A Dose of Wellness Resources For You

It is our hope that this post finds you, your family and friends, as well as can be. A lot has changed over the course of the last month and we are encountering steady shifts in our lives as we navigate a new normal. And real talk, navigating this global crisis is stressful. Over the last few weeks, our team has been digging deep into our toolboxes of care practices as well as articles and resources we’ve gathered from other individuals via the internet. We hope this list of resources can help ease the various levels of mental and emotional stress that we are all encountering during this difficult season. Please take what you need and feel free to share with us if you have any additional resources. 

Be well.


Resources from TBP

The Beautiful Project Journal is our annual publication where we share insights on the inner workings of Black girls and women. In this third issue, we interrogated the nuances of self-care, exploring the necessity of collective care, and sharing tools and strategies on how to pursue wellness and healing for ourselves and each other. You will find articles and images that capture the themes of sisterhood, liberation, healing, and transformation.


Other Great Resources

For Black Girls Everywhere – A Relaxing Mediation

Evelyn From The Internets is a digital storyteller with a humorous personality. Her youtube page has a plethora of videos that will make anyone giggle. Most recently, she created a short documentary about the stress that Black girls encounter in schools and the power of mindfulness that can help combat mental stressors. As a result, she partnered with Lauren Ash, Founder of Black Girl in Om, to create a beautiful and relaxing mediation for young Black girls.

Remember to Breathe by Teni Ayo-Ariyo

Our friend Teni, who is a dynamic writer from our writing circle, wrote a helpful article about how she is managing stress and anxiety during this time by practicing the lessons she learned as a yoga instructor. She outlined really great techniques. Here’s an excerpt:

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to become a yoga teacher. I was getting ready to move across the country for business school, and wanted to develop a new wellness routine and mindset before going through a huge transition. During training, I learned the fundamentals of yoga, as well as the connection between my body, mind, and soul. I learned how to take care of myself holistically and picked up tools to help me maintain a life of wellness. Needless to say, the 200-hr one month training was a transformative experience, and now, more than ever, I find myself leaning heavily on some of these principles during the current pandemic.The panic and anxiety brought on by coronavirus and quarantining can be crippling. To stay grounded and sane, I am finding solace in these lessons from Yoga Teacher Training.

Check out her full article here.

Young Poets Contest hosted by Shaunna Barbee

Shaunna is another friend of TBP, author, educator, and member of our writing circle Maya’s Room. For the month of April, which is National Poetry Month, Shaunna is hosting a contest for young writers, ages 10-18 years old, to write and submit a poem about the impact of this pandemic on their lives. Their will be a cash prize for the chosen poem. The deadline is April 30th. You can find more details here.

Therapy for Black Girls

The Therapy for Black Girls podcast hosted by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a great resource for mental health and personal development for Black women. In one of her recent episodes, Session 147: How Are You Doing?, Dr. Joy shares great tips on how to make sense of how we may be feeling in this season.

Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety: A Project by Shine

Shine is an app that is designed to make self-care easy with motivational messages, meditations, and resources to address anxiety and depression. The app is worthy to check out in general, but specifically for this moment, Shine released a comprehensive digital toolkit, Care for Your Corona Anxiety , that is full of resources from mental health experts, coping strategies to manage fear, and tools to address outcomes such as isolation and financial anxieties.

Black Womxn United has a plethora of virtual support gatherings that range from homeschooling 101 to yoga. Check them out!

When we got engaged, my now-husband suggested we opt out of a wedding registry. I looked at him like he had grown an extra head. He emphasized that in our separate apartments we already owned what we needed to begin a life together. His suggestion to forgo a registry led to a heated argument, one where we were both entirely stuck in our respective views. Fortunately, it also sparked an ongoing conversation between us about true needs versus wants, and about doing what society expects us to do versus doing what is right for us.

Our conversations deepened, and I started reading what I could about minimalism and materialism (e.g., Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution and David Platt’s Radical), rereading the Bible with new eyes, and rethinking Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. My husband recommended MLK, Gandhi, and St. Francis of Assisi, but I leaned towards the more recent wave of new monastics. In my search, I ultimately stumbled upon Project 333. I invited a few of my friends to join me in electing to wear 33 items for three months. They all declined! So I journeyed alone. At first, it was difficult working with what I saw at that time as an extremely limited closet, but I lasted through the three months. Paradoxically, fewer clothing choices meant more choices because I could see clearly all that I had available to wear. Restriction suddenly meant freedom because I was no longer caught up in what anyone else thought I needed. And no one even noticed I had restricted my wardrobe those three months. After the project, I reduced the amount of clothes I had by at least 75 percent, donating several bags of clothing to Goodwill.

I learned to start asking myself if what I desired was a need or want and to fight the urge to instantly buy something without first weighing the pros and cons or dealing with a little inconvenience. I’m not saying that wants are inherently wrong; I am suggesting that we spend a little more time considering how a trivial want may distract us from a higher want. You may want a $500 television, but what you may truly want more than that television is to become an entrepreneur. Don’t trade a higher goal for a lesser goal. What could buying a less expensive item or choosing to go without something do? The money could go towards a business course or into a savings account to ease the transition of switching careers. What if you purchased a less expensive house or car? The thousands saved could go towards acts of generosity or freeing yourself from student loans and credit card debt.

Because of this personal transformation, when my husband and I married, we did not have a wedding registry. We moved into our new apartment and considered what else we could do without.

Simplifying our possessions trickled into simplifying other areas of our lives. For example, we realized how stressed we were on Mondays due to overscheduled weekends. We rushed from brunches to birthday parties to dinners to church services to lunches, and then came back exhausted on Sunday nights. No wonder we dreaded Monday mornings! We decided to experiment with putting parameters on our time. We tried not to schedule anything before late afternoons on Saturdays, and we did our best to return home by early afternoon on Sundays. It meant turning down some invitations, which I—and a lot of people—struggle with doing. But putting boundaries on our schedules was one of the most liberating things we could do. When I mentioned the experiment to friends, a couple of them thought it was too extreme. Sometimes if we’re at one extreme, though, we have to go to the other extreme in order to find balance. This taught me that when folks are caught in a crazy busy cycle, they’ll make you feel like the crazy one when you try to step out of it. We all want to fit in, but conformity keeps us stuck. Trying what others see as strange or impossible unlocks many freedoms.

During this journey of simplification, I also began to reassess my career goals. I worked in the health field but was deeply interested in writing professionally. Freeing up time allowed me to focus on my passion. After a few years of attending writing courses and workshops, I knew the next step was to go part-time at my job so that I could dedicate even more time to writing.  It was a privilege to go part-time given my financial circumstances; however, I also know it would have been much harder if we were living beyond our means or had an expensive image to sustain. The decision to go part-time did not come lightly. Others projected their fears onto me: (1) If you go part-time, you won’t be able to buy a house. (Does everyone need to own a home? We don’t think so.) (2) If you go part-time, your health insurance premiums will increase (By how much? They did, but we researched our options and prepared accordingly.) (3) If you go part-time, you won’t get a promotion. (Did I want a promotion? I wasn’t convinced that higher positions in my organization would be fulfilling for me.). After two years working part-time, I took a leap of faith, quitting my job to pursue writing. In my last weeks, I was surprised by the number of colleagues who spoke to me in secret about wanting to pursue something other than what they were doing, and who had admired my decision to go part-time.

My journey with simplicity continues. I have not “arrived”, and I won’t pretend it’s always easy to choose the road less traveled. I keep reading to challenge myself and renew my mind. The amazing benefits and freedoms that come with daring to be countercultural help me stay the course. Some of us are so used to overextending ourselves, living stretched thin, or functioning at heightened anxiety, that we can’t even conceive of the freedom that living beneath our means and creating margin in our lives could bring. We have much more than we should, and we need much less to live on than what we think. Let’s reconsider what others say we should want and think critically about our authentic needs. Let’s think a bit more radically about what is enough for living. Because life is greater than our material world.

Written by A. Kurian for The Beautiful Project

Y’all know those folks who make you feel good, just being in their company? My friend Ali is like that– she truly possesses the gift of encouragement. We met while working in student affairs at Duke University and became housemates not long after.  As our friendship grew over that year and the years that followed, I found myself in constant awe of her grace, kindness and how thoughtful she was in how she engaged others. When I met her mother a few years later, I felt the same warmth, welcome, and encouragement.  It is no surprise that these women have chosen to make their life work about supporting the mental and emotional well-being of others. We invited them to write a guest blog about ways Black girls and women can experience wellness in their lives. Read below for valuable tips for managing stress and cultivating mental and emotional wellness.

~ Erin


 

Stress is everywhere. Whether it’s the result of micro assaults to your sense of wellbeing or pressure you put on yourself, when the demand exceeds the resources, stress is the result. The 24-hour day of childhood feels measurably longer than the rapid-fire 24-hour cycle of today. Ironically, we are doing more and enjoying life less.

Working for someone else may pay the bills, but the job of taking care of you is the most important job of your life.  As women, we are often the glue that holds our families and communities together. Thus, taking care of ourselves, is not a selfish endeavor, but one that has ripple effects, benefitting our children, partners, friends and neighbors. Learning to manage stress is one of the best skills you can have in your tool box. The constant feelings of stressing and pressing have a way of taking their toll on your body and your life.  Most of us already know about the importance of eating right, getting enough sleep and regular exercise. Listed below are five additional stress management tips to help you achieve more balance in your everyday life.

1. Learn to be mindful. Pay attention to what you fill your mind with. Focus on activities and relationships that are affirming and life-giving.  In our current political climate, the line between staying informed and subjecting yourself to harmful imagery and narratives can be hard to decipher. Be selective, as the mind goes, so goes the rest of you. Monitor your newsfeeds and your media intake and don’t hesitate to take a break.

2.Watch your diet. That includes how much technology you devour on a daily basis, as well as what food you use to fuel your body. Does your diet give you more energy to take care of business or does it make you less energetic and productive?

3. Practice deep breathing on a regular basis. Your breath is a powerful tool to reduce stress and anxiety. Take a deep breath in.  Now let it out.  You may already feel a difference.  Taking a moment for a few slow and mindful breaths can provide you with an opportunity to stop and re-evaluate your current state.  Is this thing I am stressing about, worth my energy? If not, let it go and move on.  If so, channel that energy into coming up with a plan of attack.

4. Live the life you love and love the life you live. It’s your life. Listen to your inner voice first. Then and only then seek the counsel of trusted family and friends. If the dream job is causing your dreams to be nightmares, it’s O.K. to change your mind. We spend a tremendous amount of time trying to get other people to change when the only person you can change is you. Change you and you change the situation.

5. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  We learn to say “No” before the tender age of 2 and then we spend the next twenty years being socialized to be polite and say yes (this is especially true for women). Reclaim your “NO”.  This means setting boundaries and being truthful and honest with yourself and others. Saying yes when the right answer is no may sound good in the moment, and it may even get the accolades of others. However, don’t be surprised when stress starts to creep into your life, and you find yourself feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Not taking responsibility for your choices and blaming others for the outcome of your life is called giving the power for your life to other people. Ask yourself, who have I given my power to? Then go get it back.

It’s your life. Make the most of it. Don’t let stress rob you. Finally, if stress is robbing you on a regular basis, don’t hesitate to call the stress police. A good therapist or life coach should be on your speed dial. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur, invest in your emotional savings account today.

 

Dr. Alexandra Scott and Dr. Sandra M. Hardy are a dynamic mother daughter psychologist team committed to furthering Black women’s wellness.

Over the last few years we have seen a rise in conversations about self-care. And let’s be real, these conversations are so necessary. In TBP, care-for-self is a central value and we create space for regular check-ins around our individual wellness. But we also realized a long time ago that self-care wasn’t enough— we needed to put in practice strategies for collective care.  But what does it mean to pursue wellness in and as a collective?

There have been a few different strategies we have employed over the years to center wellness as part of our collective work as image-activists, such as:

  1. Dedicating group conversations to reflecting on the ways gender, race and other intersecting identities shape our lives and the tensions that arise from these intersections.
  2. Creating spaces for us to experience physical and emotional wellness as a collective. This has included coming together to visit exhibits in a local museum, gathering together over good home-cooked food (shout out to Pamela!), always having feel good music playing at our meetings.
  3. Mobilizing Sisterhood As Activism to care for, cover, defend and hold space for one another.
  4. More recently, reflecting on the emotional labor involved in our image-activist work, which  validates the emotional and mental demand of this work while also affirming the relational and personal benefits that come out of it.

Ultimately, we have realized that a collective-care strategy is about creating and holding space for ourselves and our sisters to be real about our mental and emotional state of being, while also instituting accountability in our sisterhood for engaging in relational and individual care work.

While groups spaces and practices are key to our collective-care, relationships are at the core of this type of care work. It’s those “hey girl, hey” check-ins we do within our group that push past the surface “I’m ok” answers to get to vulnerable truths. It’s in these smaller conversations where we ask, “Did you go outside today?” Or “How are you taking care of yourself?” These conversations can range from easy to difficult, particularly when we see or experience the evidence of self-harm, self-sabotage, or selfishness (disguised as self-care) in our sisters.

Davia Roberts from Redefine Enough (a community of women devoted to wellness and wholeness), talks about the importance of checking-in with our sisters in an episode from their podcast “Affirm.”  She offers tips for having these tough conversations, especially when there are red flags of mental health issues. As we each continue to practice care-for-self, consider, what does it mean to care for my sister? How can I make collective care a part of my care strategies this year? Find the episode, “My Sister’s Keeper” here: https://www.redefineenough.com/blog/ep-13-my-sisters-keeper

written by Erin Stephens for TBP