We know that self-care routines are an integral part of maintaining our mental health. We know that pouring into ourselves brings fulfillment and meaning into our lives. But how often do we introduce new activities into our self-care repertoire? I’ll be the first to admit that my go-to self-care activities were starting to feel a little stale at the beginning of the year and weren’t making much of an impact in my life.
Thankfully, Oludara Adeeyo’s latest book, Mind, Body, & Soul: A Self-Care Coloring Book for Black Women, came on my radar at the perfect time.
Oludara Adeeyo is a Los Angeles-based mental health therapist and author who encourages others, specifically Black women, to prioritize self-care. In an interview with Non-Profit Quarterly, Adeeyo states, “A lot of Black women don’t know how to make time for themselves because they don’t feel like they can make time for themselves. I just hope my coloring book makes Black women feel like they can make time for themselves.”
I identified with the premise of the book immediately since I’ve struggled with prioritizing myself in the past. What was inside the book piqued my interest the most. It features 35 pages of affirmations and beautiful illustrations that depict Black women in all of their glory.
So, over the course of a few weeks, I committed to the coloring journey, and here’s what I focused on:
Courtesy of Michelle Emdin
I embraced the power of play.
I hadn’t felt this much joy purchasing a pack of colored pencils and markers since I was in elementary school, and you know what? I LOVED the anticipation of coloring. It’s an activity often associated with children, but adults benefit from low-stress and fun activities, too.
I prioritized “me time."
I found it fitting that the first affirmation in the book was “I deserve to experience Black girl joy,” with an image of a woman vibing to music while walking outdoors. It’s often too easy for me to put off activities that bring me joy for the sake of others and my daily responsibilities. I was intentional about carving out parts of my day to focus on coloring.
I meditated on the affirmations.
I found that repeating some of the affirmations helped me focus on my task and gave my self-confidence a boost. For instance, the statement “I no longer talk bad about myself” led me to focus on a list of positive attributes about myself while I colored.
I used the finished pages as a timestamp, of sorts.
I was surprised by how rewarding it was to review the pages I’d completed. I’d look at a page and instantly remember what room I was in, the ambiance, and the state of my mental health when I colored each page. Having a memory associated with the pages made the book that much more precious.
Courtesy of Michelle Emdin
My life didn't change drastically after a few weeks of coloring. However, I noticed that it became easier to sit still long enough to focus on one task. As someone who loves to habit stack, focusing only on coloring took a bit of practice but became easier over time. Another positive result was that I worked on my motor and cognitive skills. I used muscles in my hand that is often ignored when I use electronic devices while choosing colors and coloring techniques gave my brain a workout. Lastly, I felt calmer after coloring.
Coloring relaxes the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes fear. And while I might’ve started some sessions feeling worrisome or stressed, I left the page feeling lighter and more in tune with my inner child, who enjoyed creating for the sake of creating.
I’m not the best artist by any means, but creating a masterpiece isn’t really the point. Some pages were created with calm and measured strokes, while others were etched with anxious scribbles. In the end, all of the pages I’d completed were a reflection of my dedication to care for myself.
So, if your self-care routine needs a change of pace, I’d encourage you to give coloring a try! Pick up your favorite crayons or markers and join countless other women who are making time for themselves– you won’t regret it!
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There’s nothing quite like opening a good book and getting transported to another place, period, or frame of thought. In the blink of an eye, you are a part of a character’s life, an author’s world. Another great aspect about reading books is that not only does it serve as a source of entertainment and education, it also boosts your brain and emotional health. Research shows that “regular reading can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality.”
But if I’m honest, getting lost in a reading session was much easier as a child. I had no full-time job, no child to run after, or other major responsibilities, so of course, finishing a book in one sitting was an easy task. And with reading programs like Pizza Hut BOOK IT! (I know I'm aging myself with this one), I was rewarded for doing an activity I already loved!
As I got older, I'd go through periods of reading for enjoyment, but somewhere along the way, reading became harder for me to prioritize. I had the desire to read more books, but couldn’t figure out how to get it done. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, follow along as I share my tips on how to read more books this year!
Read More of What You Enjoy
Life is too short to read books you don't love! I used to carry the misguided mindset that my taste in books should "mature" as I age. I'd force myself to primarily read non-fiction or self-help books because that's what I thought I should be reading. But, no, that’s just not me. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy those genres, but I’ve loved women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, and YA for decades and won’t stop any time soon.
Whether you're into science-fiction, faith and spirituality, memoirs, romance, thrillers, comic books, or non-fiction, the goal is to love whatever you're reading.
Choose a Mode of Reading
I derive a lot of comfort from holding a book in my hands and turning page after page. And don't get me started on the smell of the printed paper! If you nerd out over printed books like me, build your personal library with titles you adore! But before you visit a major bookseller, consider buying from your local independent bookstore. Websites like Bookshop.org give you access to local stores in your area that can benefit from your support.
If you’d rather not own a bunch of books, get a library card. Not only will you save money, but you’ll support your local library and, by extension, your community.
As a working mother, it’s hard for me to sit still long enough to open a physical book, so I’ve had to default to audiobooks—and you know what? —I love them! You can easily listen to a book in your car, as you work out, cook, or wait for your girlfriends to show up for brunch. Platforms like Libby and Boundless link with your library card to give you access to thousands of books. If you prefer to read words on a screen, then I suggest electronic or e-books that you can read on your phone or a Kindle device.
Set a Reading Goal, Then Read Whenever You Can
You'll read more if you have an attainable goal broken down into pieces. For instance, if you plan to read a book in one week, divide the total number of pages by seven for a daily goal. Divide by however many days of the month there are for a monthly goal, and so on.
Reading first thing in the morning may work for some, but isn’t feasible for others. Instead, note the time of day you have the most availability. It helps to know when you have the most energy to read and what setting you're most comfortable in, too. Ultimately, if you want to read more books, you've got to spend more time reading.
Start a reading session while you wait at the DMV, during commercial breaks, or on your bus or train commute. Not everyone has time to dig into a book for hours, however, every bit matters– even if it's for five minutes at a time.
Read With Others
Reading with a friend or a group is a great way to hold yourself accountable to your reading goals and gush over what you love (or don’t love) about what you’re reading.
Through my virtual book club, I’ve read thrillers, historical fiction, and books with fantasy elements—all of which are genres I wouldn’t gravitate to on my own. By doing so, I ended up liking a few and exposed myself to different styles of writing.
What I love most about book clubs is that you can find or create one that meets your needs. Do you only want to read books written by African authors? There’s a club for that. Want to meet in person in your area or meet from the comfort of your home? Easy. Prefer to read a book of your choosing next to others who are doing the same thing, and then briefly recap what you’ve read? Silent book clubs exist for this very reason! Utilize social media and sites like Meetup.com to help get you started.
Keep Track of Your Reading Progress
Finishing a book is an accomplishment worth celebrating and recording. You can jot the titles on your own or keep track by using a platform. Sites like StoryGraph (hello, Black-woman-owned business!) and Goodreads are an easy way to read and write reviews, set reading challenges, and find community. I promise you'll look back at the end of the month or year and feel so proud of the number of books you've finished when you keep track of what you’ve read.
Whether you’re a seasoned reader who’s itching to reach a new goal or you’re new to reading as a hobby, I hope these tips encourage you to read more this year. Don’t feel pressured to stick to only one genre or use only one method to read. It’s perfectly fine to adopt a hybrid approach to reading if that works well for you.
Take your time to figure out a setting and rhythm that inspires you to dive into a story. The goal is to create a reading practice that fits into your life– not add stress to it. Happy reading, friends!
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While I write this article, my son is across the room—on a lovely Saturday afternoon—watching an episode of his favorite show. Soon, my husband will scoop him up, and the both of them will spend time together outside. But for now, his eyes are focused on a television screen while mine track words across a computer screen. Like clockwork, questions gnaw at me as I try to focus. Is he getting too much screen time while I work? Am I still a “good mom” if I’m hardly paying attention to him? Sure, we’ll spend the rest of the day together as a family, but what if I miss something important while he’s out with his dad? Why do I feel bad for taking time for myself in the first place?
The simple answer is mom guilt, and I’m certainly not the only person that deals with it.
Mom guilt is defined as any specific feeling of guilt a woman experiences in relation to her role as a mother and her ability to meet her child’s needs. It can occur at any stage in motherhood and for a plethora of reasons. Any parent or caregiver is susceptible to feelings of guilt, but I was especially curious to chat with mothers navigating guilt as they pursue their dreams, manage other responsibilities, and work in or outside of their homes.
In an interview with xoNecole, five mothers got real about their experience working through guilt, and here’s what they had to say.
Courtesy of Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson, a mother of three and ultimate boss babe, first experienced mom guilt as a college student with her first daughter.
“I was a young single mother at the time, pursuing a science degree with my newborn on campus with me. I would always have to send her to different people just to go to class or to get my work done. Not only did I not know what I was doing as a mother, but I also couldn’t give her my undivided attention. The guilt was overwhelming, but I knew I couldn’t quit and had to keep pushing for her.”
Years later, Lauren’s hard work has paid off. She runs Harbor Grace Co. with her spouse and has built their photography and production company while simultaneously growing their family. By working predominately from home over the past eight years, Lauren has found that working through the night allows her to complete tasks without distractions.
“I’ll sleep during the day when they are at school, and by the time they get home, I’m rested and ready to spend some quality time with them,” she explains.
Even though she tweaks her schedule to prioritize her children’s activities, she still feels guilty when she’s not able to focus solely on them.
“If I’m working on a big production, I’ll have tunnel vision until that project is complete. That means that I may be at home, but I’m not really present. My kids will come into my office for a few minutes to check on me, and that’s typically when the guilt starts. They’ll tell me about their day, give me hugs, and then I’ll hear, ‘Okay, well, I’ll let you finish working,’” she explains.
This guilt led her to overcompensate with material things for her children but also encouraged her to take a good look at her values.
“Mom guilt made me so much more ambitious. I am always striving for more to provide them with the best quality of life. But guilt is also like a mirror. It requires you to be more self-aware. It requires you to be vulnerable in ways you may have never been before.”
Lauren notes that balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood isn’t as difficult as it once was but acknowledges the challenge associated with having limited time for everyone.
“[The kids] were growing up so fast, and I was so busy that I didn’t really take the time that I needed to get to know this new version of them. Or I would feel as though my husband had a better relationship with them than I did, in which most cases, I would just be in my own head,” she says.
Now that her children are older, she has begun to incorporate them into her work by including them in her shoots or by allowing them to scout locations with her. When she isn’t working or spending time with her family, Lauren leans into fitness to challenge guilt. For her, working out several times a week not only relieves stress but it also provides an example for her children to prioritize self-care.
“It’s okay to need help, to take a break, and to prioritize yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill yourself up first so that you can always give them the best version of you,” she says.
Courtesy of Destini Ann
As an author, podcast host, and certified parenting coach, Destini Ann consistently delivers authentic and relatable parenting content for the masses. By sharing her own experience raising two children via social media, Destini Ann encourages other caregivers to get curious about their parenting styles.
“I love that my career involves social media! Not only is connection one of my top three values, but the other two are freedom and communication. Social media allows me to connect with my community and communicate my beliefs and parenting advice while giving me an incredible amount of freedom. The flip side of that is that if I’m not careful, I can find myself giving my children less connection, communication, and freedom.”
Destini Ann admits that working in close proximity to her children is challenging since there is less structure, and her children expect more from her when she’s present. However, she’s found a technique that works for her family.
“The oldest does well with a checklist and alone time, but my 5-year-old is all over the place. I find that leading with an abundance of connection makes stepping away a lot easier. Ultimately, I prioritize [connection] the best I can when they’re home,” she says. “I feel guilty when I’m not as connected with them. When life gets busy or I’m tired, it can be tempting to zone out. But it’s actually my guilt that snaps me back into the present most of the time.”
Though Destini Ann is intentional with her approach to parenting now, she doesn’t shy away from sharing the guilt she experienced by being a “permissive parent with very little boundaries” in the past. She also highlights an early experience with guilt after considering how arguments with her ex-husband might have affected her daughter.
“I asked myself, ‘How did this impact her emotional health, her relationship with her father, and her understanding of my relationship with him?’ That guilt turned into fear and anxiety about the future and what that might mean for her romantic relationships,” she says.
But even in the midst of experiencing guilt, Destini Ann says she tries not to allow the feeling to turn into shame.
“My guilt slows me down and forces me to reexamine my values. It gives me an opportunity to get off autopilot and ask myself tough questions [like], ‘Is this really something I need to work on, or is this just an emotion that will pass? Do I need grace or growth here? If it’s grace, how can I affirm myself and ease my emotional state? If it’s growth, what is in my control that I can change or work on?’”
For her, guilt isn’t necessarily a feeling that can be avoided but rather a tool that is best used to check in with herself. She concludes by saying, “Sometimes I need to recognize that I’m putting unrealistic expectations on myself or comparing my journey to someone else’s. Other times, the guilt is the catalyst that takes me to the next positive step on my motherhood journey.”
Courtesy of Morgan Tyler
Prior to becoming a mother, Morgan Tyler had a clear idea of how she wanted to parent. She understood the importance of taking care of herself in order to show up for her child, but guilt set in after the birth of her first child. Asking for help from family and friends became a difficult task, and she started to believe that becoming a mother took precedence over having a life of her own.
Now that she's a wife, mother of three, and a full-blown entrepreneur with a lot on her plate, Morgan has a better grasp of striking a healthy balance between her roles but still experiences guilt at times.
"I typically feel mom guilt when I have to work a lot or travel due to work. I feel like I'm not as present as I could or should be when I'm working on a big project. And when I return home, I'm exhausted and don't always have the energy to jump right into mommy-ing," she says.
Morgan cites her children as motivators for her work and prioritizes open communication with them about how her work will impact the time she spends with them.
"[I] explain to them what I have going on work-wise and pre-plan quality time with them so that no one feels slighted. I especially appreciate my husband because he gives me a safe space to share what I am feeling and helps me overcome those emotions, even if it's just to be a sounding board."
To combat feelings of guilt, Morgan recognizes that there are seasons in life that require more or less from her and believes in maximizing the seasons when she's less busy. She also challenges mom guilt by centering her faith, prioritizing self-care, and incorporating positive self-talk. She finds that waking up before her family in order to read her Bible and pray sets the tone for her day. Without it, she's more susceptible to feeling guilt and negative thoughts.
These days Morgan relies on extending grace to herself and wants other mothers to do the same. She says, "[Guilt] can bring on feelings of not being enough for our children or doing well enough at 'mommy-ing.' However, you were blessed with the assignment of that specific child, and you have everything they need. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to other moms, let our own internal narratives run wild, and let mom guilt take over, but I challenge you to identify the triggers and tackle them head-on."
Courtesy of Bridget Chapital
Bridget Chapital is no stranger to the guilt that creeps in when you're chasing your dreamsand raising three incredible humans. She recalls the end of her first pregnancy as an initial trigger of mom guilt.
"[My daughter] was full-term but underweight and not growing, so I ended up having a failed induction, followed by a C-section so that we could get her nourishment on the outside. I remember feeling as though my busy work schedule and non-stop pace might have contributed to a negative outcome for my baby, and it didn't feel good."
Unfortunately, mom guilt persisted throughout her journey of early motherhood.
"When my kids were younger, I poured all of myself into them. I would feel bad if I dropped them off at daycare when I had a day off of work or if I didn't keep up with a million and one of their spirit days at their school," she says. The older her children became, the less guilt she experienced– until COVID-19 took the world by storm.
"Right before the pandemic, I quit my full-time job in the medical research industry to start a health leadership program that teaches the fundamentals of the medical research industry to kids. For the first time in a long time, I was able to balance my work and professional lives by dropping my kids off in the morning and having seven uninterrupted hours of work, and then picking them up at 3 p.m. and having a full evening to focus on them. Once the lockdowns started, I found myself simultaneously home-schooling three kids while putting in the many hours required to launch a business. It was so stressful," she says.
Thankfully, her children – now thirteen, ten, and eight– are not only more independent, but they are also understanding of her and her husband's work schedule.
"[My kids] are very self-sufficient with getting dressed and making snacks and meals if they get hungry, so that stress is lifted off of me. But even though they would love nothing more than to watch TV or play on their tablets all day, I do feel bad if I have to work on a project on the weekend and can't spend as much time with them."
She maximizes her time with each of her children by limiting work to Monday-Friday when she can, by taking them out for solo dates, and by checking in with them. She also credits her husband's flexible work schedule and his ability to keep them busy with extracurricular activities as another factor in decreasing her mom guilt.
But in order to challenge the negative feelings associated with mom guilt, Bridget is adamant about holding fast to her identity outside of motherhood and rediscovering aspects of herself she might have set aside when her children were younger.
"It's okay to enjoy your time away from the kids. Find a trusted person-whether it's your husband, a girlfriend, or an extended family member– and when your child is with them, allow yourself to let go of the pressure of being a mom and just be yourself for a while. Put this time on a calendar and keep it sacred," she says.
Courtesy of Jade Godbolt
For Jade Godbolt, the pressure to show up and run her business was the source of her mom guilt. Prior to the birth of her first child, Jade was determined to hop back into work right away due to the belief that her business would fail if she didn't. She recalls feeling guilt when she was required to make a decision between work and her family.
"I operated from a perspective that almost forced me to always choose work because I felt like providing financially for my family was the most important thing. If you would've asked me that directly before, I would deny it. But my actions showed, whenever I would rush off to finish a project or shoot content instead of spending time with my babies, that my financial contribution meant more than my presence or attention," she says.
Jade has worked from home since becoming a mother, which is no easy feat. And though there are unique challenges to having young children at home with her while she's working, she makes no apologies about how it's perceived.
"I got used to prefacing anyone I was working with or on a call with that 'If you hear kids screaming in the background, please do not be alarmed.' I couldn't care less if anyone had an issue with it. My family will always come before work or other relationships."
In the past, feelings of guilt led her to overcompensate by buying material things or by going on trips in order to spend time together with her family. However, she notes that this season of her life calls for her to incorporate quality time with her family in her everyday life.
"I don't go out as much as I used to, and that's taken some time to get used to. The pandemic helped because I didn't feel like I was the only one at home, but now that things have begun opening up again, sometimes it is hard because it's not just an easy "yes" or "no" for me to get out of the house with three kids under three. It's a whole conversation and planning session with my husband before I can even think about going anywhere," she explains.
But instead of feeling frustrated over it, she recognizes that this season of her life is temporary and chooses to focus on the positive aspects of raising a family instead.
"The Bible says that children are a gift, and I remind myself of that, especially in the moments when they don't feel like gifts. Motherhood can have its really tough moments, but I lean on my relationship with Christ to get me through when things are smooth and rocky."
And in those moments when mom guilt appears, Jade is quick to challenge the emotion and encourages others to do so as well.
She concludes by adding, "The feeling of guilt can creep in, but it's important to address it while it's a seed so that it doesn't take root in our hearts. Freedom is available to us, we just have to give ourselves and others some grace and forgiveness to get there."
Experiencing guilt as a caregiver may not always be avoidable, but its appearance doesn’t automatically mean you’re making the wrong choices. Instead, its presence can signal just how much you care about the role you play in your children’s life. So instead of feeling bogged down by shame and guilt on your mothering journey, always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mother.
You can redefine what it means to be a “good mom” and examine the expectations you’ve placed on yourself. More than that, I hope you always remember that you are deserving of self-compassion along the way.
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Featured image courtesy of Morgan Tyler
xoNecole's I Read It So You Don't Have To is a recurring series of self-discovery that breaks down self-help books into a toolkit of takeaways and tips that are meant to assist you in finding the best life you can live. Take what works for you, and leave everything else where it is.
At the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to: 1) Prioritize myself and my dreams like never before and 2) Strive for authenticity in every aspect of my life. What I didn’t know was that in a few months, roadblocks would materialize, and old wounds would resurface. What started as well-meaning declarations slowly morphed into misguided attempts to chase after my dreams and show up for myself in the process. I felt overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations I placed on myself and burnt out over balancing my responsibilities.
My belief in Jesus Christ is paramount and who I turn to first, especially when it comes to healing, but I’m also an advocate of therapy and utilizing positive resources that support my personal growth. I figured I’d try a resource that could complement my journey of inner work, provide insight into my personality, and remind me of the joy and peace that is within me.
So after ignoring the self-help and personal development aisle in the bookstore (I’m a fiction type of gal), I opted for Yasmine Cheyenne’s book The Sugar Jar: Create Boundaries, Embrace Self-Healing, and Enjoy the Sweet Things. As an educator, speaker, and mental-wellness advocate, Yasmine provides a thoughtful and impactful approach to healing and recognizing patterns in our lives that drain us.
Here are 7 takeaways from her book to embrace healing and practice self-care.
Care for Your 'Sugar Jar'
Cheyenne likens our body and mind to a jar. It represents who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. Within the jar is our sugar, or as she writes, “all the sweet parts of you.” It can be represented as our time, our energy reserved for the activities we care about the most, and our gifts/expertise. To prevent the sweetness in our lives from spilling out or from being given away frivolously, the lid on our jar serves as a boundary.
Caring for our jars, or our very essence, is more than placing them in a safe environment.
Through regular check-ins, we maintain the integrity of our jars. For instance, to recognize a sugar leak or a relationship/responsibility that drains our time and peace, we can pay closer attention to our needs and enforce boundaries to protect ourselves. We can change the size of our jars to hold more or less in our lives depending on the season we’re in. Most importantly, we can fill our jars by prioritizing self-care.
Prioritize Presence Over Performance
As a recovering people-pleaser, I often struggled with my desire to belong in spaces while showing up as my whole self. I would perform based on the expectations of those around me and find my worth in their praise of my performance. I would ignore red flags and pretend that I was okay to avoid having tough conversations. It was as if I wore a mask, shifting it in place or ditching it altogether, depending on who I was around. Performing in these ways drained me emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Yasmine says that agreeing to perform is another way of saying, “I believe that who I am isn’t enough.” Instead of acting on the internalized belief that I have to be someone else to belong, I prioritized being fully present as my true self, even if it was uncomfortable.
I paid close attention to the suggestions presented in the book and began to:
- Recognize that it’s okay if I don’t fit in everywhere
- Acknowledge my emotions and desires even if it differs from those around me
- Cast imposter syndrome aside
- Refuse to downplay my successes
Know the Difference Between a Boundary and a Barrier
Boundary setting gets a bad rap. Often we view it as selfish or a way to bend others to our will lest they kiss a relationship with us goodbye. Cheyenne defines a boundary as “the rules or structures that we put in place that manage the way we interact with the people, places, things, and commitments that we have in our lives.” Boundaries help us communicate our needs and how we intend to show up in the world around us. They also keep us safe and protect our mental health. However, in an attempt to protect ourselves from experiencing pain, we sometimes build a barrier that ends up keeping good things from entering our lives.
For example, a boundary could be explaining your needs to a friend after feeling as though you aren’t a priority in their life. A barrier could be ending the friendship the moment you’re disappointed and swearing off getting close to others in an attempt to avoid future disappointment.
It can feel intimidating to set boundaries with people who might have constant access to you or even to set boundaries with yourself, but starting small is key. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Say yes to opportunities that align with who you are and your beliefs
- Decline an invitation if you know you need to prioritize rest (or if you simply don’t want to attend)
- Ask yourself what you’re comfortable with and communicate it
The Sugar Jar helped me realize that letting go is an act of self-care. For most of my life, I held onto perfectionism and the notion that I needed to earn my worth. I could understand when others fell short of my expectations, but I would mentally berate myself if I missed my mark. I didn’t give myself the space to make mistakes and was far too tough on myself. I came to realize that holding space for myself when I am less than perfect means that I am human. And most importantly, I recognized that even with my flaws, I am enough.
Letting go also meant releasing the version of myself I’d outgrown without guilt. There were iterations of myself that existed for specific seasons. One version existed when I was content with playing small and believed that I didn’t have what it took to achieve my dreams. Another version needed to be in control 100% of the time to feel safe. I found joy when I realized that I could appreciate who I used to be but realize that there’s no shame in evolving.
Lean Into Acceptance
I used to bypass the inner work I needed to complete in my life by focusing on others. I wore my ability to encourage and counsel those around me as a badge of honor and poured so much energy into watching them transform. It’s no wonder I would feel frustrated if they chose a different path or if they felt content operating in a way that I didn’t agree with. I learned that acceptance doesn’t mean tolerating poor behavior but meeting people where they are.
Once I learned that it’s not my responsibility to change anyone (especially a person that doesn’t believe a change is necessary), the pressure I once felt decreased. Leaning into acceptance meant I recognized that we all have different capacities and timelines for growth.
Simply put, once I started to accept others for who they were I started to focus on my growth.
Dismiss the Urge To Be the “Strong One”
As I mentioned earlier, I derived a lot of pride from pleasing others. Not only did I lack boundaries, but I also played into the societal pressure to be strong 24/7. After all, wouldn’t I be liked even more if I showed that I could handle any and everything? Wouldn’t I prove I’m a great wife, mother, friend, and daughter if I supported my loved ones at all costs? I was wrong. Even worse, I had embodied the Black Woman Trope even though I knew better.
I justified my actions because I pegged myself as the “strong friend,” the “reliable daughter,” or the “super mom.”
There’s nothing wrong with exhibiting strength and showing up for loved ones, but this book gently reminded me that even the “strong ones” need support too. Consider the following questions that were posed in the book if you’re fighting the urge to constantly show your strength:
- Does someone’s need for me help me feel stronger, validated, or necessary?
- How can I be strong and worthy of connection without fully supporting everyone else’s weight?
Gauge Your Healing
It would be easy to gauge our healing if it presented itself as a simple cut on the hand. We'd watch the blood begin to clot and the skin around the wound seals itself until nothing but a tiny scar remained. Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut path to healing from the wounds we cannot see. The good news is that we can assess our healing by checking in with our emotions and taking stock of the improvements we've made (big or small).
Cheyenne says, "Just because you've learned some tools, it doesn't mean you won't have fears, intrusive thoughts, or concerns about choosing the 'right' things for yourself." There are no magic pills to take and no finger snaps that can erase the negative feelings associated with healing. But we're aiming for progress, not perfection, as we heal. So, for example, if you've struggled with setting boundaries, you might see that you are healing when you finally communicate it. You might still feel nervous about the action, and it might not even come out as smoothly as you want it to the first time. You'll notice you're healing even more when you're able to communicate your boundary with ease and can enforce it.
Embracing the intricacies of our healing and shedding parts of ourselves that no longer serve us takes dedication and a lot of work. But even as we work towards being a better version of ourselves, we can still experience the sweetness the journey has to offer.
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It’s safe to say the self-care movement isn’t going anywhere anytime soon– and with good reason! Self-care has been clinically proven to reduce burnout, anxiety, and depression, and improve concentration, happiness, and much more. Mothers and caretakers alike are tapping into wellness practices that enrich the mind and rejuvenate the body. And they’re paying a pretty penny for it too.
The U.S. self-care industry is worth billions of dollars, but creating a beneficial self-care routine doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, practicing self-care is much simpler than you might think.
Here are 7 ideas to help you refresh your self-care routine.
Self-care isn’t one-size-fits-all. What works for a friend or family member might not work for you. Therefore, gaining clarity about what you want, or need, in order to pour into yourself is vital. Ask yourself the following questions before you get started for guidance:
- What do I want more of in order to relax? What do I want less of?
- What are my core values and how can I implement them into my routine?
- What activities light me up inside?
- What am I currently doing that drains my energy or wastes my time?
2.Learn a New Skill
Learning a new skill not only challenges your brain in the best way, but it can also help you feel better too! According to Psychology Today, learning something new– even if it’s just for fun– keeps your brain engaged and healthy. Plus, self-discovery and self-care go hand in hand. Not only will you expand your mind, but you’ll also increase your sense of well-being by taking up a hobby that challenges and intrigues you. To get started, consider the following:
- Cooking a dish from a region you’re not accustomed to
- Sewing or knitting
- Learning a foreign language
- Playing a new sport
- Painting or drawing
- Learning to play an instrument
3.Write Yourself a Letter
When was the last time you recognized the parts of yourself that you absolutely love, outside of your role as a mother? Writing a self-love letter is a simple yet effective self-care activity that will fill your cup. You can list the characteristics you love about yourself in bullet form. You can choose to focus on a tender memory that shaped your life or simply brought you joy. Or you can write to your inner child, praising yourself for the person you are today.
There’s no right or wrong way to write the letter since it’s solely for you. You can be as extravagant or detailed as you want. You can boast, you can brag, you can flex– it’s up to you. Simply focus on the positive aspects of your being (big or small) and watch the words flow. But most importantly, allow the letter to serve as a gentle reminder that you are worthy of love.
4.Try a New Product
Sometimes self-care calls for products that help you relax. As a busy mom with tons on your schedule, a subscription box offers ways to sample new self-care products each month. Companies like Black Girl Magic Box curate health and wellness products from Black-owned businesses.
Do you need a bit of R&R but can’t pencil in a spa day? Refresh your bath and body products with Naked Bar Soap Co.’s luxurious soaps, body oils, and bath bombs to wind down at home. After unwinding, don’t forget that sleep is an essential part of self-care. Investing in products like sleep masks, weighted blankets, high-quality pajama sets, and essential oil diffusers can take your rest to the next level.
5.Schedule “Me Time”
Alone time can be hard to come by but it’s vital for mental health. Periods of solitude can reduce stress and give us a chance to check in with ourselves. When our brains have time to disconnect from life’s stressors when we’re secluded, we’re able to pour back into our families and friends when we return.
For some, "me time" might look like sitting in the car for ten minutes after returning from work. Or maybe it’s enlisting a babysitter to watch your children while you take yourself out on a date. Maybe it’s locking your bedroom door and catching up on your favorite shows while your partner holds down the fort. However you decide to carve out time for yourself, remember to hold fast to it. Add it to your calendar. Cancel plans with others if need be. Your alone time is non-negotiable and deserves space in your life.
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Reflecting on the things we’re grateful for is a guaranteed mood booster. Not only that, but it provides an opportunity for introspection, too. There are hosts of gratitude journals that offer writing prompts and nuggets to reflect on, but a regular journal works just as well. If you’re new to journaling, don’t feel pressured to practice it daily. Jotting your thoughts down once a week or once a month is just as impactful.
Affirmations are another way to reflect on the good in your life (or the good that is on its way). They are typically short in length and easy to read or memorize. Place them in areas you frequent throughout the day– think bathroom mirror, car, or office– for a daily reminder of the beauty around you.
Grounding, or earthing, is a therapeutic technique that involves activities that place you in contact with the earth. Examples of grounding include walking barefoot in the grass or sitting/lying on the ground. People who participate in grounding report an increase in mood and a decrease in anxiety and depression.
If skin-to-earth contact isn’t your vibe, taking part in outdoor activities is another self-care option. Attend a yoga class in the park. Go for a leisurely hike. Or simply sit on a bench. Being outdoors for even just a few minutes is enough to boost your mental well-being.
Motherhood comes with tasks that are constantly vying for our attention. And even though we know how important pouring into ourselves is, we don’t want to abandon our self-care routine because we’re burdened by it. The goal is to incorporate self-care activities into our daily lives in a sustainable way. It might take some trial and error to figure out what works for your lifestyle, but it’s worth the effort. You are worth the effort.
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Before giving birth to my child two-and-a-half years ago, I was one of those women who thought I’d have the basics of child-rearing down. After all, I was in the fourth grade when my brother was born and spent much of my adolescence helping my parents take care of him. My experience with children increased even more when I became an aunt eight times over. I regarded motherhood as something I didn’t have total knowledge of but suspected I wouldn’t be too far off the mark when the time came for me to have a child of my own. Little did I know that there was no amount of practice that could prepare me for what was ahead.
I can still recall the statements I heard throughout my pregnancy. Soak up all the snuggles while they’re tiny. The days are long but the years are fast. Or one I heard a lot but could never quite master: Nap when the baby naps. While those comments might have been applicable for a particular season, I had no idea they wouldn’t sustain me while I was in the trenches of postpartum life, nor would the other well-meaning suggestions comfort me when I doubted that I was making the right choices.
Instead, I wish I heard more of the following:
"Your experience is valid."
Motherhood is like a fingerprint. From a distance, it looks like the next person’s, but when you inspect it under a microscope you’ll find that it’s not identical after all. As a new mother, I would compare my journey to the mothers around me and wonder why I struggled so much when it seemed as though they had it all figured out. I looked at mothers who already had multiple children and assumed they were on cruise control while I still struggled with motherhood after a year in. I would shy away from expressing how exhausted or overwhelmed I was because I was afraid it would sound trivial– as if only having one child somehow made my experience less legitimate.
I finally realized that it didn’t matter if I had one kid, or ten, my parenting experience was just as valid.
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"Motherhood is a mirror."
You might not realize how much of your personality or actions influence your child(ren) until they begin to copy you. Maybe they replicate the exasperated facial expressions you make, the tone you take when you’re frustrated, or repeat the curse word you tried hard not to use around them. Parenting can expose your weak spots, but it also reflects the best parts of you as well. I didn’t consider myself to be a patient person until I had my child. Through caring for him, I started to notice the ways I slow down to give him time to process the world around him.
Even better, I get to catch glimpses of my personality reflected back at me when my son imitates something thoughtful that I do.
"You might not love parenting 100 percent of the time."
Parenting, even in its most beautiful and fulfilling moments, is still tough work. It is grueling, time-consuming, and soul-crushing at times. There will be seasons where you feel consumed by how tough it is and wonder how you’ll make it through. You might miss the freedom you once had or who you were prior to committing your life to care for your little one. There’s a steep learning curve as a parent, and it’s okay to acknowledge the challenges you face.
You’re not ungrateful or failing as a parent if you happen to have a rough time adjusting to your role as a mother. And you certainly aren’t a bad mother if you admit to yourself or those around you that you don’t enjoy parenting every minute of the day.
"Friendships may change."
As someone who takes pride in her friendships, I had to approach them with intention after I became a mother. I no longer had copious amounts of time and energy to regularly keep up with my friends, and wondered how my relationships with my girlfriends would be impacted. Thankfully, I found a lot of support from the women in my life who were also mothers. Some relationships that were once surface-level turned into a true sisterhood through our shared experiences as mothers. I was blessed to find just as much support from my girlfriends who didn’t have children, too. They helped me navigate into my new role. Through these friendships, I’ve found a lifeline and a safe space to show up as myself.
It took a lot of effort to find a balance with my social life, but unfortunately, not every relationship remained intact. Some friendships withered under the weight of my new responsibilities and not everyone could adjust to my shift in priorities. It’s never easy when a friendship fades, but I give myself grace and remind myself that not all change is bad.
"It's OK to parent in a different way."
A few months ago, my son flew into a toddler-sized rage while we were out eating. My husband took him outside to calm down before returning to our table. A woman at the table next to us gave her unwanted opinion on the matter and shared what she would’ve done instead. It’s not uncommon to get unsolicited advice from strangers or loved ones, but I’ve learned that I have every right to parent in the way I see fit. If that means giving my child time and space to cool down instead of yelling at or spanking him, so be it! My parenting style is influenced by my own upbringing, but I’m not afraid to use techniques I wasn’t exposed to but know my son will benefit from.
Parenting isn’t static, and you can change your approach as you see fit – even if it doesn’t make sense to those around you.
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"Do what works best for your family."
Parents are exposed to an influx of information on how to provide the very best for their children. As a result, many tend to feel pulled in different directions or feel guilty if they aren’t doing what society suggests they should. If no one has told you, let me be the first: You have permission to make decisions that work best for you and your family.
If you want to co-sleep with your child and can do it safely? Go ahead. You have a hard stance against corporal punishment or choose to gentle parent? Awesome! You don’t think you want to expand your family because of your finances, lack of support, or mental health, or you just don’t want to? Do you, sis! You have every right to provide the best environment for your child(ren) in ways that align with your beliefs, desires, and what you have the capacity for.
There’s no amount of advice or suggestion that can ever fully prepare you for what you’re going to encounter in your motherhood journey. Every experience with child-rearing is unique in that way. But my hope for you is that you’ll approach motherhood with an open heart. A heart that rolls with the punches motherhood will inevitably throw at you, a heart that leans into the many lessons you’ll face, and a heart that embraces the sweetness that is sure to follow.
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