Last summer,Gallup published a study stating that, worldwide, people are more stressed out than they have ever been. The reason why this should be relevant to you is that when it comes to things like heart disease, insomnia, depression, cancer, and even HIV — if stress is not the cause of these ailments, stress 1000 percent makes these issues far worse. Hell, even the common cold is thought to be brought on by stress. Not to mention the fact that stress can also throw your periods off, make it challenging to conceive, impair your moods and even make it hard to make wise decisions. Yeah, stress is a really big deal.
That’s why it truly can’t be said enough that it’s okay to put firm boundaries in place when it comes to any — and I do mean ANY — person, place, thing, or idea that triggers your stress levels. It’s also essential that you implement certain practices that can help to keep your stress levels down to an absolute minimum. One of the best ways to do that is to take optimal care of your mental health. And here are ten ways to do it.
1. Never Rush into or Out of Bed
There’s a verse in the Bible that simply says, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” (Psalm 4:4 — NKJV) Ever since I happened upon it, it’s been a personal mantra for me. One reason is that it goes to show that there are a myriad of different ways to meditate. Another is because it’s a reminder that you can oftentimes avoid making unwise decisions by lying in your bed and being…still. So, if you’re someone who feels guilty about enjoying some extra time in your own bed, honestly, don’t.
Besides, did you know that there is such a thing as hurry sickness? Although it’s not a science-based medical condition, it is widely discussed among mental health experts. The backstory is, since stress and anxiety are prevalent among so many of us, a term was coined to describe what happens when we are constantly feeling urgency or the need to rush…when there’s no real pressing reason to. And yes, living this way can lead to things like headaches, fatigue, and lowered immunity.
That’s why, for the sake of your mental health, it’s best to create a sleep routine (check out “The Self-Care Bedtime Routine Every Single Woman Needs”) so that you’re not rushing into bed (that can create anxiety and makes it difficult to fall asleep) and that you set your alarm to wake you up about 20-30 minutes before you actually need to get out of bed. Believe it or not, spending some of your morning time easing into the day can do wonders when it comes to pacing your energy and not pushing past your bandwidth until it’s time to come home and rest again.
2. Devote At Least a Half-Day to Nothing but Self-Care (WEEKLY)
I am a traditional Sabbath observer. This basically means that I keep the Sabbath in the way that Jewish people do: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Although I was born into this way of life, as an adult, it’s still a part of my self-care routine because, there is nothing that compares to taking an entire day off from the demands of the world to do nothing but rest (or as Shabbat literally means in Hebrew, “to cease from creating”).
During that time, sometimes I sleep in, sometimes I order takeout (I try and do it the day before so that I’m not overworking folks on the day when I don’t), and sometimes I’m doing a skin routine or nurturing my scalp (dead serious; check out “Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend”). Whatever it is, it’s very self-care-focused — and I love that for myself.
It's unfortunate that a lot of people are hard-wired to think that pampering themselves (check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself”) is a luxury when, 1000 percent, it should be treated like a luxury (check out “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.”). Because how can you give your best to others if you’re not nurturing yourself, to begin with?
Listen, the day when you choose to do it is totally up to you; however, do devote at least half a day, each and every week (even if you have to break up the days) to nothing but self-care. It’s an investment that you will never — EVER — regret making.
3. Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Your “Gut No's”
Back in 2019, I wrote one article entitled “So, Experts Have Something To Say About Your Intuition's Accuracy” and another entitled “When You Should Trust Your Gut & When You Shouldn't.” The method behind the madness is our intuition was never designed to do what I see so many TikTokers attempt: to weaponize. In fact, I firmly believe that without some serious self-awareness and humility (not one or the other…both), oftentimes, what people think is intuition or their gut instinct is really nothing more than projecting that’s been fed by their ego.
Keeping all of this in mind, while I definitely think that “my intuition is always right” could use some tempering, I also believe that when you’re asked to do something and your first mind is to say “no,” you shouldn’t try and talk yourself out of that — nor should you let other people do it.
You know, there’s an author by the name of Nick Chellsen who once said, “Boundaries are what you say 'no' to. Priorities are what you say 'yes' to,” and I think that summarizes the point that I’m trying to make here perfectly. Because we live in a culture and society that — let’s be real — can be super self-consumed, oftentimes, when folks want us to do something, our own needs and feelings about the request aren’t taken into account. Basically, so long as “they” are able to get their way, that’s all that matters (to them).
That’s why we have to listen when our mind, body, and/or spirit sets the boundary known as “no” — or at least wait. We need to step back and listen to what our psyche is trying to convey to us before making any kind of commitment.
Unfortunately, many humans seem to really enjoy pushing people out of their boundaries, almost as if it’s an Olympic sport. You can’t do anything about them; however, you can honor your own self by not giving them the room in your life to do so. So, if someone asks you to do something and you don’t feel good about it, instead of allowing them to talk you out of why, spend some time looking for the answer and then move from there. Trust me…they can wait. And if the answer is indeed “no,” chile, they’ll survive.
4. Take a Day Trip Every Couple of Months
With the summer season technically ending (this year) on September 23rd, it’s interesting that, although around 63 percent of Americans had planned on going on some sort of summer vacation, reportedly, 58 percent won’t be able to because they can’t afford it (inflation is a mutha). What makes matters even worse is a lot of people won’t even try to figure out alternatives even though vacations are proven to help reduce stress, lower anxiety, decrease heart disease and depression risks, provide quality time with people you care about, and ultimately improve your overall quality of life. Yes, y’all, vacations are very necessary.
So, what if you get that yet your bank account doesn’t agree with you? Being that it’s also been proven that a mere change of scenery can do wonders when it comes to your moods and health and well-being, try and at least go on some sort of day trip before the summer season ends and then commit to “rinsing and repeating” every few months. Even going to the next town a couple of hours away to eat at a new restaurant with a couple of friends can feel like a breath of fresh air. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
5. Have “Phone Hours”
I remember once having a conversation with an elder about why people seem to be more stressed than ever. Their reason, I found to be a very interesting one: “Cell phones are doing it. Back when I was young, you weren’t constantly on the phone, taking in all kinds of conversations and information all of the time. You drove without it. You shopped without it. You would go on a date and focus on nothing but the other person. These damn phones keep people so distracted that they can barely even function.”
She’s not totally off-base here. While some health professionals say that always having your phone on can trigger intense emotions and disrupt your quality of sleep, others say that limiting your social media time to no more than an hour a day and devoting 3-4 of your waking hours to not being on your phone at all will not only help to keep you in a better mood, it can remind you to put more energy into cultivating the relationships that you actually have offline. Not to mention the fact that constantly scrolling is very possibly standing in the way of you becoming more successful at work (no joke).
If you read all of this and you’re still trying to find ways to justify why you should keep your phone on 24/7, there is such a thing as being a phone addict. Currently, only a small number of folks fall into the category, yet the demographic is ever-rising. You can read more about it here.
6. Put Your Frustrations on a Time Limit
Contrary to popular belief, you can control your emotions a lot more than you might believe. Some mental health professionals call it “emotional regulation,” and it’s all about deciding how you are going to respond or react to something. Many people see this as a sign of maturity because, while it makes perfect sense for, say, a toddler to throw tantrums and overreact (because they haven’t been taught self-regulation skills yet), an adult should not be acting the same way that they do.
So, what are some of the things that you can do to keep your frustrations from getting totally out of control? Meditate. Journal. Go for a walk. Deep breathe. Exercise. Speak with someone (you can trust who listens well and gives good insight). Take a nap. Consume healthy foods that are designed to de-stress you (check out “9 Foods That'll Actually Decrease Your Cortisol (Stress) Hormones”). Kiss your partner (it literally lowers cortisol levels). Spend some time alone to regroup.
Another thing you can do that is where the big girls and boys play? Give yourself a certain amount of time to feel the way that you do. If someone pissed you all the way off, give yourself permission to be mad as high hell for a couple of hours — and then decide that it’s time to take that feeling down a notch (or 10). I do this often, and you’d be amazed by how empowering it is to tell your feelings that they can’t “make you” do anything…that you are the one who manages them.
7. Declare Your Affirmations Out Loud
Negativity bias. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s a psychological term that centers around the fact that most people have a tendency to give more attention to negativity than positivity. This is why, if you ask most people to list five things that they like about themselves and then five things that they don’t, they will typically start off by listing all of the “bad stuff” first (SMDH).
Since cynicism is linked to heart disease, hostility increases stress levels (and depression-related symptoms), tension can cause things like digestive problems and fertility issues, and there are articles out in cyberspace like “Why Negative People Are Literally Killing You (and How to Protect Your Positivity)” — it is absolutely essential that you are hypervigilant and super proactive about “rerouting” negative thoughts by coming up with some affirmations that will cause you to feel good about yourself. There is a lot of data that says the more positive thoughts that you have, the more they are able to influence your actions for the better.
And why should you say them out loud? Research states that it helps with constructive thinking, problem-solving, and building self-confidence. Not to mention the fact that repeating good self-talk improves focus reduces stress, and makes you feel more fearless. So, whether it’s while you’re taking a shower, when you’re on your lunch break, as you’re working out, when you’re making dinner, or before you turn in, jot down some positive things about yourself and life in general, and verbalize them aloud. Your mental health will be oh so glad that you did!
8. Create a “Good Memories” Playlist
The brain can be a tricky thing sometimes. For instance, did you know that, when it comes to listening to sad songs, science says that it can actually help to put you into a better mood — if not immediately, eventually? The logic is that if a sad song creates nostalgia, it can help you to process your emotions, and that can ultimately reduce anxiety and bring forth feelings of clarity.
At the same time, music that swings more to the happy (or newer) side can give you a “dopamine hit” that will put you into a better mood, boost your brain health, and help to make you a much more creative individual. So, even if you’ve got a playlist that’s devoted to ole’ what’s-his-name from your past, be intentional about also putting together a list of songs that will put a smile on your face and cause you to tap your feet underneath your desk, too (just make sure that it’s not super fast music; that can actually distract you and make you less productive during working hours).
9. Speak Your Love Language...to Yourself
It always tickles me whenever I sit in sessions with couples who get upset that their partner sucks at speaking their love language. When I ask them if they speak it to themselves, more times than not, a blank look comes over their face. Listen, if you’re not prioritizing how to fully, properly, and effectively express love to yourself, why are you being so hard on those around you who aren’t the best at doing it either (hmm…)?
Virtually everyone knows at this point that the five primary love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Okay, but when it comes to what your “top two” are, how are you showing your own self that you love you? Do you speak positively about yourself (words of affirmation)? Do you schedule regular “me” time (quality time)? Do you make it a point to get yourself some flowers or save up to get something that you’ve been eyeing for a while (gifts)? Do you feel okay about hiring someone to do something that you hate (like maybe getting a housekeeper to thoroughly clean your home once every season (acts of service)? When’s the last time that you gave yourself a foot massage while watching one of your favorite shows (physical touch)?
French author Anaïs Nin once said, “My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to find peace with exactly who and what I am. To take pride in my thoughts, my appearance, my talents, my flaws and to stop this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am.” And you know what? It’s so much easier to not just say this but mean it when self-love is a daily practice — when you speak your own love languages to yourself…fluently.
10. Admit When You’re Wrong
I will forever die on the hill that the reason why a lot of people struggle with admitting when they are wrong and/or apologizing to other people is because their parents absolutely sucked at modeling it to them (le sigh). That said, if you happen to be a parent who is reading this, one of the best things that you can EVER do for your child is teach them how to hold themselves accountable — and children learn best when adults lead by example (check out “What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'”).
So, why do I say that admitting when you’re wrong is great for your mental health? It’s an act that requires humility. It helps to preserve relationships. It’s an awesome teachable moment. It teaches you, live and in living color, to not sweat the small stuff. In all honesty, it helps you to grow up.
People who don’t mind owning their errors in life are individuals who want to move forward instead of remaining stuck. They don’t care so much about their pride that they would hold onto it at any cost. They give the kind of respect to others that they would want to receive.
And how could operating in that frame of mind not be good for one’s mental health? Yep. Exactly.
Bottom line, own your ish. It’s worth 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 article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports