#CalmTip: Listen to Jazz

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This may make me sound like an old lady, but I love to listen to jazz, especially when I’m working or just need to clear my head.

According to studies, “the innovative riffs, cool tones, and complex rhythms [of jazz] can bring natural relief for mind and body.” Listening to more upbeat jazz can help you focus while raising your heart rate and boost your productivity at work. Studies have also shown that listening to 45 minutes of soft, slow music like jazz before going to bed results in better and longer nighttime sleep, too. Additionally, listening to jazz boosts your creativity and can even lower your blood pressure.

I enjoy old school artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins; and some of the modern artists I like include Esperanza Spalding, Tia Fuller, Robert Glasper, and Marc Cary. You can also, of course, listen to jazz stations on Pandora and Spotify.

“Jazz is about being in the moment.” – Herbie Hancock

Do you have a favorite jazz artist? Share below by leaving a comment!

Sources: Top Masters in Healthcare, Elite Daily

Photo Credit: Charlie Bard (123rf.com)

#CalmTip: Do a Walking Meditation

How to do walking meditation

According to MeditationOasis.com, walking meditation can be as profound as sitting meditation and has the advantage of bringing the meditative experience into your activity.

Here’s how to do it:

Before starting, spend some time standing still, becoming aware of your body. Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the sensation of your breath. Allow your breath to return to normal and notice it. Next, bring your awareness back to your body, and notice how your body feels as you stand and what sensations you’re feeling.

Begin walking at a relaxed, somewhat slow but normal pace. As you walk, pay attention to what you’re feeling in your body. When you feel your attention being drawn to the sights around you, refocus on what’s going on internally and the physical experience of walking. Try to notice how every little thing in your body feels.

Pay attention to how the soles of your feet feel. Become aware of the contact your feet make with your socks and/or shoes, the textures of the fabrics touching, the way your feet feel as they support the weight of your body and the sensations in them as you continue walking. Feel your entire foot, noticing how it feels as your foot lifts and moves forward. Next, bring your awareness up through each part of your body and notice the different sensations as you walk. Slowly scan your body from your feet to your head, letting go of any tension you feel and allowing your entire body to relax. If your mind is wandering, you can continue scanning your body and noticing any sensations you feel to bring your awareness back to your walking meditation.

“Walking outside in the fresh air is better than trudging ’round inside your brain.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

P.S. — I’ve created a free audio of the instructions for you to use while you’re doing your meditation. Download here –> Walking Meditation Audio

Why You Should Manage Your Stress

All of us experience stress on some level, whether it’s work pressure, money, health, or relationships. And while stress manifests itself differently in each of us, it’s important to find some way to manage it effectively.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can be defined as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Not all stress is bad, but chronic stress, however, can become a serious issue. The three types of stress, which all carry physical and mental health risks are:

  • Routine stress that’s related to the pressures of work, family and other day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Stress brought on by a sudden negative change like divorce, losing a job, or illness.
  • Traumatic stress, which is experienced in an event like a major accident, assault, or a national disaster where an individual may be seriously injured or in danger of being killed.

Some of the negative effects of stress include headaches, insomnia, and feeling depressed, anger, and irritable; and people under chronic stress are likely to experience frequent and severe viral infections like the flu or common cold.

With that being said, check out the infographic below to learn a few benefits of managing your stress:

Black Girl's Guide to Calm


 

#CalmTip: Try the Relaxation Response

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Developed by Herbert Benson, The Relaxation Response can be evoked by different types of relaxation and athletic techniques, including meditation, prayer, jogging, swimming, yoga, and even knitting. He says there are only two basic steps to obtain the Relaxation Response: 1. Repeatedly say one word, phrase, sound, or prayer to yourself (participating in a repetitive muscular activity might also have similar results); 2. Notice when thoughts come and distract you, then passively disregard them and return to your repetition.

Benson says if you’re religious, you can choose a prayer; if not, you can choose a secular focus. You can use a word/phrase/sound/prayer of your choosing, or use one he recommends:

  • Secular focus: One, Ocean, Love, Peace, Calm, or Relax
  • Christian: “Our father who art in heaven” or “The Lord is my shepherd”
  • Jewish: “Sh’ma Yisroel,” “Shalom,” “Echod,” or “The Lord is my shepherd”
  • Islamic: “Insha’allah
  • Hindu: “Om”

For athletic types of moving meditation like jogging, walking, or swimming, Benson suggests paying attention to the cadence of your feet on the pavement or movement in the water (left, right, left, right for example), and returning your attention back to your point of focus whenever your mind wanders.

And as with most types of meditation, don’t worry about how well it is or isn’t working; just let it happen, and you’ll benefit more. Benson recommends doing the technique for 10-20 minutes, twice a day; he suggests doing “minis” as well: bite-size versions of the Relaxation Response, or just breathing deeply, letting go of physical tension and saying your word, phrase, etc. to yourself. This can be done whenever you feel you need to.

“Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.” – Baba Ram Dass

#CalmTip: Improve Your To-do List

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One great way to manage your time effectively — and, in turn, create calm — is to create a to-do list, or, as I like to call it an intentions list. But, if you’re not careful, your list can be overwhelming if you’re trying to cram too much stuff into one day. The solution? Improve your to-do list.

How?

Stop putting so much stuff on there! (Easier said than done, right?). Although I still struggle with this calm tip from time to time, here are a few things that have helped me:

Write it down! I actually hadn’t written this initially, but I realize that not everyone does this. I’ve always been a list person (I love lists!), so this comes easily to me. Anyway, to actually do what you need to do, you have to remember to do it. And that might be a little hard to do if you have a lot of things vying for your attention. This is why writing a to-do/intentions list helps. Try to get in the habit of writing down what you need to do the next day before going to bed.

Be realistic about how long each task takes. A lot of times, our issue is underestimating how long a task actually takes to complete (and I think this is especially true for entrepreneurs). It can help to track how long a task takes, say, over a week. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how your day could pan out.

Be realistic about what you can actually get done. Basically, you only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. Through trial and error, you can figure out how many tasks you can complete on an average day. And then there’ll be those other days when there are emergencies, fires that need to be put out, your kid won’t cooperate at nap time, etc. Which leads me to my next point…

Be okay with what you accomplish. Some days, you’ll check off everything on your list. Other days, nothing will get done, or you’ll only finish some things. It’s okay. That’s life. You can always try again tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world. Promise.

Put you on your to-do list. Making time for yourself every day is so important. You can read more about that here.

“Until we have managed time, we can manage nothing else.” – Peter F. Drucker

 

#CalmTip: Practice Mindfulness at Work

Practice mindfulness at work

It may sound a little weird, but when you practice mindfulness at work, you’re likely to stress less, focus more, and get more done. No, you may not be able to sit and meditate for 20 minutes, or break out a downward facing dog in the middle of the office, but here are some ways you can be mindful at work:

  1. Instead of  jumping right in when you get to work, take a few minutes to breathe, center yourself, and maybe even say a few affirmations.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time (as much as possible), and take your time.
  3. Be aware and notice what’s happening around you without judgement.
  4. When you’re conversing with someone, really listen to what s/he’s saying.
  5. At lunch, eat mindfully. Just eat without looking at your phone or checking emails, and really savor your food.
  6. Pay attention and be aware of any stress signals. For example, are your shoulders hunched, or is your jaw clenched?
  7. Allow yourself to take little breaks to close your eyes and breathe deeply.

“Mindfulness means paying attention; in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” – Jon Kabbat-Zinn

#CalmTip: Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I’d been feeling really bad for the last few days, and yesterday, I finally went to the doctor. Like I suspected, I have a sinus infection. I had a lot I needed to get done (I was supposed to post this yesterday, plus send my Inspiring Note — which will be sent today — among other things). I really, really wanted to push myself to at least get something done, but I knew I had to get some rest so I could feel at least somewhat better.

And that’s what I did, I gave myself permission to stay in bed all day. I did work for like an hour or so, but I knew that if I’d tried to do more, the quality of my work would’ve suffered, and I probably wouldn’t feel as well as I do today, which was especially important because my daughter returned from her grandparents.

So, I want to encourage you to give yourself permission to rest when necessary. Although you may not have the option to call in and/or stay in bed all day, if you need to, try to get some rest when you get home. You don’t want to try to push through the pain (if it’s really bad) and make yourself even more sick or end up feeling frustrated because you knew you should’ve just lay your tail down somewhere. Listen to your body; it knows what it’s talking about.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

#CalmTip: Know Your Stress Signals

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Stress (and worry and overwhelm and anxiety) manifests itself in different ways in each of us. When you become aware of your signals, you’ll be better able to handle your stressors when they come and be proactive instead of reactive to stressful situations.

Since I’ve begun to notice what my signs of stress are, I’m able to do something to combat the stress before it gets out of control.

Some of the signals are:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Feeling really tired/exhaustion
  • Frustration
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Racing mind/difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced productivity
  • Shoulders hunched/tense
  • Clenched jaw

Read more signs here.

To recognize your own signals more easily, regularly check in with yourself, and pay attention to what you’re doing and how you’re feeling — mentally and physically.

“When you release stress, you come home to yourself.” – Donna Eden

Photo Credit: 123rf.com/Michael Simons

#CalmTip: Take Care of You

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As women with lots of responsibilities, it’s easy to put ourselves on the backburner and forget about what we need. But we have to remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we ultimately burn ourselves out, become resentful, and are not be able to do what we need to. When you take care of you, you feel less stress and tension and have more peace and joy.

With that said, here are three ways you can start making sure you’re taken care of:

  1. Exercise. Working out relieves stress, and, of course, keeps your body and mind healthy and strong. You don’t have to do a one or two hour workout at the gym daily (unless that’s your thing). Fifteen to 30 minutes a day is beneficial as well. Just find what works for you, and get moving.
  2. Eat well, and stay hydrated. A couple of ways to improve your diet: 1. Meal plan (Determining what you and/or your family will eat for the week helps you incorporate healthier foods and can save you time); and 2. Gradually increase your fruit and/or veggie intake, and replace what you usually eat. For example, instead of grabbing a bag of chips for your afternoon snack, try veggie chips or carrot sticks. And to up your water intake, try a water tracker app or buy a bottle that lets you know how much you’ve drank. (by the way, you can find out how much you should be drinking here).
  3. Take time for yourself. Whether it’s five or 15 minutes, take time to just be with yourself (by yourself) daily. You can meditate, read, pray, visualize, whatever. I like to do this in the morning to prepare myself for the day ahead and again at night to decompress. Figure out what works best for you, then do that.
  4. Make sure you’re good emotionally and mentally. Regularly check in with how you’re feeling by literally asking yourself, ‘How do I feel right now?’ and checking in with your body, which can let you know if you’re feeling tense (like if your shoulders are hunched or jaw is clenched). You can also journal on a regular basis as a way of releasing any emotions you don’t want and figuring out how you can feel better.

“‘Taking care of yourself’ is not an extra thing to add to your to do list. It is the foundation of life.” – Sarah Yost

How do you make sure you’re taken care of? Share below by leaving a comment. : )

P.S. — Need help with this area of your life? Let’s work together one-on-one!

#CalmTip: Sleep

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Sleep. We all need it, but most of us don’t get nearly enough it. I know a lot of people love to post the whole ‘they sleep, we grind’ trope on social media, but let me tell you, I’m not ’bout that life. I love my sleep.

And while I do believe there are days when you have to sacrifice your sleep to get things done, it should not be a regular occurrence. #sorrynotsorry You cannot sustain a successful business/life with no rest!

Getting enough sleep can:

  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Help you think more clearly
  • Keep you from getting sick as much
  • Lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes

Trust me, I know how difficult it can be to get more sleep, especially when you have small children. But for what it’s worth, here are a few tips to try:

  1. Take a nap (if possible). Since I work from home — with my daughter here most days — it can be difficult to get everything done that I need to when she’s awake. I often end up working at night, after she goes to sleep, which means I usually don’t get as much as I’d like. So, some days when she takes her nap, I take one, too. It does wonders for my mood and productivity.
  2. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other chemicals that may hinder sleep for four to six hours before bedtime.
  3. Create a bedtime routine. You can read more on that here.
  4. Keep your internal clock set with a consistent sleep schedule. When you go to bed and wake up the same time daily, you set your body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time each night. Also, try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends; that way, you’ll fend off a Monday morning sleep hangover.

Need more tips for sleep? Get them here.

“Sleep is the best meditation.” – The Dalai Lama