On Taking Care of My Mental Health

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As a Black person in the South — and really, as a Black person in general — mental health and wellness is something rarely talked about, and when it is, you’re told to simply “pray about it” or “Jesus will fix it.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying if it brings you comfort and peace, but for many people dealing with mental health issues, it isn’t enough.

My journey to taking my mental health more seriously started after having my daughter. Being a first-time mama was incredibly overwhelming, and I found myself feeling frustrated and disappointed most of the time, particularly because I felt like I didn’t have enough help from my husband. And looking back, I believe I was dealing with some post-partum depression as well.

The breaking point came when my husband asked me if I still wanted to be with him. That was when I realized I had to do something different, not just for the sake of my marriage, but so I could feel better and more at peace.

I wrote new affirmations around how I wanted to feel, and because I’m a researcher by nature, I Googled ways to better my marriage and myself. Through my research, I rediscovered meditation and began my practice, which also led me to restarting my yoga practice and really focusing on taking care of myself. As cliche as it sounds, these practices literally changed my life. In addition to feeling more calm, grounded, and centered, I now know how to tap into my inner peace whenever I need to.

Of course, I’m human, so I still deal with stress, and I have anxiety as well, so making sure I include my mental health as a part of self-care practices is an important part of my daily life. Some ways I do so (that you can, too) include:

  • Meditation and yoga
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Taking social media breaks
  • Saying affirmations
  • Reading inspirational books
  • Listening to inspirational podcasts
  • Going to therapy

Whether you’re dealing with a mental illness or the stress of your daily life, I encourage you to begin making your mental health and wellness a priority.

“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – from”Approaching the Natural: a Health Manifesto”

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.

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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

Simple Tips for Getting Through a Sh*&ty Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

A little background: We have some bills but weren’t/aren’t sure how we’re going to pay them. So, I’d been reading about the Law of Attraction (LOA) (books and blog posts). I set the intention; I let go of how I thought it should happen; I focused on feeling good and just went about my daily life.

Fast forward to today and nothing had happened. Well, the intention I set didn’t manifest when I wanted it to. Of course, I was starting to feel anxious, I was panicking, freaking out, and trying to figure out what the hell we’re going to do. I Googled what to do when it feels like your life is falling apart law of attraction,” and I found this article, Manifesting When The Shit Is Really Hitting the Fan, which I highly recommend.

Here’s what I’ve done to help myself feel at least a little better and process things:

1. Cry

I let myself be sad, frustrated, sad, scared. All of the things I’ve read about the LOA says you should always feel good. Well, I don’t believe that’s possible because 1) Shit happens; and 2) You’re human. When yucky things happen, you’re going to feel, well, yucky. Here’s what Kelli says:

“Right now, you are being invited to release a shitload of energy that is holding you back, and the more you release, the more room you make for that better energy to flow in. The more you release, the more room you make for all sorts of things to show up for you…”

2. Yoga and meditation

It might not make you feel better immediately, but in the time you’re practicing, you’ll be able to clear your head and gain a little peace. 10 or 20 minutes will help.

3. Smudge.

This is burning herbs, mainly sage, to clear negative energy from yourself or your space. You can find sticks at new age stores or even make your own. 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 your body in front of you and behind it. While smudging, you can also 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.

4. Mirror work

In a nutshell, this is when you look in the mirror and affirm yourself/give yourself a pep talk. I went into the bathroom and just told myself what I needed to hear; it wasn’t planned or written down. I just said whatever came to me for a minute or two.

5. Affirm how you want to feel

Determine how you want to feel: happy, content, peaceful, secure, etc. Then repeat affirmations related to that feeling; look some up, or write/say your own.

6. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping)

According to Brad Yates, author and energy worker, “EFT is a wonderful tool for removing the uncomfortable emotions that limit our success.” I love using this when I’m feeling anxious or worried about a situation. I primarily use Brad’s YouTube channel, and I also love this video from Abiola Abrams.

7. Laugh

It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and it really does boost your mood when you’re feeling down. I usually listen to the 2 Dope Queens Podcast for a laugh.

8. Listen to music

I think we all know music is therapeutic. Turn on your favorite tunes and chill, cry, or dance. Whatever feels best.

9. Vent

A few ways to do this: Let it all out in your journal, tell a trusted friend what’s going on, or talk to your Higher Power. Or do all three. You’ll probably feel a lot better, and you might even come up with solutions.

10. Practice self-care

When you’re in a slump, it’s easy to just wallow and forget to do basic things like eat or drink something. Make sure you’re taking care of you.

11. Forgive yourself

If things seem to be going awry in your life, you might be running down a list of all the things you think you did wrong to make it happen. While it’s important to acknowledge and learn from mistakes you may have made, there’s no point in continuing to dwell on it. Recognize your role — if any — then forgive yourself, and let it go.

12. Know it’s going to get better

When you’re in a fvcked up time in your life, it’s hard to see how you’ll get out of it. It feels like it’s going to last forever. Logically, you probably know this isn’t true. But you just can’t see a way out at the moment. What to do: Try to recall all the other sh*&ty times in your life and how they all turned around at some point. It. Will. Get. Better.

“This, too, shall pass.”

How do you get through a sh*&ty day or period in your life? Let us know by leaving a comment! 

5 Free Ways to Practice Self-Care Daily

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Many times, when people hear the word “self-care,” they think of being whisked away for a weekend getaway or having an entire day of pampering complete with massages, facials, and beauty treatments. And while those things are amazing and have their place, taking care of yourself can be simple, and best of all, free(!) which, to me, is really important because taking care of yourself is something that needs to be done at least a few days a week. It shouldn’t be reserved for when you’ve worked X-amount of hours or have Y-amount of money.

Additionally, it’s important to note that self-care also entails taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. With that said, here are five free ways you can practice self-care daily; and if not daily, at least a few days a week — because you deserve it!

1. Meditation and yoga.

Your practice doesn’t have to be long; even 10 or 15 minutes will help. Not only will it bring you more calm and inner peace, it also helps you live in the present moment and brings your mind, body, and spirit in harmony.

Ideas: Try YouTube or this yoga sequence.

2. Exercise. 

Of course, there are the physical benefits, but other benefits of working out include improving your mood and reducing stress, promoting better sleep, and making you feel happier.

Ideas: Go for a walk, or check out Blogilates or Hang Tight With MarC.

 3. Read

This is one of my favorite self-care practices, and I find it works best when reading fiction or inspirational memoirs and autobiographies/biographies. Reading, like the other activities, reduces stress and puts you in a better mood, it improves your focus, and develops your creativity.

Ideas: One of my favorite fiction authors is Christina C. Jones (available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited); and a few of my favorite memoirs/autobiographies: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Life in Motion by Misty Copeland, and The Healing by Saeeda Hafiz.

4. Spend some time in nature

According to an article from MedicalDaily.com, taking a walk in nature can reduce depression, improve your mood, and boost your overall well-being and mental health. Being outside can also helps you sleep better and gives you a much-needed break from technology.

Idea: Take a nature walk or have a picnic at the park.

5. Do something that makes you laugh and/or brings you joy.

In the midst of our day-to-day activities, it can be easy to forget to make time for our pleasures. So, figure out what brings you joy, then make time to do at least one of those things daily.

Idea: Listen to funny podcasts, make a list of the things that make you happy, and choose a different one each day; listen to music you enjoy.

BONUS TIP: The best way to make daily self-care a habit is to schedule it. When you’re planning your day or week, actually write down the activity — or activities — you’ll do; that way, you’re more likely to actually follow through with them.

What are some ways you practice self-care? Let us know by leaving a comment! : )


Get 20 more tips for practicing self-care for free in The Black Girl’s Guide to Calm Experience! Click here to learn more.

Out With the Old, In With the New: My Intentions for 2016

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Happy 2016! I hope you all had a safe and fun time bringing in this new year.

In the past, I’ve created goals for a new year, but this year, I decided to write intentions. Why? Because intentions help me become clear about what I really want and it allows me to not worry so much about how something will happen. Instead, I take inspired action, then allow Spirit/the Universe to let my intentions manifest. That’s not to say that goals and action don’t have their place (they do), but intentions just feel less rigid than goals.

What’s the difference?

According to zigizen.com:

Goals focus on a fixed outcome in the future, while intentions focus on the present and provide the guiding light to living mindfully moment-to-moment.

Goals are an effort to achieve a set of results in the future, which we accomplish or fail to reach based upon the objectives and actions we take along the way.

Intentions help point us with more clarity toward our heartfelt aspirations and values.

My intentions for 2016 are:

  1. Practice mindfulness; stay present.
  2. Have a lot of fun.
  3. Be happy.
  4. Be a profitable entrepreneur.
  5. Let go of what doesn’t serve me.
  6. Practice self-care.
  7. Love; express love instead of judgment.
  8. Do me.
  9. Step out of my comfort zone.
  10. Be the best version of me (in every area of my life).

To make these intentions a reality, I’ll further define the inspired action I’ll take, and I’ll write them down every morning.

Here’s how you can create your own intentions:

  1. Determine what you really want to see happen in your life and how you want to feel and be, then write short sentences describing it.
  2. Next, figure out what inspired actions you can take to bring your intentions to life.
  3. Write down your intentions at least once a week.
  4. Feel good about what you want, then watch everything come together.

Here are a few quotes to inspire you:

“Our intention creates our reality.” – Wayne Dyer

“Live your dream. Create your life. Lead with intention.” – Leslie Schwartz

“Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

“It is more important to be of pure intention than of perfect action.” – Ilyas Kassam

Photo Credit: Ruslan Gilmanshin

Confessions of A Meditation Teacher

 

confessions of a meditation teacher

The past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic for me. My husband and daughter were sick last week, and I guess I caught whatever they had last weekend (thankfully, I’m much better now), I’m working on things for Black Girl’s Guide to Calm (and I’ve been playing a little catch-up), working on an editing project, getting ready for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend, and not to mention everyday life. Needless to say, I was (and still am a little) stressed and overwhelmed.

And it feels kinda weird (and maybe even wrong?) to say that. I mean, here I am, a meditation teacher, someone who shares information and inspiration about finding calm, stressing less, and taking care of oneself daily. It’s almost ironic really, but as the saying goes, “We teach best what we most need to learn.” And something I’m still working on learning is not letting life overwhelm me, practicing mindfulness, and listening to my body and mind when it comes to taking care of me. I’ve gotten a lot better at these things, but I still need to make some improvements.

Sometimes, I wish I was at the point where I could let things roll off me like water off a duck’s back, but I’m not there yet (and I don’t know that I’ll ever be). But is that really necessary?  As long as I know what to do when those moments occur, I’m sure I’ll be fine.

And here’s what I’ve been reminded of these past couple of weeks:

I’m human, and I’m a work-in-progress. Even as someone who promotes and teaches calm, I’m not always perfectly calm and centered, I have my moments, too. And that’s okay (and normal!).

Calm isn’t a destination per se; I think it’s a journey, and while you can live from a space of inner peace for the most part, you’re gonna have crazy, stressful, hectic, overwhelming moments — that’s life. So don’t beat yourself up when you feel like you’re about to go crazy. Instead, remember that you’re human, and figure out what you need to do to get to your calm space. It’s always there when you need it.

Listen to my body. I did okay at this, but I do have a tendency to push myself to do more even when I know I need to rest, especially when I have a deadline. But I’m learning more and more that if I don’t get the rest I need and take care of myself, my work won’t be its best.

And before I go, here are a few of my favorite affirmations for when I feel like I’m about to have a meltdown (I recite them while taking slow, deep, full breaths):

  • I am calm and centered.
  • Inhale peace; exhale overwhelm.
  • I have time to accomplish all I need to today.

Can you relate to this post? If so, let me know by leaving a comment!

Moving Past Mommy Guilt

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Last Sunday, Chris (my husband) and I had a cookout at our place. My mama wanted Nailah to spend the night with her and my daddy two nights in a row; however, I was a little hesitant. She’s spent the night with them a few times, but never more than one night. Anyway, Chris insisted that I let her stay because he said I needed a break. Which was true (don’t tell him lol).

Other than the two days a week she spends with her grandparents, Nailah’s pretty much with me 24/7. So yes, there are times I need a break because 1. It can be hard to get work done with her at home (at least when she’s awake); and 2. I don’t get a lot of sleep some nights because I’m still breastfeeding (working on weaning — if you have tips, let me know).

Even though I know I can use a break and I’m happy when I actually get one, I sometimes struggle with feeling guilty about needing/wanting that time. But what I’ve realized is that if I don’t give myself a break when I need to and if I don’t take time for myself, I can’t be the best mother because I’ll feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed.

If you’re a fellow mama, I encourage you to take breaks when needed. Not only will they help you be a better mother, you’ll be more effective in the other areas of your life and you’ll feel more calm, fulfilled, and joyful.

Is it hard for you to take a breather from your kid(s), or do you take breaks? Let me know by leaving a comment.

My Nighttime Routine

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

 

Last week, I wrote about creating a routine for when you get up in the morning. This week, I want to talk about how to create a routine before you go to bed.

Now, I have to admit, this is something I still struggle with. I think it’s because I work from home with a 1.5-year-old, so I do a lot of work-related tasks get done after Nailah goes to sleep, and most nights, by the time I shut things down, I’m too tired to do anything but read a little then fall asleep. But, I’m working on it because I know that it’s important to wind down before going to bed. One of the main reasons you should have a routine is so you can get as good a night’s rest as possible so you’ll be energized and ready for the next day.

With that being said, here’s what I try (or am going to start trying) to do before I go to sleep:

  • Stop working 30 minutes before I go to sleep. I’ve read that you should stop working an hour before bed. However, I’m not sure that will work for me at this time since while I’m working during the day, I’m also taking care of Nailah and the household. I do believe that there should be some period of time between when you stop working and when you go to sleep. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour is up to you.
  • Write my to-do list for the next day (I call it my intentions list). Doing this prepares me for the next morning since I’m not wondering what I need to do or just jumping from one task to the next with no direction.
  • Journal (I try to at least once a week). This one is on and off, but I’m working on trying to write in my journal at least once a week because it helps me process my thoughts, feelings, and emotions about what’s going on in my life. It’s cathartic.
  • Meditate. I try to do this for at least five minutes (10 is ideal).
  • Read affirmations and goals (and maybe visualize). For me (and lots of other people), nighttime is when my mind starts to wonder, I start overthinking, and sometimes, negative, fearful thoughts try to creep in. Reading my affirmations and goals and visualizing helps me to focus on something positive so I can fall asleep more easily and make sure something good is put into my subconscious mind.
  • Read a devotion (and maybe some of a book I’m reading). Another way for me to keep my mind on something positive.
  • Write in my gratitude journal. I write down at least five things I’m thankful for that happened during the day.
  • Pray. 

What do you do before going to be to help you keep your calm and get a good night’s sleep? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Photo Credit | 123rf.com (Cathy Yeulet)

Creating A Morning Routine That Works

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Do you start your day stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed? Maybe you need to create a morning ritual. It helps set the tone for a productive, calm, and overall more successful day.

I’ve found that when I do certain things right after I wake up, I feel a lot better during the day. Now, that’s not to say that everything goes perfectly and according to my plans, but when things do go off course, I handle them better because of some of the activities in my routine. I also feel more calm and ready for what the day will bring. I can definitely tell the difference in how I feel when I complete my routine and when I don’t.

Here’s what my morning routine looks like:

I usually wake up between 6 and 6:30 (I’ve always been an early riser), and I thank God for a new day. Then, I take Nailah (who’s usually still sleeping) with me to the kitchen so I can fix my breakfast: 2 whole grain waffles with peanut butter. I go back upstairs and sit in bed because, as I mentioned, Nailah is still sleeping most of the time. While I’m eating, I read a couple of devotions I have sent to my email, then read my affirmations, goals, and look at my Pinterest vision board (more on that in another post). I try to meditate before Nailah wakes up, but if I don’t get to, I wait until Chris (my husband) gets home, or I’ll wait until she takes a nap. That’s it. Simple, right?

You can, of course, create whatever routine works best for you, but a few things I suggest are:

  • Right when you wake up, feel excited and thankful for a new day (or at least try to).
  • Don’t pick up your phone and get on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Meditate, if possible. If not, take a moment for a few deep breaths.
  • Read something inspirational, whether it’s part of a book, a blog post, a scripture, or a quote.
  • Read or recite affirmations so you set the tone for an amazing day.
  • Try to be consistent with it, no matter what. Admittedly, I have days when I don’t feel like doing my routine, but like I said earlier, my day just isn’t the same without it. But if you happen to skip something one day (or a few), don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it the next morning.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

What does your morning routine consist of? Share below by leaving a comment!

Photo Credit: 123rf.com/Wavebreak Media LTD