I've been struggling a lot lately in my personal and professional life, which has been the source of anxiety, self-doubt, lack of sleep, and this ongoing feeling of not being "enough." The end of my 2018 and the start of my 2019 were rough, and since I have become a "push through" queen, it has been normal for me to put things I want in my life before my physical and mental health.
"You're looking really frustrated over there," my co-worker and friend Q said on his way out the door. "I've got a lot on my mind," I said cupping forehead in my hand. "I know," he said with a smile before hugging me on his way out. He along with many of my coworkers know what I've been dealing with since I returned from holiday break.
I'd been saying, "I'm going to take a break" since I got back from Atlanta in January. It was March 5th, and I decided that it was time to take at least a day.
At 11:25 pm I sent my boss a note on Slack letting her know I was going to take a mental health day, noting that, "If the team needs me, I'll come in. I hate feeling like I'm leaving the team hanging."
I was feeling guilty and very millennial as I wrote that message. Who needs to take a day for mental health? But, I knew in my spirit I needed that day.
Before she wrote me back, I'd gone ahead and booked a massage at a new place in Los Angeles called The Now. What intrigued me about the spa was their pricing ($100 for an eighty-minute massage) and that fact that I could add on their CBD balm to my treatment for an extra $10. Before you say that's too much, we all have those beauty and wellness things we can't live without like getting going to see our favorite nail tech, getting our edges laid by our lifelong stylist, or whatever your heart desires. If I give up eating out six days a week for only two, I'll have enough to book my next spa day.
With the boom of the cannabis products in the beauty and wellness world, I'd read many studies that claim CBD can lower blood pressure, act as a natural anti-inflammatory supplement, and help ease the pain of those chronic pain. The next morning, I woke up to a note from my manager, "You are not leaving us hanging at all! Take care of yourself — that is the most important thing."
How lucky am I to have a boss that understands, I thought.
Too often, managers guilt employees into pushing through at the expense of their health. In 2017, only one in five American workers under the age 45 took sick days, according to labor statistics. If we're not taking sick days when we're sick with the flu, a cold, or any other ailment deemed a sickness — the likelihood of people taking a day off for mental health is minimal.
I scheduled my appointment for 2:30 pm on a rainy Wednesday in Los Angeles. I know Tony! Toni! Tone! told us "It never rains in Southern California," but it does. When I arrived, I was greeted by two lovely hosts dressed in denim and was checked in to my appointment with my massage therapist Darrien.
Writer Bianca Lambert captured in The Now
I know there are black massage therapists out there, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a young black woman greet me to go over my what I was hoping to get out of my massage.
"Your girl is stressed," I said with a chuckle.
We chatted a few more moments, and I was off to a dimly lit space filled with salt lamps, sounds of an ocean breeze, and Tulum-esque decor that made me wish I could stay there forever. "Take a deep breath," Darrien said as she started the massage.
I tried to inhale to take a deep breath, but my body was so tight that I was only able to take in a little air. As the massage went on, I made attempts to quiet my mind, but if you have ever experienced anxiety, that's not as easy as you'd think. I started to think about the emails I might miss, the phone call I might get from my agent telling me I'd booked that audition I'd gone in for on Monday, the possibility of there being an emergency. My mind -- even in a place that was meant for mindfulness and relaxation -- was filled with all of these never-ending, fear-based, obsessive thoughts. About 20 minutes into the massage, I felt myself start to relax, especially when she got to the spots on my body where I hold all of my stress — my neck, shoulders, and back.
Eighty minutes later, my spa day was over.
I looked at the ceiling, took the first actual deep breath I'd taken in months, and cried. I felt like I'd dropped the boulder I'd been carrying around for the last few months. When I left the shop, my body was so relaxed that I dozed off at the restaurant I'd gone to have a drink and when a couple of stressful emails popped up on my way home — I felt the stress, but my body didn't tense up the way it usually would.
I think that can be attributed to the peppermint and hemp-derived CBD in their CBD balm — so I will be adding CBD oil to my list of things to buy in the name of self-care. When I got home, I turned on The Golden Girls and woke up the next morning having a had my first night of uninterrupted sleep in months. As I write this a little over twenty-four hours after my massage, I am still feeling grounded and relaxed, which is a pleasant surprise.
Many of us view massages as a birthday treat or for special occasions, but I realize that massage therapy can be important for those of us that carry our stress on our shoulders (literally) — science backs me up. Doctors say that massage can be beneficial because of their ability to connect your mind to your body and can help with stress management.
I know that a CBD massage can't knead my problems or anxiety away. But, choosing to put my well-being above the grind with the help of mental health day (and 80-minute massage) was just what I needed to change my inner dialogue. I have always been proactive about seeking out opportunities to grow in my career, but haven't put that same thoughtfulness into checking in with myself along the way. I'll continue to try new wellness remedies to ensure I stay in control of my life and mental health, and not allow the hustle and things I hope to accomplish in life control me.
If you're curious about CBD massages or do a self-massage, spas in Atlanta, New York, and D.C. offer them. If you're not in any of these cities, you can also purchase CBD oil online to add to your self-care regimen.
All images by Bianca Lambert / Instagram