Pack Light

Listen to Pack Light

*cues Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”*

I have been working on a self-care activity for my coaching clients called “the emotional suitcase.” I was first introduced to this concept by Alex Elle and decided to adapt it not only for my clients, but also for myself.

If you were unaware, I am here to tell you: life can be challenging. As we journey through our own personal experiences, trauma and emotions tend to follow. We start to carry “things” around with us that shape who we are, how we feel, and how we navigate being. These emotions get stuffed into our emotional suitcase and start to take up room. Unless we intentionally unpack and evaluate what we are carrying around, we end up not having room for other emotions that we may need to carry. Before you know it, your suitcase is full. Maybe you have added another suitcase, and another suitcase, and now you are carrying around all this “stuff.”

Think of this concept like this–when you travel, you pack items according to where you are going and maybe who you are going with. When you return from your trip, you unpack so your suitcase is ready for the next adventure. So why not unpack emotions the same way? In order to live life as the best version of yourself, you have to consistently unpack & pack the suitcase.

While working on this activity and reflecting on my own suitcase, I realized that sometimes other people try to pack my suitcase for me. This is not healthy, by the way. If you let someone else pack for you before you go on a trip, is it not likely that they will forget something you need or pack the wrong items altogether?

In life, when other people try to pack your suitcase for you this often looks like someone trying to influence how you feel. They may try to explicitly tell you how you should feel or express how they feel so much that now their energy has spilled over into yours.

For example, there may be a shared experience that I am not stressed or worried about, but after talking to a person about the same experience, I am now stressed and worried just because they are. They have now packed an emotion in my suitcase, and I am stuck carrying it.

Moment of transparency: I have opened my emotional suitcase and am looking at all the emotions I have been carrying around. The biggest, and heaviest, is resentment. Resentment is defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Now, do not get me wrong, I am not a bitter person; however, I do recognize that there are some bitter feelings regarding some of the relationships in my life. This prevents me from moving forward with people at times, despite having worked through whatever issues we had previously faced. It also makes it hard for me to see them in a different light, because I am reminded of how I was treated. I recognize that I need to work on this, though, because I do not want anyone harboring resentment against me. But more importantly, I do not want to be bitter in any form or fashion.

Not every emotion in your suitcase has to be negative. There are positive emotions that can be packed, and it is imperative that you make room for these as well. That is why the consistent unpacking process is so valuable. Once you unpack everything you need to be able to pack emotions that will better serve you.

Personally, peace is an example of a positive emotion that has been tucked away in my suitcase. I say tucked away because it is not something that I have always packed and it took me time to recognize that it was even there. Even though I still experience anxiety and stress, it is a lot easier for me to have peace because I am making an effort to remain calm. Things always work out according to God’s plan in the end, so it does help the journey if I am not as worried or fearful.

What is in your emotional suitcase? Stress, anxiety, grief, or anger may be taking up space. You might be surprised and find love, joy, and understanding in there too. If this concept is new to you, it is time to do some work. Set some time in your schedule so that you can truly pay attention to this activity. You owe it to yourself. Life will always have ups and downs, but if you pack what you need, you will always be prepared for the ride.

“Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that…One day, all them bags gon’ get in your way.” x Erykah Badu

L is for Love, Pt. II

 

I wrote L is for Love a little over a year ago when I was heartbroken, disappointed, & at one of the lowest points in my life. Growing through that experience forced me to put the pieces of my heart back together again & fall in love with one of the greatest loves of my life…myself. Going through a break-up or a fizzling out of a relationship is never fun, & it is rarely ever easy. Figuring out how to enjoy your alone time, love yourself, & get back to happy can be hard, ugly, & full of ups & downs…but I did it. I did it before, I did it then, & I keep doing it every day. In a moment of transparency I want to share with you one of my most beloved practices on my journey of falling in love with myself.

I write myself love letters.


Dear Anaston,
I pray you love yourself. I pray you love yourself wholly, fully & as fiercely as the love you pray for & seek in other people.
I pray you love yourself when you are at your worst. When you are down to the bottom, tear-stained, battered, & broken. When your mind is working against you & you are anxious, afraid, & your faith is wavering. I pray you love yourself enough to recognize when you need to pour into you & that you are never too self-conscious to ask for help. 
I pray you are able to look at yourself in the mirror, stripped from everything that society & the world around you wants you to be & that you are happy with the woman who looks back at you. I pray you love yourself when you don’t get invited to that event & get passed over for that opportunity. When everyone is busy & the only person you have to come home to is yourself…and Pablo.
I pray you love yourself when you stumble & fall in this dating life. When he doesn’t answer your text messages or return your phone call. When you think “this could be something”, but it doesn’t work out. I pray you love yourself enough to stay the course & be confident that God has created the partner just for you.
I pray you love yourself when he comes. When he sweeps you off your feet & all your practice & work finally pay off. I pray that you can wrap yourself up & dive into the love that God talks about in the Bible. I pray you love yourself when you find yourself in love & you’ve traded your heart for his. I pray you love yourself when your routines change, when someone else is in your space, & when you have him to come home to…and Pablo.
 I pray that you love yourself enough to know exactly how beautiful you are. That you love every bump, every hair, every pound, & every inch of your skin. I pray that you recognize your worth, your talents, & your intelligence. I pray that you love yourself enough to be neutral & humble, knowing that you are here to just be you, to serve, & to love.
And if no one else ever tells you that they love you, I pray that you love yourself enough to be rooted in just that…the love you have for you.
I love you,
Anaston

 

Why wait for someone to write you a love letter? One of the things I’ve always dreamed is that my husband will write me love letters (I’m old-fashioned like that), but until & hopefully after he comes, I will write them to myself. Both writing & reading the letters that you write can serve as an immense healing tool as you put your pieces back together. You discover things about yourself that you may have forgotten & you give yourself some much needed love. When you’re feeling down or discouraged, read one of your love letters & refill your love tank. I’ll share other practices that I’ve tried throughout this self-love journey in another post, but I wanted to share what really helped me figure out how to love Anaston. 

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get through it? Let’s face it, break-ups & the ending of a relationship doesn’t mean that you no longer love that person, but if you spend time redirecting that love back to you, it’ll soften the ache just a little bit more. 

 

“Today I affirm: I am responsible for doing the work in my healing. I am my own validation. I am abundantly full of all that I need.” x Alex Elle

So, You Had a Bad Day?

 

Lately, the anxiety I have been experiencing has been through the roof.

& despite being in a healthier, happier place mentally, I still have been feeling anxious. The anxiety led me to have a few bad, pretty emotional days during the month of July. I started to question if I really made any progress mentally & if my self-care practices were really working. Why, after being able to recognize all of the progress I made, was I starting to feel like I was back in the same place as June 2016? Honestly, I fell off the wagon in some areas & really had to push myself to stay on track.

So what happens during these “bad” days? What do I do? How do I recover?

A bad day for me usually occurs when things aren’t going my way. Let’s be real. If everything went your way the entire day, what would you have to feel bad about? & most of the time, it only takes one thing to start the domino effect of a bad day…People failed to meet my expectations, so I’m disappointed. I made mistakes, so I’m frustrated. Things are happening that I didn’t plan for, so I panic. All the decisions I have to make are looming in the back of my mind, so I procrastinate. Someone said something I didn’t like, so I’m offended. & before I know it, what may have started out as a great day has now become a “bad” day. In encountering a few of these days lately, here’s what I have learned:

I have learned to feel whatever emotions I am feeling at the time. Too often we try to process how we feel before we really even feel it, & this perpetuates a never ending cycle of hurt. In order to move past something, you actually have to deal with it. Otherwise, whatever it is will resurface later. Dealing with it can take time & many different bouts of emotions, but what’s important is that you allow yourself to grow through the healing process. You must tend to yourself mentally & emotionally. So I sit in whatever I am feeling until I am ready to move past it, & I don’t necessarily give myself a hard time limit of when I need to be “okay”.

Even though I don’t give myself a hard time limit on when I need to be okay, I don’t allow myself to sit in those less-than-desirable emotions for too long. It’s okay to be sad, cry, or even be angry, but if you feed too much into those emotions it can be more difficult to bounce back. So experience the feels, but be careful. 

Sometimes, I do nothing. Which may sound counter-productive, but it works for me. If I am having a bad day, sometimes that just means I need to rest. So, I rest, & I rest, & I rest some more. I binge watch a few shows, catch a few movies, & eat my favorite snacks. I lay out by the pool, or at the beach. I sleep. I give my body the time that it needs to rebuild, after subjecting it to so much every day. Allowing my body to rest also gives my mind time to rest. As I mentioned in Ep. 3 of Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria, our generation is known for not resting, which is exactly why so many people are experiencing mental & physical health issues. Part of living a long, healthy life, is knowing when to rest & when to slow down, so take a vacation from #NoDaysOff & relax.

& I like to be left alone. If I am not in the best mood, it is not necessary for me to cast that negative energy on other people. I don’t send out invitations to a pity party–people don’t always want to hear about everything that is going wrong with you today. Do you know someone who always has a “woe is me” story every time you talk to her/him? Don’t be that person. I can also tell the difference in my conversations when my mood is off. I’m usually easily irritated, short, & very nonchalant. That’s not fair to whomever I’m talking to, so it’s best to wait until I can participate in a conversation the right way.

Being left alone also means I take a break from saving everyone else. Sometimes you have to be unaccessible, & if the people around you are really for you, they will understand. Being by myself allows me to give Anaston the attention she usually gives to other people & other things. As I’ve started paying more attention to my mental health, I’ve realized that anxiety can be caused by the people around you. Always worrying about what everyone else is doing, the problems they are having, etc. can cause you to be a big ball of anxiety. 

Have you had a bad day recently? That’s okay. No one said there wouldn’t be bad days, but it’s important to remember that they don’t last always. Develop your own routine for a bad day, so that when those days come you are able to get through them with a little more ease. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself, do nothing, & experience what you feel. You’ll be better for it in the end. 

 

“Breathe, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” x Anonymous

 

 

Conversations w/ Anaston: #MeTooGirl

 

In honor of my one-year blogiversary, I have revived my YouTube channel & started a new series called “Conversations w/ Anaston”! Here’s the first video! Be sure to like, comment, & subscribe! 

Because I’m Happy!


I started this blog in June of 2016 as a way to share what I was growing through. It was my hope that my blog & what I had to say would touch just one person…& let her/him know that she/he is never alone in whatever difficult situation that gets in the way. I’m grateful that I have accomplished just that, & if my story never touches anyone else, I truly believe I have fulfilled a part of my purpose in life.

 

But I’m sure you’re wondering how I got here. How did I go from not even being able to get out of the bed some days to being fully “functional”? How did I survive the depression I was experiencing? How did I survive the anxiety I was experiencing? How was I able to reach the place I’m at now–a happy, whole place. Well, I’m glad you asked, & here’s how:

First, I reconnected with God. 

I firmly believe that the sole reason I was able to pick myself back up again, is because I had God pushing me back on my feet. Once I started back going to church & bible study, I started to feel this immense sense of hope that I didn’t feel before. I started to believe that I could actually overcome my situation & get back to a happy place again. Prior to last summer, I did have a relationship with God–but it was weak. I was streaming church, & not actually going to a physical place of worship. I wasn’t reading the Bible, & my prayer life was lacking. It’s sad that it took me experiencing all the negativity I did to reconnect with God. However, God may take you through a storm to get your attention, & to let you know that He wants you to come back to Him. That’s exactly what I did. I found a church home where I live & made it a priority to go every week. I purchased a new study Bible & created a prayer journal. Having the comfort of knowing that there is this Person who knows every thought, every action, every flaw, but still loves me so made me feel so selfish for not even trying at times. If He took the time to create me & make me exactly who I am, who was I to not be grateful for life? Who was I to just give up on myself when He never gave up on me? Now this way of thinking may not help everyone, & I don’t encourage beating yourself up about having a bad day or experiencing depression. I simply want you to realize how blessed you are & start to make a change. Reconnect with whatever Higher Being you believe in & see what a difference the relationship can make.

Once I reconnected with God, I started talking about my situation.

For me, this meant going to therapy (& of course, launching this site). Therapy is such a taboo topic in the African-American community, but I am not ashamed that I needed help. Because of therapy, I have now learned that there is strength in asking for help when you need it. I initially looked for someone who could help me through the grieving process after my Granny’s death. I experienced losing a loved one before, but her passing took a toll on me, & I needed someone to help me figure out how to navigate through the grieving process. The first therapist I saw was great in helping me initially, but I realized I needed something different & began looking for another therapist. My current therapist completed an assessment for me to help me determine if I was even experiencing depression at all. (In a previous post, I encouraged readers to at least try therapy once & get an assessment, so that you are able to know what you are actually dealing with mentally. I still encourage this today.) During that assessment, we connected in a way that I usually don’t even connect with people, & I still see her to this day. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I am even “depressed” or that anything is wrong. I continue to see her because she listens to me, with no judgments. She encourages me when I feel like I’m not making any progress. She let’s me be me, & she helps me find the tools I need to keep making progress in this journey. She helps me lay the foundation for processing through what ever life experiences I may be having, & I look forward to going to see her twice a month. If you have a friend that you call & vent to, no holds bar, then you would enjoy seeing a therapist. It’s the same concept. My therapist has become a friend. Try it at least once, just to have the experience, & see how it could benefit you. It can be a little uncomfortable at times, but the feeling you get afterwards is worth the temporary awkward moments. 

If you’re one of those people that just side-eyed me because I see a therapist, my blog is not for you. Don’t be a part of the problem & the reason why people are afraid to talk about their mental health. We are here to break this cycle, not contribute to it.

Then, I started doing the work.

I realized after hitting such a low, low that I never wanted to feel that way again. So I had to figure out what I needed to do to make a change in my life. This is when I developed my self-care routine & started trying out different practices. I started walking every day to get endorphins going & to get some sun/fresh air. I started exercising as well & eventually started my yoga practice. I talk about some of my self-care practices in “Self Care ’17” & “Take Care of Your Star Player“. I also began letting go of some unhealthy relationships, started a forgiveness journey, & made changes to my living space. What’s most important is that I simply started putting forth effort to getting back to a positive mental space. When it got hard, I still kept trying, & didn’t give up on myself or the process. Life takes work, just like everything else. You have to be willing to do the work to live the life you want. Eventually everything will fall into place & it won’t even feel like work anymore. 

Finally, I started accepting being happy.

So here’s a little secret–among other things, I am afraid of being happy. My fear of being happy is decreasing as the days go by, but there are days where I resort to old habits & ways of thinking…honestly, I was so used to living a life that was dysfunctional. I wasn’t always unhappy, that’s not what I’m saying, but I had grown accustomed to having drama in my life. Bad things always happened, eventually, so I anticipated them even when things were going well. I was walking around with this dark cloud over me, & I didn’t even realize it. There were times where I felt like my brain was working against me, tricking me into thinking the worst. (Anxiety.) So I am learning how to get through those moments without letting the anxiety take control. I’m in a really great place now, & I am so grateful for this happiness. I appreciate it a little more because I know what it is like to be unhappy. I appreciate life & am striving to take advantage of each & every day. I’m learning to live in the moment–to not always have to take a picture or rush through eating my food because I’m “starving”. I’ve realized that being so focused on “timing” will have you missing out on a lot of things. Timing is never perfect. Tomorrow is not promised & you just have to go for it (whatever “it” is). Be happy.

What progress have you made in the last year? Looking back on this past year has shown me that God is still in control, & His work is amazing. I never thought I’d be in this place–happy, whole, loving Anaston. There were days where I never imagined I’d be openly sharing my story & giving others advice on their own self-care journey. But look what’s happened in a year! I’m here, doing all of those things! I’m excited for what will happen in this next year & the years to come.

Stay tuned.

 

 

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” x Frederick Keonig

 

 

Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria: Ep. 2 | M is for Mental Health

Sister Talks Logo

 

My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.

Here’s our second episode! We discuss the importance of mental health, the stigma of mental health in the African American Community, & how we maintain our own mental health! 

Ep. 2 | M is for Mental Health