Something that my mother used to say, fairly often about me, is that I'm violent about getting (emotionally) healthy and maintaining my peace of mind. While it is a bit of a play on words (you know, being "violent" in order to "keep the peace"), I won't lie…she is exactly right. The older—and prayerfully wiser—I get, the more I tend to repel anything that is counterproductive in my world. On the heels of that, the more I study about how stress plays a direct role in illnesses like heart-disease, diabetes, depression, obesity and even premature death, the more intentional I am about maintaining my overall health and well-being. A part of that means keeping my stress levels low.
Take the stress hormone known as cortisol, for example. While this steroid hormone plays a significant role in increasing our body's metabolism, controlling our blood pressure, and reducing how much inflammation our system produces, it can cause all sorts of health-related issues when it's out of balance. When your cortisol levels are too low, that can result in things like fatigue, muscle weakness and weight loss. When it's too high, that can ultimately lead to weight gain, irregular periods, acne, mood swings, slow healing (especially when it comes to your skin), headaches and high blood pressure.
While rest, exercise and meditation are a few ways to naturally increase your cortisol levels, if yours tilts towards the higher side, there are foods that you can eat to naturally decrease them too. So, if your period has been a little erratic lately or your blood pressure has been a little higher than usual, after seeing your doctor (for a clear diagnosis), consider adding some of the following foods to your diet. As you're about to see, they are proven to be good for you on so many levels; including when it comes to getting your cortisol levels back on track.
If you like to snack on blueberries, you are definitely doing your body good for a myriad of reasons. Blueberries are high in vitamins C and K. Blueberries contain anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer compounds in them. Blueberries also contain calcium and iron to keep your bones healthy, fiber to aid in healthy digestion and, properties to help your brain to maintain its short-term memory. The reason why blueberries are great for decreasing your cortisol levels is because they are low in sodium and high in magnesium. The balance of both of these plays a direct role in keeping your blood pressure in check, which is always a good thing.
Blueberries Tip: You can keep blueberries from molding while helping them to last longer by adding a cup of white vinegar to three cups of distilled water. Let your fresh blueberries soak in the solution for 10 minutes, then drain them, run them under cold water and dry them with a couple of paper towels. Then all you have to do is store them in a sealable container, place them in the fridge and they can easily last for up to two weeks.
2. Black Tea
Black tea is a really great drink. It contains the antioxidants theaflavins and thearubigins which are able to strengthen your immune system and help to keep diabetes at bay. Black tea also has flavonoids that can help to keep your heart strong. Some other cool things about black tea is it's able to remove bad bacteria in your gut, it has compounds that can lower your blood pressure, and there are properties in it that can reduce your risk of having a stroke by as much as 21 percent (if you drink a cup of black tea per day).
The reason why it makes this particular list is because, when elevated cortisol levels result in a rise in your heart rate, consuming black tea can decrease the cortisol in your system by as much as 47 percent. Pretty impressive, indeed.
Black Tea Tip: Not the biggest fan of how black tea tastes? Try Food Network's Honey Citrus Southern Iced Tea recipe here.
3. Cannellini Beans
Never heard of these types of beans before? Basically, they are white beans that are super popular in Italian, Greek and French cuisines. Because cannellini beans are considered to be a macronutrient that is high in protein, iron, potassium and calcium yet doesn't contain any amount of fat, I'm pretty sure you can see why they are top on the list of being a dietary recommendation. As far as health benefits go, cannellini beans help to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels, reduce free radicals and body inflammation, so it makes total sense why you should pick some up if you want to keep your cortisol levels in check.
Cannellini Beans Tip: Put a new twist to cannellini beans by making some Cannellini-Bean Pasta with Beurre Blanc. You can get step-by-step instructions here.
4. Dried Apricots
If you're looking for more healthy snacks to add to your diet, how about some dried apricots? They are low in calories while being high in fiber, calcium and magnesium. Since dried apricots also have a good amount of Vitamin A in them, they are able to boost your immune system, encourage cell growth, maintain your vision, strengthen your bones, and even assist in healthy embryonic development if you happen to be pregnant. Something else that dried apricots have in them is potassium. When cortisol levels are elevated, a decrease in potassium comes as a direct result (this results in fatigue, muscle cramps, mood swings, heart palpitations and breathing difficulties). Eating foods with potassium in them can help to restore the potassium in your body that has been lost.
Dried Apricots Tip: If you want to take a stab at making some apricot fruit roll-ups, Natasha Kitchen's website has your back. Check out "How to Make Apricot Fruit Leather" to get the recipe.
5. Holy Basil
Here's what's a trip about holy basil—it's literally an adaptogenic herb. What that means is it's the type of herb that helps your body to build up a resistance to stressors that might try and attack your body. Holy basil is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. Because of this, it increases energy levels, lowers inflammation, improves brain function, strengthens organ function and yes, balances out your cortisol levels. Just make sure that you don't give it to infants or children (studies on its safety for them is on-going) and that you only take it six weeks at a time, should you choose to use it in supplement form. The reason why is because holy basil is so potent, that it's not a good idea to take larger quantities without taking breaks in between.
Holy Basil Tip: How should you store this fresh herb? First, make sure to clip the ends of it. Then, place the herb into a glass jar or vase. Cover up the jar and store it in the refrigerator. It will last for a week if you do. Or, you can cut up the leaves of the herbs, put them into ice trays that are filled with water. If you then transfer the cubes to a large resealable plastic bag, the cubes can keep for up to a year.
Mangoes are as good for you as they taste. They are high in antioxidants, the combination of vitamins A and C can help to keep your skin clear and, because they are on the lower end of the glycemic index scale, this means that they can tackle the sweet cravings you might have if you happen to be diabetic.
If high cholesterol is something that you struggle with, mangoes can assist with that too. How? Well, since they are a fruit that contains high levels of fibre pectin, mangoes are able to reduce the cholesterol in your system that can lead to plaque in your blood vessels which can ultimately restrict blood flow to your heart.
Mangoes Tip: Sick of mangoes turning brown quicker than you can finish eating them? If so, once you slice a mango up, put the slices into some fresh lemon juice. The acid will slow down the browning process without interfering with the taste of the mango itself.
7. Olive Oil
Out of all the different kinds of oil that you have to choose from, you should definitely have olive oil in your kitchen pantry. It's loaded with omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and, it has anti-inflammatory properties in it. Also, unlike a lot of other oils that can do the opposite (of what I'm about to say) over time, studies reveal that olive oil can help to prevent heart disease and prevent strokes, fight off cancer cells, effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis, plus it does not lead to weight gain. As a bonus, because olive oil contains the compound oleuropein, it can lower cortisol levels too.
Olive Oil Tip: There are basically three different kinds of olive oil— refined, virgin, and extra virgin. If you want to consume the one that has the most health benefits, it's best to go with extra virgin olive oil. That's because it is the least processed and refined.
Salmon is probably my favorite kind of fish. I like that it's not super fishy in taste and has a light texture. Anyway, I always feel good whenever I eat it because I know that it's looking out for my physical health whenever I do. Salmon is rich in omega-3s, B vitamins and protein. It's also high in potassium, selenium (a mineral that protects your bone health and your thyroid) and astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a compound that reduces oxidation in your system. As a result, it can help to keep your cortisol levels from getting out of control.
Salmon Tip: If you want to get the most nutritional benefits from eating salmon, try poaching it. Poaching pretty much consists of placing salmon filets in a shallow saucepan, along with water, wine or bone or vegetable broth for about 10 minutes; just enough for the salmon to not be raw without being overcooked. If you want to check out a video on how to prepare salmon this way, click here.
As far as nuts go, walnuts are packed with all kinds of health benefits. Not only are they also a food that are high in antioxidants, but they are a great source of omega-3, selenium, calcium, zinc and Vitamin E. If you're looking for a food that promotes a healthy gut, will lower your risk of having type 2 diabetes and even helps your body to age gracefully, walnuts can handle all of this. Because these are the types of nuts that significantly decrease oxidative stress to your system, they are something else that you can eat to get your cortisol levels down too. Very cool.
Walnuts Tip: Have you ever wondered how to caramelize your own walnuts? All you need to do is put one cup of walnuts, ¼ cup of brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter into a non-stick skillet. Over medium-heat, stir the nuts and the mixture together for about five minutes. Then transfer the nuts to parchment paper, making sure to separate the nuts so that they don't stick together. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes and then your nuts will be ready to eat. Enjoy!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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