Dear Black Woman

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Dear Black woman,

Growing up, you probably heard that you needed to be a “strong Black woman,” or you heard your mama, aunts, grandmas, etc. described that way. And now, as an adult, you probably feel at least some pressure to be super woman and do it all — smoothly and with a smile being a mom and/or partner, working, cooking, cleaning, volunteering, taking care of your loved ones, not to mention dealing with societal issues like racism and sexism. You don’t stop to take a breath, to take a minute for yourself, because you don’t have make time. Deep down, you might feel like you don’t deserve to truly take care of yourself or you feel that someone has to do this stuff (and it has to be you, right?). I mean, who the hell is going to take care of everything while I’m chillin’? 

First, I want you to close your eyes, and take a deep breath: Inhale slowly. Exhale slowly. Now, hear me when I say this:

It is okay for you to be calm, centered, and cared for. It is NECESSARY for you to be calm, centered, and cared for — if you want to feel good, whole, at peace. And you DESERVE IT.

Let me ask you this: Does it feel good to be stressed out, burned out, frustrated, overwhelmed? I mean, yeah, you might be “making it” and “surviving,” but don’t you want to thrive? I know we, as Black women, are pretty much pros at keeping a survival mentality, of having just enough and saying things like, ‘Well, it’s not that bad; I’m still here,’ or ‘Things could be worse,’ or ‘It is what it is.’ Yes, you’re still here, and things could be worse, and you should be thankful for that. However, I don’t think that means you can’t or shouldn’t strive to live a life where you’re happy and calm most of the time. The late Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” So yeah, you can continue on the path you’re on, barely making it, always feeling stressed and on the verge of burning out. But wouldn’t it feel better to choose differently, to live from a space of peace and have joy?

You might be saying, “Yes, Jamie, what you’re saying makes sense, and that would feel better. But how do I live from a space of peace and have more joy? How do I become calm, centered, and cared for?

  1. Decide that you want something different, and commit to doing it. Write down what you want, and make a plan.
  2. Determine what your stressors are so you’ll know what areas you can control and can’t control. (Here’s a worksheet for you).
  3. Make the practices that keep you calm and centered a daily habit. Examples include meditation, deep breathing yoga, and practicing mindfulness.
  4. Seek out resources and even professional help if you need it.
  5. Learn to surrender and go with the flow when it comes to things you can’t control.
  6. Practice gratitude.
  7. Make self-care a daily practice.

These are just a few general tips to help you get started. And if you have questions, I’m here.  : )

“True and lasting inner peace can never be found in external things. It can only be found within. And then, once we find and nurture it with ourselves, it radiates outward.” – (attributed to) Buddah 


If you’re ready to stress less and create more calm, my book, The Black Girl’s Guide to Calm Experience shares practical tools that will help you find your calm and peace in your crazy, chaotic life. Click here to learn more and download.

If you need one-on-one assistance with creating your Stress Less Strategy, contact me.

Sign up here to get weekly tips for creating calm in simple ways.

#CalmTip: Let Go and Allow

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As most of ya’ll probably know, I recently started teaching yoga locally. While it’s been going okay with one or two students at one place, at another, no one signed or showed up. Now logically, I know I shouldn’t take it personally, and I know that it takes time to build a new business and to get clients (because I’ve been there myself). However, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me and that I wasn’t disappointed. And because my tendency is to over-think and wallow in what ifs, I was racking my brain, trying to figure out what I did wrong and what I should do next. As I was mulling it over, I remembered the affirmation I’d recently shared on social media: I let go, and allow the universe to do her thing. 

This is my go-to mantra (I repeat it at least once a day), but it’s often easier said than done. If you’re like me, you’re so used to just trying different stuff to see what sticks that it’s hard to step back, surrender, and just allow things to happen and come to you. Now, that’s not to say that action doesn’t have its place; however, 1) We need to utilize the feminine energy of allowing and receiving; and 2) When things don’t go how we’d like and/or we feel like we’re losing control (as if we ever had control in the first place, but I digress), we likely start to panic and feel desperate, and that’s not the best energy to act from. Because it often doesn’t work anyway or you make decisions that aren’t necessarily the best.

Instead, I believe the best thing to do is to let go and allow the Universe/Spirit/God/Goddess/Your Higher Self to do her/his/its thing. Sometimes, that means literally doing nothing about the situation. And it might mean taking inspired action, meaning listen to what you should do next, then doing something. This usually shows up as your intuition or that gut feeling. (This is one reason why meditating and being mindful are important, so you can hear).

Finally, whatever the action is, it’s important to remember that what you desire may not manifest overnight; and you might even end up going in a different direction. Either way, it’s important to trust the process and trust in Divine Timing.

“What’s the rush? Everything is coming to you. Don’t put an end date on everything. Just let the Universe yield it to you, because if the path is a fun path, you don’t care how long it takes.” – Abraham Hicks

On Doing What You Need to do to Be Good as a Mama

Black Girl;s Guide to Calm

As many of you know, I attended The Self-Care Retreat (#HereWeGrow16), which was created and is hosted by Tara Pringle Jefferson. The main reason I went was to lead yoga and meditation, but I ended up actually learning a lot.

One of the points both speakers made was the idea of not doing things just because our mamas did it or because society (or the community) tells us we should. In the Black community, we  — women — are told that we can and should handle everything ourselves, and if we do get any help, it should be as little as possible and only every once in a while. As we discussed this, one of the attendees mentioned how surprised she was when she first heard that White women had housekeepers — and they didn’t have children at the time! And another one of the attendees, who sat at my table, told us that last year’s speaker talked about outsourcing her laundry and actually ended up creating a laundry service, and she told us that she, herself, has a nanny for her daughters.

What was so amazing to me wasn’t the fact that she had a nanny; it was the fact that she was so unapologetic about it. She said something to the effect of she’s doing what’s best for her as a mother. When I got home and started thinking about the retreat (since I wanted to write a post about it), I realized that while I’m doing what’s best for me by letting Nailah stay with my parents a few days a week, I still feel guilty about it at times. But I now understand there’s nothing wrong with doing what’s best for me because 1) I can’t really get any work done while she’s here; 2) When she’s not with them, I’m with her pretty much 24/7; 3) That means I need some time for me (sorry not sorry).

If you’re a woman of color reading this, I encourage you to do what you need to do to be a happy, sane, calm, [insert positive adjective here] mama. This might mean getting outside help, like hiring a nanny, a housekeeper, or sending your laundry out. It might mean getting the people in your village to help you, or talking with your significant other about helping out more. Whatever you need to do, do it, regardless of what the community, your family, or society tells you that you should do.

I’ll leave you with this:

“Mothers, a car can run on fumes for only so long. It needs to be refilled or it will stop running all together. You as a mother can’t continue to be everything to everybody, eventually you will break down. You need to take time for yourself, to rejuvenate, to make sure YOU are not lost while trying to hold everything together.” – journeysofawoman.com

“Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids.” – Cafe Mom

#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! : )