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How 4 Professional Millennial Women Navigate Career And Self-Care

Workin' Girl

There are many professional and career/family oriented WOC who put in so much work for their jobs/families, whom have also have struggled with juggling all the above in conjunction with mental health challenges.


Whether it's dealing with high anxiety, or chronic depression, many powerful WOC have to do it all, and seemingly keep it all together, in a society where they are often oppressed and marginalized.

Speaking from experience, it takes great strength to work very hard externally and still manage to beat your mental health struggles internally by embracing self-love and self-care. This read will spotlight how four inspirational professional millennial women of color in different industries have dealt with challenging mental health issues while being active in their career paths.

Octavia Yearwood, Author & Motivational Speaker

Octavia Yearwood works in arts education creating intersectional arts programming. She is also known as a motivational speaker and author of her upcoming book, How The Hell Did You Do That, which is an interactive journey, serving as a guide book, memoir, and workbook helping readers to walk through the process of self-healing.

A Day in the Life:

"My days vary because I do several things. I teach, I create art programming, I have a book with a curriculum, I host events, and I'm a keynote speaker. On a normal busy day, I am returning emails between 7am-9am and then preparing to do any of those things or heading to a meeting in regards to any of those things. Today, in particular, I have to be at the University of Miami to work with some dance students who have a video shoot today, I have two classes, so I will be cleaning their choreography, getting them placed, and talking about the shot list with the program Director, Shedia Nelson, who also shoots and edits the video.

"I will need to get out of there by 12, so I head up to another private school and work with, and teach from 1pm till 4pm. On my ride up to the school, I am answering these interview questions and working through a proposal I'm working on for an Art Institute, [and finally] my foster brother is also in town, so I will need to make time to see him before he leaves in the morning to head back to NYC."

How She Grew Into Self-Love & Self-Care:

"I am actually fresh off of a depression that took me out for a good part of the beginning of the year. A lot of my work is for the benefit of the world, so it gets really rough to be so focused on helping the world, women, and our youth in particular, and hit roadblocks when it comes to nonprofits and getting funding to materialize things.

"I am an artist first, so working within corporate structures made me pick up a lot of bad habits that hurt me, like always trying to say or do things perfectly, being passive-aggressive, and not being completely honest about how I felt. I was fresh off resigning from a nonprofit that I put a lot of energy into, and a romantic relationship that I also put a lot of my energy into. Both ended around the same time last year, and I threw myself into my independent work even harder; by the time February hit, and one deal fell through, I was ready to be done with this world."

"I had suicidal thoughts in a way that I never experienced before."

"I isolated myself so much and was going through it, but no one knew because I was still 'booked and busy' in publications and throwing events, etc. I had to get recentered. I could feel that my spirit was weak because I wasn't doing what it needed. So, I called a sister of mine for a reading with my ancestors who told me what I needed to do, which was what I knew I needed anyway. I got myself back into my meditative practice, being active (working out and dancing more), cleansing my energy, and prayer."

"I had abandoned those things. I needed them for self-care."

"My self-love showed up in a different way. It came in the form of caring less about people's thoughts, and what I thought people needed from me. I got into the habit of navigating people instead of letting them navigate me. I was like, 'Nah, I'm not doing that anymore.' I had already got in touch with how valuable I was theoretically, but I had to begin to move in that in a real way."

How She Navigates Career & Mental Health:

"Firstly, the work is nothing without me. If life is a game like they say, I'm not doing it right if I don't have fun and if I'm not winning. All of our goals are a means to an end, which is why once we achieve a goal, our masochistic asses just create another one! So, it's all about the lessons along the way of the process, making self-awareness a huge key in regards to self-care because it makes you do a self-check-in. It's more important than ever for me to say what I want, be who I am, and enjoy the moments."

"I remind myself that I make time, so I actively do that for my friends and all the things that feed my spirit."

Her Advice to Working Women:

"YOU FIRST! Selfishness gets a bad rap. Do the things that feed your spirit, whether it's singing karaoke or laying in bed naked for a day. Please create some type of spiritual practice for yourself so you can maintain or attain a balance spiritually. It translates to everything else. You are everything, so you can do everything but you can do nothing alone. So, ask for support when you need it. I love you."

For more of Octavia, follow her on Instagram.

Shaunette Stokes, Attorney & Professor

Shaunette Stokes is a practicing attorney, licensed in the state of Florida. For the last four years, she's owned and managed her own law firm, Stokes Law Group, located in Tampa, Florida. She practices primarily Small Business Law and Intellectual Property Law, and is also a professor in the Paralegal Studies department at the local community college.

A Day in the Life:

"On my busiest days, I spend a significant amount of time in court for my cases that are in litigation. I like to schedule my court appearances in the morning in an effort to avoid losing any hours of productivity on other cases/client files. Ideally, I spend my mornings in court and my afternoons in the office working on client files unless I have a trial, in which case I am typically in court for a full day. On the days I do not go to court, I reward myself with an extra hour of sleep. I typically get in the office by 10:00 am and leave at around 4:00 pm to prepare my lectures for my evening classes at the local community college. Once class is over and all of my student meetings are complete, I get home around 9:00 pm. Most days, I continue working for a few hours once I arrive home."

How She Grew Into Self-Love & Self-Care:

"Prior to May 2018, I practiced Family Law, which is typically a highly litigated area of law and therefore a highly lucrative practice area as well. The courts have very strict rules and deadlines, which can have a serious impact on the outcome of your case. Not to mention the fact that the clients are going through an extremely life changing event for both themselves and their family, so emotions tend to run high. As a result of the nature of these cases, I dealt with a large amount of anxiety."

"My anxiousness did not come from a fear of failure but rather from a fear of disappointing my clients."

"Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that the outcome will go as expected. At the end of the day, even if you win a Family Law case, no one really wins because it does not heal a broken family. Often times, I found myself absorbing my client's emotional burdens and would treat them as if they were my own issues. I was extremely stressed and unhappy but it took me five months and an actual panic attack for me to make the decision to stop accepting Family Law cases."

"For me, recognizing the need for help and making this huge decision to stop accepting cases in such a lucrative practice area was honestly the biggest self-care and self-love decision I have ever made."

How She Navigates Career & Mental Health:

"It has not been easy but I have learned that I have to put my personal wellbeing, and therefore self-care, first and foremost. The practice of law is very stressful and I strive to create a work environment in the office for both myself and my staff where self-care is a priority. At my firm, we take mental health days at least once a month to help decompress from work."

"In addition to taking mental health days, both myself and my staff have the flexibility to work remotely from home at least twice a week. This allows me the flexibility of taking care of myself while still ensuring that the work gets done. On days that I work remotely, I go to the salon and get my hair done or treat myself to a pedicure. I have structured my business in a way that I can work remotely and still reach a high level of productivity whether it's in my office, from the comfort of my own home, or at the salon."

"I also strive to make the effort to go to the gym at least three or four days out of the week. I have found that when I take the time to put myself first, I am not drained from work and oftentimes I am more productive."

Her Advice for Working Women:

"I would advise any working woman that is trying to juggle any combination of the three to take the time to put herself first. Period. In order to establish a healthy work-life balance, you should prioritize yourself and what is important to you. Do not feel guilty for taking a break and allowing yourself to rest. You cannot be at your best on a professional level if you are not physically and mentally at your best on a personal level."

"Love yourself. Care for yourself. Learn to take the time to make yourself a priority and reap the rewards."

For more of Shaunette, follow her on Instagram.

Alana Blaylock, Documentary Film Producer

Galore Mag

Alana Blaylock works in the Film & TV Industry as a Documentary Producer. Her job responsibilities vary from role to role, whether she's prepping for a shoot in the office, physically in the field working with talent, or sitting with editors in post-production putting episodes together. Working on Lebron James' docu-series, "Best Shot," helped her find her own redemption after a mental health breakdown.

A Day in the Life:

"When I'm not on a set, I usually wake up by 7 every day. I'm a morning person and enjoy being active when my brain is most fresh. After heading to the gym, I'll go to my local coffee shop and order a Matcha Latte, catch up on the news, read my horoscope, and a verse from my bible app for an inspiring message. Then, I'll head into the office around 9 to start whipping off emails in order to book talent and find locations for shoots. During the afternoon, I write creative documents to send to my team. Every day is different and every series I work on varies in content, so it's an exciting job! On a weekday night, I'll cook dinner at home and catch up on my shows. On the weekends, I'm usually traveling so my plans depend on the city I'm located in at the moment."

How She Grew Into Self-Love & Self-Care:

"After going through a rough period last year, my mood dropped and healthcare professionals diagnosed me with clinical depression and acute anxiety. I was forced to talk about traumas I had been quietly dealing with alone for years. After keeping my problems under wraps, I finally opened up to therapists to get emotional help. Today, I have a solid treatment team and I'm on the right medication, which helps tremendously."

"I go on mindful walks for reflection time and set aside time to work out to clear my head."

"I never want to experience the mental anguish I felt before again. That being said, I work really hard to keep a positive mindset and be around people who will uplift me. I recognize that every day is not going to be perfect, and I'm not going to be perfect every day. The old me was not that kind to herself and held unrealistic standards. Now, I'm gentle with myself and most importantly, patient with myself as part of my recovery."

How She Navigates Career & Mental Health:

"I have to admit that it's difficult finding stability in such a fast-paced business. You sometimes have to be ready for a job in 24 hours and get in shape. The old me used to be type A and panic when things weren't going my way. Now, I realize that everything works itself out and nothing is more sacred than my sanity. Keeping that in mind, I move ahead with confidence, grace and understanding that flexibility and agility are key."

Her Advice for Working Women:

"Don't panic - The world will not end if something does not go your way! Set aside personal time for 30 minutes a day at least, and don't keep things bottled up inside until you want to explode. Communicate to others your expectations of them and what you can realistically deliver to them in both your personal and professional life. If your gut is telling you that you need a break, you probably do. Running on fumes does not do anyone any good. Take that vacation with your girlfriends or go on a solo wellness retreat."

"Be intentional about your self-care and happiness."

For more of Alana, follow her on Instagram.

Alie Jones, Educator & Entrepreneur

Alie Jones is a body positive entrepreneur, teaching artist, and self-care advocate. She's an art teacher at an after school program in an East Oakland middle school who encourages her students to reflect on the influence that art can have on justice and healing. She's passionate about empowering youth to speak their truth, and cultivate artful expression. In her piece for Afropunk entitled, "How Revolutionary Self-Care Becomes An Act Of Radical Activism," Jones channels Audre Lorde, expressing how "self-care is an act of self-preservation," and a radical political right, encouraging young people to practice the revolutionary art of self-care.

A Day in the Life:

"My most chaotic and rewarding day of the week is Wednesday. I start my day with yoga or meditation. I grab my weekly planner and create a list of my three daily intentions and tasks to achieve them. In our program, we go from an hour of homework time, activity time, snack, and two enrichment classes. From work, I go home to shower, change, and eat dinner. After resetting, I head to my weekly spoken word open mic, Speak On It."

"Having a space to authentically express myself in my community is so rejuvenating."

How She Grew Into Self-Love & Self-Care:

"My mental wellness journey has been turbulent yet transformative. I battle high functioning anxiety and severe depression every day. Last April, I was haunted by thoughts of suicide. In a very dark space emotionally and didn't know how to ask for support when I needed it, I allowed my negative self talk to tear me down. These feelings were amplified after experiencing emotional abuse and sexual assault during my second time living in France."

"I told myself that if I was gone, it wouldn't matter to anyone."

"In an effort to foster communities of self-care and self-love, I started a creative collective in Oakland called Bodacious Bombshells. Being in spaces with other women of color who have struggled with body image and mental health, self-care has taught me to explore body acceptance and mindfulness. Through one on one and group therapy, I've examined how I cope and challenged my ideas of isolation with community."

How She Navigates Career & Mental Health:

"My self-care and professional life align so well. I create spaces to share the healing of aromatherapy, deep breathing, and processing through creative writing. When I put my wellness first, I'm able to encourage those around me to go the same. I'm fortunate enough to have a workplace that inspires me to keep going on my darkest days."

Her Advice for Working Women:

"My advice for women working to thrive is be who you are, love who you are. You have to make space for authentic living and love without conditions."

"Self-care has to be intentionally practiced."

"Your mental health is top priority, there is no way to be completely present at work or in your families unless you're taking time to recharge your batteries. Self-love is an active choice, hold space for recharge and reset."

For more of Alie, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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