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Stressed Out? Here Are 10 Steps Towards Immediate Calm

Exhale the BS, so you can inhale the good stuff.

Wellness

I'll admit it. I'm pretty violent about not involving myself in things (or with folks) that disrupt my calm and peace of mind. And yes, I know that is pretty much a play on words. It's designed to be.

As I've been devoting a lot of these past several months to healing the "PTSD Shellie" so that I can live the kind of life I was created to live before all of the abuse, trauma, and disappointments, something that I've looked into is what are known as anxiety triggers. Our health; certain types of medication; caffeine; negative thoughts; hoarding; poor financial choices (include impulse spending); going to public events (that you'd prefer to sit out on); unforgivingness; toxic relationships; unhealthy lifestyle habits; avoiding confrontation; being too confrontational and stress—all of these things can play a direct role in if we're a peace-filled individual or not.

Once I learned what my personal triggers were (I don't need to buy another pair of Pumas; I need to save more money and I don't need to justify my boundaries with toxic individuals; I just need to keep them), my life has become so much more harmonious, stable, mellow, undisturbed…calm. And when you truly find the peace that passes all understanding, you will do whatever it takes to not disrupt or disturb that. Ever.

Not to say that life (including the people in it) doesn't throw some curveballs every now and then. That's why, along with figuring out my anxiety triggers, I've also discovered some immediate ways to calm down whenever they try and push me.

The next time some person, place, thing, or idea tries to stress you all the way out, I'd be shocked if these tips don't pull you back into a tranquil mindset.

Deep Breathe

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Our bodies need oxygen in order to survive. That's a no-brainer. But if we all knew all of the health benefits that come from deep breathing, I bet a lot more of us would sign up for a yoga class or at least meditate more often in the mornings.

Not only does deep breathing help to detoxify our system, it also gives us more energy, improves our digestion and posture, boosts our mood, intensifies our orgasms, strengthens our heart, decreases pain, helps us to sleep better and yes—it immediately calms and relaxes us as well. No wonder mama would count to 10 whenever she caught us doing something crazy when we were little. See, deep breathing literally spared our lives!

If you've never done it before, it's a relatively simple practice. Take a deep long breath through your nose and hold it for a count of 3-5. Then, through your mouth, exhale slowly, making sure to relax the muscles in your face and shoulders. Do repetitions of 10, five times a day. Watch how much calmer you feel, almost immediately.

Walk Outside

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If you want to take deep breathing up a notch, do it while you're standing—or better yet, walking—outdoors. The sunlight will give you some much needed Vitamin D. As women, we all need a daily dose of D (no pun there) because it supports our immune system, strengthens our bones, helps to prevent breast cancer and, if we're trying to conceive, improves our fertility too.

And, since it's also the only vitamin that's considered to be a hormone, it is a truly effective way to balance your cortisol levels out as well.

Snack on Some Cashews, Blueberries or Dark Chocolate

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Speaking of cortisol, sometimes, when we're not eating as healthy as we should, it can cause the cortisol (the natural stress in our bodies) to spike. When that happens, we need foods that contain stress-reducing nutrients to balance everything out.

Foods that top the list include cashews, blueberries, and dark chocolate. Cashews contain potassium (a mineral that triggers serotonin to our neurotransmitters) and magnesium (a mineral that regulates our brain and nervous system). Blueberries have antioxidants and Vitamin C in them to bring our cortisol down to a healthy level. And dark chocolate? One study revealed that eating a dark chocolate bar (with 65 percent or more cocoa in it), once a day, for two weeks straight, decreased cortisol and also our fight-or-flight responses to anxiety, fear, and tension too. Cool. Very cool.

Listen to Some Rain Videos on YouTube

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Ever wonder why the sound of rain helps you to have some of the best sleep (and sex) that you've ever had in your entire life? It's because rain mimics that sound that is similar to white noise. Whenever white noise triggers our sensory input, it immediately calms and centers us.

You could wait for a thunderstorm to happen in order to feel better. Or, you can do what I do and hop on over to YouTube and listen to some of their 10+ hour videos. Two of my personal favorites are this one and this one.

Recall a Favorite Memory

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A technique that a lot of therapists use is when their clients are feeling anxious, they ask them to think of a great past memory. I do this sometimes when I'm working with married couples; I ask them to reflect back on a time when they felt really good about their relationship. It really is amazing to watch how quickly it calms them down.

It's been my experience that whenever stress arises, it's a good idea to think about a healthy and happy memory that is directly related to your source of stress at the moment.

Did your boss just piss you off? When was the last time they made you feel appreciated? Did your friend just hurt your feelings? What's the last great experience you shared with them? By doing this, not only will it bring a sense of tranquility (and even a bit of happiness) to your spirit about the particular situation, but about the person in general as well.

Find Yourself a Plant

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Think about it. Don't you feel calmer and happier around plants? Have you ever wondered why? Not only are plants aesthetically-pleasing to look at, but they help to reduce indoor air pollution too. What does this even remotely have to do with our stress levels? Indoor air pollution is as much as 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution and most of us spend most of our time indoors. Spending hours breathing in mold, pesticides, tobacco smoke, solvents (like house cleaners and gases from newly-installed carpet or furniture), radon and carbon monoxide can lead to coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, headaches, and fatigue. The worse your body feels, the more stressed out you'll become.

Since plants help to pull toxins out of the air, they are another avenue to calm and tranquility. Some of the more popular stress-reducing plants include jasmine, lavender, rosemary, bamboo palm, and Aloe Vera.

Related: These Easy To Care For Plants Thrive On Little To No Natural Light

Blow on Your Thumb

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Sometimes we're stressed out because we've got an air passage blocked that we know absolutely nothing about. The solution? Suck or blow on your thumb. I know you probably think I'm making this up but hey, it supposedly activates our vagus nerve (the muscles that help to control the muscles in our throat) and, in turn, cause our heart rate and blood pressure to drop (in a good way).

Also, your thumb has its own pulse so, whenever you (gently) suck or blow on it, it'll slow down and relax you. (Now we get why babies do it, huh?)

Chew Some Gum

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If someone just got on your very last nerve, rather than cussing them out, chew on some gum first. It might sound ridiculous, but this is another proven way to get your stress and anxiety levels in check. One study even revealed that people who chewed gum every day for two weeks had significantly lower stress than those who didn't.

Although researchers are still trying to figure out what makes gum such an effective calm-inducer, many believe that 1) it has to do with taking out our frustrations on the gum as we chew it and 2) it depends on the flavor of gum that is chosen. Your best bet? Peppermint. Although it's invigorating, it's really effective at relieving anxiety, stress, and even depression-related symptoms as well.

Log Off of Your Socials

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Back in my Facebook days (when I was online there was barely Twitter and no Instagram), I must admit, that my page was pretty lit. You know what else it was? SEMI-STRESSFUL. It was a page where people could hop on and share/debate whatever, whenever, which was cool. But after a while, the combination of a constant influx of info, people being emotionally charged (and not always in a good way) and folks inboxing me with the expectation of not only getting back to them immediately but giving them free counseling—it all got to be too much.

My life has been sooooo much calmer without having social media accounts. And while I get the benefits that come with having them, if you're on every kind of social in the world, take out a moment to Google how social media tends to negatively affect our mental health. This includes our self-esteem, memory, sleep patterns, attention span and yes, our stress levels.

I'm not saying shut your socials down. I'm just saying that whenever Trump's tweets or an ex's IG posts get your heart to racing, it's a good idea to log off for a couple of hours or (gasp!) the rest of the day.

Do yourself a favor and drink some herbal tea while reading a book or call up a friend and have a real phone conversation instead. Watch what things like this does for your nervous system that Black Twitter cannot.

Kiss

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Whew. Is there anything more perfect in this world than a well-timed, perfectly placed kiss? The icing on the cake is, not only does kissing feel like the peak of ecstasy, it's really good for your health too. How good? Kissing triggers "happy hormones" including oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in your system. Kissing also boosts your self-confidence, bonds you to your partner, soothes headaches, decreases allergy symptoms, reduces cavities, and lowers cortisol levels too.

So, if none of the other things I recommended appeal to you, at least be open to an impromptu smooch session. Your stress and anxiety levels will thank you—so will the rest of your body.

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Originally published on March 17, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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