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

Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

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