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.
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.