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 (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.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Please Stop Picking People Who Don't 'Fit' Your Purpose
While doing an interview not too long ago, someone asked me what I thought was the biggest mistake people tend to make in life. Without hesitation, I said, “It’s two-fold. One thing is not being laser-focused when it comes to fulfilling their purpose. The second is to not be even more intentional about aligning yourself with people who will complement their purpose along the way.”
You know, it is Mark Twain who once said something that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard before — “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He’s right because there is something that is super empowering and self-validating about tapping into “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” (one definition of purpose and in this case the “something” would be yourself) and then coming up with “an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal” (another definition of purpose) as it relates to it all.
You can do this so much easier once you’ve got people who fit your purpose inside of your world. So, let’s take a few moments to dig into what all of that involves so that you can waste less time trying to “make people fit” who probably were never really supposed to begin with (at least not intimately). You ready?
What Exactly IS Your Purpose?
A hill that I am forever willing to die on is the fact that the reason why a lot of people find themselves getting involved in fruitless relationships and/or wasting their time (check out “These Bad Habits Are Totally Wasting Your Time” and “Love Is Patient. But Is Your Relationship Just Wasting Your Time?”) on various people, places, things, and ideas is because they aren’t clear on what their purpose is. Because listen, I can tell you from very up close and personal experience that once you’re aware of what your purpose is in this life, there is a fire that develops within you that makes you very intentional — violent even — about pursuing who and what will help you to fulfill your purpose as you release who and what is standing in the way of making that happen.
So, why do so many people seem to do the very opposite of what I just said — why do they hold onto who and what is hindering their purpose development which causes them to not focus on who and what will help them to thrive? For many, it’s because they have no clue what their purpose actually is in the first place.
So yeah, let’s start there. Something that I tell people often is, a great sign that you know what your purpose is, is if you can explain it or define it in no more than three words or phrases. Take me, for example. Whenever folks ask me what my purpose is, I say, right off the rip — marriage, sex, and the Sabbath (the actual biblical one). What they all have in common is they are biblical covenant principles and most of my life centers around shedding light on those areas in ways that many people never stop to consider.
It's a long story, how I got to this place. What I will tell you is some of the confirmations include the fact that opportunities abound for me in those areas, I have a lot of peace whenever I’m functioning from those spaces and my needs have always been met when I focus on those three topics. And yes, those are some telling signs that you are indeed operating in your purpose.
And what if you’re still out here struggling to figure out just what you were created to do? Although that’s kind of an article all on its own, I will offer up a few tips.
Do some meditating every morning. The reason why a lot of people have a hard time figuring out their purpose is, is because their mind is constantly distracted. Getting quiet enough to present the question, “What is my purpose?” while being still enough to hear what comes to your spirit/soul is a viable practice. Ten minutes a day should start to shed some light after a couple of weeks or so (if you consistently do it, that is).
Ponder your passions, gifts and talents. Even before I was making money from my purpose, I could talk about marriage, sex, and the Sabbath all day long and never get tired. When I paired that with the fact that I have a gift of writing and then I tapped into my spiritual gifts (if you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test before, you can here) which include things like wisdom, discernment, knowledge, and giving — it all made sense. Far too often, our gifts and talents aren’t our purposes; they are tools to help us manifest our purpose. Keeping that in mind, think about where your passion lies and if you are using your own gifts and talents to catapult it.
Far too often, our gifts and talents aren’t our purposes; they are tools to help us manifest our purpose.
Jot down how your purpose would serve others. Even a lot of celebrities are not in their purpose. How do I know? Well, one definition of entertainment is “to distract” (no joke) and if folks are out here only doing what benefits them and/or they’re doing what makes the world worse instead of better, they are not operating in their purpose. So yeah, think about what too. As you’re trying to figure out what your purpose is, what about your passion can help others in a very needed, profound, and even somewhat unique kind of way?
Ask yourself what you would put before all else. I’ll get into this point, as it relates to my personal journey, in a sec. For now, I’ll say that when I was writing my first book, I had family members who refused to speak to me for months (how selfish). I was younger at the time and had not mastered how to release toxic people from my space (even if they are in my bloodline), so it was a bit uncomfortable at first to tune out the toxicity and narcissism and finish the task at hand. Oh, but I did.
That said, one definition of sacrifice is “a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or of preventing some evil.” When you’re willing to make great sacrifices, come what may, for the sake of something, that’s a good sign that it’s either your purpose or directly tied to it.
Figure out what brings you joy. Did you see how I said JOY, not happiness? Let me tell it, folks are out here making all kinds of self-centered and/or reckless and/or impulsive decisions because they worship the god of happiness — a fleeting emotion that tends to go as quickly as it comes. Joy is a bit different, though. Although it does bring pleasure, it also creates satisfaction. People with joy feel a sense of contentment not momentary elation. Whatever in your life does that for you, your purpose is probably not too far away from it.
Like I said, finding one’s purpose has articles, blogs, and books for days available (the late and great Dr. Myles Munroe was an awesome voice on the topic). Hopefully, these five points can help to at least initiate the quest, though.
What You Owe Your Purpose
What do you owe your purpose? In short, EVERYTHING. How could you not when, again, one definition of the word is “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” If you are not doing what you were made to do, not only is that the greatest slap in the face to your Creator, it’s the greatest form of disrespect to oneself as well.
That is why I am very…“aggressive” is probably the most accurate word when it comes to making sure that folks get with the kind of life partner who they not only “love” but will serve as an awesome purpose complement (check out “If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life”) for them. Because what sense does it make to join your life to someone who will make the entire reason for why you were put on this planet complicated at best, totally stress-filled at worst?
Case in point. There’s a man I know who was once a sound engineer. While he was dating his wife, she was fine with it. Once they got married, though, because she had kids from another relationship, she felt that he should make more money to take care of her “package deal.” He went into computers, made more money — and totally started hating his life. Because of that, it made him miserable which made him not as fun to be around which put another kind of pressure on the marriage and ultimately the family as a whole. They’re divorced now and he has told me that one thing he will never do again is put a relationship before his purpose. Good. He shouldn’t. No one should.
And here’s the thing — the right people will never expect you to. It won’t even cross their mind. How do I know? I’m actually thrilled to say that about 90 percent of my world is full of purpose-driven individuals. They are focused. They are intentional. They are extremely careful with their time and resources. And that requires that I make adjustments so that they can remain that way. This means that they must also do the same things for me.
We all know that if we don’t honor our purpose, we’re selling ourselves short and so, it’s one thing that is a non-negotiable. That’s how purpose-minded people roll. Period.
How the Right People Will Fit into Your Purpose. How the Wrong Ones…Won’t.
I’ve got a girlfriend right now who is going through a divorce. One of the main things that caused so much brokenness in her marital dynamic is her husband doesn’t respect her purpose. He complains about it. He competes with it. He finds ways to make the sacrifices that are required for her to fulfill her purpose a guilt trip that is hard for her to shrug off because he presents them as little “love tests” (ugh).
So, why did she marry him? Well, initially, she was on a bit of a hiatus from her purpose which caused him to see it as more like a hobby than anything else. Now that she’s in a resurgence of it, he puts up more roadblocks (like trying to make her feel bad when she has to travel when they have kids) than anything else. He’s not an advocate or ally when it comes to her purpose — whether he realizes it or not, he’s actually a direct enemy of it. Yes, some people are indeed “sleeping with the enemy” (whether it's figuratively or literally) and it’s all because they didn’t choose someone who would “fit their purpose” — and that is why topics like this one need to be discussed more often. Far more often.
In the hopes that you can avoid some of the pain and disappointment that she’s going through, whether it’s with a life partner, a friend, or a relative, let’s hit on 7 signs that someone does indeed fit your purpose:
- They will be cheerleaders of your goals and accomplishments
- They will seek ways to make purpose manifestation easier for/on you
- They will understand that sometimes they will have to make sacrifices within the relationship so that you can fulfill your purpose
- They will get that they don’t always have to “get it” when it comes to certain things that you need to do when it comes to your purpose
- They will have connections, talents, and resources that oftentimes can help you to go further within your purpose (and they won’t withhold them and weaponize them)
- They will be encouragers in the moments when even you are struggling in manifesting your purpose
- They will be flexible in adjusting to your growth and setbacks when it comes to you fulfilling your purpose
With all of this in tow, now let’s look at 10 clear indications that someone DOES NOT fit your purpose:
- They are vessels of drama and stress which ultimately distract you from your purpose
- They are only supportive when they can find a way to benefit from your purpose
- They might send off vibes of jealousy and/or envy about you and/or your purpose (check out “5 Signs Your Closest Friends Are The Most Envious Of You”)
- They may act like you have to justify or defend YOUR PURPOSE to them (check out “What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?”)
- They might find ways to “punish you” for either fulfilling your purpose or not approaching it in the way that they would and/or they agree with (whew, chile)
- Since another definition of purpose is “a desired aim or goal,” they always seem to make it more difficult for you to accomplish what needs to be done as it directly relates to your purpose
- Whether directly or indirectly, they will have no problem draining you of the resources that you need in order to fulfill your purpose (keep this in mind when it comes to selecting a spouse; a true partner will not break you just for their comfort and convenience…wife or husband)
- They don’t respect the boundaries — including the ones that are connected to your time — as it relates to achieving your purpose
- They will constantly make you feel like you have to prove something when it comes to your purpose
- THEY DON’T RESPECT OR FULLY ACCEPT YOUR PURPOSE (and yes, I am yelling it!)
When you’re not purpose-driven, things like this may be annoying but not necessarily unbearable. Oh, but when you are committed to fulfilling your purpose in life — folks who fit into Category B, they’ve gotta go. The time that you’re spending (or is it wasting?) trying to get them to respect you and your purpose is the time that you could be spending cultivating your purpose…and I’m here to tell you that the second option is always going to be the wiser choice. ALWAYS.
Why It’s Okay to Release Those Who Don’t Complement Your Purpose
I honestly can’t believe that it’s been almost five years since I penned the piece, “Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead” for the site — and boy, when I tell you that it’s a life motto that has brought me some joy unspeakable? Listen. Here.
If you want the CliffsNotes from the article, it’s basically talking about the fact that for many years now, I no longer choose to not send myself through the violent ritual of cutting people off. The reason why I say “violent” is because cutting anything sounds that way and when you cut folks off, that’s often rooted in some kind of pain that makes people feel empowered to think that they are hurting others by literally cutting them out of your life. Instead, I now release — I move out of the way and allow the universe to do whatever needs to be done…with them and with the relationship, in part so that I can put my focus on myself and why I was put on this earth.
Because here’s the thing, y’all — whenever I hear the Chinese Proverb, “It’s later than you think,” it sends chills down my spine because it’s the absolute truth. And how sad would it be for me to be out here pining over, worrying about, trying to convince someone either about what my purpose is or why I need them to support it when I could, instead, be out here actually LIVING it? Not only living it but clearing the path for the right individuals, folks who will be more than willing, to help me fulfill my purpose in a peaceful, constant, and nurturing kind of way.
This here was a lot. Trust me, I know. Yet this is an important life lesson — please don’t waste, not one more day, avoiding it. Relationships are important yet NO RELATIONSHIP is worth putting before manifesting your purpose.
Whoever does, salute them.
Whoever doesn’t, release them, even if that means shifting your boundaries.
It will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Purpose-driven ones ALWAYS are, sis. #standingfirm
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