Self Care ’17

 

We are three months into 2017, & I am so glad that both mental wellness and self-care  are becoming a constant topic of discussion this year. It’s important, though, that people recognize that mental wellness and self-care are not trends. This is a lifestyle, & is not something to “get into” just because your favorite YouTuber or IG personality is into it too. That can certainly be your inspiration, but remember the goal is to create lifestyle changes, not temporary changes. If you’re committed to being your best self, being in tune with your body, your mind, & your spirit, then it’s time you start your own self-care journey. 

As a part of my own personal self-care journey, I started a hashtag on my social media accounts called #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday. It’s often hard for people to take the necessary time to take care of themselves, & honestly, I still struggle sometimes. I’ve talked about the importance of taking care of yourSELF in a previous post, you can read it hereSo on Tuesdays I am encouraging my social media friends to be intentional about taking some “self time” & doing something that will make themselves feel good. Once you start with at least one thing, once a week, you’ll look up & be doing something to take care of you every day. 

Taking care of yourself is different for everyone, but there are some staple practices that you can implement in your journey. I’m going to share 4 of my favorite self-care practices, in no particular order, as a source of inspiration. They are:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Coloring 

So what is meditation, exactly? There are many myths and misconceptions about meditation, especially in the African-American community. People tend to be skeptical about practicing meditation, & honestly, I’ve experienced some opposition of the practice in my own personal relationships. So the first piece of advice I can share is: do your research. Learn about meditation and the practice before automatically refusing to give it a try. Meditation exists in different forms & fashions for different people, & there isn’t a strict, right way to meditation (despite what some people may tell you). You have to find what practice works for you, at the point you are currently at in your own journey. I also suggest starting in small time increments. When I first began meditating, 10 minutes was way too long for me–I had difficulty getting my mind to be “quiet”, & I struggled sitting still for 10 minutes straight. After doing some reading & research, I decided to start small, & work my way up. I started with 3 minute meditation sessions, & I am currently at 5 minutes in the morning & at night.  The goal is to slow down & find peace–your mind should be calm, silent, & rested, but still alert. Meditation gets you to focus on the present, & turn inward, instead of focusing on the external world. The one thing I can tell you meditation is not, is a religion. Though different religions may practice meditation, meditation is something completely different & you don’t have to sacrifice your religious beliefs to practice it. Again, I encourage you to research & find the best practice for you; there are apps like the Calm, Headspace, or Simple Habit that can be helpful as well. Here’s a great article I read, if you are interested in learning more about meditation.

I meditate every morning, night, & sometimes in the middle of day. As mentioned before, I am currently practicing 5 minute sessions & still working my way back up to a larger amount of time. I also meditate with music, using a playlist that I found on Apple Music. I sit with my back straight, legs crossed, with open palms rested on my legs. This is a position that is comfortable for me, but there are other options to choose from, like moving meditation. During a session, I make sure I breathe & try not to get frustrated if my mind tends to wander. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get, so it is important to stay encouraged & keep working at it. I also recently started a 30 day meditation challenge, with Faith Hunter via DoYouYoga. It’s been a great source of inspiration to see a spiritual, African-American woman who practices meditation (& yoga). The sessions are longer than my 5 minute sessions, but it helps having guided videos to help me along the way. 

 

 I love to write & create, as you can see…but there is something that is so therapeutic about journaling. I’m not going to bore you with the many ways journaling can be beneficial to you mentally & emotionally, because I’m sure you already know this. For me, it is a great release being able to put my thoughts & feelings on paper. I can be open & honest, without the fear of having to account for what I’m saying to someone else. I usually sit for about thirty minutes at night & write. That’s it. I sit quietly at my desk & pour out whatever I have held within myself for the day. It helps me address issues & feelings head on, process things, & move on. You can find a cute journal almost anywhere, but I purchased mine from TJMaxx. There are also many journal challenges floating around on social media, if you need writing inspiration. So, grab a pen, sit down, get comfortable, & write. 

I keep a separate prayer journal & an additional prayer journal for my future husband (yes, I am still single, but I am praying for the spouse I know God has for me. We can chat about that later though.)

 

I am also a newbie Yogini. There are so many great resources out there if you want to learn more about the practice of yoga itself.  Here’s one that I found to be very helpful. I honestly chose to begin practicing yoga because I thought it would be a great pair with my meditation practice. I also had some superficial reasons, like wanting to be to do a split or a complete forward fold. Over time, as I have started researching & reading about yoga, my intentions behind it have shifted & aligned with my mental health efforts. I also enjoy the physical benefits from practicing yoga, since stress & anxiety carry over into the condition of my body. I recently started a 30 day yoga challenge too, also via DoYouYoga, & I also take classes with one of my favorite professors/people. (Shoutout to her if she’s reading!)

My yoga journey has not been perfect. There are times when I am inconsistent, miss a class/day, forget to breathe while in a session, or get distracted by my flexibility (or sometimes lack thereof). But it’s a journey, not a destination, so I am determined to keep at it. I’m excited to see how I feel emotionally & physically once I finish the 30 Day challenge. 

It may sound “childish”, but I love to color. I had no idea when I began tending to my mental health, that one of my favorite childhood activities could serve as a huge benefit mentally. Coloring allows the mind to enter into a meditative state (without having to actually practice meditation), giving the brain time to relax.  So if you’re skeptical about actual meditation, give coloring a try. As someone whose brain is constantly in motion, I always need time to give my brain a break. Coloring can also potentially lower stress & anxiety levels, while opening your mind to more positive energy. It’s a great way to calm down and relax. When doing research on how I could make coloring a self-care practice, I came across a great Huffington Post article that discussed the ways coloring can help with different mental & emotional health issues. You can read it here. If you experience anxiety like I do, coloring can be a great practice for you.

I purchased my crayons and coloring book from Target, but you can get them almost anywhere. There are even “adult” coloring books, but I just pick books that look great to me. I usually sit at my desk & color for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on my mood, or what I need from my coloring session, I might play music or listen to a podcast. Otherwise, I limit all other distractions. Not only do you feel relaxed, but you get great pictures to look at as well. 

Self-care doesn’t always come with a price tag. I enjoy getting pedicures, massages, etc. but those are not the only ways to practice self-care. Meditation is free, all it takes is your body, mind, & some quiet space. Cleaning your home is also free. There are many other practices that you can do right in your own home that cost nothing–take a nap, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, give yourself a hug, etc. 

What are you your self-care practices? I’d love for you to share some of them with me! It’s important that you develop your own self-care routine & tailor it to your needs. These practices may work for me, but they may not work for you & that is okay.  Try different things out, see what you like, get rid of what you don’t like. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself or progress. Remember, its a lifestyle journey. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to new possibilities & experiences–you’d be surprised what your mind (& body) are capable of. Take care of yourself & your mental health!

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve with an empty vessel.” x Eleanor Brown

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

I have struggled with my confidence, both physically & internally, for as long as I can remember.

As my readers know, when I was a little girl in elementary school, I was teased because my lips are big. I would be called names & made fun of & cry. The only person who took up for me was my first grade teacher–she told my peers that people paid to get lips like mine, that my lips were sexy, & that they needed to stop talking about me. Because I didn’t feel pretty, I was awkward & self-conscious. Then, over time, the teasing became focused on my weight. I have always been “skinny”, but people never seem to be able to accept that. I’ve been asked if I’m hungry, if I even eat, people offer me food, etc. I’ve even been told that if I turn sideways, I will be invisible. Picture that.

I’ve always been the “odd ball out”. I was never super popular in school (honestly, most people didn’t even like me). I wasn’t class president or one of the people picked for class superlatives, & always felt like I was sitting on the sidelines when it came to other people. I constantly got passed over for things & always felt like I was alone. I was insecure, shy, & reserved. I began to think there was something wrong with me. I began to think that my personality wasn’t “right”…so I put up a wall & changed things about myself to try to fit in with those around me. 

My low-self esteem both mentally & physically transpired into all areas of my life. I’m blessed that this battle rarely showed itself to other people, it was mostly something I dealt with on my own. So over time I began to make some changes to be happier with me, & I learned something along the way.


I am fearfully & wonderfully made, & God created me the way He intended me to be. He took his time when He created me, & because of that I am a fan of His work.

In order for me to see a positive change in my confidence, I had to look inwardly at myself first. Although I knew I had some insecurities with my physical appearance, I knew that these insecurities had a lot to do with my mind & the things I thought about myself. I had let what other people said about me change how I felt about Anaston. I worked on things that I knew I needed to work on within myself–mainly my attitude. Once I began to do the work on the inside, it was easier for me to work on the outside.

I had to realize that the only person who has to be okay with my physical appearance is me. I have the features I am supposed to have, & I am the size I am supposed to be. I have always been healthy, & food has never been an issue for me. I’ve realized that people will always have negative or rude comments about my size, but because I am okay with it now their comments do not affect me. I decided that I have a “goal” weight, & I am on the track to achieve that in a healthy way that works for me; however, If I stay this size for the rest of my life, that’s okay as long as I am healthy. 

I’ve also decided that in 2018 I will no longer entertain comments about my weight. I am going to start telling people that I do not appreciate their opinion & ask them to keep those comments to themselves. I am even willing to take it a step further & say the opposite of what people say to me. Maybe if I repeat their comments to them, they will see how hurtful it can be. (I doubt I actually do this, but there are times I wish I could._

It is also important to realize that we all have our own personal weight struggles & there is something about us that others desire to have. It is often the things we want to change that another person would be grateful for. 

Do you struggle with your confidence? Accept yourself first, exactly as who you are right now in this moment. Look at yourself in the mirror & affirm that you are beautiful. If there are things about your physical appearance that you don’t like, set goals for yourself. What can you change? Is it worth the change? Who are you trying to please? Once you can answer these questions, you can begin the work that you need to do. Be content with the progress, you won’t feel 100% confident every single day, it is a process (one that I am still working on). The important thing is to not let your insecurities take control. Be active in the work that you do, step out of your comfort zone & you will see the positive changes you desire. For example, if you don’t like looking at your reflection, put up mirrors all over your living space. Not only will you have fun decorating, but you’ll learn to be comfortable with yourself. I have mirrors everywhere, not because I am vain or narcissistic, but because I remember a time when I didn’t like who looked back at me. Now that I love her, I want to see her all the time. 

 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

“When you are comfortable in your own skin, you are beautiful…Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing who you are.”  x Anonymous

Take Care of Your Star Player.

 

So this concept of “star player” came from a Katt Williams stand-up skit from the 2008 It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour (I believe). Basically its like everyone around you (I use “everyone” loosely) is on your team & you are the star player. You should watch the skit, its quite funny. I like the concept, even though how I am using it isn’t 100% the same as what he is talking about.

On sports teams aren’t the star players well taken care of? Of course! The MVPs of the team pretty much get what they want. They get the best treatment & all the perks. So as the star player, you must take care of yourself the same way. Give yourself what you want & the treatment you deserve! Have all the perks! You can’t spend all of your time focusing on the people around you, making sure they are taken care of & happy, etc. If you do, you leave nothing left for yourself.

This summer has been a journey for me to get back to focusing on myself after spending my adult life taking care of/primarily worrying about other people. My main focus, for as long as  I can remember, was my Granny. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about her, her health, & how things were at home. A lot of the decisions I made were also made with her in mind. I didn’t ever want to be too far away that I couldn’t go home & see her regularly. In March of this year, my Granny passed away. Her physical absence left me with these feelings of “what do I do now?” & “who do I worry about now”. I was forced to turn my attention back to Anaston.

A part of getting back to focusing on myself was figuring out how to actually take care of myself–physically & emotionally, & spiritually. I had to figure out things I liked/didn’t like, what I liked to do in my spare time, & my goals that weren’t tailored to my family life, etc.

So how do I take care of me? Here’s a list of some of my self-care practices, some of which were mentioned in my previous post about anxiety.

  • I go to church & pray often.
  • I journal.
  • I meditate.
  • Therapy.
  • I walk everyday (or at least try to).
  • I exercise.
  • I get (or at least try to get) a massage once a month.
  • I make sure I am eating enough & drinking enough water.
  • I write out affirmations.
  • I take at least thirty minutes a day for just myself everyday, free of outside distractions.
  • I try to do something fun every week.
  • I try to go to a new place in Savannah once a month.
  • I listen to music again.
Honestly, I believe going to church & really paying attention to my relationship with God has made a huge difference in my life. My spirit feels lighter, & I find that I am more at peace than I have been in a while. There’s something about being in a good church home that just makes me feel good.

Mostly I try to pay attention to me more, & I don’t apologize for it. When I make decisions I think about me first & how the decisions will affect my life before I consider how it will affect someone else. I am excited about learning new things about myself, & I am open to all of the growth that I am experiencing. I accept Anaston in the place that she’s in now, & look forward to the woman she will grow to be. I speak positively to myself & of myself. I’m focused on how I feel about me & how God feels about me. 

My Granny isn’t here physically, but she’s with me spiritually. Knowing that means she is still a part of everything I do, & because I know she’s in a place where she is more than taken care of, I find peace in taking care of me now too. I even try to enjoy some of the activities or practices that made her happy–it makes me feel like she’s here with me.

Do you treat yourself well? If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to function the way you want to in the other areas of your life. Start figuring out what makes you happy. Make a list of the things that you like to do, & make sure you do at least one of those things a month. Make sure that every day you have time to yourself. If it is challenging for you to find time to be intentional about your self-care, try participating in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement. Every Tuesday, challenge yourself to do at least one thing for you. One thing that will make you happy & feel good. If you don’t take care of your “star player”, your team will inevitably suffer. You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself, first.

 

“Don’t just be good to others, be good to yourself too.”

What About Anxiety?

 

In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.

Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.

So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:

anx•i•e•ty  

noun

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” 

I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.

Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my  own mind.

I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life. 

Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me. 

Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey. 

I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot. 

Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Hello, My Name is Anaston…

 

…& I am not depressed. I simply experience depression. There is a difference, & here’s why.

I recently watched a video on Facebook, posted by a gentleman named “Prince Ea“, where he talks about this concept “you are not depressed“. He said that what he was about to explain would change the life of the person viewing the video, & he was actually right.

He describes the person as the sky & depression as a passing cloud. Clouds come & go, but the sky is permanent–it lasts forever. Clouds always come & go, because they are not the sky. If clouds were the sky, when they “went” the sky would too. So if I am the sky, that means that I am always here. Depression, as the cloud, is something that comes & goes, but is not always here forever. The cloud may be frequent or rather large, but the fact still remains that it always goes…and as something that is always here, I am greater than anything that comes & goes. (It’s a short video, but definitely enlightening, so I recommend that you look him up on FB and watch it!)

Prior to watching this video, I recall conversations with close friends & family about how I was depressed or feeling like I was falling back into my depression. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning on a “down day” & think to myself: “Today, I am depressed.” By starting my “down days” that way, I was affirming so much negativity & it would follow me, like a cloud, throughout the duration of my day. Over time, this pattern caused the depression I was experiencing to follow me not just through my days, but through my life. Because I claimed it I became attached to it, & for a while it was all that I was.

After watching this video I have realized how important the things I identify with are. I no longer identify with depression. I have accepted that it is something that I have experience with, but I realize that doesn’t mean it has to be my entire being. It is not my story–it is simply one of many chapters in the book. 

Everyone experiences depression differently. My experience may be very similar or dissimilar to your own, & that’s okay. I am not a spokesperson for all things depression–I am simply sharing my walk with it & the self-care practices that have helped me along the way. For me, changing my mindset has helped tremendously. Because I can separate depression from who I am, I am able to get through the “down days” better & have hope that the happier days will return. 

I am no longer ashamed that I have experienced depression, though others have tried to shame me & call me crazy. I am not, & have never been crazy. Depression does not automatically mean you are crazy. It means you are human & sometimes life is challenging for you. I challenge you to Google the word “crazy” & refrain from using it to describe people just because they experience depression.

Mental health awareness is something that is very important to me, & I am so glad that more people are starting to talk about it. Working through my challenges & learning why they occur has allowed me to love myself fully. My experiences have made be a better person, a stronger person, & I believe they were all necessary for my journey. 

Do you currently identify yourself with depression? If so, I want you to watch that video & make this the last day where you lay claim to depression. Make an effort to separate what you experience from what you are or who you are, & I know that you will see a positive change in your life. There are many ways to go about ensuring this separation, one being that you can name the depression you experience. I’ve heard it works for some people, so if you try it, let me know! You can also develop a mantra or a daily affirmation to remind yourself that you are not your depression.

P.S–It is also equally important to know what it is you are dealing with. Please do not accept a diagnosis that you are unsure of. I honestly self-diagnosed myself when I first noticed the signs of depression, but within the last month or so it became extremely important for me to be evaluated & learn exactly what I was dealing with. There are therapists that conduct assessments/evaluations, which are separate from therapy if you’re not interested in that. So I do highly suggest that you consider having an assessment done to learn what is affecting you. Once you know, it will be much easier to deal. 

 

“Remember, sadness is always temporary. This, too, shall pass.” x Anonymous