If there is one thing that 2020 and 2020 2.0 (which is what I call 2021) taught us, it's how important it is to prioritize our mental health and well-being. Yet in the midst of all of the drama that just refuses to let up around here, I totally get if that can be hard to do. That's why I've got a few hacks; ones that I hope will help to relax you, to center you, to not let this crazy world get you so caught up and frazzled that you're not able to focus on your priorities, your needs, your peace.
If it feels like you've been on edge lately and, no matter what you do, you can't seem to get a grip, here are eight things that can help to bring you back to the middle.
1. Create Something
In the Bible, the first thing that God is introduced as is being our Creator. Since the Good Book says that we are made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1), I am a firm believer that we all have the ability to create something — to make something that came out of our own thoughts or imagination. It might be a piece of jewelry. A photograph. An article. Some art. A DIY project. The list is endless yet when you are intentional about creating something unique and new, it affirms the power and ability that you have within your own being and how can that not be the ultimate kind of mental health boost?
2. Talk to a Positive Person
Lawd. There is so much negativity out in these streets that I think we should take out a moment to discuss some of the telling signs of what a positive person looks and lives like. Positive people tend to look for the good in all situations. Positive people like to laugh and have a good time. Positive people are self-aware and mindful. Positive people are supportive and encouraging of others. Positive people choose to let things go. Positive people don't wallow in negative feelings. Positive people are proactive about making wise and healthy choices. Positive people are solutions-oriented. Positive people surround themselves around other positive people.
Some days are gonna be better than others. Don't beat yourself up about that. However, instead of hopping on social media or calling that one relative who finds a way to see the bad in everything, connect with a positive person instead. I've got a friend who is always seeing life from a glass-half-full perspective. It's kind of hard to stay feeling "blue" when she sees things in "yellow"…if you know what I mean.
3. Buy Yourself a Plant or Some Flowers
Did you know that there are science-based reasons why having a plant in your house is a really good idea? Thanks to the organic compounds known as phytoncides, plants can help to reduce your stress levels which can ultimately boost your immune system. Since plant life also has a way of calming us down, they can actually boost your productivity levels if you have one at your desk or home office. And, because plants require some level of care, they are a way to help you to become more nurturing and compassionate to others as well. So yeah, if you're looking for a bit of a mental pick-me-up, a plant can be just the thing to help you do it.
While we're on this topic, something else that you can do is purchase a bouquet of flowers (check out "Love Fresh Flowers? Here Are Tips To Make Them Last Longer"). The combination of the colors and scent, along with making a proactive decision to do something to make you feel better is also a great way to give yourself the mental boost that you need.
4. Take a Nap
Something that my friends know about me is I talk about taking a nap like I am about to have sex with a 6'5" Godiva-coated king. I'm not joking. I think a big part of it is because, when I'm not counseling couples, I'm usually on my laptop writing about stuff like this which is a blessing (because I am doing what I want to do for a living, from the comfort and convenience of my house) and yet can also be a little draining too. And so, when my mind tells me that it wants a break, I give it just that. And because naps give me more energy and helps me to feel refreshed, I am all about encouraging other folks to take one too.
If you're doing it strictly for the sake of your mental health — you know, in order to get through the rest of your day — there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, a nap that lasts longer than 30 minutes can put you into a deep sleep that could cause you to wake up feeling groggier and/or throw off your sleep schedule at night. That's why you should set an alarm to go off at around 20 minutes, you should try and take a nap in the early afternoon, and you should do it in silence or with some ASMR nature sounds; that way, your brain can truly get some rest (without your mind working overtime, even in your sleep), so that you can feel significantly better once you awaken.
5. Have a Yogurt Smoothie, Salmon Salad, Some Guacamole or a Piece of Dark Chocolate
Having a little snack is something else that you can do to mentally get through the rest of your day. A yogurt-based smoothie is good because the potassium and magnesium can help to increase oxygen to your brain which can make you feel more alert. A salmon salad is bomb because salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, both of which are proven to reduce depression-related symptoms, sharpen your memory and improve your mood. I will make some fresh guacamole in a heartbeat — good thing too because the Vitamin K and folate that are in avocados can help to improve one's memory and concentration while the carotenoid lutein is great at strengthening brain function. Or how about a couple of pieces of dark chocolate? So long as it's 60 percent dark cocoa or more, you'll be taking in the antioxidants known as flavonoids which are awesome at keeping you alert and putting you into a better mood.
6. Turn Your Phone Off
Sometimes, what has us stressed out more than anything is the fact that either folks are constantly able to get a hold of us or we're overwhelmed by all of the info that we're consuming online. The device that typically makes this possible is our phone. While I know it might seem like you can't live without your smartphone, a lot of us are old enough to remember what it was like to only have landlines and I promise you that we survived — thrived even. Unless you are a parent, there is no need to feel hesitant about turning off your phone from time to time. Even if you are, at least silence those notifications for a few hours a day.
The sense of urgency that phones provide is an illusion. Folks can text or leave a message after the beep and whatever your social media accounts are talking about, you can pick up where you left off whenever you log back on. (For more reasons to take this tip to heart, check out "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down.")
7. Write Someone a Thank-You Note
If there is one thing that the absolute cyclic-ness of this pandemic has taught me (Lawd, did folks learn anything last year?!), it's how selfish and unteachable human nature can be (especially in the United States). If you're not careful, it can get you either super caught up or really jaded. One way to avoid this is to focus on the things that you should be grateful for. One way to do that is to handwrite a thank-you note to someone. It can be a friend, a co-worker, someone who works at a favorite store — even your partner or child. By making the time to tell another person what you truly appreciate about them, it can remind you about the good things that still exist in this world while helping you to not be so self-consumed. Besides, the response that you get from that person will be sure to put a smile on your face. It's a "win" all the way around.
8. Toast Yourself
I am BIG on toasting myself. I will straight-up go to the store, get myself some bubbly (sometimes alcoholic, sometimes not), fill up a champagne flute, think of something that I am proud of (even if it's as simple as not cussing somebody out who really needed it or paying a bill ahead of time) and "drink" to it. Y'all, sometimes, we're so consumed by all of the ways that we can improve that we don't take a minute to celebrate how far we've come — even if it's in tiny increments. When it comes to mental health hacks that can immediately do you some good, I'm signing off here because ending the day with a toast to yourself can do wonders. I've been doing it for years and it always makes me feel really good. About myself. Which is always a mental health boost. Cheers!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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