Let me just hit you with the real—stress kills. That's not an exaggeration either. Headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even depression are all things that, not only are oftentimes brought on by stress but are also made worse when we don't get our stress levels down. That's why, the older (and prayerfully wiser) I get, the more I make sure that if there's one thing I won't let get to me, it's stress. That requires making sure that the people, places, things and even ideas that try and get me all shook up and frazzled are monitored closely. The stuff that I honestly don't have to deal with, I don't. The things that I do, I set boundaries and also monitor how much time I engage. Because nothing and/or no one is worth having a nervous breakdown over, simply because I didn't know how to manage my stress well.
In walks, the focus for this piece. If you know that you're someone who lets stress get to you, far more than it ever should, here are 10 practical ways to keep outside stresses from totally wrecking your insides. Because sis, it's really not worth it. Not at all.
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah." (Psalm 4:4—NKJV) I like that a lot because some "super churchy folks" think that meditating isn't a "Christian" thing to do. The Bible actually shouts out meditating quite a bit (the word "meditate" is mentioned in the NKJV of the Good Book 20 times). I get why too when you factor in that mediating promotes emotional stability, reduces anxiety, lengthens your attention span, boosts your libido, helps you to breathe better and yes, reduces stress (and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the good that meditation provides!). So, if you're someone who knows that you let outside stressors get to you, way more than you should, start off each day by meditating 15 minutes or so. Just getting calm and quiet as you deeply breathe in and out can center you in a way that nothing else can.
2. Keep a Stress Diary
OK, so where's your journal at? Today, we're gonna tackle how it can be used to combat stress. By using it to jot down the specific times and instances that caused you to feel stressed out, it can help you to better understand your triggers so that you can work towards deactivating them more effectively. Basically, what you do is, either at the beginning or end of your day, you recap the past 24 hours. Write down the date and instance that stressed you. Then rate on a scale of 1-10 how it made you feel. After that, on a scale of 1-10 again, also write down how you feel about the matter now and what you did in order to feel less upset/anxious/worried about it. If the number hasn't gone down any notches, express, on paper, why that is the case. Finally, write down some things that you think could help you to de-stress and handle the situation more effectively—both now and in the future.
If you do this consistently, not only will you probably start to see patterns that lead to your stress but you'll (hopefully) be able to come up with remedies that can help you to let go of your stress a lot quicker too. If you want to learn more about how to create a stress diary, there's a pretty thorough read about it here.
3. Honor Your Own Love Language
Over on this platform, we write about love languages quite a bit. Just as a quick review, there are (basically) five of 'em—words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and gifts. All of these define different ways that we prefer to have love expressed to us best. But have you ever thought to ask yourself if you are fluent in speaking your own love language…to yourself? For instance, the two languages that basically run neck and neck for me are words of affirmation and physical touch. Because that is the case, something that I make a point and practice to do more is hype my own self up (one way to do that is by checking out the article, "Every Woman Should Write A Love Letter To Themselves"). I also find positive quotes, I focus on maintaining a healthy body image and I sometimes even audibly tell myself what I appreciate about my uniqueness and individuality. On the physical touch tip, the route I take is giving myself scalp massages and enjoy soaking in the tub (to some 90s R&B).
And what if your love languages are one of the other three? Quality time can be about getting off of social media and/or turning off your phone so that you can binge-watch a favorite show, read or zone out to one of your favorite throwback music playlists. Acts of service can be something like creating a to-do list so that you aren't always rushing to get things done. And gifts? I am a huge advocate of setting aside money, every payday, that goes to nothing but frivolous spending.
Love languages are dope, but they are most effective when you speak them to yourself before speaking them to others. I can most definitely promise you that.
4. State Your Boundaries (CLEARLY)
Think about the last time that you were stressed out to the point of being totally pissed off. I would be floored if it didn't have something to do with someone violating your boundaries on some level. After all, it can't be—pardon the pun—stressed enough that boundaries are limits and limits are oftentimes put into place so that you're not pushed past what you can handle at any given point and time. If you're like me and you grew up in an environment where your boundaries were constantly violated and/or dismissed, you might not really understand how to create them as an adult; this is how a lot of people can end up taking advantage of you. So, one day this weekend, take a moment to think about what your limits are vs. what they should be in order for you to maintain some level of inner peace. If that's spending less time with toxic family members, so be it. If that's releasing so-called friends who are proving to be more like foes, do that (check out "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend"). If that means moving on from your emotionally abusive boss, take that leap of faith.
In some ways, life is too short for drama. But in others, I also agree with Chris Rock when he said in the movie, I Think I Love My Wife, sometimes life can also seem really long. Yet, regardless of your personal take, who wants to spend all of their days stressed all of the time, no matter how short or long time seems to be? Personally, my life has improved, exponentially so, since I've drawn some limits on how I allow people to talk to me and/or treat me. And because of that, stress doesn't transpire nearly as much as it used to. (Hmph. Funny how that works, huh?)
5. Don’t Expect People to Be Like You
A personal lesson that has been oh so very freeing for me is getting to a point and place where I stopped expecting people to think or act like I do. Man, did I spend (and oftentimes waste) a lot of time trying to get over the shock that folks I knew wouldn't approach matters in the same way as I did. And when I wouldn't let that reality go, it really would make my blood boil and totally stress me out to no end. The thing about individuality is it means that all of us are different. That doesn't automatically mean that when someone is wired in another way that they are "bad" or "wrong"; they're just different.
A good example of this is, the last boyfriend I will ever have in this lifetime, he wasn't big on commemorating special days. Meanwhile, I'm a Gemini. If you don't get what that means, many of us tend to be on-10 about celebrating things like birthdays and anniversaries. So, while I typically took it over the top on his birthday and our anniversary, for pretty much our entire relationship, as far as how he approached my days, I was very much so less than impressed. To be fair, he was pretty good when it came to speaking my love languages, yet I still resented him for not thinking like I did on the celebratory tip. It's a part of what caused our disagreements and ultimately, what ended our relationship.
In hindsight, I get that if I had spent more time deciding if I wanted to be with someone who thought like he did rather than trying to turn him into another me, we both would've been much happier. Definitely, a huge cause of outside stress is trying to make people be you when that isn't realistic or fair. And honestly, it can lean towards the arrogant side too. Either accept folks as they are or shift the dynamic. Accepting this as being your two choices will make your life flow so much smoother.
6. Manage Your Time Wisely
If humans are getting on your very last nerve, one way to balance all of that stress out is to prioritize your time. Have a time set aside for your priorities, a time set aside to spend quality time with your family and friends, and time set aside for social media. While some people frown on creating weekly schedules, you might be surprised by how helpful it can be to wake up every day, knowing exactly what you plan to do, and what can/should be put on hold until another day. That way, if people, places, things or even ideas that aren't on your schedule try and shake your peace, you can remind yourself that if they were pertinent, they would've been on your list. Since they're not, they can wait until later. And the really great thing about the word "later" is getting to it is totally up to you.
7. Control ONLY What YOU Can Control
I'm pretty sure you've heard the phrase, "Don't sweat the small stuff". A good example of not doing that is making the choice to not try and be a control freak or worry wart out here. As someone who is a recovered control freak (for the most part, anyway), I can't tell you how freeing it has been to really accept the fact that, at the end of the day, all that I can really control is myself. No matter what or who has the potential to bother ("Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships") or trigger me (check out "How To Handle Folks Who 'Trigger' You"), they can only affect—or infect—me as much as I allow them to. Not only that but, when I've done the absolute best that I can (not based on anyone's standards but the Most High's and my own), then…what else can be done? On my end? Nothing.
If a lot of us were really real with ourselves, we'd admit that a lot of the outside stress that bothers us comes from us trying to take on what is either none of our business or is out of our hands. If you don't get anything else out of this, get that controlling self only is a superpower when it comes to no longer stressing yourself out.
One of the main reasons why a lot of people find themselves stressed out to the point where they almost feel like they're about to lose it is because they internalize their feelings and frustrations rather than vent them. Believe it or not, venting is actually really good for you because it helps you to release negativity, bring balance back to your mental and emotional state and, when you're doing it in a safe space (like in the presence of a friend who you fully trust), sometimes you can hear another perspective that can help to bring about clarity. The problem is, a lot of people hold stuff in so long that, when they do let everything out, it can be at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
I will admit that it requires quite a bit of self-awareness to know when you're almost at your breaking point. But try and make it a practice of getting to a place where you are totally alone to scream out your angst or hitting up a friend before snapping at work, on your kids or you're at a place that is totally inappropriate. Otherwise, all you'll be doing is adding to your stress rather than taking it away.
From a biblical perspective, the Bible is quite clear. If you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). I know that can be hard for a lot of people to accept but, as I continue to learn more about this forgiveness thing, I get that accepting what the Word says on it is a humbling experience. None of us are perfect and all of us need forgiveness. And beyond that, a quote on forgiveness that comes to mind is, "Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness. Forgive them just because you deserve peace." (I think a man by the name of Jonathan Lockwood Huie said it.) And you know what? This statement is 1000 percent true.
It's been my personal experience that people who don't know how to forgive (or feel like someone doesn't deserve forgiveness) seem to struggle a lot more with true inner peace than those who do forgive others. I think it's because a lot of folks who don't, they think that forgiveness means excusing bad behavior or giving the person who hurt or harmed them a pass. No, forgiveness means that you get that humanity can disappoint, but nothing is worth holding onto pain for so long that it shakes your own mental stability and emotional space. Unforgivingness typically breeds all kinds of anger and/or sadness and/or stress and anxiety. So, release who and what has offended you so that you can get back to feeling totally tranquil and calm, within yourself, again.
Get No Less Than Six Hours of Sleep
One more. I've got a friend who is the most pleasant person you'd ever wanna know. They will give you their left thumb if you really need it. I'm not playing. But man, if they go a good three days without at least six hours of sleep, they suddenly turn into Grendel's mother (you know, from Beowulf). I'm. Not. Kidding. We're not created to be sleep deprived yet, unfortunately, reportedly, 1 in 3 of us do not get enough rest. And since sleep deprivation leads to things like irritability, lack of focus and concentration, mood swings, anxiety, weak immunity, accidents and a sucky sex life—how could you not think that poor sleeping habits wouldn't lead to you being completely stressed out?
Words can't express what a night of uninterrupted sleep can do for a person. So, if you know that stress is something that you struggle with, make getting more sleep a top priority. It's one of the most effective ways to woosah your way through life—no matter who or what has the potential to stress you…on the outside of your own mind, heart and home's walls.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith went to social media to share their Thanksgiving holiday with followers. The pair were surrounded by family and friends Thursday, and both posted how grateful they were to be with the ones they loved. Yet this comes on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s whirlwind of negative opinions and critics forecasting her book would be a flop.
Despite the negative feedback she received, Worthy, Pinkett Smith’s memoir, still debuted at #3 on the New York Times’ Best Seller list on October 25. The greatest backlash she received was centered around her relationship with Smith and the fact that the two had been living separate lives since 2016.
The commentary about their marriage overshadowed the reality that this book is ultimately about her journey to self-worth and the path she’s had to take in order to get there.
Social media comments about her book tour ranged from, “Me counting all the times Jada woke up and chose to embarrass Will Smith,” to podcasts like The Joe Budden Podcast saying, “Take me out the group chat,” which was a sentiment shared by many celebrities and fans alike. Yet, a point made by comedian KevOnStage proved that even though people say they don’t want to know about the Smiths, they’re secretly interested and want to know more.
Since the Smiths were wed in 1997, people have been fascinated with their marriage, and rumors about their marital arrangement have always been a topic of conversation. People continue to speculate that the pair is gay and swingers, and even new allegations have come out that Smith and Duane Martin shared an intimate relationship at one point.
However, despite their consistent united front throughout their marriage in recent years, Pinkett Smith has borne the brunt of backlash in the couple’s relationship, from her entanglement with August Alsina to Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards to the recent truths she’s shared about the couple’s marriage in her memoir.
Individuals are consistently running to the internet to support Smith and villainize Pinkett Smith, from podcast guests saying things such as “She doesn’t like Will, she likes the lifestyle” to deeming her “mean” or "manipulative" because of her facial expressions and demeanor.
Likewise, when you have hosts of daytime talk shows such as Ana Navarro saying, “I think she’s having a relationship with her bank account,” insinuating Pinkett Smith only shared stories about Smith to increase her book sales, it begs the question of where was this same energy when Smith released his memoir?
In Will, Smith discusses both of his marriages and how, in relationships, because of his upbringing, he needed constant validation and praise from his partners to feel secure. He also shared the reality that Pinkett Smith never wanted to be married, just as she never wanted the huge estate they share in California, but he wanted to give it to her despite her feelings about it.
Smith admitted to creating this family empire that only further boosted his ego and what he wanted his legacy to be instead of actually asking his family what they wanted or needed. People praised him for his vulnerability and said his book was an inspiration.
So how is it that one book about a person’s family, upbringing, and journey to self is praised, and another is villainized? The glaring thought that comes to me is, does likability often trump accountability?
People love Smith and his “good guy” persona; he’s always been an attractive, charismatic man that people can relate to, so even when he speaks about the way he mismanaged his marriage and family, it’s seen as growth. On the contrary, because Pinkett Smith doesn’t constantly fawn over him and shares how miserable she was in their marriage, she’s the villain.
People still blame her for not stopping Smith from smacking Rock at the Oscars and share their sentiments about how she embarrassed Smith with her entanglement with Alsina. Though this is a celebrity couple we’ve all followed for years, the question must be asked, how much accountability must Black women be subjected to in relationship to their partners' actions?
Why is it that the media is more interested in the marriage between Smith and Pinkett Smith than her childhood, or the fact her memoir consists of writing prompts, meditations, and methods for other women to find their sense of worth?
Could it be that the larger society doesn’t value Black women having the tools to find their own sense of worth? Or is it that Black women are expected to accept whatever is given to them regardless of how they feel or what they want?
The exclusive interview with Eboni K. Williams (@ebonikwilliams) and Dr. Iyanla Vanzant about if she would date a bus driver seems to have a lot of people talking. You can watch her response tonight on #theGrio. Catch the full interview, here: https://t.co/ctxE0zKFWj pic.twitter.com/BhIO52T2fg— theGrio.com (@theGrio) May 2, 2023
When Eboni K. Williams shared that she wasn’t interested in dating a bus driver, the internet blew up with individuals saying that Black women need to be less selective with their dating prospects. The commentary around this conversation shed much light on the reality that this demographic is expected and invited to settle in love if they actually want a life partner.
Black women aren’t often given the space to find their joy, fulfillment, or even self-worth because of the responsibility they’re forced to acquire in order to support their families and communities. Yet, “high value” Black men speak vehemently about Black women’s masculinity and inability to submit. We’re often inundated with podcast guests sharing that they’re not impressed by our success and are uninterested in our aspirations.
Black women, from a young age, are taught to place their community first and cater to the men around them regardless of what they do or how they behave.
We see this when young girls are told to put on pants when male relatives come around, we experience it when domestic violence survivors are encouraged not to press charges against their perpetrators, and we even see it when Black women face backlash for dating outside of their race.
The way Pinkett Smith has been treated since sharing the truth about her life and journey of discovering her self-worth is another example of how the world isn’t receptive to Black women being their most authentic selves.
It’s another example we can hold up to illustrate how Black women are expected to be magical but not human.
Even with this article, I’m sure there will be many who want to argue why Pinkett Smith was wrong in her narrative, but at the end of the day, it was her story to tell, and no one has more authority to share her lived experience than her.
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