Tag Archives: Emotional Wellness

Accountability is the Answer When Self-Care is Elusive: 5 Tips

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The term self-care is thrown around so much these days that it causes concern. It’s  as if it’s in danger of being put out to pasture in the land of cliches. It’s truly an over-used phrase because it’s talked about much more than it is practiced. It’s almost silly sometimes. We talk about sleeping more. We talk about meditating. We talk about making more time for loved ones. Then we continue to grind.

Grinding feels like the anti-thesis of self-care. I mean, say it out loud. Even the way the word feels in your mouth feels sort of grimy and abrasive. Yet, it resonates with entrepreneurs, artists and activists I know. One who “grinds” is gangsta with his/her commitment to winning at whatever he/she does.

Oh self-care, self-care where art thou? With loads of articles, youtube videos and podcasts about self-care one would think that the self-care movement would have taken a greater foothold by now, but you know that old habits are hard to break. 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014. There are host of reasons as to why this occurs but Forbes magazine said that even Americans with paid vacations don’t take the time off. In 2014 only 25% of Americans used all their paid vacation days.

I have some really talented friends. They’re driven, determined and gifted producers, filmmakers, writers, dancers, singers, techies and creative professionals. My partner will close his eyes and be in la-la land minutes after sitting down. He “rests” his eyes in the most random of places and is clearly sleep deprived like many of my fam. I’ve also seen friends work themselves sick. Oh, and in my inner-circle not eating enough is much more common that over eating. Let’s not even talk about water consumption and hydrating foods.

Everybody knows we should be taking better care of ourselves especially in the current climate. If one has any ties to being actively engaged in the movement in even the smallest of ways, it’s important that people remain vigilant in the fight for peace of mind and optimal health.

If you’ve been trying to cleanse for the past year and haven’t done it make it to yoga class or the gym, and haven’t gone or if you want to drink more water or go to bed earlier at night,  consider enrolling a circle of people to support you as you transform your habits. Engage an accountability team that will help you stay on point. The first step is stop lying to yourself and thinking you can do it on your own. There’s a reason why community exist.

5 Tips to Creating Your Accountability Circle:

1-Be specific and tell people how to challenge you. Tell them what your goals are and where you tend to fall off track.

2-Remember that at the end of the day it’s still your responsibility. You have to show up with the mentality that you are doing to take better care of yourself.

3-Choose people who will tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. Avoid the loved ones who co-sign your crazy. Also, make sure they deliver in a style that speaks to your personality. Avoid those who cannot share without judging. You don’t need judgment, you need support.

4-Don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one or two self-care habits you want to build.  Work on that for a month. Write it down and post it in a few visible places. Put it in reminders on your phone and insert it into your calendar.

5-Find a self-care buddy. It’s sort of like a work-out partner. Identify someone who is working on the same thing and willing to stay in touch with you for a few weeks or a month while you both work on the goal. It may be a friend who wants to drink more water or someone who wants to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Text each other, inbox inspiring messages or videos and exchange information. Team work makes the dream work so get yourself a buddy!

So stop chasing your self-care. Looking within, look at the mirror and resolve to love up on yourself properly. Establishing accountability can be intimidating but commit to making the changes and letting others know how they can support you. The discomfort will melt away. Self-care is the best care and self-care is self-love.

Love yourself.

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“Self-care is not about self-indulgence. It’s about self-preservation.” – Audre Lorde

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Write the Truth: I’m Still Learning

Toni_1 - Copy-tifThe little girl in me wanted to write. Sleep in my eyes, teeth unbrushed and pillow imprints still on my face, I wanted to write but I couldn’t bring myself to sit with the word. Sometimes your heart wants to tell stories that are not yet meant to be told. Sometimes your words want to scream and holler in a way that your voice just doesn’t seem to support in this moment. This path of vulnerability that I have chosen and committed to pushes me to the edge of dealing with my stuff on a constant bases. There is no comfort zone except for the reality of knowing some of this self expression will stay safely filed away on my hard drive until I am ready.

I mean, I wanted to dive deep into the waters of friendship and sisterhood. There is the friendship with the woman who scheduled get togethers with me 9 times and 7 of those times didn’t even bother canceling. I released the relationship. Somehow in her mind she is a victim of something but I cannot figure out what. I made a few attempts at the Landmark style completion conversation then surrendered when I realized she wasn’t here for it. Of course, I could’ve, should’ve spoken to it after the third time but was still in a space of providing more compassion for others than for I did for myself. My time is valuable too – – yada, yada, yada. Some call it sucka shit but we all go through things. There is the friend I miss but her envy scared the hell out of me and the friend who was so judgmental that it felt like a toxic boyfriend. So these experiences inspired one of my most frequent chants of the year. It’s the affirmation: I let it go, I let it all go. I take full accountability for all that has transpired and I let it go.

Part of me would also enjoy the release of being completely naked and transparent about love, love relationships and matters of the heart but then we have to deal with how that impacts others, projects, business and image. One of my friends constantly reminds me to be mindful of my brand and intention. As a poet first and as a poet whose first pieces at 8 years old were rooted in calls for justice, fairness and truth, this part of adulthood feels completely wack. Why can’t we all just have an authentic conversation and confront these issues that plague so many of our lives? Oh, if only it was as simple as a conversation.

One of the most challenging issues is the one of a cousin who is bi-sexual and in a same-sex marriage. Some of the responses of family, God fearing, God loving, practicing Christian family members, constantly disappoints me. My heart has been broken more times than I can count. I sit quietly. I pray on it. I try not to lament on the absence of my grandma and grandpa from this earthly plane. I know how different our lives would be if they were still here. Then I remind myself and little Toni that there is no time machine and my dreaming will not bring them back to the physical. So I speak to them while on my knees and while in the shower as the water hides my tears I chant again: I let it go, I let it all go.

In my dreams, I am confident enough to tackle the most personal and painful of experiences with creativity, spiritual maturity and transparency but I’m not where I want to be just yet. This is still just an activity in my mind. Years ago I remember sitting in the African American Resource Center with E. Ethelbert Miller.  He was at his desk handing me a stack of poems marked up with red pen. There were 30 pages of text and at least 25 pieces, but he gave me five that he considered to be good poems. I suddenly realized I was far from the book I planned on publishing that semester. He watched both my ego and heart deflate right before his eyes as I sunk into the old wooden chair. Poet Carolyn M Rodgers Name

He began talking about a list of writers I should read as he set up a seat for me at a table with a stack of books with everything from Carolyn Rogers and early Don L. Lee to Alice Walker’s prose and Larry Neal’s critiques. There were journals from the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. As I stood up I could hear the big clock outside and see students scurrying across the yard below.  I remember many things Ethelbert taught me over the years but that afternoon he talked about the need for courage.  It takes courage to expose oneself.  Exposing your joy and your pain, your most sentimental feelings, your family stories – both the good and the bad, the struggles of life, the weaknesses and the strengths are all a part of the nakedness of being a writer. You may find a formula to become a popular writer but great writers are willing and able to write themselves naked and fully exposed on the page.

I can still inhale and smell the scent of old paper and books in the stacks of Founders library at Howard University. I also clearly remember how heavy my spirt was during those years. Ethelbert was a guardian angel to many of us. I am much lighter now and authentically happy, but I am still struggling to be a great writer. I am still learning how to write the truth, my truth. The blog format is like a gym to work out and build my muscles. Every once in a while I get on the scale to see where I’m at and today is one of those days. Three bomb ass writing prompts came to mind and I punked out on each one. I’m here laughing at myself as a way to not slip into the Virgodom of self-critique and thoughts of I-am-not-good-enough. Pressing publish on this post will serve as this morning’s creative accomplishment and thumbs up to an exercise completed. May your day be equally as blessed.

 

 

 

3 Things to Do When Your World is Going Crazy

Poem Warshan Shire

Hefty servings of chaos and crazy seem to be what the world is putting on our plates.  We get to choose from natural disasters, war or terrorist attacks perpetrated by zealots and even by some police.  What’s a sane person to do with all of this besides go into information overload and ride emotional ferris wheels? The world is hurting, people are hurting and people are hurting from watching others who are hurting. Redundant? Yes. And so is all of the bombing and killing and oppression.

I remember how my community ached after the Trayvon Martin verdict and the Mike Brown murder. There have been many other moments of collective aching but those two stand out in my mind in this moment. I think about Sandra Bland daily because she is one of my sister friends. I don’t know her literally but she could be any one of my friends. She could be me.

How do we stay grounded during times like these? How do we find moments of peace? How do we create an internal environment for emotional well-being? Well, I discovered that stress and anxiety cause major health problems within my body so I’ve been exploring a few ways to manage. I thought I would share a few of them with you:

  1. Look for the lessons. Not the lessons in the hatred and in the pain, but notice your reaction and responses to it, notice your triggers and coping mechanisms and notice how people in your circle respond.  Ask yourself what your “self” needs.  If you reach for biscuits and gravy or cheesecake each time something happens, ask yourself what you could reach for instead. Maybe your self needs to turn off the news or take a social media break? What do you need? Also, what do the people in your life need? Sometimes the best way to take care of our own hearts is by nurturing someone in need. These kinds of lessons help us sustain ourselves over the long haul. These lessons become self-care practices and make us more resilient.
  2. Identify healthy distractions.  Focus your energy on your loved ones smile or the laughter of children. Do things that make you feel good.  Write in your journal, make the perfect cup of tea or cook a nice stew. Go for a run or workout at the gym. There are times for stillness but sometimes we need to be in action and in motion to keep our energy flowing.
  3. Share what’s on your heart. Share what is present for you. Talk to someone you trust. If you need a professional go see someone.  Another option includes the online services like TalkSpace that you can use for therapy. A woman I know had a conference call with a few sister friends who live in different places. Another friend is hosting a last minute Sunday brunch.  Community is important. Isolation can make the world seem even more gray so let others shine their light on and around you.

There are not many things we can control so let go, let it all go.  We can control our thoughts and manage our feelings.  We can make choices that empower us and make us feel good. We can choose love. We just have to remember that love is a verb and loving ourselves is comes first so that we may better be able to serve others.

Waking with the Sun

IMG_3213Last night before going to bed I googled to see what time the sun was going to rise. I was contemplating an early morning beach meditation but remembered I had a list of things to do to prep for my cleanse. Of course, the seed for sunrise waking had been planted in my subconscious so something nudged me at 4:54am even though I resisted the tap on my soul’s shoulder.

I fell asleep with the fan pointing directly at me and that usually leads to me rolling over feeling dehydrated at some point during the night. Finding my water bottle meant opening my eyes and stretching my arm to reach for it. Not quite ready to rise, I repositioned myself for more sleep. My mind, however, had already begun etching a poem in the sky.   Two things were clear: 1) my mind wanted to write and 2) my heart wanted to watch the sun come up.

Sleepy, I reminded myself that it’s Sunday and I can nap without guilt. I also remembered that the market opens at 7am so it’s possible to finish all of my errands by 10am. I like the sound of that. Anyway, in the Ayurvedic tradition they say we should wake before the sun rise so we can synchronize with the rhythm of the sun and that it leads to better physical and cognitive function.

As an on again, off again lover of both the late night and the early morning, getting my inner 3 year old to go to bed by 10pm is like trying to get an actual 3 year old to go the heck to sleep. On some days I am so happy and creatively inspired that my energy bubbles like water in a teapot on the verge of boiling. Then there are days where there is so much to do, plan and prep for that stopping the work flow requires a set of rituals. My wake up time always seems to be in flux. Sleeping in is often necessary for me to be able to have a productive day, but today is not one of those days so we shall carry on.

I grabbed my liter bottle from the kitchen, made my cayenne/lemon daily detox drink, lit a white candle, burned one of the good incense sticks and opened both curtains wide. I started writing. It was still dark outside but the sky gradually became lighter and brighter.

The trauma that recent current events have caused is real. Sandra Bland was laid to rest yesterday but she is alive in my heart and mind. Feeling frustrated, hurt and angry about her arrest and death, I caught myself before I slipped into a low-funk. I made an energy shift, which elevated my emotional response. I keep remembering this line from a Lauryn Hill song – I was hopeless now I’m on Hope Road. Embracing my personal power and that of my various communities has been spiritually empowering.

Watching this morning’s sunrise functioned as a prayer. It is a prayer of rebirth. Today is yet another new beginning. There are a number of ways rising early can impact work life and your habits but I’m really focused on the spiritual benefits which include the following:

  • The quiet, noiseless early morning means the mind is free. There is more room for clutter free thought. Our mind can access solutions to problems with greater ease and ponder decisions without distractions.
  • It gives us an opportunity to practice what coach Cheryl Richardson called the art of extreme self care. It can actually be viewed as a gift to self. You can create a ritual whether it’s lighting a candle, aromatherapy and/or making a special tea.
  • Some of our best ideas hit us in that space where we are awake but not fully alert so the creativity can really flow.
  • It increases your peace of mind because you have more mental organization around your priorities, self-care and responsibilities.
  • Meditating before the noise begins while all is still quiet is extremely powerful.

Yes, I know that we have to go to bed earlier if we are going to wake with the sun. Yours truly will have to practice bed time to get to that point, but for now I am giving myself permission to enjoy the early morning and to take in the sunrise every chance a get.

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You Think You Have Time

If tomorrow is not promised and life offers no guarantees, why do we live our lives as if we’ve got time? One of my favorite memes floating around social media is the Buddha quote below:BuddahTime1

We worry about things over which we have no control yet don’t act on the things we can control.  We worry about the past.  We worry about what others think. We even teach our children to worry because we are worried that they do not worry enough.

An uncle who was deeply loved by our family is being laid to rest today.  The first thing I read after waking was a poem my cousin wrote in response. It reminded me to be grateful for everything our elders gave us, that I would not be who I am without them.  Last night I performed at the Blue Note Jazz Festival with master pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and the last song in the set was entitled “Thank You”.  Lines from the first verse of the song I wrote with my creative partner –

inner-light started to flicker/skin got thicker/soul got richer/now I see the picture/down but not out/quiet tears followed by shouts/through screams  streams/visualizing new scenes/new ways, new means/manifesting old dreams/Never thought that right could feel so wrong/Never thought that these lessons would keep comin’ on/Never thought that I would even live this long/Never thought that I could ever be this strong

I parked at a meter last night so I had to get up out and early to avoid getting a ticket.  After getting gas, I found myself at a Caribbean food spot on President Street and Utica Ave ordering callaloo, boiled green banana and white yam. CallalooBoiledPlantainIt’s quite different from the grits, eggs and bacon of my childhood and what I might have eaten at Uncle Maurice and Aunt Norma’s home.  It’s a reflection of not only where I live but of where I have been.  From the Bay Area to visiting 40 countries, living 12 years in D.C. and in July 14 years in New York minus the one year I spent in Philadelphia.  My comfort food breakfast provided the comfort I needed as I sit in my room wondering if I should have gone home for the services.

Then I remember that thing about time–not having much of it, not wanting to waste anymore of it on worry and sadness. I am right where I am supposed to be. I think about poets Sekou Sundiata, Jayne Cortez, Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou. These were lives lived so fully that their words, their legacies will breathe life for many years to come. My guiding thought today:  What are you creating, completing, giving birth to that will breathe life long after you have gone?

It’s way too easy to make proclamations about living fearlessly while we’re in the midst of grieving the loss of a loved one who has died, but I am crystal clear about what my life shall represent from this day going forward.  I’ve had a breakthrough in gratitude and on the subject of living. It’s the kind of shift that will serve as a filter for bullshit- my own and that of those around me. It’s that keep-it-100 whether anyone is looking or not kind of shift.

Loving fiercely was a commitment I made for 2014.  Getting over myself and this habit of perfectionism, worrying what others think, and not being able to say no were also a part of my new personal manifesto.  I am fronting less in my relationships and allowing others the space to be uncomfortable as they adjust to my new vulnerability skills. My friends and loved ones understand that when I grow, “we” grow –together. Oh, our lives are so much richer because of it.  Now, we have more energy for things that really matter.

The biggest reminder I’ve gotten from recent events is that the only moment we really have is this one right here. It’s a reminder to hold your loved ones tight then release and to not fear loving.  I am focused on breathing deeply while inhaling love and exhaling fear, resentment and worry. List your top five dreams.  Then go for it. Stop making excuses for why you cannot lose the weight, cannot start the business, cannot take the classes, cannot have the kind of relationship that you want. Do the work. Begin with the inner-work and get into action. Once we surrender and get out of our own way we often realize that the only real problem is that we think we have time.

Rest in peace Uncle Maurice10385472_10203805365165318_386695138497654970_n