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9 Foods That'll Actually Decrease Your Cortisol (Stress) Hormones

Here's how certain foods can lower your stress levels...deliciously so.

Food & Drink

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.

1. Blueberries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

6. Mangoes

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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

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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.

8. Salmon

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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.

9. Walnuts

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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!

Do you have a beauty, wellness or self-care find that you've tried recently and want to share your experience? Join the xoTribe members community to connect with other beauty lovers and share your wins with the tribe.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

It was a cold winter night in Chicago, more than a year ago. Your girl was scrolling through the fifty-eleven million options on Netflix to find something interesting to watch. I spotted this new show, The Circle, and have not looked away since. Produced by Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, it premiered in January 2020 and has become my new favorite type of game show. Hosted by Michelle Buteau, The Circle is about contestants who are isolated in their own apartments and can only communicate with others via an online social media platform.

On season 2 of The Circle, the world fell in love with DeLeesa, the contestant who would eventually be crowned winner of the cash prize. She won the game by playing as a single dad named Trevor, who is actually her husband. As a true fan of the series, I figured it was only right to sit down with DeLeesa and Trevor to get the deets on how marriage has been for them IRL. So, let me take y'all back into time real quick, to the beginning of their love story.

It was 2007, and DeLeesa was starting her first day of school as a college freshman. She was getting adjusted to her new dorm and was introduced to her new resident assistant, *drum roll please* Trevor St. Agathe. They quickly became friends and Trevor helped DeLeesa find different activities around campus. After a year, they decided to take things to the next level.

Now, 14 years and two beautiful children later, the married couple have been focusing on doing whatever it takes to create the best life for their children. Since college, the power of commitment and open communication is what has kept DeLeesa and Trevor by each other's side.

One thing that we can all learn from The Circle and social media in general is that everything is not what it seems. When I connected with the couple, DeLeesa wanted to get the story straight about her and Trevor's love story. "I feel like people look at couples on social media and they think that things are perfect when that's not true. We went through stuff, too. We just figured out how to overcome it and move together as a unit."

In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Deleesa and Trevor share how marriage is about work, navigating through the ups and downs, and prioritizing family. Here's their story:

How We Met

DeLeesa: I got to school early because I was starting [college] a semester late. I met him, we became friends, and I developed a little crush on him. One day, we were hanging out in his room and he just didn't want me to leave (laughs). So we were messing around for about a year. Exactly one year later, I told Trevor that I am not going to keep doing this unless he becomes my man. If he didn't make me his girl, then we were done. (Laughs)

Trevor: I tried to ride it out as long as I could (laughs). At the time, I was thinking, since I'm still in college, I shouldn't be tied down. But I knew that if I didn't make it official, she was going to leave. So, she was right, and we took it to the next level.

First Impressions

Trevor: I thought she was absolutely beautiful. She was pretty and the new girl on campus. So I knew she was going to get lots of attention. But I didn't want to be on that with her, so I continued to just be a stand-up guy. At first, it was the normal student-and-RA relationship. She would ask me what activities she could do on campus and I gave her a few suggestions. For a few days, we continued to hang out and I started to realize the chemistry we had between us.

DeLeesa: When I first met Trevor, I wasn't even thinking about going that [relationship] route with him. I was new to the school and I just wanted to be his friend. But because we shared bathrooms in the dorm, this man would just walk around in his towel sometimes. I couldn't help but notice him more after that. I just thought 'He is fine!' (Laughs) He was so nice and he never pressured me into anything, but, he knew what he was doing.

Favorite Things

DeLeesa: I love that he has unconditional love for me. I feel like that no matter what I do or no matter how mad he gets, he is still always going to be by my side for anything that I need. We have been together for a long time. Even though we had breaks in between, he has always been there for me.

Trevor: It's not just one thing for me, but I can sum it up: DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me.

"DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me."

Wedding Day

Trevor: On our wedding day, I was crying like a baby when I finally saw her. That is my fondest memory of that day: seeing my wife-to-be from a distance and instant water works. (Laughs)

DeLeesa: I really enjoyed our first dance. Our wedding was pretty big, and I planned the whole thing. I was very hands-on and it was hard for me to just have a moment and be present. But when we had our first dance, that was our time to just be with each other and not worry about anything else. It really hit me that we were married at that point.

The One

DeLeesa: Well, the thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached nine years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together. And if we didn't work out, we were going to go our separate ways. For me, I really wanted us to work because I did see him as my future husband and my children's father. So it was the conversation we had to not break up that was my "you are the one for me" moment.

Trevor: It was something that I always knew. Young Trevor would say, "If I had to get married, this is who I want to marry." When I knew it was time to take things more seriously with her, it was after we had that conversation. Another confirmation that DeLeesa was the one was when we had to move to Canada from New York. I thought to myself that this woman must really love me to pack up and move to another country for me. This woman trusts me so much and she is my forever.

"The thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached 9 years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together."

Biggest Fears

Trevor: The questions that popped into my head were, "Can I do it?"; "Can I be a good husband to her?"; or "Was I truly husband material?" You can't take a test for that or study to get those answers. You have to just do it, apply your morals and values, and do the best you can. What has helped me with this is continuing to reaffirm how we feel about one another—affirmations that let me know that she is happy and I am doing a good job. Marriage isn't that much different from what we have already been doing this entire time. We just wear rings.

DeLeesa: My biggest fear [is related to the fact that] I am a very independent person, [so] if I do not like something, I can be out, quick! So with me, I questioned if I could stay put and fight through the bad times within a marriage. I would question if it is worth sticking it out since this is a lifelong commitment. What has helped me get through that is reminding myself that I can still be independent within my own marriage. I can still do things on my own and still share my life with someone I really care about.

Early Challenges

DeLeesa: I feel like I have been really good at keeping my relationship with my friends balanced with my partnership with Trevor. So when we first got married, my personal challenge was me trying to juggle between being a good wife and still making time for my girls. I really didn't want to lose sight of who I was in the process of marriage.

Trevor: My work at the time forced me to travel a lot. So when you are in that honeymoon phase, it's important to have quality time together. It was hard with my job to enjoy life together as a married couple in the beginning. Yes, we have been together for a long time. But this was different. Not being around my wife as much as I wanted to was really hard for me and the both of us. Our communication started slacking and we definitely struggled during that time.

Love Lessons

Trevor: There's two lessons that I have. One lesson is that I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that. My second lesson that has helped in our marriage is making sure I do things in order to make her life easier. It can be the simplest thing, but for me, it is a huge priority.

DeLeesa: My biggest lesson is being able to learn from each other. For example, if he is doing simple things to make life easier for me, I am learning from him how to show up for him to make him happy. It can be easy to just receive everything he is putting forth, but it has to be give and take for us.

"I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that."

Common Goal

Trevor: To do everything in our power to ensure that our girls have the best possible life. Everything that we do at this point is for them. Before children, I may have moved slower working toward certain things, but there is definitely an added fire on how we approach things because of them.

DeLeesa: I agree. The number one goal is to be the best parents we can be. We want to set up generational wealth and we want them to be culturally aware. We want them to grow up and be proud of everything we have done for them.

Best Advice

DeLeesa: My advice would be don't go looking for advice, honestly. A lot of people are going to have an opinion about your life and sometimes that may not be the best for you. People can have different intentions and may give you the wrong advice. So I feel that if you need to vent, then yes, have someone to confide in. But don't take their word as facts. Try to figure out your marriage for yourself. Stick to your intuition and what you want to do, no matter if you are being judged for it.

Trevor: The things that matter are to be patient, listen close, choose to be happy, and love hard. I also think when people come to terms with the fact that marriage is work, then it is more possible for people. There are honestly more things to be happy about with the person that you marry. You have to keep all the things that you love about that person at the forefront to get you through. Once you do that, you will be fine.

Follow Deleesa and Trevor on Instagram @leesaunique and @trev_saint and their family page @itsthesaints.

Featured image via Instagram/Leesaunique

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