This Publicist Shares How Mothering Her Son Has Helped Her Mother Herself
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.
There has been a lot of talk lately in our women circles about learning how to not overextend ourselves. The narrative of being "Black Superwoman'' has been ingrained in us for as long as we can remember. But I have to admit, WE ARE POPPIN' out here. Black women have been killing the game with being the most educated demographic, breaking the glass ceiling in corporate america, dominating body positivity in media/entertainment, running our own businesses, leading organizations to social justice change, and being amazing mothers to beautiful children. I mean the list goes on and on. While we have been proving for generations the resilience black women have, we still have to recognize when it is time to focus on ourselves instead of the world.
DeVynne Starks, 26, is a full-time Biomedical Targeted Marketing Program Manager for one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations and runs her own boutique PR agency, Cultiv8 PR. DeVynne understands what it feels like to work hard towards her career, while also being a full-time mom to her son. When DeVynne became a mother, she noticed that women, especially black women, experienced 'Mommy Burnout' but very few people were having the conversation. DeVynne has been very intentional and passionate about helping other moms recognize the signs of 'Mommy Burnout' and how to master balance. DeVynne believes "it's time that moms learn to take time for themselves without feeling guilty."
Courtesy of DeVynne Starks
In 2018, DeVynne Starks launched a digital platform called DeVynne Intervention. This blog was a way to build community with other moms where they discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of motherhood. "As a black woman, you feel pushed or obligated to be successful and leave your mark in this world. Whether that means you are looking to be the first at something or the best at something. But when you are a mother, you have to figure out how to not become so distant from your child that the child ends up feeling like they are not a priority."
For this installment of "Finding Balance", xoNecole had the chance to speak with entrepreneur DeVynne about motherhood, prioritizing self-care, and the importance of keeping your faith.
xoNecole: At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?
DeVynne Starks: Pressing pause has been new for me. Four years ago, after the birth of my son, if you would ask me what balance was, I would look back and ask, "What is that?" But when I realized I was doing so many things and not carving out time for myself, that was when I needed to take a moment and reassess. I have learned that balance is about happiness that comes from within. Happiness doesn't come from other people, a new job, or from becoming a mother. You have to make that conscious decision to find that inner peace to get to the stage of feeling balanced.
What are your mornings like?
With my mornings, I start with prayer and giving myself time to talk to God. Then I practice stillness, to be intentional about listening to God and hearing what He has to say. After that, I try to give myself 30 minutes of work out time. Whether that's jogging or walking around the neighborhood.
How do you wind down at night?
I love to give myself a good facial and read a good book. I also like to wind down with my son. We will watch his favorite cartoon or play with action figures. Any moment where I can dedicate one on one time with him, he really appreciates it.
"I have learned that balance is about happiness that comes from within. Happiness doesn't come from other people, a new job, or from becoming a mother. You have to make that conscious decision to find that inner peace to get to the stage of feeling balanced."
Courtesy of DeVynne Starks
When you have a busy week, what's the most hectic part of it?
The most hectic part of the day is honestly sifting through emails. It took me a really long time to not allow my inbox to negatively affect my day. I have been learning to just say "no". Saying "no" is definitely a skill you learn over time as a business owner. With practice, it gets easier and easier.
Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you?
Giving my mind and eyes a break has really been helping me. There are days when I am on the grind! So stepping away from my computer and doing something peaceful is big for me. Daily facials are definitely my me-time.
What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?
Even though it may seem like being busy is the right thing to do, it can really physically drain you and stress your body out. To start off, what has helped me is incorporating micro self-care techniques. One technique I use is journaling. I used to write a lot before having my son, so now I squeeze in time at the end of day to self-reflect and write it all down. This is my way to take care of myself while still being busy. I also suggest making time to just be by yourself with no shame or interruption. I had to learn how to utilize the village around me.
When I first became a mom I would tell myself, I got this! But while you do have this, you still deserve to book a hotel for the weekend, even if you stay in the room the whole time (laughs).
Courtesy of DeVynne Starks
How do you find balance with:
With my friends, we check in on each other every week. A lot of my friends are entrepreneurs and business owners. So it can get tricky to talk to each other often. But having that line of open communication has helped us keep that balance in staying connected.
So what I have noticed is that, the areas that you give intentional energy to, those are the areas that thrive. Granted, finding balance in dating can be difficult, but it's about being available to be intimate with someone and share quality time with them. This has helped me personally to separate from being a parent to a woman who is currently dating. Finding balance within relationships also means knowing who you are outside of them.
I have been thinking about different ways on how I can be more healthy. Last year, I was able to lose 50 pounds in less than five months. What I do now are daily tea detoxes in conjunction with the keto diet. I have been feeling so much better and I have way more energy. Setting my healthcare goals and sticking to them has really set me up for success across the board.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I really pay attention to my thoughts. I honestly believe that the way you think about yourself and the world around you, creates your own reality. So changing your thoughts to what you want in life allows you to connect to your intuition. So when I do have those moments of negativity, I remind myself that these are temporary feelings. I am aware that I have to make that shift to be more positive in order to change things around me.
"I honestly believe that the way you think about yourself and the world around you, creates your own reality. When I do have those moments of negativity, I remind myself that these are temporary feelings. I am aware that I have to make that shift to be more positive in order to change things around me."
And honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you?
Success means that you understand that you are going to fail at some part in your journey. But you are resilient enough that those failures are minor and they don't become huge obstacles for you. Before I became a mother, success to me meant just getting through the day. But now success for me is striving to be the best version of myself in order to be a better mother for my son. As far as happiness, I would say, I am still navigating that.
Every day I am learning what truly makes me happy and I try to be grateful for all the good things that are happening in my life.
To learn more about DeVynne, follow her on Instagram here. Read more about how career women find balance in xoNecole's "Finding Balance" series here.
'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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