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8 Healthcare Professionals Share How They Practice Self-Care During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The superheroes of 2020 don't wear actual capes – they wear scrubs.

Human Interest

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new meaning to the word 'superhero.' Superman and his homies can't hold a candle to the healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, mail carriers, truckers, non-profit employees, civil service workers and the many more brave people who are at the forefront through this era of heaviness. Every day they sacrifice their wellness for the safekeeping of mankind.

In under two months, the United States is now the epicenter for the coronavirus disease with the number of cases rising daily. Shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing policies have become the new normal as we work together to flatten the curve. Then, there are the extra special people who work double-digit shifts delivering the best care to their patients. No matter the conditions – lack of supplies, overflowing hospitals, less time with family, sleep deprivation – they show up and they give every cell of their being to saving lives. Maybe the new normal is extreme resilience with a healthy cup of self-care.

We know that self-care has never been more important than right now because you can't pour from an empty cup. So we asked eight healthcare professionals what self-care looks like for them. Keep reading to see how they remain motivated along with some bright spots that push back the darkness.

Rose-Krystel Hegngi

Photo Courtesy of Rose-Krystel Hegngi

Emergency Medicine Resident Physician
Baton Rouge, LA

"I recently started yoga (something I've been wanting to do for years). I'm in the very beginner stages but it's so rewarding. My work schedule hasn't really changed at all, but now on the few off days I have each month I take time to stretch and meditate since it's easy to do at home now that gyms are closed.

"The overwhelming support from companies locally and nationwide offering support and goods and free food for those working during this time has been amazing! Recently, we got an email stating medical students at LSU were volunteering to help residents with daily household responsibilities such as running errands, grocery shopping and even childcare while we work if we're feeling overwhelmed. The good that hard times bring out in other people makes me smile!

"The idea that I am doing what God has called me to do, helping others [keeps me going]. Wouldn't have it any other way— it's a privilege and an honor."

Nonee Ngazimbi

Photo Courtesy of Nonee Ngazimbi

APRN/Nurse Practitioner
West Hartford, CT


"This has been a high-stress time for healthcare workers especially when we see our colleagues, young or older, dying from COVID-19. Everyone is anxious and morale continues to dwindle as we come to the realities of this pandemic; not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and not enough system support to support an influx of ill patients when they come.

"At work, one of my colleagues led out in a mindfulness exercise the other day. Another, brought in an aromatherapy lotion we can use periodically throughout the day to center our energy. I have been working on adequate hydration, eating well, and being intentional about being a helping hand to my friends, family, and colleagues. My colleagues and I started a group chat were we share fact-based information daily such as the newest research and policies that are coming out; helps to ease the anxiety. Lastly, my skincare routine remains the highlight of my personal day. Fresh out of a steamy shower, I always lotion my body from head to toe. I then indulge in a step-by-step facial routine to keep my skin firm, clear, and hydrated. These things are keeping me grounded and secure spiritually, physically, and emotionally right now.

"Local businesses and even former patients have poured out their love and support for us by sending us treats, lunch, dinner, cards and way more! It feels so wonderful to know that you are supported by your community. Also, we have received donations from everywhere with masks and other personal protective equipment since we are nationally short. That has been a huge blessing in the midst of this chaos.

"Every now again, I am reminded why I entered into this helping profession. My experience in various intensive care units in the last seven years has prepared me in every way for such a time as this. Praise the Lord I have the knowledge and the skills and now it really feels like [it is] my duty to humanity to utilize those to bless others."

Khaalisha Ajala

Photo Courtesy of Khaalisha Ajala

Assistant Professor of Medicine Emory Univ. & Grady Memorial Hospital Nonprofit Founder of Heartbeats & HipHop, Inc. Atlanta, GA

"I'm practicing self-care by doing my best to stay prepared during this COVID-19 pandemic where the U.S. now has the highest cases in the world. I care directly for patients who have or are have been tested for COVID-19. How do I try to stay prepared? I try to stay up-to-date on reputable medical literature, remain in daily communication with hospital leadership on the plan for our patients on a daily basis, stay as protected with proper personal protective equipment to decrease my chances of contracting COVID-19 and practice good hand hygiene.

"Also, I cry when needed, rest when needed and know that I can be vulnerable to/with my colleagues and husband as we all try to fight this pandemic and take care of our patients who are battling COVID-19 and other illnesses that bring them to the hospital.

"I'm also a DJ and when I'm not working at Grady or doing global health work in Ethiopia or Thailand, DJing is a mental health practice for me. My bright spot was tuning into D-Nice's IG live session after a really challenging day at work. I danced with 100,000 of my closest friends and witnessed the healing power of music. As a doctor and a DJ, I loved it. For a moment, I was actually the patient and 'the DJ saved my life!' He saved many others by having a social distance party. Go figure!"

Ashley Cockrell

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Cockrell

Family Nurse Practitioner
Houston, TX

"I have an attitude of gratitude for my current health and for my job – it is the mainstay each day and what keeps me sane. After a long day of caring for others, it is even more important to take care of myself. I've learned that self-care is giving the world the best of you and not what's left of you. As soon as I get home from work, I take my puppy for a walk and enjoy the outdoors. I also unwind by lighting my favorite candles and enjoying my favorite music in my favorite place in the house – the couch! It is equally important for me to decompress from the day and clear my mind by engaging meditating practices. My favorite mindfulness apps include Calm, Insight timer, and Headspace.

"One moment that made my heart smile was after performing COVID-19 testing for a patient who appeared severely sick. She informed me that she stood in line at several other testing sites for hours and was eventually turned away due to high volume. Once she arrived, she was extremely thankful because not only did we get her in and out fast, but we were able to accommodate her family members who were at risk as well. She was extremely grateful for the service we provided her and complimented that we truly helped break down barriers to access care. It always brings a smile to my face when I know I've helped someone and served my mission.

"Knowing that I'm fully operating in my calling and my purpose to serve communities and help others keeps me motivated. It's fulfilling and rewarding to know that I am making an impact not only on the people I see daily, but the world at large. The genuine support, encouragement and prayers of my family and friends keeps me going. Because of my faith and support system, I'm feeling recharged and full of hope, positivity, resilience, love, and light. I am extremely grateful!"

ChiChi Okpaleke AKA Dr. Chi

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Chi

Family Medicine Physician
Tampa, FL

"Initially, as a physician, self-care was honestly not on my list of things to consider when being on the frontline in combating COVID-19. My concerns were very patient-centered, and making sure they were being treated appropriately. But it took reality to set in for me to realize that if I am not healthy, how will I be able to treat my patients effectively? These last several weeks have been stressful and I needed to buckle down and control my mental health.

"It's easy to get caught in the panic mode with all the media outlets and uncertainty on what the future holds, but I found for me that my faith never fails me. I vowed to be intentional with my mental, physical, and spiritual health; purposely integrating my workouts with yoga, prayer, and meditation. Even with all the chaos and noise, this is an opportune time to personally slow down and embrace the process of life.

"Even through this storm, a simple moment of hearing my nephews pray with the family on the phone, really made my heart smile. My family motivates me to keep striving in medicine. I'm inspired to continue to treat patients, because I know they deserve someone they can trust with their health, especially during difficult times like these. Life is hard, but the bright side is 'This Too Shall Pass.'"

Sheena Williams

Registered Nurse
Philadelphia, PA

"I have been maintaining a sleep schedule by staying active during the day and having nightly dance fitness workouts on IG live. I think it's important to have a schedule and not get into the habit of being up very late and throwing off your body. When I feel anxious or overwhelmed I pray or meditate and just list the things I'm grateful for to get my mind off of the chaos.

"I think this time home is a blessing in disguise. I rarely have time to watch a favorite show, read a book or work out. This time home has helped me achieve goals, sort through life and force me to be still. I'm enjoying time with my son and the random moments I have to read a book or relax.

"I'm motivated by my son. He needs me more than ever. I'm also motivated by my patients. They need me, so I have to stay healthy and positive for them. Our lives and how we do things will change forever, we have to support each other."

​Brittany Grimes

Photo Courtesy of Brittany Grimes

Registered Nurse
Nashville, TN

"As a full-time travel nurse, I'm used to having four days off a weeks to run errands, relax and spend some QT with myself. However, with everything shut down, I can't leave the house for anything more than groceries. So, I started doing yoga and it has been a game-changer for me! I do it every morning on my off days and every night before the days I work. I am less tense, I sleep better, get up earlier and I'm more productive. NAMASTE, sis! I have also found a way to stay creative during this time by practicing calligraphy (modernly knows as 'hand-lettering'). I get lost in it for hours at a time and it makes me so happy. Oddly enough, having to be in the house during this pandemic has made me a lot more active. Although it is stressful, I am grateful.

"As an ICU nurse, I rarely get the chance to talk and interact with my sedated patients. My brightest moment recently was with a woman who had a tracheostomy. She had just gotten her speaking valve and was finally able to eat. I sat with her, fed her, brushed her teeth, combed hair and we talked. Boy, did she talk! Before that, I was having the craziest day, but after watching her hear her own voice again, none of that mattered.

"Being able to see a critical patient make a complete turnaround at the hands of my coworkers and I is what keeps me going. It is not easy and I cry more than I like to share but I will never take it for granted."

Kristamarie Collman

Photo Courtesy of Kristamarie Collman

Family Medicine Physician
Virginia

"In medicine, the mental and physical demands of the profession can be extremely challenging and tiring. Coronavirus and COVID-19 have added increased stress and uncertainty and therefore it's more important now than ever for me to look after myself. As the saying goes, you have to 'secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.' At the end of the day, I cannot be the best doctor for my patients if I'm not performing at my physical and mental best. To do this, I try to keep a healthy diet, incorporate physical activity, and get regular sleep and rest. With constant reports being released daily about deaths and illness associated with COVID-19, it's important to protect my mental space by scheduling media and social media breaks.

"This is where a period of time where I silence my phones, disconnect from social media and turn the TV off. I use this time to either read for pleasure, journal my feelings, take a mindful walk or simply meditate to check in with my body, reflect and quiet my mind. I have also turned to activities which I used to practice when I was younger but lost touch with during my schooling and training. These activities include playing my old guitar and learning choreographed dance, both of which help me to unwind and brings me joy.

"Throughout the chaos, there have been moments that made my heart smile. A friend of the family is aware that I work in medicine and that we are experiencing a nationwide shortage of equipment such as masks. I came home unexpectedly to a package filled with a few hand-sewn masks along with a thank you note for being a doctor during this time. It reminded me that even in distressed times, human good can still prevail.

"I am constantly asked what motivates me and pushes me to keep going. For one, I know my purpose is so much bigger than me. I know that I'm helping to pave the way for many other individuals who are coming along on the journey to medicine. I am also helping people in a very real way every time I go into work.

"Sometimes I'm the first doctor they have seen in years or the first black female physicians patients have had or either way, I'm helping them in some way and they show appreciation. I will admit, I am also intrigued by the fact that I am experiencing and living through a pandemic and want to be able to tell my future children their mom was helping on the front lines!"

Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)

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You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

That's why when I see couples who have been married for many years, especially those in the public eye, I take every opportunity to celebrate their union with them. After all, love fades, and it can even vary from day-to-day. Friendship is the basis of all of this, it's the foundation.

And one duo who certainly understands this assignment is our dear faves, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. They have spent much of their marriage genuinely loving on each other and helping other couples along the way just by being themselves. From revealing the infamous "prayer", to showing the importance of the little things; things like date nights, or complimenting your partner openly and unapologetically.

Most recently, Boris took to Instagram to swoon over his wife in the cutest way. Shared with a screenshot from FaceTime, he asks:

"Hey Babe, can I ask you something? Can you please keep shining your light on me? Like 20,30,40 more years maybe? Feels really good. Thank you. I love you."

To which Parker responded:

"I'm gonna shave my legs. to. night. #yourenotreadyyyy"

It's the hashtags fa me.

Then there was that time that he was checking her out, and complimenting her fitness, which, *swoon*:

There's the time he surprised her on a boat and copped a few feels:

Same.

When she celebrated his latest venture as his number one fan:

When they celebrated their anniversary with a few locals and dance in the city:

All while jamming to some, which is always a vibe.

And when Boris showed her infinite love on International Women's Day:

The lovers and friends pair have said before that their relationship is not different from anyone else's and that that they have simply taken the time to do what works for them, which is having fun. Nicole even addressed it directly, offering advice by saying:

"You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it's so good on the other side. And Number 2: treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It's nothing new. Don't panic. You're going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates."

She continues:

"But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can't wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can't wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend."

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Featured image via Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.

Courtship

Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

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Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

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It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

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I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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