The Art of Self-Love: Protecting Your Magic as a Black Woman

The Art of Self-Love: Protecting Your Magic as a Black Woman

"How you gonna win if you ain't right within?" -Lauryn Hill
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“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”—Audre Lorde

I’m pretty sure we can admit; black girls are the reigning queens at getting the job(s) done, hands down. We’re the nurturers day to day and we’re living busy lives, whether it be attending school, grinding at work, or taking care of others. We do these things to the best of our abilities all while dealing with life’s every day struggles, and of course societal oppression. Such women are goddesses, and quite frankly, deserve the world if you ask me. But it can seem like a daily and constant cycle of wake up, grind, take care of loved ones, sleep, repeat.

As black women, our self-care is vital. Naturally, our two sides, the nurturer in us (the gentle side that doesn’t want to let our friends and family down) and the boss in us (the fierce, get-sh*t-done-and-prevail-over-any-and-all-hurdles-towards-my-success) can prevent us from taking care of ourselves, if there isn’t a healthy balance. Where is our “middle”? I’ve talked to plenty of women who unfortunately believe that they must sacrifice their happiness in order to look out for their families, jobs, and/or education.

Now, don’t get me wrong, many fail to see that working hard is an amazing form of self love. What better way to say, “I love me”, than to put my all into getting what I deserve in the long run? However, we all know that too much of something isn’t a good thing. In fact, I am able to work hard in a more proficient manner by taking care of and loving myself. I feel like many of us fail to see that rejuvenation periods are actually major keys to success. Like Audre Lorde says, self love and care are acts of preserving who you are as an individual. Think of it as preserving your magic, like putting your skills, talents, nurturing and hardworking abilities on a charger. Just like your phone that needs charging and your car that needs fueling,

So. Do. You.

If I help myself first, I find that I actually have more energy to give into helping others and doing what I have to do, and I can do my tasks enthusiastically! We need to remember that our needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Many of us were raised to live by, “put others first” as our primary motto. There is nothing wrong with sacrifice and it is indeed necessary from time to time, but it should not involve giving up your sanity and/or happiness. If you see anything in your life taking you to a negative space, it is your duty to yourself to confront it, whether that means having a heart to heart with someone you feel is weighing you down (or distancing yourself from this person), or breaking up big tasks into smaller ones.

It is okay to say no to that party and go to sleep or have some time to yourself. There’ll be tons more parties and you’re still cool to those who matter. It’s okay to sit and have hot tea or a glass of wine with your favorite show after a long tedious day. Ma’am, it’s been a long week, and you know good and well that you are more than deserving of that candlelit bath.

So with that said, if you are reading this, remember that you are only able to give healthy love, when you love yourself. You are a queen, so treat yourself as such! I totally understand as someone who works through depression myself that it can be easier said than done, but, it is vital to remember that self love and care is a continuous practice, and is not a destination or something that you can take a day off from. Take it step by step, and make it a point to practice it each and every day. I hope the tips provided below find you well on your journey!

My Top 10 Self Love/Self Care Tips:

  • Ground yourself spiritually. My spiritual practices keep me grounded. You DO NOT have to be religious to be spiritual. Meditate, pray, do yoga, or go to church if that is for you. Create your own rituals that instill peace within you. Anything that truly resonates with your soul will do.
  • Make a vision board that embodies everything you are, that you love, and what you desire for your life. Pick out magazine clippings, photos, images, odds and ends and glue them all on to a poster board (or a cardboard box!). Hang it up where you can look at it every day.
  • When I’m feeling less than fabulous, I throw on some Erykah Badu, India Arie or Lauryn Hill. Those three always set the vibes right for me and help me vibrate higher again. And of course those are my personal faves, but just turn up some happy tunes to get you going again!

A Few Songs (of many) I’d Recommend:

  • Erykah Badu

-Didn’tcha Know

-Bag Lady

-On & On

  • Lauryn Hill

-To Zion

-Ex-Factor

-Nothing Even Matters

  • India Arie

-Beautiful

-Little Things

-There’s Hope

  • Taking your time with your day always helps, especially in the mornings. Brew/buy your favorite coffee or tea. Don’t just rush out of bed, be still and say a prayer or meditate. Take your time on your makeup. Before you leave, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful and that you love yourself dearly.
  • Work out! Those feel-good endorphins are no joke! After a nice exercise routine, you’ll feel refreshed, motivated and ready to take on the world. This practice is healthy mind, body and spirit.
  • If you need to go to counseling, GO. I’m not playing. I don’t care what your father, mother, sister, auntie, or your cousin says. Please go. Your mental health comes first and FOREMOST. Many fail to see that inner issues can creep slowly but surely into aspects of our lives if they are not addressed or healed.
  • Pamper yourself! Take a bath complete with candles and soothing music, paint your nails, and/or a facial. Can’t take a bath or hate them? Invest in an all-natural body scrub to use in your morning or nightly routine. When you’re looking good, you’re feeling good. Also, I highly suggest that every woman invests in organic coconut oil for skin and haircare. The tropical scent and your smooth skin will have you feeling like a Nubian goddess within seconds.
  • Take yourself to bed earlier. Get everything taken care of and get some well deserved rest. Sleep lessens depression, irritability, as well as makes you feel ready to take on the day, not to mention retains memory for all you college gals. Put your phone ACROSS the room, drink a hot cup of tea, and focus on your breathing before you tap out.
  • Keep a journal. Journaling is a healthy way to release the thoughts and feelings we harbor throughout the day. For me, writing is my life. It continuously keeps me in tune of who I am and where I am in my life's journey. Even if it’s one line, make it your goal to write something every day. Don’t know what to write? Here are a few examples:
  • “Today, I will show myself love by_______”
  • “Two (or more) positive things that happened today are______”
  • “Tomorrow, I will create a better day by______”
  • Write down the top 3-5 things you love about yourself. If you can write more, WRITE MORE by all means! Now next to each quality, write down how you will you enhance these things, or how you will do you do better to remember these things when you’re feeling down.
  • Write a 10 sentence autobiography about yourself, containing a couple of sentences about your past, present and future each. This is a great way for you to see your legacy in plain sight, and to remember who you are and where you are headed. Hang it up or store it where you can see daily.
  • Drink PLENTY of water. Great with inner and outer properties. You’ll feel better and your skin will love you lots!

I hope you enjoyed these tips and that they aid you well on your self-love journey!

Peace and light always,

Maya

Cover Image Credit: https://blackwomenofbrazil.co/2015/09/01/from-the-first-heartbreak-to-a-nonexistent-love-life-how-my-loneliness-taught-me-self-love/

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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The Health Risks of Eating at the Ballpark This Summer

The staggering absence of nutritious options for regular patrons at Citizens Bank Park

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No Phillies fan would say that this past Friday's game was great--- the Milwaukee Brewers blew the Fightin' Phils out of the water at 12-4. I went to the game myself and my dad---a self-proclaimed "Philly Phanatic"--- was begging me to leave after the seventh inning stretch. Needless to say, it was a sorry sight, yet not hardly as appalling as the junk food forced on parishoners at the stadium.

Not only are fans barred from bringing food or drink into the stands, but they are bombarded with the enchanting smells of the fast food sold every five steps in the stadium complex. Usually, these facts wouldn't phase me; but since there is not a single, god-damned green vegetable available for purchase, it really grinds my gears.

Although I have never struggled with any weight problems myself, my father has for as long as I can remember. A light-hearted, hard-working family man, my dad has eaten what commercials and billboards had sold him as the quick, tasty, cheap meal for his time-constrained adult life---and it has left its mark.

He's obese.

His blood pressure is through the roof and he has sleep apnea leaving little respite from his already tiring life. To help, I've been making him the healthier meals his body needs so that time isn't a factor in his choice of food anymore. As of late, he had been sleeping more soundly and even appearing more chipper with his eating the little boxed chicken or fish salads I pack him. So, it goes without saying that I felt pretty helpless as I watched my father chomp on a loaded ball park hot dog and fries--- only to find him hours later awake and watching T.V. groggily in the middle of the night despite his having work that morning.

To prevent what I didn't know as inevitable at the time, I had searched every menu of each stand for a meal nutritious and filling for my father. To my dismay, I came back with nothing. No matter the restaurant, whether it be Chick-fil-a or Chickie's and Pete's, the menus displayed meal options barely enough to count on your right hand while the drink menus read like a short story. Perhaps, then-- I thought to myself--- the popcorn could be better. Unbuttered and lightly-salted popcorn can be a filling, whole-grain, and low-calorie snack but alas, what we purchased was hidden in a box with no nutrition label and tasted heavily of additives (I think I even tasted a bit of hidden sugar, but I can't be sure because the nutritional information is basically impossible to find).

While writing this article, I had scoured the Citizen Bank Park website for nutritional information on the choices offered to patrons. While the Advanced Suite Menu has a bountiful assortment of healthy options for whomever was to order catering in their suite, the regular-paying fans are given basically zilch in terms of nutritional information. Sure, the calories are listed beside the menu options (at least the food items are), but even if one gets a low calorie meal, it's still some form of fried-fiasco bound to leave them hungry and cause them to buy some other "low calorie option"; making them destined to consume the same if not more calories. Of course, especially disciplined patrons could simply not buy another food item, but I think we can all agree no one wants to be hungry on a night when they came out and spent money to have fun.

In a time where the obesity crisis is dealing some serious damage to the health of people from all walks of life and even fast food restaurants are striving to offer healthier options to whomever may stumble through their "golden arches," I think it's absolutely imperative that ball parks, specifically Citizens Bank Park, gets its act together and gives its regular-paying patrons filling and nutritionally beneficial food options; not just for my father's sake, but for other people just like him who are caught in this chaos that is the american diet.

Cover Image Credit:

Shannon Lynn

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