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, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
Devri Velazquez was diagnosed with Takayasu's Arteritis in 2011.
At a time when most women come into their womanhood and blossom into adults, Devri was was struggling with the effects of a rare and invisible autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in her large blood vessels and could ultimately lead to heart failure or stroke. One thing Devri never forgot was that no person or sickness could steal what God had in store for her life. An illness that would have stopped many women in their tracks ended up being a catalyst for the now 28-year-old content creator's success.
Editor of NaturallyCurly and self-identified health advocate Devri Velazquez recently chatted with xoNecole for this installment of our Finding Balance series to share how her chronic illness allowed her to discover the power of self-care and why it's her mission to share this knowledge with women around the world.
Between pharmacy visits, a chaotic work life, and finding time to nurture personal relationships, Devri is often tasked with staying on top of a very intense schedule. Despite her obligations to the rest of the world, her illness taught her that it is impossible to fill from an empty cup. She opened up to us about what "Finding Balance" means in terms of her own lifestyle.
What's been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days?
I enjoy the feeling like I have total control of my time and sustaining a career that is grounded in a divine cause.
What is a typical day in the life of Devri Velazquez?
Most of my days start with the same routine: me grabbing a latte at the neighborhood coffee shop, answering emails and sending pitches for about 2 or 3 hours. I like to go for 30-minute walks with my dog to give myself mental breaks throughout the day, making sure I am writing or creating for about two hours until my partner gets home from work in the evening. On random occasions, I like to meet up with fellow creative entrepreneurs and freelancers to bounce off some inspiration, whether that involves discussing a potential project to collaborate on, or simply venting about our current creative process woes. I also have to manage a chronic illness (which is a full-time job in and of itself), so I have lots of appointments, pharmacy visits, and much more that get sprinkled in my workweeks.
When you have a busy week, what's the most hectic part of it?
I have to allow myself time and space to breathe. I take my alone time and inner peace seriously. I don't like feeling like I'm losing control or unraveling, so it's important to me to keep everything grounded in my faith that everything will work itself out, and that there is no need to stress about every little thing. If I don't get something done on today's agenda, it moves over to tomorrow's list. I try to affirm to myself that I am doing the best I can.
You are a huge health advocate, is that rooted in your own perseverance in living with a chronic illness?
I have Takayasu's Arteritis, which is an inflammation of my large blood vessels. I got diagnosed in 2011 when I was 20, so right when I was really coming into my own as a young woman. It was the biggest blessing I could've had, because it put a lot of things in perspective for me about the essence of time and love. My illness affects me physically on so many levels: some days my pain is so unbearable that it's hard to focus. I have a lot of things that don't work in my body the way they're supposed to as a result of it, so I have to be my biggest advocate all the time, especially since the world can't see with the naked eye what's going on. I've learned how to communicate how I'm feeling no matter what type of setting I'm in or who I am around. It has helped me become more fearless and unapologetic about proclaiming exactly what I need.
Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you?
My whole well-being is centered around self-care. I try to live by that phrase and truly honor my mind, body, and soul's needs at every moment of the day. With an unpredictable health condition like mine, it is more important than ever to stay present and hyper-aware of what my body is asking for.
How do you find balance with:
I tend to have friends that treat their time seriously as I do. Because of this, I try to find something for us to connect on that could be mutually beneficial. That way we both don't end up feeling like we just passed the time without getting anything accomplished.
It's easy when I have just one person that I've focused on for 2 years now so that I can stay focused on building up my career and keeping as healthy of a work-life balance as possible.
I walk at least 2 miles a day (I live in New York City so it's inevitable) and I also practice mindful yoga and meditation. I don't do anything strenuous due to my physical limitations, but I do miss doing cardio!
I write, write, write. I have been writing every day of my life since I was a little girl and I never stopped. This has always helped me stay connected with my inner self, whether it is to admire and affirm her growth or release her from past traumas and painful memories. Journaling is like drinking water to me.
When do you feel most beautiful? And what are some traits about yourself that you immediately think of with love?
I feel most beautiful when I have awesome second-day hair. Of course, that's a rare occasion but when it happens, I cherish it -- any natural knows what's up! I've always appreciated my facial features, how they display both of the races I come from so uniquely, Black and Mexican. I love what God has done and continues to do for me, and when I stop to think about it, I feel beautiful and blessed.
I'm such a fan of your freedom in the way you move through life, what does freedom mean to you?
Freedom means letting go of toxicity and understanding that no matter how disappointing or painful a relationship, place, memory, ailment or anything can be, it will pass. Freedom also means that I choose to not be afflicted or oppressed by my circumstances but empowered by them.
Do you ever detox?
I do a social media detox for maybe 5 days at a time every month. It feels so good when I come back, it's so necessary for my mental health. I kind of touched on this earlier, but I also do a makeup detox at least a few days a week to let my skin breathe.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I take frequent "self-care" breaks throughout the day by going outside, getting some fresh air, and praying or meditating to calm myself down and re-focus. It works every time but it's always work to actually get to that good place. I just keep going until I get there. Or if I'm really going through a mental breakdown, I call my mom and she usually gives me a virtual slap to let me know it's all going to be OK.
What does success mean to you?
Success is feeling so accomplished that if something happens and I'm gone tomorrow, I will have a smile on my face in the afterlife because I know that I went out working on the legacy. I literally can't go to sleep at night without knowing that I did something, no matter how small it was, to fulfill the vision I have for my future children and their children. The ambition makes me feel successful already -- but I have a long way to go!
What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?
I know for me in the past, it was neglecting my relationships and being so selfish that I was cutting people off without realizing it. We all need those people who are going to tell us if we're looking a hot mess, or if we could've done this instead of that -- but do it from a place of love, of course. Not everyone is going to have the best intentions for someone, so I've learned to maintain the balance by nourishing my relationships and staying rooted in love.