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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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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How A Podcast About Murder Helped My Mental Health

And a community that sprang forth became my lifeline.

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Sometimes I wonder what it's like to live without mental illness.

To wake up in the morning and feel secure in your body, your thoughts, your actions, and your relationships.

I don't have that luxury, and neither do 43.8 million Americans in any given year.

So why is it so easy to convince ourselves that we're alone?

I struggled with mental illness before my childhood trauma, which made me an easy target. The effects of my abuse magnified my genetic predisposition to mental health problems. Members from both sides of my family suffer from some type of mental illness. I would never want to offend any relatives of mine, so I won't disclose the number, but let's just say, it's a lot. As for my ancestors, I know a maternal great-grandfather hit my maternal grandfather, and the wife of the aforementioned great-grandfather was an agoraphobic. She mostly only drank tea and ate toast and was rail thin so it's not hard to reach the conclusion that she had an eating disorder.

I am very fortunate in that I grew up in a family who didn't hide from their mental health issues. My mom realized she had anxiety when she was in her very early 20's and was open about it - which for the 1980's was not common. She is the most genuine person I know, and part of that is because she doesn't pretend everything is always perfect.

So, even though my parents were always supportive through my struggles, pushing me to achieve my best while also assuring me that it was okay to take a mental health day from school from time to time, I still felt like I was the only one in the world that felt the way I did.

I won't bore you with the details, but most of my memories from my childhood have to do with anxiety, depression, food, and body issues. I remember telling my parents I had, "that lonely feeling again." Which, was the feeling of my heart in my stomach - the feeling of isolation and sadness and impending doom - something I still deal with today. One of my first words was "safe." I was convinced my parents would die in a car accident. I was five standing in a mirror calling myself fat, I was ten swearing an Oreo would be the last thing I would ever eat, I was eight hoarding food. I was seven, afraid I would crush the horse I was riding because of my weight. I was 12 the first time I made myself throw up.

Anxiety, depression and eating disorders have been woven into the fabric of my being. And working to untangle those threads is a daily struggle.

I'm a firm believer in therapy and medications if that is what's best for your journey. I don't believe in blanket diagnoses, or one size fits all meds. I was hospitalized three times in high school at an inpatient mental health facility, and for me, it didn't help. The final stay, after attempting suicide, journaling was my vehicle out of the darkest place I had been yet.

"I wrote my way out."

When I was 18, I found my way back to God. Recovering memories of being abused is brutal and with my history of mental illness, I don't know what I would have done if I had uncovered the abuse before June 14, 2017. I truly believe that God's timing is always perfect, and I had reached the point in my life where I was ready to receive my truth.

Two months after recovering the memories, I stumbled across a little Podcast called, My Favorite Murder. At that point, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark had been releasing episodes weekly for a little over a year and a half. I was hooked and binged the catalog of episodes.

Not only did it make me realize my love of true crime, but I found an amazing community of some of the most wonderful people I've never met.

What makes Karen and Georgia's Podcast so special isn't the crime. No, it's them. It's their authenticity, their rawness. Their openness about their struggles with addiction, anxiety, depression, body image issues, and their flaws. It's their championing of survivors of abuse and attacks, their support of women, and their dedication to End the Backlog (there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested, this organization helps fight that).

Although their opinions sometimes differ from mine, they've created this beautiful space of inclusiveness on the radical notion that as long as you're kind and respectful, you are welcome.

The main Facebook page has hundreds of thousands of followers and pretty early on, people started making spinoff groups, made up of Murderinos (MFM fans) for specific interests. Like apps, there's an MFM spinoff group for anything. From cat lovers to craft enthusiasts to local groups (heyyyy 'Here's the Thing, 518 Everybody') to religious groups (Looking at you 'Thou Shalt Not Murder!'). I joined the latter two groups and loved the little communities.

But then I thought, "Wow, I would really love to join a group for Survivors of abuse." To my surprise, there wasn't one.

I had reached a point in my healing journey that I needed to talk to people who knew what I was going through.

So, I shoved down my negative self-talk that told me no one would want to join a group I made and created a spinoff group.

And Survivorinos was born.

It's been four months since I clicked "create." In that time, we have almost 450 members and this past month I made three strong women moderators to help keep the community running.

For someone who writes a lot and often has (too much) to say, Survivorinos still has me at a loss for words. I started the group because I needed an outlet to vent things that I couldn't say to my friends or family. I needed to share intimate details of my life with people who understood. And what I found was a monumental revelation to me: so many other people needed the same thing.

This community is filled with nothing but love. In a world filled with negativity and fighting, this little corner of the Internet remains focused on helping their fellow man. The stories are heartbreaking, but the comments are uplifting. Love and prayers are sent, advice is given, and memes and animal pictures are abundant.

Now I can't imagine my life without Survivorinos.

Karen and Georgia say all the time how lucky they feel, that their Podcast has turned into this ever-expanding network of humans caring about one another. But it's us, the listeners, who should be thankful. I know I am. Because they took the leap and started this podcast, I found a group of people I didn't even know I needed.

Stay sexy, and keep destigmatizing mental illness and the effects of abuse.

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