Lawd. If 2020 has been nothing else, it's been a 2.0 accelerated course in how to properly manage our stress levels. Let the Church say, "Amen!" But when you think about how worry, anxiety and maybe even a little bit of fear have affected you, have you ever stopped to factor in how these types of emotions can cause all kinds of wear and tear on your skin? The reality is, when we're stressed the TF out, the cortisol levels in our system tend to elevate. This can result in breakouts (including cystic acne), excessive dryness, a trigger of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and a drop of collagen and elastin which can prevent our skin from looking young and maintaining that healthy glow that so many of us love.
All of this sucks and definitely doesn't make us, well, less stressed. That's why, I thought it'd be cool to offer up some all-natural tips that can help to keep your skin looking great on the outside, even if you are a little triggered on the inside. Let's hit it.
1. Make Your Own Exfoliant
Here's something that's a trip. Did you know that when the cortisol levels in our system rise, it can hinder our body from shedding as many dead skin cells as it normally does? That's because, when stress hormones are wreaking havoc in our body, it can cause everything to become more sluggish than it should. When it comes to our skin, specifically, that can result in our skin looking duller than we'd ever like.
The remedy? Making sure to exfoliate—not just your face and neck either; you need to take care of your entire body. One way to do this is to make your own exfoliant.
As far as your face and neck go, a little baking soda and manuka honey can revive them in some remarkable ways. The tiny granules in baking soda are great at removing dead skin cells while helping to balance your skin's pH levels (which I'll get more into in a sec). Manuka honey is a powerful type of honey that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that will treat and heal your skin simultaneously. All you need to do is combine three tablespoons of baking soda with a teaspoon of manuka honey, a teaspoon of Vitamin E (it helps to repair damaged skin cells), one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder (to increase blood flow to your skin) and 2-3 tablespoons of almond milk (to soothe your skin). Let the mixture sit on your skin for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
As far as your body goes, a nice brown sugar scrub (one-part brown sugar and one-part olive oil; the sugar is a humectant and the olive oil is loaded with antioxidants) is always bomb. (Dry brushing is effective too!)
2. Use Some Avocado Oil
After sweet almond oil, probably my next favorite "skin oil" is avocado oil. It's got vitamins A, D and E in it. Avocado oil also contains antioxidants, fatty acids, beta-carotene and protein. If you apply this to your skin, either as a primer in the morning or as a way to pamper your skin before turning in at night, it will help to deeply moisturize you from head to toe, soothe symptoms that are related to eczema and psoriasis, speed up the healing process of pimples and protect your skin from damaging UV rays which will ultimately slow down your skin's aging process, if you're not careful.
3. Apply a “Chilled Out” DIY Eye Cream
What are some pretty telling signs that your eyes need a pampering break? If you're straining to read, they are itching or burning, you notice dark circles underneath them, you're increasingly more sensitive to light, they are extra dry or they are watering up—all of these point to eyes that first need a break from phone screens and monitors (and could probably use a couple of extra hours of sleep), but eyes that could stand to get a little bit of eye cream put on them too.
Not only can eye cream help to soothe the skin that's protecting your eyes, but it can lighten the circles, soften fine lines and ultimately cause your eyes to look brighter too. One of my favorite sites for at-home hacks is Wellness Mama. She's got a cool DIY eye cream recipe here. Take it up a notch by chilling your DIY cream in your refrigerator for an hour before applying it. The cool temperature will feel great and help to soften the appearance of the circles around your eyes too.
4. Rinse Your Skin with Lukewarm Water
If you've never stopped to think about what temperature is best for your skin (especially your face and neck), now is as good a time as any, right? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, lukewarm is best. For one thing, it makes whatever face wash you're using more effective at removing dirt and debris from your skin. Another perk is lukewarm is the temp that helps to keep the natural oils that your skin produces in balance.
5. Eat What Will Balance Your Skin’s pH
Did you know that your skin has a pH balance, just like the rest of your body does? While your body, overall, has a pH level of around 7, your skin tends to be slightly more acidic with a balance about 5.5. Making sure that your skin is at the right balance is what helps to decrease your chances of breakouts, dry skin and eczema and psoriasis flare-ups because when your pH balance is off, your skin is more vulnerable to germs and bacteria—and yes, elevated cortisol levels can affect this as well.
That's why it's important to eat foods that aren't going to trigger an allergic reaction or cause your hormones to go on a roller coaster ride. Reducing junk foods, dairy and sugar from your diet helps. So does consuming more foods that are featured in the article (from our site), "9 Foods That'll Actually Decrease Your Cortisol (Stress) Hormones".
6. Consume More Collagen Too
You might recall when I said in the intro that a peak in cortisol can slow down how collagen and elastin is produced in your skin. One way to combat that is to eat foods that are high in collagen. Some of those include fish, chicken, beef, bone broth, citrus fruits, berries, garlic, red bell peppers, dark leafy greens, eggs, chickpeas and spirulina.
7. Take Some Zinc
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the magnesium, calcium and zinc supplement combo because it's a wonderful nerve relaxant (especially if you take it about 1-2 hours before going to bed at night). But if you're noticing more zits than usual, upping your zinc, specifically, can help to make your pimples a thing of the past at a faster rate and with less scarring too. The reason why zinc is so effective is because, not only does it help to keep free radicals, viruses and bacteria from damaging your skin cells, it contains some pretty powerful anti-inflammatory properties too.
For the quickest results, an oral zinc supplement will hit your bloodstream the fastest. If you want to ensure that you won't experience any side effects, a topical treatment is cool too. Of course, there are also foods that are high in zinc that won't heal the pimples you've already got extremely fast but they are good for your overall health and well-being and can help to prevent future zits from creeping up. Some foods with lots of zinc in them include nuts, seeds, whole grains, potatoes, green beans, kale, red meat, yogurt, oats and dark chocolate.
8. Keep Some Tea Tree Oil and Lavender Oil on Tap
Two times when you can almost be sure that your skin will look less than its best is the week before your period and when you're stressed all the way out. And so, if you know that you know you've got a zit forming when and where you don't want it (or an acne scar that's creeping up because you've been taking your anxiety out on a pimple), dabbing some tea tree oil and/or lavender oil can be the perfect all-natural remedy for it.
I can personally vouch for the fact that tea tree oil contains some mad potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can take a pimple out, oftentimes overnight, if you apply it before turning in at night. Also, if your eczema seems like it's a bit worse due to how stressed you're feeling, tea tree oil has the reputation for being better at treating it than zinc oxide.
Mixing 2-3 drops of it into three tablespoons of grapeseed oil (which also has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce itchiness) is a quick fix. Lavender oil? It kills bacteria-causing acne and has antifungal properties that can reduce the inflammation that's associated with eczema and psoriasis flare-ups. Just make sure to mix this with a carrier oil too. Grapeseed or coconut oil (thanks to the Vitamin E and anti-inflammatory properties that it's got) are pretty ideal.
Something that the top layer of your skin does is protect the deeper layers from getting attacked by bacteria, dirt and debris. But when you're super stressed, the cortisol increase can work against your top layer from functioning at its peak. One way to make sure that it is getting all of the nutrients and oxygen that it needs from the inside out is to up your water intake. Plus, there are studies to support that the more hydrated you are, the better your system will be at keeping your cortisol levels in check.
You probably already know that you could stand to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day and that if you're thirsty, that's a telling sign that you're dehydrated. But if you know that you're stressed, add a couple of glasses of water to what you already naturally consume. You might be surprised by how feeling more refreshed can decrease your worry and anxiety levels—and how much your skin will thank you for it too.
Did you know that sleep deprivation can totally wreck your skin? It's proven that when you consistently get less than 6-8 hours of zzz's, that can slow down collagen growth, increase skin inflammation, reduce how quickly your skin's wounds heal and it can make your skin extremely dry. So yeah, no matter how stressed you might feel, try and not let it keep you from getting some much-needed rest. When you're sleeping, that's when your body is able to repair itself and your skin is certainly not exempt. Besides, the more sleep you get, the less stressed out you'll feel and the better off your skin will be in the long run. Hmph. Funny how that all works together—isn't it?
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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Developing a wellness routine is essential to your mental well-being. When we neglect ourselves, that neglect can bleed over into every aspect of our lives. As a wellness founder, for a minute, if I'm honest, I thought I had wellness down to a science. I assumed it would be easy for me to keep up with my routine because I fought so hard to get here. That falling off would be impossible for me until I did, and I realized that healing is, unfortunately, not at all as linear as I thought it would be.
Navigating through the pandemic took me through levels of depression and burnout that I never thought possible, and one day, I looked up and didn't recognize myself in more ways than one. My yoga mat that had once been at the foot of my bed for daily stretching was rolled away into a dark corner. The dust had formed on my gym bag and gua sha tools, and I hadn't seen my massage therapist in over five months. The wellness rituals that I held close became a stranger to me, and I found myself asking, "How did I get here, and more importantly, how do I get back to what feels like home to me?"
Many times I felt ashamed and embarrassed and couldn't put language to the fatigue that I couldn't shake. As a Black woman, especially one that has accomplished some level of success, there's the pressure that you put on yourself, and then there's the pressure from those around you to keep going, to work harder, to keep soaring. I never wanted to do the opposite, but I yearned for solitude.
It's such a strange feeling to be happier than you ever have in your career but simultaneously feel yourself slipping away.
Once I discovered that I had been experiencing cycles of burnout, I knew that I had to take action to pull myself out of the hole I found myself in. If you're struggling to grab hold of your wellness routine, it's still possible for you to apply these practices in order to get back to putting yourself first.
1. Be gentle with yourself.
Give yourself grace and gentleness as you form these good habits again. Ignore the urge to talk down to yourself and harp on what you can't change, as it will not only delay the process of you enjoying the routine again but because it isn't kind. Negative self-talk is the last thing you need; extend gentleness to the part of yourself that needs to step away and welcome her back into your life.
2. Slowly work your way back into your routine.
If you were a 5 a.m. gym girl, perhaps you should head back to the gym on the first day at 7 a.m. and, by the end of the week, work your way up to 5 a.m. Did you have a morning journaling practice for twenty minutes a day? Start back up, taking the pressure off with a five- to 10-minute session. Allowing yourself to start slow gives you a small victory on this journey.
3. Get clear on your goals.
As we change, so do our needs, especially as it relates to wellness and routines, and as a result of that, your routine might need to look different this time around. Sit with yourself and determine your wellness goals - mind, body, and spirit- and then create a game plan. From there, decide what habits you used to enjoy still hold to your needs now, and as time progresses, merge the needs of former you and who you are now together.
4. Create systems of sustainable rest.
Burnout and exhaustion are often so normalized for Black women, so we have to go out of our way to ensure that we are cared for. Often, as a society, we view rest as something that you do when you're tired or overwhelmed in order to refuel and get back to work, but we've had it all wrong, especially when it comes to Black women.
Our rest is crucial because our lives depend on it. Working until we can't go anymore is not the way. As Nap Bishop Tricia Hersley once said, "Rest is resistance." Your rest does not need to be reserved for summer vacation or PTO. Your rest can be a nap, moving and working slower, not feeling the urge to respond to messages and calls immediately, or moving at a slower pace.
Find your way back to yourself, sis. You got this, and I can't wait to see how your life has changed once you begin to prioritize yourself and your wellness again.
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