Finding Your Calm During Life Challenges

life challenges

Trust me, I know it can be difficult dealing with life challenges Like you, I deal with parenting woes, financial stuff from time to time, relationship stuff, feeling discouraged and the list goes on. And when ish happens, it’s easy for me to get stressed, overwhelmed and to start worrying and overthinking (maybe you can relate?). 

Fortunately, I’ve learned how to find calm in the midst of life’s curve balls (even though I sometimes have to remind myself to stay calm). And by doing so, I’m able to find my inner peace and get grounded and centered. These are some of my practices:

I breathe (literally).When I notice that my mind is racing with stressful thoughts, I pause and take 5 deep breaths or breathe until I feel calmer.

How to do it: Inhale through your nose, filling your belly with air like a balloon. Exhale through your mouth, creating a small o, and allow your navel to go towards your spine. Repeat 5 times or until you feel more relaxed.

I do my best to stay in the present moment. Your mind cannot occupy two thoughts at the same time. So if you find that your mind is filled with the stress of the future, bring your focus back to the moment; the more often you do this, the calmer you’ll feel.

How to do it: Take a moment to observe everything around you without judgement. Become aware of what you hear, smell, see and what you can feel. Also, single-task, focusing only on what you’re doing.

I meditate and/or do some yoga. Meditation is something I do daily, and because of it, I tend to worry a lot less than I used to, and I feel lighter and more at ease overall. Additionally, when I need some extra grounding, I get on my mat for some yoga. 

How to do it: Take time daily, or a few days a week, to meditate and/or practice yoga. All you need is 10 or 15 minutes per session

I do something to take my mind off of whatever I’m worrying about. I definitely believe you have to deal with whatever is happening in your life and your feelings, but sometimes, you just need to put your worries on the back burner for a little while. A couple of ways I do this are by reading or listening to a podcast or music. 

How to do it: Do something you enjoy that allows you to concentrate on something different for a bit.

I journal. When I find myself overanalyzing and worrying about a situation, I find it helpful to write it all down so that, for the most part, I get it out of my head and clear my mind.

How to do it: Write down whatever comes to you about your circumstances. Don’t worry about how it sounds, and don’t hold back. Get it all out.

I use affirmations. Whether we realize it or now, we’re constantly talking to ourselves, and the things we say have a big impact on our lives and how we feel. When I’m in the middle of a challenging moment, I sometimes find myself thinking negatively about myself and/or my life. To counter this, I recite affirmations which brings a sense of relief, calm and positive energy. 

How to do it: Say affirmations when you feel your thoughts going in a downward spiral of negativity. Some of my favorites:

  • Life is conspiring in my favor.
  • All is well in my world.
  • I choose to trust my journey.
  • Spirit has my back.
  • I got this.

I focus on the good. In challenging times, it’s easy for me to go down the rabbit hole of all the things that are supposedly wrong with me and my life which, of course, only makes me feel worse. So, in addition to keeping a daily gratitude journal, when I notice I’m doing this, I think of what I’m grateful for and even say it out loud. 

How to do it: Start keeping a gratitude journal, and write down 5 things you’re thankful for daily. Or, when you find that you’re focusing on everything that’s wrong, change your perspective, and list or say all the things you’re grateful for.

How do you find inner peace when dealing with life challenges? Or which of these will you try?

Accepting Where You Are In Life

Most of us had an idea of how we thought our lives would turn out, but it probably looks differently that what we’d initially planned or imagined. I, for example, never imagined myself getting divorced, co-parenting, building a business like Black Mom’s Guide to Calm  or even having the spiritual beliefs I do, and I thought I’d have my life “together” by 30-something. (We plan, God laughs, right?).

When I first felt like my life was falling apart and my plan went off course when I got separated, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to be married to this person forever (like I thought/planned) and the fact that I’d have to figure things out and start over. I admit: I still have moments when I’m like, “WTF happened?” and “How did I get here?” 

But fortunately, for the most part, I’ve learned to let go of how I thought my life should have/would turn out and accept where I am now. To do this, though, I had to learn a few things:

While I have some part in creating my life, I’m not in control of every aspect. I have to focus on what I can control and let Spirit handle everything else.

The past is the past. I can’t do anything about what’s already happened, so there’s no point in me worrying or stressing about it. Learn from your mistakes and missteps, let the rest go, and focus on moving ahead. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

Most things happen for a reason. I may not understand why certain things happen while I’m living it, but looking back, I can often see why. Sometimes, situations occur to get you to the next level of your life and to where you’re supposed to be.

Shift your perspective. When I find myself feeling down about where I am, I do my best to focus on the positive aspects and what I’m thankful for about my current situation.

Trust the journey. At the end of the day, I don’t know how life will unfold for me (none of us do). We just have to remember that all is well and that things are working in our favor. Trust Spirit and your process.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

 

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.

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: 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

#CalmTip: Declutter

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

According to zenhabits.net, here are some of the benefits of decluttering:

  • Less stressful. Clutter can be a lot of visual distraction and mental stress.
  • More efficient. Since there aren’t as many distractions, you’ll probably be able to focus better.
  • More peaceful. Your home will likely be more serene if it’s uncluttered.
  • Saves you time. If your home is cluttered, you’ll have to look for things, move things, store things, and take things out of storage. While decluttering takes time in the beginning, it’ll likely save you more time in the long run.

Since January is Get Organized Month, choose one of the strategies below and give it a try. If you find one too difficult, try another:

Start clearing a starting zone. Clear one area, which will be your no-clutter zone. Whether you start with the counter, your kitchen table, or the three-foot perimeter around your couch, make a rule: Nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything has to be put away. Once you have that clutter-free zone, keep it that way. And each day, slowly expand your no-clutter zone until it envelopes your entire house.

Schedule a decluttering weekend. You might not feel like doing a huge decluttering session at the moment, but if you schedule it for later this month, you can clear your schedule to make it happen. And if you have a family, get them involved. Have boxes and trash bags on hand, and plan a trip to a charity for items you’re donating. Although you may not declutter your entire house in one weekend, you’ll probably make a lot of progress.

Get more tips here.

“Organization isn’t about perfection, it’s about efficiency, reducing stress & clutter, saving time & money & improving your overall quality of life.” – Christina Scalise

 

 

#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

#CalmTip: August 4, 2015

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

August 1st-7th is Simplify Your Life Week! By simplifying your life, you invite more calm and peace in. One of my favorite sites, Zen Habits, has several ways to simplify your life which include:

You can read all the ideas here.