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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.

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