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How To Thrive When You're In Survival Mode

Inspiration

There are times we reap and times we sow. When we're in the process of sowing our seeds for success it can be hard to pop our heads up and provide a little self-care.


Especially when the grind has time and money tied up. Sometimes I'll come across a piece of life advice that's out of my price range or too time consuming to be possible. Like taking a weekend vacation when the work grind is too heavy or indulging in a day at the spa to release tension or investing in the services of a life coach. The way my savings account is set up, I'm not making any major withdrawals until the balance stops giving me anxiety.

But, just because you're in survival mode doesn't mean you don't also need to relax. In fact, taking some time to reboot can very often be the thing you need to push through. The conflict I often ran into was how to simplify this process so it doesn't take too much time - or money. After a few years of perfecting my own little survival guide, I've figured out how to sprinkle in much needed self-care without losing step.

Change Your Nightly Narrative

I don't know how many times I've woken up literally on my laptop. Studies have shown that not having a night time routine - even as an adult - can lead to heart failure and even memory loss. Instead of going to sleep by default, install a 30 minute nighttime routine and a bedtime. Take a shower, use lavender oil to relax, put your phone on do-not-disturb and listen to something soothing until sleep finds you. Removing one small element of chaos (i.e. a sporadic bedtime) will reshape your entire mental state the very next morning.

Wear Less Black

It's a go-to color for most of us busy ladies - it's hard to stain, it's slimming and it relays professionalism effortlessly. It's also an energy absorber. Every reiki practitioner or energy healer will tell you that the colors you wear (and even the fabrics) can have an impact on how you feel. Black attracts and absorbs the energy around you and can emotionally weigh you down. Opt out of this color as much as possible and instead wear lighter colors like white, beige and yellow to ...

Schedule Your Social Media Time

Sure you could check your social media threads whenever you have idle hands but did you really even miss anything? Probably not. Instead, allow yourself a social media check in at specific times. Like every 3 hours or 5 times per day. It might take a little while to get used to but in the end you'll notice you check in with social media less often and therefore are less exposed to all those millions of triggers that can add to an already stressful day.

Treat Yourself (On A Budget)

Even when time and money are limited, you can still do the smallest things to give you that pat on the back that you need. When you take on an extra job or an extra client or an extra class, you know in advance that you're about to be drowning in extra work. Be mindful of how stressed you'll be an section out a little time and a little money to treat yourself along the way. 30 minutes for a manicure every Friday, one girl's night out after reaching your first milestone goal. Rewarding yourself is the oldest advice in the book but it is key to remind yourself why you're grinding so hard in the first place.

Surround Yourself With Fellow Grinders

Who you spend time with can have a huge impact on how you feel. When you do take time to relax or enjoy life, do so with people who are in the same place as you. It's one thing to be genuinely happy for that friend who just got back from an excursion in Costa Rica but it still can make you come down hard on yourself. Instead, hit up someone you know can use a break too and invite them to take a moment to breathe with you, even if its just a pow-wow over the phone to unload the woes of work life.

Say "No" To Them And "Yes" To You

Even when I'm swamped, I tend to still find time to be there for other people. Whether it's a long phone call to serve tea or attending someone's birthday party - I would find a way to squeeze it in, tired or not. I learned a little trick though. Instead of saying yes to them, I just say no. If I don't have the energy to attend, with everything going on then that is exactly what I say. But, the trick is to take those three or four hours I would have spent at that event on myself - relaxing, vegging out in front of Netflix, reading a book, listening to a lecture, or just plain napping. If I can squeeze in time for others, I can certainly squeeze in time for myself when I need it most.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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