Like clockwork, every Friday at sunset, I let my body wind down. I might or might not be online. People in my world know there's a pretty good chance that my phone will be on silent. Basically, I fall off the radar. I do this because, pretty much ever since I was born, I've been a Sabbath observer. For me, until Saturday's sunset rolls around, I'm pretty much in total chill out mode.
Most of my friends, though? Not so much. For them, Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week. Even those who worship on Sunday, after church, they are spending the rest of the time getting ready for Monday. Yeah, although it's super unfortunate, it really comes as no shocker that people who live in the United States take advantage of holidays and vacation days less than any other country in the world. That's a crying shame too because not making the time to relax results in all sorts of drama including headaches, chest pains, poor work performance, a low libido, emotional instability, unhealthy eating habits, insomnia and more.
If you're a self-professed workaholic, perfectionist, overthinker or you're simply someone who doesn't make it a regular point or practice to chill the freak out, there's no time like the literal present to learn, because today is National Relaxation Day.
If relaxing is such a foreign concept to you that you need a little "push", just to be able to do it, I've got some proven ways for you to calm down, loosen up and let go a little bit (now doesn't that sound good?).
1. Deep Breathe
Off the top of my head, we've done three articles on the benefits of meditation—"Cultivating Mindfulness: The Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign", "Powerful Mantras & Meditation Techniques For Mindful Mamas" and "I Went On A 4-Day Silent Meditation Retreat (And Why You Should Book One, Too)". Something that meditation incorporates is deep breathing. When you breathe through your nose, hold for a count of 3-5 and then exhale through your mouth (then repeat that 10 times in a row), that does everything from remove toxins from your body and increase blood circulation to calm your mind and improve your posture.
Even if you don't make time to do anything else that I'm about to share with you, it only takes a few moments to center yourself by deep breathing a few times throughout the day. On a day that is totally devoted to relaxation, make sure that you do at least that.
2. Do Some Journaling
A common question that I'm asked in interviews is, with all that I've been and put myself through (you can read about some of that here, here and here), how am I still in my right mind. The grace of God for starters, but writing is ridiculously therapeutic as well. And here's the thing—you don't have to write for a living to reap the benefit that it brings. There are studies that support the fact that journaling, on a consistent basis, can reduce stress and help you to cope better with traumatic events.
So, if journaling more (or at all) was one of the New Year's resolutions that you didn't keep, gift yourself with a new journal and put your first entry in today. Then see how you feel.
3. Have a Salmon Salad and/or a Green Tea Mocktail
One of the reasons why a lot of us struggle with relaxing is because we eat way too much processed foods and sugar. In fact, did you know that, in America, sugar addiction is considered to be an epidemic? If you know that you spend way too much time in drive thrus or at the vending machine at your job, nourish your entire system to a salmon salad today. If it has spinach in it, all of the magnesium, calcium and B vitamins that it contains will relax your nerves. The salmon's omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA will reduce any bodily inflammation that you may have, which will result in your heart not having to work as hard. And, should you decide to toss a few fresh berries into the mix, the high amount of Vitamin C that they contain will fight off free radicals while combating internal stress simultaneously.
If, for whatever the reason, you'd prefer to pass on the salad, why not make a green tea mocktail when you get home? It's a nice twist on a regular cup of hot green tea and, since green tea contains properties that can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as help to calm your system, why wouldn't you want to have a tall glass or two of it?
4. Take a Stroll, Have a Picnic or Do Something Else Outside
A book that is a fave of mine isThe Celestine Prophecy. Although it's fictional, something that it talks about is the importance of spending time with nature; how it can reenergize and re-center you. It might be fiction, but there is a ton of reality that comes with that perspective. Some studies reveal that nature has such a profound effect on the mind that even looking at pictures of nature can put us in a relaxed mindset. There's also research that states taking a walk outdoors can improve our memory by as much as 20 percent, the Vitamin D from the sun can strengthen our bones and relax us and, being in nature can even make us kinder and more creative too.
This is a good time of year to get off work, pop open a bottle of red wine and read a book on your back porch. Or, take a stroll, enjoy a romantic picnic or do something else outdoors that you like. Nature is your friend. Spend some quality time with it as much as you possibly can.
5. Use Some Citrus Essential Oil (or Light a Citrus Soy Candle)
Whether you prefer the scent of lemon or orange, stop by a local health store and pick up either some essential oil or a soy candle in one of those scents. If you opt for the candle, the smell can help to relax you. If you decide to go the oil route, it can do everything from improve the quality of your skin and ease morning sickness (if you're pregnant) to reduce symptoms that are related to anxiety and depression. Something that orange essential oil does specifically is reduce pulse rates (especially in children). Plus, it smells really good, so why not treat yourself to some?
6. Massage Your Hands (or Get Someone to Massage Your Feet)
Most of us have hands (and shoulders and a back) that are loaded with tension because we are hacking away at our keyboard, every day, for hours on end. Something that will help to relieve your spine is to invest in an ergonomic chair. Something that will give your hands—and ultimately our heart—some much-deserved TLC is to give yourself a hand massage. You can get some tips on how to do it here.
Of course, it's even better if you can get your partner to give you a foot massage tonight, or if you can book a last-minute full body massage. But if money is tight, a DIY hand massage actually goes a pretty long way.
7. Verbalize What You’re Grateful For
A lot of us can't relax because we're constantly worrying about what we don't have enough of or getting more of what we wish we did. But if the constant grind leads to a stroke or heart attack due to all of the stress, was never taking a break worth it?
A wise person once said, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough." Yes, we all have goals and ambitions. Lord knows we've also got bills to pay. But for the sake of your mind, body and soul, get off of the clock, at least for a few moments. If there's so much on your plate that it seems like an impossible feat, pause and think about all of the things that you've got to be grateful for. With the current state of our country, having a roof over your head, clothes on your back and at least one person who loves you is truly enough to put it all into perspective. It really and truly is.
8. Listen to Some Relaxing Music
Music is powerful; that's why we need to be intentional about the kind that we listen to. While reading an article about how it affects us, the author said that fast music helps us to concentrate better, upbeat music puts us in a better mood and slower music soothes our mind and calms us down. Then I looked to see if there is a specific kind of "slow music" that works best. According to a group of neuroscientists, a song called "Weightless" by the UK band Marconi Union is the most relaxing.
I listened to it. If by "relaxing", they mean bore you to tears, I totally agree. Maybe it's just me, but I think Erykah Badu or Jill Scott's first LP, or a song like Groove Theory's "Keep Tryin'" or Goapele's "Closer" will get the job done, even better. But whatever genre lane you prefer, it can do your soul a world of good to listen to some music that settles your spirit.
9. Take a Nap
Some people like shopping. Others like working out. Me? I like to take naps. I am so serious when I say that I can't think of too many things that I adore more than my bed, bedding and catching some shut eye. It's so real that my friends are used to me saying, "I gotta go. I wanna take a nap."
Now, I will admit that sometimes I sleep too long (which makes it harder to call it a night hours later), but if you're someone who hasn't taken a nap since kindergarten, at least have one on today. There's plenty of research out here which points to the fact that sleeping in the middle of the day can reset your system, make you calmer and more productive as a direct result.
If you're reading this from your desk at work, tell your boss that you think a nap will help you to get more work done. If you add that you're doing it in honor of National Relaxation Day, maybe they'll oblige you. Here's hoping, anyway.
10. GET OFF OF YOUR PHONE
There's really no point in implementing any of these things if you're gonna have your phone in front of your face the entire time (sigh). I haven't don't extensive research on it (yet), but I'm willing to bet that a part of the reason why stress rates are through the roof for so many is because they have a not-so-low-key cell phone addiction. I mean, with findings like the average person checks theirs 47 times a day, 85 percent look at their phone at least once while engaging other people, and 80 percent of individuals look at their phone within an hour of waking up, my guess really isn't all that much of a leap, is it?
If you can shake your head "yes" to all three of those statistics, one more article that you should check out is "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down." Yes, our phones are really convenient, but even too much of a good thing can sometimes backfire. And since smartphones are basically mini handheld computers, if you truly want to relax, it's the last thing that you need to be using. Put it down for a couple of hours. Every single thing that you rely on it for will be waiting on you…when you get back from relaxing.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
"Team No Sleep" Is A Ridiculous Concept
5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself
I've Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul
Self-Care Practices That Will Keep You Sane
Feature image by Unsplash
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
How To Make The Viral Cucumber Sweet Pepper Salad At Home
You have to admit that the creations that come out of the culinary institute of TikTok just know how to hit your taste buds the right way. And the latest delicacy to come out of the digital kitchen is a crunchy, savory salad that only takes five ingredients to achieve.
The viral salad recipe comes from the mind of season 25 The Bachelor winner, Rachael Kirkconnell, who might have singlehandedly changed my relationship with cucumbers moving forward.
i thought the salad @rachael_kirkconnell made looked so yummy so i tried it and it was delicious!!! 😊🧡 i can’t stitch her video. #fyp #salad #saladrecipe #healthyeating #recipes #recipesoftiktok #recipe #saladsoftiktok #vegetable #food #foodtok
To create the viral cucumber sweet pepper salad, here's what you need:
- Persian Cucumbers
- Mini Sweet Peppers
- Makoto Miso Ginger Dressing
- Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
- Chili Crunch
To recreate the salad on your own, start by chopping baby cucumbers into small pieces, along with sweet peppers diced into thin rounds. Now, it’s time to add some tanginess. Take your medley of veggies and mix in a splash of Makoto Ginger Dressing (to taste), add a healthy spoonful of Fly by Jin Sichuan Chili Crisp sauce, and complete with sprinkles of Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. Toss and enjoy!
The combination is sure to leave your taste buds dancing in delight, or as Rachael puts it, “I will literally drink the juice.”
Who knew something so simple and veggie-forward could deliver a punch that’d have you wanting more? You get the sweet, savory, crunchy, and crispness all in one. And did we mention it’s healthy?
Viral Cucumber Salad @rachael_kirkconnell 🥒 #cucumbersalad #cucumber #sweetpeppers #cucumberpeppersalad #viralsalad #healthyfood #healthyrecipes #plantbasedrecipes #plantbased #plantbasedfeta #veganfeta #chillionionchrunch #traderjoesmusthaves #traderjoesrecipe
Cucumbers are as refreshing as they are nutritious, offering a number of health benefits. These veggies are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium, as well as other nutrients like magnesium and fiber. They’re also anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body.
With sweet peppers, you get a low-calorie vegetable that makes a great choice for weight management. They are also high in fiber, which can help to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Not to mention, the salad stands out for its versatility. Put it over rice, eat it alone, or pair it with salmon for the perfect, fulfilling dinnertime staple. As the warmer months roll in, there’s no better time than to find a snack that cools you down and satisfies your cravings.
Consider yourself influenced.
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Featured image by RuslanDashinsky/Getty Images