Whew. 2020 has been the longest century ever, hasn't it? I'd venture to say that if there's been any season in your life that has tested how calm you can be in a storm, this year would have to be it. That's why it's important for me to say up front that, as I set out to tackle the topic of how to handle anxiety, I'm coming from the space of how to deal with mild or surface forms of worry, restlessness and stress. But if you happen to feel compounded symptoms such as rapid breathing, increased heart rate, constant fatigue, depression, loss of appetite, sweating or paralyzing fear—these signs point to you possibly battling with an anxiety disorder. It's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about (currently around 40 million Americans do), yet it is something that you should speak with your doctor about, OK?
I just wanted to put that on record because the hacks that I'm about to share are for when you have anxious moments more than if you're experiencing full-on anxiety attacks. That said, if you do find moments when you feel like your life is an emotional roller coaster that you can't seem to get off of, here are some all-natural things that you can do to feel back in control again.
1. Schedule Your Day
If a lot of us were honest with ourselves, we'd admit that a huge part of what causes us to feel anxious is we're overwhelmed. We're overwhelmed because we don't manage our time (and our priorities) as well as we should. The good news about this particular point is there is a very simple way to tackle this challenge. All you need to do is create a schedule for your day by creating a to-do list, starting with the most difficult and/or time-consuming things that need to get done.
Yes, a schedule is a bit regimented, but I'll be the first one to say that since I've started designating times to do certain things, not only has it made my day flow much smoother but it's given me a greater sense of accomplishment (like I haven't been jacking off my time) which has provided a sense of calm and tranquility in the process.
By the way, if you're someone who'd prefer the help of an app in this particular area, check out Lifehack's "18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2020 Updated)". It can help to point you into the right direction.
Over here in xoNecole world, we're all about meditation (check out "7 Apps For Guided Meditation For The Woman Fighting To Find Peace Of Mind", "Here's How To Make Meditation Less...Well, Boring", "The Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign" and "What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?"). That's because many of the xoTribe can personally attest to how wonderful it can be to take a few moments out to get still, tune out busy thoughts and breathe deeply. In fact, there are many studies that directly connect meditation to relieving anxiety, depression and even pain. Seems like a good enough reason to devote at least 15 minutes of your day to meditation, don't you think?
3. Use Oat Milk As Your Milk Alternative
Whenever someone asks me why I think dairy (especially milk) isn't the best for their health, I typically say something along the lines of, "Humans are the only mammals who will not only drink another mammal's milk but will do it well into adulthood." Yeah, you don't have the time and I don't have the print space to get into all of the reasons why dairy really isn't the best thing for you. For now, I'll just encourage you to consider that a lot of dairy is high in hormones (which can produce a lot of pus. YUCK!) and saturated fat, can actually trigger acne breakouts, is not even remotely as high in calcium as advertisers would like us to think and, the production of it isn't the best for the environment, either.
Thankfully, there are all sorts of alternatives that you can try; some that are actually really delicious too. While I used to be a huge almond milk girl, after I learned that it can take several cups of almonds to make a half carton of the milk (which also isn't great for the environment) and that some popular brands of almond milk only contain two percent almonds, I've switched over to oat milk. It's smooth, it's creamy and it provides benefits like lowering blood cholesterol levels, boosting immunity, raising iron levels and, oat milk is also soy, lactose and nut-free. Plus, it's the kind of milk that's loaded with Vitamin B12 (50 percent of what you need each day). B12 is a vitamin that not only keeps your red blood cells in good shape, it helps to keep your nervous system balanced too. The calmer your nervous system is, the calmer you will be overall.
4. Back Up Off of Stimulants
I know someone who has a low-grade anxiety disorder who is always talking about how they can never concentrate and get stuff done. 7 times out of 10, guess what they're drinking while they are telling me this? Freakin' coffee. Listen, if you already struggle with feeling anxious, the last thing that you need to do is take in a lot of stimulants and caffeine certainly tops that list. So, whether it's java, chocolate, cola, energy drinks (including energy water; read the back of the label to be sure) or even green tea, if you want to feel less anxious throughout the day, it's best to find alternatives for those things, just as soon as you possibly can.
5. Get Your Blood Sugar Up
Here's something that just might surprise you. Did you know that when your blood sugar level drops, it can actually cause you to feel more anxious?
By no means is this a pass to dig into a gallon of your favorite ice cream (because too much sugar can also make you anxious). But if you do feel a little stressed out or nervous, try snacking on some grapes, applesauce or even a banana. Those will kick your blood sugar up, but in a much healthier way.
6. Take a Passionflower Supplement
On the supplement tip, something that Native Americans have used for centuries to treat a variety of health issues is passionflower. It's great for soothing an upset stomach, healing stomach ulcers and making it easier to sleep at night. But what passionflower is probably best known for is being an all-natural way to treat anxiety, thanks to the sedative-like effect that it provides. Some people prefer to take it in supplement form while others prefer drinking passionflower tea. Both are cool, but do make sure to speak with your doctor before adding the supplement, consistently, to your health care regimen (especially if you're pregnant or breastfeeding). While passionflower is effective, it can sometimes be pretty potent too.
7. Breathe in Some Bergamot Oil
I'm thinking that it's pretty common knowledge that lavender oil is awesome at helping to keep you calm. But did you know that bergamot (and bergamot orange) essential oil has a lot of benefits too? It fights acne, treats eczema and psoriasis, relieves headaches and is even a great all-natural remedy for food poisoning. Plus, it's also a great oil for treating anxiety because, when you breathe it in, it helps to lower the cortisol (your natural stress hormone) levels in your system. Dope.
Something else that we are quite fond of, over here in xoNecole land, is journaling. You can read articles on our site like "What Happened When I Challenged Myself To Journal More For Two Weeks", "How To Start A Bullet Journal (& Finally Get Your Life Together)" and "The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)" to gain some different perspectives on why getting a journal (and then actually writing in it) can really be one of the best gifts that you could ever give to yourself.
When it comes to handling moments of anxiety, journaling can help you to get to the bottom of what's causing you to feel the way that you do. Sometimes, when our emotions are all over the place, we get frustrated because we don't know what's "wrong" with us. Writing our feelings down can bring forth a sense of clarity. And when you're able to pinpoint what a root issue is, you're better equipped to come up with a viable remedy or solution.
9. Change Your Bedding
You spend at least one-third of your day in your bed, right? Seems to me that your bedding should also encourage peace in your world (especially if insomnia is something that you struggle with). Well, according to a lot of interior decorators, hues that will help to alleviate stress include shades of blue, purple, green, brown and grey. The same applies to your bedroom walls if it's time to give your bedroom (or even your home office) a makeover.
10. UNPLUG (Sometimes)
No one—and I do mean absolutely no one—needs to be "plugged in" all of the time. That's why I wrote articles for the site like "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down." and "Social Media: How To Take Back Control Of What You're Consuming". I'm telling y'all, whenever people try and tell me about how much worse the world is getting, I first remind them of how the Good Book simply says that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and, thanks to the internet, we just know about a lot of what's transpiring…all at once. You are never going to get free from anxiety if you're always reading about what's happening. That's why it's a good idea to turn off your social media notifications (at least sometimes) and set some online hours. It requires some self-discipline but opting to read a book, take a bath or watch a (drama- and violent-free) movie instead of taking in so much of the world 24/7 will definitely help you to feel more at peace with yourself—and life, in general.
11. Create a Calming Mantra
Remember how I shouted out meditating at the top of this? It's one way to center you. So is coming up with your own mantra. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that you can sing or chant to yourself to bring you peace and calm. Customizing a mantra of your own is one of the best "quickie hacks" if you've got an interview coming up, you're about to have a conversation that you're unsure about or you need to make a big decision that you're stressing over. Even something as simple as "Peace dwells here" can help to center you in ways you would never imagine. Try it.
12. Get 6-8 Hours of Sleep
Goodness, y'all. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 3 people aren't getting enough sleep. That's not good because symptoms associated with sleep deprivation include moodiness, fatigue, weight gain, lack of concentration, forgetfulness and yes, certain levels of anxiety. This is why, I say all of the time, that sleep—shoot, rest in general—cannot be seen as a luxury. For the sake of your overall health and well-being, it's important to get no less than 6-8 hours on a consistent basis. Sleep is a powerful way your body calms and heals itself. Sleep is also how you can take a break from all that concerns you. Sleep can be a simple remedy for worry, restlessness and stress. Get more of it. Watch what it does for those bouts of anxiety that you've been having. For real, for real.
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
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The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
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5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
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