10 Black Women Who Can Help You Find Your Calm

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the resources provided here at Black Mom’s Guide to Calm that help you find your calm (if you’re not, click here and here). And of course, I’m not the only one who can guide you; there are some other dope ass Black women out here provide products, services, and resources to make sure we’re calm, centered, cared for, and mentally well.

In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 Black women who can help you find your calm:

1. Dianne Bondy is a celebrated yoga teacher, social justice activist, and leading voice of the Yoga For All Movement. With over 1,000 hours of training, she helps her students find freedom, self-expression, and radical self-love in their yoga practice. Dianne shares her message and provides millions of followers with affordable access to online yoga classes, workshops, and tutorials at her virtual studio: Yogasteya.com.

2. Itiel McVay is the founder and owner of Smell Good Spa, purveyors of fine fragrance oils and hand-dipped incense sticks that blend creativity and wholesome ingredients together. It is the company’s belief that a whole woman deserves wholesome products; therefore, each raw-ingredient based bath, body, and home fragrance product can be customized with their signature scents, creating an aromatic spa-at-home experience for the woman who loves to live good, feel good, and smell good.

3. As The Body Relationship Coach™, Ivy Felicia helps people build a loving relationship with body and self. She is passionate about helping individuals learn to embrace the bodies they have right now and supporting them in learning to love themselves no matter what. Through her brand, Me, My Body, and Love, Ivy promotes body peace and provides empowerment, education, and encouragement for those who seek to embrace a body positive lifestyle by loving their own bodies and extending the same love and acceptance to others.

4. Created by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Georgia, Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Because the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy prevent Black women from taking the steps to see a therapist, Dr. Joy developed her blog to present mental health topics in a way that feels more accessible and relevant. Her primary areas of interest include break up and divorce recovery, depression, work-life balance, relationship skills, and self-esteem improvement.

5. Dr. Nadia Richardson is the founder of No More Martyrs, a mental health awareness campaign committed to building an online community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. By bringing together organizations from across the country that focus on the holistic wellness of Black women, the campaign serves as a clearinghouse of resources for living successfully with mental health concerns as well as virtual support for Black women who believe they are facing these issues alone.

6. Founded by Dr. Shanesha Brooks-Tatum, the Life Balance and Wellness Institute, Inc. (formerly the Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness Conference) supports Black women in their quest to live well and thrive. Their mission is to provide evidence-based tools and facilitate dynamic, creative relationships that support women in achieving and maintaining optimal wellness in all areas of life including physical, financial, spiritual, occupational, social, and emotional.

7. Suntia Smith, MSW,LISW-CP, is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist based in Greenville, SC. She uses proven emotion-focused techniques and cognitive behavioral methodologies to help her clients deal with everyday life and relationship struggles better. By taking a positive, proactive, and practical approach to emotional well-being, Suntia teaches others how to develop a stronger sense of self, so they can love deeper and live lighter.

8. Created by Tara Pringle Jefferson, the Bloom Beautifully Box hits women’s doorsteps every eight weeks, full of self-care goodies in the following categories: beauty, health/wellness, and personal development. Tara created the box because she knows just how difficult it can be for women to focus on themselves during the years where their time and attention is often required by someone else — their boss, their children, their family. She wants each box to feel like a deep exhale, a fresh reminder that while you are many things — an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home mom, a student– you are still you underneath it all.

9. Tracey Coretta Ferdinand is a writer and certified 200 hour vinyasa yoga teacher. Her writing inspires lifestyle transformations guided by self-love and self-care, and her mission is to encourage women and girls of color to live vibrant and healthy lives by exploring creative wellness practices.

10. Vernetta R. Freeney is the creator and producer of the podcast “A Toast to Truths” and founder of The Truth Confidant™, a training firm specializing in teaching mental detox as a way to increase your productivity and have peace each and every day of your life. Her assignment is to curb burnout for entrepreneurs, teachers, and corporate employees by teaching journaling as a daily mental detox to ensure productivity and creativity.

 

Creating Self-care and Calm Intentions for the New Year: 6 Things to Do

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 has gotten off to an amazing start. If you’re reading this, you probably already have set some goals for the year. But do you have self-care and calm intentions? Wait, what does intention even mean? An intention is “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” (healing.about.com) Having them helps us stay focused and on the right track with what we desire.

Why set intentions specifically related to calm? They will help you:

  • live from a space of peace
  • practice mindfulness and stay in the moment
  • stay calm and centered more often than not
  • create inner peace and contentment

With that said, here are five steps to create your own for 2017:

1. Get clear about what you want/need in your life. When it comes to finding your calm and practicing self-care, do you want to start a yoga practice pr meditate regularly? Or maybe you want to stay calm in stressful situations, get more sleep, or have more time to yourself. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you want and need so you can live from a space of peace, take a moment to get quiet, and ask yourself, ‘What do I need?’, then journal about it. Just write whatever comes to mind until you feel you have your answer.

2. Write it down. After you know what you want and need, write it down. As Erykah Badu said, “Write it down on real paper with a real pencil. And watch shit get real.”

3. Write affirmations. According to Chicken Soup for the Soul co-creator Jack Canfield, “an affirmation is a statement of your goal or desire now realized in the present time.” They are statements you can write down/record, then repeat and/or listen to regularly so you bombard your subconscious mind with the thoughts, images, and feelings you’d be experiencing if your goal was complete already.

Your affirmations should be positive and in present tense. For example, “I am calm and centered,” or “I choose to practice self-care daily.” Here are some to choose from or to draw inspiration from.

4. Schedule it. If your intentions include specific practices like yoga, meditation, reading more, or exercise, write down the days and even times you’ll practice in your planner or calendar, or create a reminder on your phone. That way, you’re more likely to stick with what you want to do.

5. Start small. Doing this will help you stick with your intentions as well. If you try to do too much too soon, you might get overwhelmed and give up because it seems difficult. So, for instance, if you want to start a home yoga practice, consider starting with a few stretches in the morning and/or before you go to bed or doing a five or 10 minute sequence. If you want to begin meditating consistently, start with 10 deep breaths or a 1-2 minute meditation daily.

6. Find tools and resources to help you stay on track. YouTube is a great place to find meditation music and yoga videos. You can also use a resource like The Black Girl’s Guide to Calm Experience for tools that will help you find your calm.

 “Stress is not what happens to us. It is our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose.” – Maureen Killoran

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Black Mom's Guide to Calm

 

 

#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

8 Spiritual Practices That Keep Me Grounded & Centered

 

Black Mom'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. Many times, I use crystals 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, and occasionally, 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 that happened the day before in my gratitude journal, or I make a list of things I’ve taken for granted that I’m thankful for.

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 say what comes to mind/how I feel, and 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 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: 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)

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


 

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.

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: Ask for Help

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As Black women, it can be difficult for us to ask for help. It’s been ingrained in most of us to be the “strong Black woman,” meaning we’re supposed to handle whatever life throws our way on our own; we’re not supposed to show signs of weakness, vulnerability, or needing help.

After I had Nailah, it was hard for me to ask for help even though I knew I needed it (and sometimes, admittedly, it still is. And I didn’t want to ask for a number of reasons: I felt like since I was her mother, I needed to be responsible enough to handle everything; if I admitted that I needed help, it would be a sign of weakness; and I felt guilty for needing help because I worked from home, so how hard could it be to do everything (and do it well?) /sarcasm. I finally realized we all need assistance sometimes, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. Needing help simply means we’re human  (welcome — there are, like, 7 billion of us). It’s important to remember that we can’t do everything on our own. So, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need; you totally deserve it.

“Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.” – Anne Wilson Schaef

#CalmTip: Practice Self-Care Daily

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Since I’ve become a mama, I’ve realized that when I make an effort to take care of myself, I’m much more at peace and am better able to handle the curve balls throughout the day. Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of time to practice self-care every day. Even 10-15 minutes is beneficial . Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Read a novel.
  • Do nothing.
  • Catch up on one of your shows.
  • Spend time with a loved one.
  • Do yoga or exercise.

Get a free PDF with more ideas here.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” – Deborah Day