#CalmTip: Make Your Health a Priority

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Because this week, May 8th -14th is National Women’s Health Week, this week’s calm tip is to make your health a priority. By doing this, you will not only feel better physically, you’ll also feel better mentally and emotionally since you’ll be reducing stress and becoming happier. So, if you’re ready to do better when it comes to your health, here are five ways to begin:

1. Determine your “why” (and it needs to be a good one). Before I had Nailah, I ate really horribly and didn’t exercise consistently. I’ve always been small, so while I knew working out and eating well was still important for me, it wasn’t much of a priority. But when I was pregnant and was thinking about how I wanted raise my child, I realized that I didn’t want her to grow up eating a lot of frozen, processed, and fast food. I also knew that if I wanted her to eat well and be as healthy as possible, had to change because she would learn from me. My main “why” for making my health a priority was my daughter and being a good example to her. Yours might be the same, or it might be that you want to be around for your family as long as possible, or you want to look/feel as good as possible. Having a compelling why will help you stay focused and motivated on your goal of better health.

2. Start small with exercise. When I began working out consistently in 2014, I started at home with Blogilates. The creator, Cassey Ho, offers a calendar for beginners, which is what I did. Then I moved on to her more advanced videos and calendars and added in yoga and some other YouTube Channels. Now, I do yoga almost daily and go to the gym twice a week. If you’re not used to working out, you can begin at home with YouTube, walk around your neighborhood two to three days a week, or try different classes at a local YMCA, gym, or recreation center to see what you like (side note: To stick with your exercise routine, you have to enjoy what you’re doing). For home workouts, check out Blogilates, FitnessBlender, and HangTightWMarC.

3. Start small with eating better. Like I mentioned earlier, I used to eat really horribly. Yes, even though I was married (my husband, Chris, knew I didn’t like cooking). In the beginning, we ate out a lot and basically like we were still in college (don’t judge me). But, as I said, I realized I didn’t want Nailah to grow up eating those kinds of foods (plus, I was also trying to get back into shape), so I knew I had to make a change. I started small by replacing ground beef with ground turkey, grilling chicken instead of frying out, cutting out soda, and eating more veggies. And those are some ways you can start small, too.

4. Know it’s a lifestyle change. If you look on social media, especially around this time of year, you’ll see a lot of memes about getting that “summer body.” Yeah, you can choose to diet and exercise for some amount of time to reach a goal (which is totally fine),but if you want to be healthy for a lifetime, your changes have to become a part of your daily life.

5. Define what healthy means for you. Again, on social media, you’ll see people telling you should eat this, do that workout, try this tea or waist trainer to look like this, “body goals,” etc. But as my friend Ivy Felicia says,”healthy is an outfit that looks different on everybody.” In other words, figure out what healthy looks like for YOU, then do what you need to do.

“It’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest you.” – Her Campus

How will you start to make your health a priority? Let me know by leaving a comment! 

 

#CalmTip: Do a Brain Dump

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I got the idea for this tip from a couple of my social media friends: Tara and Vernetta . If you’re like me (someone who’s pretty much always thinking), you probably have a lot going on in your brain all the time. And not only is that overwhelming in general, it can also keep you distracted from what you really need to be doing. Essentially, a brain dump is when you get everything out of your head and on to paper, leaving you more focused and calm with more clarity.

All you need is a  journal or notebook (sidenote: TJ Maxx and Ross have the cutest journals — and they’re cheap!), and the easiest way to do it is just write down everything in your head without stopping for grammar or spelling. Just let everything out until you feel like you’re more clear and/or you feel you have a direction in which to move. This is also good if you’re an entrepreneur who has lots of ideas swimming around in your head, and you need to get things down on paper so you can create a timeline. (Additionally, here’s another method to try).

Clarity creates simplicity.” – Danielle LaPorte


Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Take a Mental Health Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This one is for my solopreneurs/entrepreneurs in particular (including those who are also working a 9-5). As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to be working on something seven days a week; in the words of my friend, Akilah, entrepreneurs “are never not working.”

Of course, this can have a negative effect and can cause us to experience mental exhaustion and burn out. Prevent or counter this with a mental health day (or half a day). Do your best to leave work alone (you can keep a notebook close by for ideas), and do nothing, or do something you enjoy that you’ve been putting off like reading that new book or heading to the park.

“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Mirelle Guiliano

#CalmTip: Work on Time Management

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One of my biggest stressors is time — or the lack thereof. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say the lack of it because the reality is, everybody only gets 24 hours, so it’s really about using the time you have more efficiently as opposed to having more of it. I’m currently working on time management in my own life, and I wanted to share a few tips with you:

  1. Create a to-do list (or as I like to call it, an intentions list). Every Sunday night (or sometimes Monday morning), I write down everything I need to get done for the week. And each night before I go to bed, I write what I need to do the next day. Doing this gives you a good overview of how your day will pan out, and you’re less likely to get caught off guard. And while you might not get everything done, the idea is for you to stick to your list as best you can. (Side note: Even if you don’t complete everything, don’t beat yourself up about it. Try to remember that tomorrow is another day).
  2. Use a calendar and organizer. You can use a good old fashioned calendar paper and pen, or you can use apps. I use Google calendar for things that are on a specific date and time (and it’s synced with my phone), and I use Evernote to record what I need to do weekly and daily.
  3. Focus. Trust me, I know that multi-tasking is sometimes inevitable, but try to single-task as much as possible. It helps to close any applications and browser tabs so your attention isn’t being pulling in too many directions, which brings me to my next tip…
  4. Cut distractions. For example, many of us get distracted by social media notifications, text messages, or phone calls when we’re trying to focus on something important. If you’re trying to get work done and need to have laser focus, consider putting your phone on silent or turning it off. You might also want to consider decreasing the amount of notifications you get from social media on your phone.

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker

#CalmTip: Listen to Jazz

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This may make me sound like an old lady, but I love to listen to jazz, especially when I’m working or just need to clear my head.

According to studies, “the innovative riffs, cool tones, and complex rhythms [of jazz] can bring natural relief for mind and body.” Listening to more upbeat jazz can help you focus while raising your heart rate and boost your productivity at work. Studies have also shown that listening to 45 minutes of soft, slow music like jazz before going to bed results in better and longer nighttime sleep, too. Additionally, listening to jazz boosts your creativity and can even lower your blood pressure.

I enjoy old school artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins; and some of the modern artists I like include Esperanza Spalding, Tia Fuller, Robert Glasper, and Marc Cary. You can also, of course, listen to jazz stations on Pandora and Spotify.

“Jazz is about being in the moment.” – Herbie Hancock

Do you have a favorite jazz artist? Share below by leaving a comment!

Sources: Top Masters in Healthcare, Elite Daily

Photo Credit: Charlie Bard (123rf.com)

#CalmTip: Do a Walking Meditation

How to do walking meditation

According to MeditationOasis.com, walking meditation can be as profound as sitting meditation and has the advantage of bringing the meditative experience into your activity.

Here’s how to do it:

Before starting, spend some time standing still, becoming aware of your body. Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the sensation of your breath. Allow your breath to return to normal and notice it. Next, bring your awareness back to your body, and notice how your body feels as you stand and what sensations you’re feeling.

Begin walking at a relaxed, somewhat slow but normal pace. As you walk, pay attention to what you’re feeling in your body. When you feel your attention being drawn to the sights around you, refocus on what’s going on internally and the physical experience of walking. Try to notice how every little thing in your body feels.

Pay attention to how the soles of your feet feel. Become aware of the contact your feet make with your socks and/or shoes, the textures of the fabrics touching, the way your feet feel as they support the weight of your body and the sensations in them as you continue walking. Feel your entire foot, noticing how it feels as your foot lifts and moves forward. Next, bring your awareness up through each part of your body and notice the different sensations as you walk. Slowly scan your body from your feet to your head, letting go of any tension you feel and allowing your entire body to relax. If your mind is wandering, you can continue scanning your body and noticing any sensations you feel to bring your awareness back to your walking meditation.

“Walking outside in the fresh air is better than trudging ’round inside your brain.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

P.S. — I’ve created a free audio of the instructions for you to use while you’re doing your meditation. Download here –> Walking Meditation Audio

#CalmTip: Try the Relaxation Response

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Developed by Herbert Benson, The Relaxation Response can be evoked by different types of relaxation and athletic techniques, including meditation, prayer, jogging, swimming, yoga, and even knitting. He says there are only two basic steps to obtain the Relaxation Response: 1. Repeatedly say one word, phrase, sound, or prayer to yourself (participating in a repetitive muscular activity might also have similar results); 2. Notice when thoughts come and distract you, then passively disregard them and return to your repetition.

Benson says if you’re religious, you can choose a prayer; if not, you can choose a secular focus. You can use a word/phrase/sound/prayer of your choosing, or use one he recommends:

  • Secular focus: One, Ocean, Love, Peace, Calm, or Relax
  • Christian: “Our father who art in heaven” or “The Lord is my shepherd”
  • Jewish: “Sh’ma Yisroel,” “Shalom,” “Echod,” or “The Lord is my shepherd”
  • Islamic: “Insha’allah
  • Hindu: “Om”

For athletic types of moving meditation like jogging, walking, or swimming, Benson suggests paying attention to the cadence of your feet on the pavement or movement in the water (left, right, left, right for example), and returning your attention back to your point of focus whenever your mind wanders.

And as with most types of meditation, don’t worry about how well it is or isn’t working; just let it happen, and you’ll benefit more. Benson recommends doing the technique for 10-20 minutes, twice a day; he suggests doing “minis” as well: bite-size versions of the Relaxation Response, or just breathing deeply, letting go of physical tension and saying your word, phrase, etc. to yourself. This can be done whenever you feel you need to.

“Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.” – Baba Ram Dass

#CalmTip: Improve Your To-do List

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One great way to manage your time effectively — and, in turn, create calm — is to create a to-do list, or, as I like to call it an intentions list. But, if you’re not careful, your list can be overwhelming if you’re trying to cram too much stuff into one day. The solution? Improve your to-do list.

How?

Stop putting so much stuff on there! (Easier said than done, right?). Although I still struggle with this calm tip from time to time, here are a few things that have helped me:

Write it down! I actually hadn’t written this initially, but I realize that not everyone does this. I’ve always been a list person (I love lists!), so this comes easily to me. Anyway, to actually do what you need to do, you have to remember to do it. And that might be a little hard to do if you have a lot of things vying for your attention. This is why writing a to-do/intentions list helps. Try to get in the habit of writing down what you need to do the next day before going to bed.

Be realistic about how long each task takes. A lot of times, our issue is underestimating how long a task actually takes to complete (and I think this is especially true for entrepreneurs). It can help to track how long a task takes, say, over a week. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how your day could pan out.

Be realistic about what you can actually get done. Basically, you only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. Through trial and error, you can figure out how many tasks you can complete on an average day. And then there’ll be those other days when there are emergencies, fires that need to be put out, your kid won’t cooperate at nap time, etc. Which leads me to my next point…

Be okay with what you accomplish. Some days, you’ll check off everything on your list. Other days, nothing will get done, or you’ll only finish some things. It’s okay. That’s life. You can always try again tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world. Promise.

Put you on your to-do list. Making time for yourself every day is so important. You can read more about that here.

“Until we have managed time, we can manage nothing else.” – Peter F. Drucker

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Try the Yoga Pose of the Month

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Happy March 1! This month’s yoga pose is reverse table top, and it stretches the front body while strengthening the core and arm muscles. This pose is also good for those who sit during work, and drive/travel a lot.

Reverse table top deeply stretches your upper body and opens your front body, including your shoulders, chest, abdomen, and spine, while improving your balance and posture. Opening your front body invigorates and energizes you, providing relief from stress and fatigue. The pose also strengthens your wrists, arms, butt, legs, and back.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms resting by your sides in staff pose.
  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place your hands about six to eight inches behind you, keeping your hips shoulder width-apart. Your fingers should be pointed toward your toes.
  4. On an inhale, press firmly into your hands and feet. Straighten your elbows, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades toward one another and lift your chest. Try to bring your chest, stomach, and knees into one straight line, parallel to the floor.
  5. Your legs should be active and firm, and your butt should be relaxed and lifted. Press down through your toes.
  6. If it feels okay, gently let your head go back so the crown faces the floor. You can gaze gently at the wall behind your or close your eyes. Continue breathing deeply.
  7. Hold for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, slowly lower your hips, then extend your legs back into staff pose.

Tips

  • Keep your shoulder blades moving toward one another, which will help to lift your chest.
  • Your thighs should be engaged the entire time.
  • Press your feet evenly into the floor.
  • Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists.

Modifcations

  • If you’re dealing with neck pain, or it feels compressed, don’t drop your head back. Instead, tuck your chin a little, bringing it to your chest.
  • Keep your arms active and straight.
  • If you have trouble keeping your hips up, use a yoga block, bolster, or stack of blankets under your hips to support your pelvis, allowing your weight to rest.
  • If you have less strength and/or flexibility, you can practice reverse table top pose with your hands on the edge of a chair that’s secure against the wall. Hold on the edges of the seat of the chair, then lift into the pose.

 

“Those who practice yoga have joy within, delight within, and radiance within.” – Bhagavad Gita

#CalmTip: Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I’d been feeling really bad for the last few days, and yesterday, I finally went to the doctor. Like I suspected, I have a sinus infection. I had a lot I needed to get done (I was supposed to post this yesterday, plus send my Inspiring Note — which will be sent today — among other things). I really, really wanted to push myself to at least get something done, but I knew I had to get some rest so I could feel at least somewhat better.

And that’s what I did, I gave myself permission to stay in bed all day. I did work for like an hour or so, but I knew that if I’d tried to do more, the quality of my work would’ve suffered, and I probably wouldn’t feel as well as I do today, which was especially important because my daughter returned from her grandparents.

So, I want to encourage you to give yourself permission to rest when necessary. Although you may not have the option to call in and/or stay in bed all day, if you need to, try to get some rest when you get home. You don’t want to try to push through the pain (if it’s really bad) and make yourself even more sick or end up feeling frustrated because you knew you should’ve just lay your tail down somewhere. Listen to your body; it knows what it’s talking about.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn