#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

This, Too, Shall Pass: 18 Quotes and Affirmations for the Rough Times

 

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

Let’s face it: Some days are shitty. Even the most calm, cool, collected among us have days that just plain old suck. And when they occur, it’s easy to get stuck in a space of overwhelm, frustration, and feeling sorry for ourselves. Now, I’m not suggesting that you don’t have a right to feel the way you feel when things go wrong (you totally do!); you just don’t need to stay in that space. Reading and repeating inspirational words are one of  my favorite ways to get my mind back right. Here are 18 quotes and affirmations for the rough times in your life:

Quotes

1. “Every day is a new beginning, take a deep breath, and start again.”

2. “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next.” – Denis Waitley

3. “The things that go wrong for you have a lot of potential to become part of your gift to the world.” – Krista Tippett

4. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

5. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lena Horne

6. “Within you is the power to rise above any situation or struggle, transform into the brightest, strongest version of you EVER!” – Your Inner Sparkle

7. “This, too, shall pass.”

8. “Don’t forget that you’re human. It’s okay to have a meltdown. Just don’t unpack  and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where you are headed.” – Unknown

9. “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey

10. “When times get tough, the key is not to stay strong…the key is to stay grateful.” – Liv Lane

Affirmations

11. Happiness and peace are an inside job, so I choose thoughts that allow me to feel both.

12. ‘Every experience I have is perfect for my growth.” – Louise Hay

13. I got this.

14. No matter what’s happening in my life, I can always access that inner peace within me.

15. I let go of what I can’t change and do my best with what I can.

16. When I go with the flow, my life is easy and filled with joy.

17. I cannot control everything that happens to me; I can only control the way I respond to what happens. In my response, is my power.

18.  I handle life’s issues with a relaxed mind and body.

Do you have a go-to quote or affirmation for your tough times? Let us know by leaving a comment!

 

 

#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

 

3 Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One of my favorite (and probably easiest) ways to create calm is breathing. I know, you might be thinking, Uhhh, I breathe all the time, and I don’t feel any calmer. What are you talking about?

Well, to use your breath as a method to create calm, you have to breathe effectively. But before I tell you some ways you can do so, here are a few tips:

  • If possible, get somewhere that’s quiet and distraction-free.
  • These can be done with your eyes opened or closed (but obviously, if your eyes are going to be closed, don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or anything like that). Sit up with your spine straight.
  • You can also listen to some music to help you focus better. Search for meditation music or relaxation music on YouTube, Google Play, etc.
  • You can practice the techniques until you feel more relaxed.

Now, on to the three breathing techniques to try when you need to de-stress, relax, and find some calm.

 

1. Deep Abdominal Breathing (or, how you’re really supposed to breathe all the time.)

  1. Exhale all your breath, gently bringing your belly button back towards your spine.
  2. Inhale, puffing out your belly. Gently bring your breath up through your rib cage, then your chest.
  3. Slowly start to exhale, reversing the process. Exhale from the chest, allowing your rib cage then your belly to gently go down.

2. Equal Breathing

Use the same breathing technique as above. Count to four as you inhale, then count to four as you exhale.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Make a gentle fist with your right hand. Extend your thumb and last two fingers, leaving space for your nose.
  2. With your thumb, close off your right nostril, and exhale through your left.
  3. Using deep abdominal breathing, inhale through your left nostril then close it off with the last two fingers, and exhale through the right nostril.
  4. Continue by inhaling through your right nostril, closing it off and exhaling through the left.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you feel more relaxed.

 

“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 


Discover breathing techniques, various ways to meditate, and more in BeCalm Bootcamp: Meditation for Beginners! Click below to get all the details; we start August 15th.

#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

13 Mantras from Black Women to Start Your Day

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s March, and it’s Women’s History Month! To celebrate, I wanted to share a few quotes that you can use as mantras from Black women. These are great for when you wake up in the morning to set the tone for your day or when you need a little motivation and encouragement.

  1. “I am different. I am an original. And like everyone else, I am here to take up space in the universe. I do so with pride.” – Shonda Rhimes
  2. “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” – Janelle Monae
  3. “Fuck fear.” – Akilah Richards
  4. “Don’t allow other people to define what success is for you.” Tara Pringle Jefferson
  5. Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah
  6. “There is no happiness on a layaway plan.” – Abiola Abrams
  7. “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” – Maya Angelou
  8. “Success is only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own.” – Michelle Obama
  9. “Bring your best to the moment.” – Angela Bassett
  10. “Follow your heart. It will take you where you need to be.” – Erykah Badu
  11. “I believe in me more than anything in this world.” – Wilma Rudolph
  12. “Do what makes you happy in your personal and professional journey.” – Mahisha Dellinger
  13. “Start moving and the inspiration will come.” – Valorie Burton

Do you know of any quotes from Black women that should be added? Let us know by leaving a comment! : )

Photo Credit: langstrup/123rf.com
Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Try the Yoga Pose of the Month

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Happy March 1! This month’s yoga pose is reverse table top, and it stretches the front body while strengthening the core and arm muscles. This pose is also good for those who sit during work, and drive/travel a lot.

Reverse table top deeply stretches your upper body and opens your front body, including your shoulders, chest, abdomen, and spine, while improving your balance and posture. Opening your front body invigorates and energizes you, providing relief from stress and fatigue. The pose also strengthens your wrists, arms, butt, legs, and back.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms resting by your sides in staff pose.
  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place your hands about six to eight inches behind you, keeping your hips shoulder width-apart. Your fingers should be pointed toward your toes.
  4. On an inhale, press firmly into your hands and feet. Straighten your elbows, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades toward one another and lift your chest. Try to bring your chest, stomach, and knees into one straight line, parallel to the floor.
  5. Your legs should be active and firm, and your butt should be relaxed and lifted. Press down through your toes.
  6. If it feels okay, gently let your head go back so the crown faces the floor. You can gaze gently at the wall behind your or close your eyes. Continue breathing deeply.
  7. Hold for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, slowly lower your hips, then extend your legs back into staff pose.

Tips

  • Keep your shoulder blades moving toward one another, which will help to lift your chest.
  • Your thighs should be engaged the entire time.
  • Press your feet evenly into the floor.
  • Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists.

Modifcations

  • If you’re dealing with neck pain, or it feels compressed, don’t drop your head back. Instead, tuck your chin a little, bringing it to your chest.
  • Keep your arms active and straight.
  • If you have trouble keeping your hips up, use a yoga block, bolster, or stack of blankets under your hips to support your pelvis, allowing your weight to rest.
  • If you have less strength and/or flexibility, you can practice reverse table top pose with your hands on the edge of a chair that’s secure against the wall. Hold on the edges of the seat of the chair, then lift into the pose.

 

“Those who practice yoga have joy within, delight within, and radiance within.” – Bhagavad Gita

My Secret to Finding Calm (Almost) Daily

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Here at Black Girl’s Guide to Calm, I teach various ways to create calm. Most of what I share are things I do and/or have done myself, so I’m speaking from experience and what works for me. But I’ve never really shared how I find my calm on a daily basis in a post, so here’s what a typical day looks like when my daughter, Nailah, is home with me (because those are the days I have the most going on):

I usually wake up around 5:30, 6 (Side note: This is because I’m naturally a morning person; I’m not suggesting you get up that early unless you want to or have to). I set the tone for the day by reciting a prayer from the book, Speaking With Spirit, reading affirmations, and meditating or taking a few deep breaths. I also eat breakfast.

My husband, Chris, usually gets home from work around 6 or 7 AM, and most days, I hand over the reigns so I can shower alone (trying to shower with a two-year-old in the bathroom? Not fun.) and do yoga. I’ll either do my own practice, or I’ll do a 15 minute video from Yoga By Candace. If Chris is super tired or if he gets off later than normal, I’ll do some creative yoga (i.e., try to practice in the midst of the two-year-old’s chaos).

Tip: Ask for help when you need it. It took me a few months after Nailah was born to tell Chris that I needed him to watch Nailah so I could shower, meditate, do yoga, or just have a minute to myself. But I finally realized that even though I work from home, I still need — and deserve — to have time for me. Now, asking for help is no longer an issue of mine. For the most part. 

After I get Nailah settled with her toys and everything, it’s time for me to get to work. I know exactly what needs to get done because I write my intentions/to-do list before going to sleep at night.

Tip: Do not (I repeat DO NOT) try to cram a bunch of things into your day. If you try to do too much, you’ll only drive yourself crazy trying to get it all done, or you’ll be beating yourself up because you didn’t get to everything. Also, leave space between so you can take breaks.

As I’m working, I’m also, of course, making sure Nailah isn’t getting into things, getting her snacks, potty training, etc., and throughout the day, I’ll play with her a little, which I use as a break from work, and we’ll also walk to my sister-in-law’s across the street to get out.  I’m able to get things done when she’s awake by staying as focused as possible and making sure she has something to pay attention to, whether it’s her toys, Sesame Street on TV, or letting her watch YouTube on my phone (judge if you must).

After we have lunch, Nailah takes a nap for an hour or two (and some days, I’ll take one for about 30 minutes or so), and that’s when I’m able to get a lot accomplished. I work a little more after she wakes up, then around four, I put my computer away to cook dinner since Chris leaves for work around 5:30. Unless it’s a day like yesterday, when we ordered pizza so I could finish something I was working on (*hint, hint*). And when I cook, I’ll usually get Chris to watch Nailah so I have a little time to myself (sort of).

Tip: I try to make sure I’m taking full deep breaths throughout the day, and if I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I’ll stop, and take 5-10 breaths to center myself. Also, I do my best to practice mindfulness, and I often do a body scan to see if I’m holding any tension. I relax my shoulders, and make sure I’m not clenching my jaw and that the space between my eyebrows is relaxed.

We eat dinner, then I clean up the kitchen and living room. (Side note: I generally do other chores like laundry and cleaning the bathroom on the days Nailah goes with her grandparents). She and I go upstairs to wind down so she can get ready for bed. If I have a lot of work to do, I’ll let her watch videos on my phone until it’s time for her to go to sleep. After she goes to sleep, I’ll get more work done except if it’s Thursday, I’ll place my computer to the side for an hour to watch Scandal.

And though I’m not always successful, I do try to unwind before going to bed so I’m relaxed and can sleep better, so I write in my gratitude journal, maybe read a little or do a word search, say a prayer, and visualize until I fall asleep.

I think the most important tip is to do your best. As women (and even men if there are any reading), we have a lot on our plates, and a lot of times, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make sure everything is checked off the to-do list or that everything is done perfectly. Let. That. Shit. Go. Just focus on doing what you can — whatever that may be — and be happy with what you get done. Let your best be good enough. Because it is.

To summarize, to stay calm throughout my day, I:

  • Meditate/breathe deeply
  • Read Affirmations
  • Pray
  • Do yoga
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Take breaks/rest
  • Have time for myself
  • Do what I can by doing my best
  • Practice gratitude

What do you think? How do you find calm during the day? Let us know by leaving a comment! : )

“Stress management is life management. If you take control of your stress, your life will thank you for it.” – Shereka Dunston


Stress less and create more calm in your life with The Black Girl’s Guide to Experience, launching on November 1st! Click below to learn more.

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

#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

Stress Relieving Yoga Sequence

As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, yoga is an awesome way to relieve stress. It can also enhance your mood, bringing you joy and happiness, and well-being.

With that being said, here’s a yoga sequence you can do when you need to relieve stress. And if you’re interested, you can get the printable here (or just right-click to save).

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Enjoy! xoxo