Approximately 7.5 million African-Americans have a diagnosed mental illness, and up to 7.5 million more are potentially navigating life undiagnosed. African-American women are over-represented in these statistics, as a result of racism, sexism, microaggressions in the workplace, low-income jobs, predisposed health conditions, and multiple role responsibilities, all of which impact their overall mental health.
In recent years, the tide has shifted when discussing therapy and mental health. African-Americans are now more likely to seek out therapists, but not without difficulty in searching for Black/brown mental health clinicians. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Atlanta-based psychologist founded Therapy For Black Girls, a directory of resources and mental health professionals for Black women. What started as a Google doc is now a database of over 800 therapists, Therapy For Black Girls (the website, and podcast of the same name) has become the destination for Black women looking to find a therapist.
Recently, I spoke with Dr. Joy and asked ways that we can put our mental health first today and beyond. Here are the gems she dropped.
Carving out some time for solitude.
"Make sure you're setting aside time daily for journaling, meditation, or prayer. We need to make sure that we're allowing ourselves that time to tune into our thoughts, and how we're feeling in order to access how we're showing up for ourselves, and others."
Get your body moving.
"Physical activity is paramount. You need to keep your body [active] with whatever exercise makes you feel good (cardio, dance class, yoga, etc.) so that you can release those feel-good hormones called endorphins."
Paying attention to sleep.
"Far too often, we don't take into account how rest is related to our mental health. Studies have shown that 6-8 hours of sleep every night improves brain functionality, your muscles have the opportunity to recover, and your memory is processed and stored for learning. Getting enough sleep also allows you to feel energized and helps enhance your concentration."
Stay off your phone at least an hour before bedtime.
"Allowing your brain time to shut down before you go to bed. When you're scrolling before bedtime, your mind stays active, and long after you've put your phone down to go to sleep"
When police brutality videos surface online, don’t watch them.
"I understand that we're posting in an attempt to bring awareness, I also want you to reconsider what's happening. Because many of us are desensitized to those videos, we don't realize how they can impact us mentally. I think people need to know that you can still show solidarity and advocate while not sharing those videos that can trigger you. Also, consider turning off the autoplay button on your social media channels so that they don't just appear on your feed."
For those in therapy, remember that your work is for you.
"As a community, we often want to help one another, especially as it relates to healing (and even exploring therapy) but you need to remember that your work, is for you. And while it can be great for you to share what you're learning with your loved ones, and how helpful it's been for you, we have to remember that we are ultimately only responsible for ourselves."
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Dubbed one of the "21 Black Women Wellness Influencers You Should Follow" by Black + Well, Yasmine Jameelah continues to leave her digital footprint across platforms ranging from Forever 21 Plus, Vaseline, and R29 Unbothered discussing all things healing and body positivity. As a journalist, her writing can be found on sites such as Blavity, Blacklove.com, and xoNecole. Jameelah is also known for her work shattering unconventional stigmas surrounding wellness through her various mediums, including her company Transparent Black Girl. Find Yasmine @YasmineJameelah across all platforms.
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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Y’all, if there’s one thing that isn’t going away any time soon, it’s definitely sex toys — most specifically, vibrators. That’s not just my opinion either because there is quite a bit of data out here to support the fact that a little over half of all women use them. And out of that bunch, interestingly enough, they’re the ones to get the pelvic exams and do self-vaginal exams the most consistently. If you are among them, kudos to you for that.
And while there are plenty of women who will basically do a free commercial that vouches for sex toys (again, especially vibrators) because of how reliable they are when it comes to achieving the Big O and even though there are also articles (and social media posts) that talk about how some women even prefer them to actually being intimate with men (I don’t get that part yet y’all do you), believe it or not, there are also women who have officially retired their rabbit and dildos. Their reasons may not all be the same, yet there seem to be no regrets for most. I’ve got 10 women here who were happy to state their case.
*Middle names are always used so that people will feel comfortable speaking freely*
Angelica. 37. Single.
“I started using sex toys because I could never cum with a partner. It didn't matter if he was a casual partner, a boyfriend, or even my ex-husband — sex was fine, but I could never ever fully ‘get there.’ A girlfriend of mine bought me a vibrating bullet, and I was hooked! Too hooked because it caused me to not even care if a man was pleasing me or not. And that’s why I let it go. I’m not going to go through my life thinking that the only way I can orgasm is with a device. The man I’m with now agrees. He’s made it his goal to make me not regret my decision.”
Rheya. 29. Engaged.
“I love my vibrators, do you hear me? I mean, you would think that they were actual people, the way that I used to talk about them, because, yes, I gave them names and everything. Don’t judge me! But when my fiancé and I first started having sex, he would ask me why I had so many of them. When I told him that they were a ‘sure thing,’ I guess he took that as a challenge because, one day, I came home, and they were gone. He said he didn’t throw them away, but he did put them up so that we could focus on him being what I wanted the most. Girl, I ain’t looked for them things. He made his point. No — he makes his point at least once a week!”
Sebbe. 27. Single.
“If you’ve never used a vibrator before, it can be addicting. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. So much that it’ll have you out here mad at men for not being physically capable of doing what it can. I don’t even know if it’s healthy to cum in under two minutes, but what I do know is it’s not fair to expect humans to be like robots. So, I guess I’m on a fast from mine. I can’t promise you that it will be forever, but I do need to do some decompressing. I would hate to hate men for the rest of my life because their d-ck ain’t a rabbit.”
Xen. 32. Married.
“I recently watched a girl on Instagram talk about a vibrator can do just what a man can. I don’t know what the f-ck she was talking about. Back in my sex toy days, I was using them to tide me over in between not having a relationship so that I wouldn’t be out here in these crazy streets! But if any woman thinks that some little thing that you can hold in your hand beats a whole, complete, and entire man in their bed…they clearly have not met their match yet. I have, and I don’t have to see another sex toy again, thanks to him. S-it, let me call this man and tell him that.”
Nora. 40. Single.
“A thrusting vibrator will change your life! I mean, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I was out here turning down dates, not hanging with my girls, making it late to work — all kinds of craziness because that’s how much my thrusting vibrator was bringing me joy. That’s the problem: it was taking over my life. Women will talk all day about how porn can destroy a man’s view of intimacy, but they don’t wanna talk about that dependency on a vibrator can do to their cooty cat. One day, I threw mine out the window while driving down the street. I wasn’t going to part with it any other way. It was like I went through withdrawals — and that’s how I knew that it had to go. If no man is supposed to have me crazy actin’ like that, I know that no damn sex toy should!”
Quincie. 31. Single.
“I got scared silly out of not using vibrators anymore. I don’t really want to talk about it. I do want to share a warning: it’s probably not waterproof if it has to be plugged into the wall to charge. Folks don’t want to talk about that kind of stuff, but my vagina is happy to be alive right now.”
Natalie. 46. In a Serious Relationship.
“Shellie, it was actually talking to you that got me to take the pressure off of myself and the men I sleep with when it comes to [vaginal] orgasms. For years, I would think that something was wrong with me because penetration wasn’t enough. When you said that the placement of the clitoris when it comes to the vagina can play a huge part in climaxing, that set me free! For a long time, I would bring sex toys in to stimulate my clitoris while I was having sex. The man I’m with now said that he preferred to do it — and the ways that he’s come up with, I prefer him too. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. Just know that there are a billion ways for a man to ‘apply pressure,’ sis.”
Bree. 28. Engaged.
“My situation might be different from other women you talk to. What I gave up was my rabbit and dildo, although my fiancé and I use BDSM stuff and cock rings. I got rid of certain sex toys because I like the feeling of only having my man inside of me. The feeling is different, and it takes more effort for me to cum, but I don’t mind that. The intimacy of real flesh is so much better than some silicone.”
Chevele. 25. Single.
“My reason is simple. My first orgasm was with a sex toy, and I kind of regret that. I wanted to share that with a man — not [from having] ‘just sex’ either. I wanted it to be with someone I was in a serious commitment with, but I listened to my friends and put cumming before the intimacy I know I deserve. I’m seeing someone now, and I think I’m ready to have sex with him. I’m glad that I don’t have the dependency of any sex toy. I just want to see where things go and flow. We’ll see what happens.”
Hazel. 33. Married.
“Sex toys are alright. I’ve never been hooked but I won’t lie that they are very consistent. But when you’re in a happy and healthy marriage, the goal of sex isn’t just having an orgasm. You want to share yourself and learn your partner. Sex toys can make you lazy and almost apathetic if you’re not careful. Mine are in the garage. So long as I’ve got this big fine man in my bed, that’s where they will stay. I don’t miss them at all.”
There you have it: 10 women who pretty much loved and left as far as sex toys go. I must admit that the thing I enjoy most about these types of articles is that I get to share that there is more than one side to everything. In this case, yes, a lot of women are thriving in their sex toy box. Then there are women who have never touched one. And then there are women who can look back on their experiences fondly and still leave them in the past with no regrets.
My biggest takeaway? If you can’t see life without something, you probably need to scale back a bit. Otherwise, incorporate balance, know your “why” and do you — whether it’s a toy, your man, or…both. #wink
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