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
This Writing Challenge was curated by Anaston to use as a tool for self-discovery. Writing can be a vital part to any self-care practice and can be used to get to know one's self and needs more intimately. Over the course of three weeks, you will dig deep and peel back the layers of your authentic self.
Have you ever heard the saying that you are your toughest critic? For some reason, we tend to be the hardest on ourselves–always critiquing, criticizing, & analyzing who we are & even the things that we do.
In one of my recent posts,So You Had a Bad Day, I discuss some of the ways I recover from feeling down. What I don’t mention is that days like those can also cause me to beat myself up about my progress (or lack thereof). Bad days can create feelings of insecurity & cause me to second guess myself in areas where I previously felt secure. It’s easy to be hard on yourself at times like these, but at some point you have to show yourself a little compassion & realize whatever it is, it is okay. You’re human, & things happen.
As we are winding down into the last few months of 2017, I have started to focus more on having compassion…not just for the people around me, but primarily for myself. As someone who has experienced depression & currently experiences anxiety, it is easy for me to feel like there is something wrong with me. It is easy for me to pick a part the pieces & be hard on myself in those moments where I feel as if I have failed.
In order to start practicing more self-compassion I am trying to find ways to add practices to my self-care routine where I am intentionally building myself up. One of the ways I have achieved this is by writing myself love letters–you can read about this practice here. I have also started utilizing affirmations. I must admit, when I first heard about the concept of affirmations I was skeptical. I really didn’t believe that telling myself different things over & over could affect how I felt & improve my mood…but now that I have actually given affirmations a try, I notice that they make it a lot easier to love on myself. Here are a few tips when it comes to affirmations:
#1: Start with pre-written affirmations. Practicing affirmations can be awkward at first, so using pre-written ones, like those written by Alex Elle, can really inspire you to write your own.
#2: If you can, write them down. Writing down your affirmations allows you to revisit them throughout the day. For me personally, it’s easier to write them on sticky notes & post them on my computer or put them up around my apartment.
#3: Don’t get stuck on the routine. Although I am trying to make affirmations a part of my morning routine, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So instead of getting frustrated with myself, I try again the next day. It also helps to still find a few minutes to be intentional throughout the day or reread previous affirmations.
Listen, life is far from easy. There will be bad days, you will make mistakes, & sometimes you will fall. Those things don’t mean that you have to stop loving yourself along the way. Self-compassion means that you recognize these not-so-great moments & you try to comfort & care for yourself thereafter. Self-compassion means that you operate with a certain level of understanding instead of judging & criticizing yourself.
Be careful not to go overboard, beloved. There are days when I straddled the fence of self-compassion & self-indulgence. You must still do the work & recognize the things that you need to work on. Avoiding them will be counter productive, & self-compassion won’t be able to help you.
If you’re not supposed to pass judgment on other people, why do you pass judgement on yourself? You weren’t created to be perfect–humans are not perfect. Compassion is something we all deserve. Spending some time directing that compassion to yourself will allow you to have clarity, feel good, & it should be comforting to know it’s always there. Try writing some love letters & affirmations, & let me know how it goes.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, & that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” x Budda
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.
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,
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
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
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.
“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
Why is it that in 2017 it is “trendy” to be a person who doesn’t give a ____ about anything? Our society is obsessed with being numb to everything even remotely related to feelings & emotions. Emotional awareness seems to be this new concept no one has ever heard of, when honestly, it is something that should’ve been prevalent all along. There are books that teach you how not to care about anything, songs that talk about it–it’s like an entire movement. But this is a time, if unrealistically no other time existed, that we need to give a ____ about something.
Honestly, there was a point in time where I tried to be one of these people. I went through a period where I thought I was too emotional, cared too much about people, & needed to turn off the emotional switch that seemed to control my life. So what did I do? I bought a ticket to the “No ____ Given” train & proudly took my seat, ready for the ride. However, before this train even took off, I had to exit quickly. I just couldn’t be a person who doesn’t care about others, myself, & even what is going on in the world. I knew deep down that emotions don’t make people weak (despite what “they” say) & that being aware of my own emotions & the emotions of others, was something I could not continue to avoid.
So once I finally accepted how in-tune I am emotionally, I discovered that I am an empath. But what is an empath? What is empathy? How is it different from sympathy? Here’s what I found:
A person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
The ability to understand and share feelings of one another.
1. Feelings of pity & sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. 2. Understanding between people, common feeling.
Reading those definitions really doesn’t tell you much, but what I have commonly heard is that the difference between empathy & sympathy is that when you sympathize with someone, you only “feel” for the person, but when you empathize with someone, you actually put yourself in that person’s shoes. Empathy is personal. It is genuine. It is strong. It is perception. That’s me all the way, & when I finally accepted this, I became a lot healthier emotionally.
Empathy for me looks like this: I am extremely aware of the vibes & energies of people around me, & I absorb those vibes & energies as my own, whether I want to or not. This means my mood can fluctuate, depending on who I am around, & certain people’s presence can put me in bad mood. Usually this is more common with my loved ones, but it happens with not-so-loved ones too. I can easily pick up on people’s intentions & motives–if you’re hiding something, I’ll know. I often take on the problems of others & often find myself carrying everyone else’s load. It can even happen in a situation as small as me watching an emotional commercial or movie–I will cry or feel some overwhelming sense of emotion rather abruptly. Especially if it involves elderly people or children or something about love, I will fall a part. Sounds silly, I know, but hey, it happens. My empathic traits often leave me emotionally drained, because I get lost in everything (& everyone) around me & forget to take the necessary time for myself. I don’t deal well with areas of confusion or disharmony, & both cause me to feel highly uncomfortable. I also don’t deal well with people who tend to be negative most of the time. It stresses me out, & I tend to get mad at that person. I am working on trying to separate the two, so that I can focus on whatever is troubling the person in a way that does not affect me
Being in-tune with my emotions also means that I express them more than others. With those I am close to, I am okay with having conversations about how I feel. I’m pretty open & honest, & talking things out really allows me to develop the level of understanding that I need. I am okay with telling people I care about them or that I love them. I truly wear my heart on my sleeve. Life is way too short to run around acting like you don’t care about anyone or anything, & I’ve suffered enough loss to know it. So I tend to give my all in my relationships–all or nothing. Sometimes this is hard for other people to accept or understand about me, but the more aware of it I have become, the less disappointed I feel when I’m too much for another person. Not everyone is equipped to handle what comes with being involved with a woman like me, but because I can handle it, it makes it easier to explain or show others this aspect of who I am.
On the other hand, there are times where I create a wall & bottle up my emotions. As much as I like to talk & no matter how open or honest I am, sometimes it takes a lot of effort for me to talk about myself. These are things I am still working on, & journaling really helps me get everything out in a healthy way. I’m a work in progress, & learning how to function in a healthy way, while being emotionally aware, is a journey. (My blog post about self-care practices can be read here. These are a great way to take some time for yourself & not get lost in translation.) Learning how to live as an empath is something I have to work at every day & sometimes I don’t make very much progress.
Are no ____ really given? Or do you give a ____ like I do? 9/10 regardless of how much you want to identify with question one, you really are closer to the latter. Accept it, & let’s figure out how we can get you to live a healthy life being that way. Don’t get me wrong, this post is not a call to care about everything & everyone. That may not be healthy for you, & can definitely be overwhelming. You have to protect your heart & yourself. My advice is to find something to care about. You better! If it is not people, then I suggest finding a cause that resonates with you. Find something that you can willingly, & safely, dedicate your emotions to. If you identify with being an empath as I do, let’s talk! I have some great resources for you.
IF YOU ARE SKEPTICAL OF THIS WORD EMPATH, AS USUAL MY ADVICE IS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I AM NOT RELATING THIS TO ANY RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL BELIEF. THIS POST REFLECTS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS & REALIZATIONS ON MY PATH TO SELF-DISCOVERY.
“I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.” x Leslie Knope
“A caring heart that listens is often more valued than an intelligent mind that talks.”
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 here. So 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:
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’sone 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, 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.