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How This Chef Found Balance After A Nearly Fatal Encounter With Burnout

Chef Daniella Abraham wants you to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and this is a lesson she's learned from experience.

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

I don't know who needs to hear this, but quarantine was a reminder to sit your ass down. I said what I said, don't @ me. Society tells us that securing a bag means staying busy but if your work hard, crash hard lifestyle is costing you your sanity, how much is that bag really worth, sis?

If you're too busy hustling to mind your mental health, you're on a one-way street to self-destruction and Miami-based international chef and recording artist Daniella Abraham wants you to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and this is a lesson that she has learned from experience. She told xoNecole, "I always make time for myself, that's non-negotiable. If I don't, my body and spirit will do it for me."

Courtesy of Chef Danie

"I always make time for myself, that's non-negotiable. If I don't, my body and spirit will do it for me."

In our interview, Danie explained that after a nearly fatal encounter with burnout six years ago, regularly scheduled self-check-ins are mandatory and her views on the value of self-care have changed dramatically.

Whether that means meditating, shopping for new crystals and books, writing in her gratitude journal, or having a one-woman happy hour, the culinary architect says that she makes it a point to be intentional about finding balance every damn day. She continued, "When I look back, it's almost scary how I just let things spiral out of control. Now there's nothing that can take me out of balance."

Danie and I talked more about how she's been staying grounded, the real reason she doesn't use alarm clocks, and why a 36-hour alkaline water detox is the reset you didn't know you needed.

Here's what I learned:

Courtesy of Chef Danie

What’s been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days? What is your “why”?

Every hat that I wear expresses a different side of me, making sure that I'm tapping into the talents that I've been blessed with. I don't want to leave this earth thinking "what if?" and I don't want to bore myself being stuck on one thing. I've been through a lot growing up so I'm taking full advantage because statistically, I wasn't supposed to be here.

At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life? 

I was 26-years-old when life hit me really really hard. On the outside, my professional life was going beyond amazing. I was getting crazy recognition, gigs, celebrity attention, always on the scene, however, my personal life was so dark and heavy. The majority of the people I thought were my friends were actually just there to enjoy the perks, drive my car, crash at my home, and be plus-ones. No one cared how mentally exhausted I was. I had just gotten out of a screwed up contract that really took a toll on me, especially because I looked up to the person and it was in conjunction with a particular celebrity I used to admire as well.

I was fighting many demons and was exposed to so much. Suppressing my feelings with nightlife, people that didn't care about me, and being alone in my mind, which was the worst. I was definitely living a double life. Then one day, I decided I wanted out. I didn't go through with it and the very next day received some amazing advice from none other than Oprah that ultimately changed my life.

"I was fighting many demons and was exposed to so much. Suppressing my feelings with nightlife, people that didn't care about me, and being alone in my mind, which was the worst. I was definitely living a double life. Then one day, I decided I wanted out."

What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of. 

Whew, this question is super tough because my life gets super random, but I'll answer what quarantine life has been like for me. Since I've been confined to my home due to COVID-19 [at the time of this interview], I start the first quarter of my day by responding to emails and social media direct messages. I actually handle my own SEO, so I get in computer geek-mode and make sure my website is running correctly and appearing on search engines as they should. I'm currently working on some international consulting projects remotely, so those are the first calls that happen then all others.

I love getting calls and emails done early in the day so things can be addressed and completed as soon as possible if there's any corrections or additional approvals needed. In the afternoons, I usually work on content or recipe development. Then, because I'm home, I try to mentally clock-out.

What are your mornings like?

My mornings fluctuate as I don't believe in alarms, just natural light—so on average, I'm up at 7am. I keep water by my bed so I consume that upon waking. I start my morning off extremely quiet—I mean zero sound. This goes on for 30 minutes to an hour depending on the day. Then I begin playing music from my favorite quarantine album, A Muse In Her Feelings by DVSN. Two tracks in particular that get me going in the AM are "Keep It Going" and "Flawless". I don't typically eat breakfast as I do intermittent fasting, so I just stretch out to get the blood flowing while the album plays.

How do you wind down at night?

I pretty much do a reverse system of my mornings. It starts loud, almost like an intimate happy hour with myself where I vibe out to music blasted through the speakers in the house, pour some wine, and really get into the vibrations. This helps me chip away any stresses I may have had in the workday. Depending on the mood, the playlist changes daily!

When you have a busy week, what’s the most hectic part of it?

When I'm so focused that I forget to eat or sometimes even sleep because of deadlines and trying to have phone conversations with people on the other side of the world.

Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you usually?

100%. Meditation is very important to me daily. I try to take multiple solo spa trips to de-stress. I'm a huge music lover, so I use that as an outlet of practicing self-care. Once a month, I do a self-care Sunday––I let everything go. No weave, no clothes, phones, anything. Just lots of candles, fruit, soft music, and just vibe.

What are some ways you stay focused on the positive when things get hard?

I practice the act of gratitude every single day. I do have a gratitude journal that I write in daily. I have something in my car that I randomly touch and say something I'm thankful for. On hard days, I try to go somewhere quiet so I can reset. I pray for understanding, if I have to cry, I let it all out. If I have to scream, I scream. Then, I focus on my breathing and while I'm sitting in silence, I allow the universe to be loud. After doing this, it definitely gives me a mental reset and I just remind myself that everything is temporary. I try not to stay out of frequency for too long.

"On hard days, I try to go somewhere quiet so I can reset. I pray for understanding, if I have to cry, I let it all out. If I have to scream, I scream. Then, I focus on my breathing and while I'm sitting in silence, I allow the universe to be loud. After doing this, it definitely gives me a mental reset and I just remind myself that everything is temporary."

How do you find balance with:

Courtesy of Shanique Diaz

Friends?

My friends circle is extremely tight and selective. They're more like family to me and understand me so if they don't hear from me for a period of time they know I'm either busy or just need some time alone. We're big on travels so we definitely go on random trips throughout the year, annual international birthday trips, and weekly ladies' nights. No matter how busy we are, we are always a bottle of wine away to lend an ear.

Love/Relationships? 

Tricky, tricky! It's only recently I can honestly say I've found an energy worth making a part of my daily life but honestly, this happens effortlessly when both parties are on the same frequency. You don't have to make, force, or balance anything, it happens by falling in place where it was meant to be.

"It's only recently I can honestly say I've found an energy worth making a part of my daily life but honestly, this happens effortlessly when both parties are on the same frequency. You don't have to make, force, or balance anything, it happens by falling in place where it was meant to be."

Exercise? Does it happen?

For me personally, barely but I did challenge myself for the month of May to tone up. The most I usually do is yoga. Because I'm a chef and always lifting, running and going fast, I typically stay at a certain size.

When do you feel most beautiful?

When I first wake up. I'm completely free with no layers. No makeup, no extensions, nothing perfect, I'm just raw and myself and there's that morning glow.

Do you cook or find yourself eating out more often?

I cook for myself all the time. If I do go out to eat, it's work-related. For leisure, it's usually girls' nights with my best friend or publicist.

Do you ever detox? What does that consist of? 

I do a 36-hour water detox. Only consuming alkaline water throughout the day to reset the internal organs, metabolism, and gut.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it? 

I'll have to admit that this has happened a couple of times since quarantine. I just have to reflect back on the other many uncertain times I went through only to come out better. It's all about how we grow through things. We'll all have these moments but we have to stay focused mentally, spiritually, and emotionally by trusting and loving ourselves and remaining fearless yet grateful every step of the way.

"It's all about how we grow through things. We'll all have these moments but we have to stay mentally, spiritually, and emotionally by trusting and loving ourselves and remaining fearless yet grateful every step of the way."

For more Chef Danie, follow her on Instagram!

Featured image courtesy of Instagram/@chefdanie.

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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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