Everything related to COVID-19 has been a hot mess and a ball of stress. From losing clients and being stuck in the U.S. to having to cancel events and even coping with the death of someone I know---life's been more than challenging these past few months. When I'm not trying to pick up the pieces of my broken travel plans and confused bank account, I'm juggling virtual appointments with my therapist, course assignments for my master's program, incessant Zoom meeting and event invites, and thoughts of saying to hell with it all.
I can definitely empathize with the millions of others in the same boat as me.
So please, bruh… sis, just know this: When outside fully opens for all of us, don't expect me to join you at that brunch table, on the cruise trip, or even for worship service. I don't care how many masks, sprays, and reassurances are given. Ya girl won't be in the building. Period.
I know some states and countries have lifted some restrictions, and people are out and about, but I'll still be self-isolating until I feel super-comfortable deep down in the pits of my soul to join the masses again. Hey, I won't shame you or try to convince you to do the same. I'll just let you know 5 reasons why I'm choosing caution over comfort:
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1. I've found career direction, money savvy, and discipline by staying inside.
Initially, I was very depressed and angry about being forced to remain in the same place for an extended period of time. (I mean, it's one thing to make a choice not to go anywhere. It's another for borders to be closed.) I also, obviously, did not like the initially negative impact COVID-19 had on my income streams. However, time at home has forced me to center my thoughts, get more creative, and reevaluate the services I offer and who I offer them to.
When you're distracted by too many choices, you sometimes get so caught up in it all that you lose sight of your long-term goals and what truly makes you happy. I thought I'd escaped the rat race of a 9-to-5 by going freelance full-time, but I found myself on another hamster wheel of entrepreneurship that wasn't really serving me. One client loss actually led me to a realization about a service I offer that I don't even enjoy doing---one that wasn't bringing in much money to begin with. COVID-19 forced me to essentially let go of dead weight and reevaluate the return on investment of time and energy.
I've also consulted branding managers, revamped my Website, got a new therapist, attended cool virtual events (that I would've been too busy to consider attending in-person), and found other skills I can market to make a coin. I think I have more self-work and re-focusing to do, so inside I'll be for a little while longer.
2. I can contribute to the good of the environment.
While I know governments have to make tough decisions that affect society as a whole, I can make my own choices about my body, my health, and my safety. Some of the affects of quarantine have been positive for the environment anyway. Experts have found that pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since the pandemic began, and though the positive effects might subside, this is good news for now.
Just because quarantines are lifted and businesses can open doesn't mean I have to immediately go back to life as usual. There's no law that says I have to go outside when everything opens up again. It's that simple.
I'm not an essential worker, my line of work can be done from anywhere that has WIFI and electricity, and I think it will be helpful to the community as a whole to help lessen the load of accommodating so many people who will be flooding the streets.
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3. I've adopted healthier habits and lost weight.
Yep, even with all the take-out and delivery food. Before the nationwide quarantine and business closures, I loved going out to eat and I only worked out when I felt like it. I'd have a meal at a restaurant at least three times a month. I enjoy the experience of having a chef cook and not having to do dishes or shop for groceries. When quarantines were mandated, I craved restaurant food, so I'd order delivery or takeout. Sadly, many restaurants are ill-equipped or lack proper infrastructure for effective delivery service, even when partnering with third-party apps.
After two very popular delivery platforms utterly disgusted me---offering cold, low-quality food, horrible drop-offs, and high fees---I decided to fast. I initially did two weeks---for the first, only water and tea, and the second, soups and liquids.
I really didn't start the fast to lose weight since fasts, for me, are related to spiritual and mental health, however, it doesn't hurt that I've lost 10 lbs so far.
I plan to continue. It's my way to take focus off unhealthy eating habits, detach from relying on restaurant meals, and release anger about wasted time and money. I plan to go vegan for a while once I break my fast (another lifestyle change I've done in the past and enjoyed).
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4. I was a germ-conscious introvert before COVID-19, and being so has suited me just fine.
No shade to people who are the total opposite---again, this is not to shame anyone for how they choose to live their lives---but I can count on one hand how many times I've been hospitalized or even extremely sick. I have always been a big fan of staying home if there are any semblance of symptoms of any sort of contagious ailment such as the common cold or flu. I was that kid who would not share food or candy with anybody, and don't get me started on toilet seats, cups, and utensils. I'm notorious for not letting people do things like dip their hands in a bag of chips or double dip a spoon in a sauce or soup.
I'm still a bit of a germaphobe---someone who doesn't allow "outside clothes" on or in my bed, washes clothing (no matter the color) in hot water, wears shower shoes in bathtubs I didn't clean myself (yes, even at hotels), and keeps handy bottles of sanitizer in my purse, in my car, and in almost every cupboard of the house.
After more than a decade of living in New York, falling victim to bedbugs from an apartment rental gone bad, and having a major health scare in my late teens, I stepped up the sanitation and germ-conscious game and never looked back. And I know, sis, I know: There are people who have done it all and still, unfortunately, got sick. However, experts have said, time and time again, that the more you can lessen exposure to germs and bodily fluids, the better your chances are of staying healthy.
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5. I need more evidence of a lower risk of contracting COVID-19.
So many stories are going around about the risks of getting COVID-19, the strain its caused for the healthcare system, and how a "mutant" version of it is anticipated to emerge in the near future. I'm not one to live by fear, but survivors of the virus have even said they do not think it a good idea to reopen businesses and reschedule recreational activities with groups so soon. And though there are vaccines under development, there is no vaccine readily available to the average consumer, according to reports.
A simple trip to the store for essentials has shown me that many don't follow directions and won't respect the six-foot advisement of social distancing anyway. I still see people gathering in groups conversing with no masks, people not washing their hands or using hand sanitizer, people using their bare hands to test fruits and vegetables, people coughing or sneezing without covering their mouths or using the inside of their elbows… I could go on and on. Even if I chose to do some of my favorite things outdoors--- sit on a beach, read at the library, have a meal on an outdoor veranda, or get on a plane---I can't do it with 100-percent confidence that I won't have an anxiety attack or be exposed to the virus.
Folks, I'd rather be safe than sorry, and to be honest, going back to life as usual for a brunch date, movie night or overseas trip just isn't in the cards for me right now. I will continue to pray, sanitize, self-isolate, self-motivate, and take things as slowly as I feel comfortable doing.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s people who perform songs, and then there’s performers, and let me tell you something: Victoria Monét is a PERFORMER. I first fell in love with her as an artist after hearing her hit song “Moment,” and then when her album JAGUAR was released in 2020, I was hooked. JAGUAR was one of those albums that I kept on repeat as I and the rest of the world were going through the motions of being in a pandemic. I remember watching her perform her single “Jaguar” from the album on her YouTube channel, and the way she performed so effortlessly with such confidence, I knew I had to see her live.
Luckily, I got the opportunity. Along with dropping JAGUAR II, which features the viral single “On My Mama,” Victoria also announced The Jaguar Tour, and as soon as the tickets dropped, it quickly sold out. I attended her Atlanta show at the Buckhead Theatre, and besides being met with a sea of concertgoers from wall to wall, my ears were immediately hit with a beautiful voice from none other than Alex Vaughn, who opened for the mother of one. Once Alex finished her set, it was time for the main event.
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As soon as Victoria stepped on stage, it was hers. She commanded the room with her sultry voice and hypnotic dance moves, performing songs from albums JAGUAR I and II and previous projects such as Life After Love, Pt. 1. Fans were singing her songs word for word to the point where, at times, you no longer heard her singing. However, it was clear that she was in a room filled with love and support, and she also showed it back on stage. The singer rarely took breaks in between songs and dazzled fans with her smooth moves that is reminiscent of the legendary Janet Jackson.
One of my favorite moments was when she performed “Cadillac (A Pimp’s Anthem).” She dressed in a trench coat and fedora, complete with her pimp cane, and another big moment was when she performed “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt)”. Overall, it was nice to vibe out to live performances of some of my personal faves like “Ass Like That,” “How Does It Make You Feel,” “Alright,” and “Big Boss.” In a recent cover story for Galore, Victoria revealed what she hopes concert attendees walk away with.
“On tour, I really wanna give people the best version of Victoria on stage, better than I’ve ever been before. I’m hoping people have the time of their life at the show,” she said. After working behind the scenes as a songwriter for so long, the California native now has all eyes on her, and it’s clear she was ready for this moment.
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Feature image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images