wave the smoke, starting from your feet and moving up, over you body in front of and behind you. While smudging, you can verbalize what you’re releasing; For example, “I release doubt. I release fear. I release anything that no longer serves me.”

When you’re done, open a door or window to allow the old energy to leave.

How often I do this: to my apartment — once a week; to myself — probably 3-4 times a week

7. Journaling

I generally do this when I’m feeling stressed, frustrated, or disappointed, but I’m trying to get in the habit of doing it at least once a week to process things and to make sure my mind is calm and clear.

How often I do this: once a week

8. Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health, Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

When practicing mindfulness, not only are you aware of the present moment, you’re also in a state of emotional non-reactivity: No matter how good or bad the experience, you don’t judge it. Or if you do judge it, you simply observe your thoughts with a friendly interest, then release them. Ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Doing one thing at a time.
  • Doing less.
  • Staying in the present moment.
  • Making cooking and cleaning meditation.

How often I do this: Always Daily is the goal

“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.” – Bryant McGill

What spiritual practices do you use to stay centered and grounded? Let me know by leaving a comment. : )

#CalmTip: Yoga Pose of the Month – Child’s Pose

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This week’s #calmtip and this month’s yoga pose is child’s pose. According to YogaOutlet.com, this is a restful pose that brings serenity and peace to your yoga practice.

Child’s pose:

  • Gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck
  • Increases the blood circulation to your head, which reduces headaches
  • Massages your internal organs
  • Calms your mind, helping relieve tension and stress

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start on all fours, your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your knees hip-distance apart and your big toes touching. Another option is to spread your knees a little wider for wide-legged child’s pose variation.
  3. Inhale and bring your hips back toward your heels (your butt may or may not reach your heels). Your heart and chest should rest on top of or between your thighs; rest your forehead on the mat or floor.
  4. You can keep your arms long and extended with your palms down on the ground, or place them down by your sides.
  5. On your exhales, allow any tension in your neck, shoulders, and arms to melt away.
  6. Stay here at least five to 10 breaths.

“When you own breath, nobody can steal your peace.”

Conversations featuring Vernetta R. Freeney

 

In this interview with Vernetta R. Freeney, we talk about her role as The Truth Confidant™, her podcast, “A Toast to Truths,” and the works she’s doing to help people curb burnout.

Click below to listen to the interview, and get inspired.