Mikki Taylor, ESSENCE Editor and author of the newly acclaimed Editor and Chic, changed my life with one quote, "Queens do not belong on well-being welfare."
I think I was on the third trip to my primary care doctor and had about four brush strokes filled with clumps of hair before I realized that paying attention to myself was no longer an option but a necessity.
Stress kept me rolling around in the bed for hours before the alarm clock, exhausted before I began the day, running for shots of espresso at 3 pm, and dragging myself to bed with aching muscles and punching bags under my eyes.
I wore the fact that I Paid Time Off that carried over because I refused to take a day off. It proved a lack of commitment and I found myself doing so in hopes that this entity would value my loyalty. The same entity that would steamroll over bodies and simply "replace" countless employees who left on a medical leave from nothing other than pure exhaustion.
World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institute of Mental Health quotes from a 2017 survey says anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). And a lot more go unreported every year.
In Black Girl Magic History of Push Through, we often ignore the very real and tangible signs that our body gives us to slow down:
- Upset stomach,
- Waking up fatigued,
- Tension in the muscles,
- Frequent headaches, and
- Chest pain.
Nonetheless, it's unrealistic to say that our lives can be lived without stress but how we choose to cope with stress can ultimately either shorten or prolong our lives. It is that serious. We have been taught as black and brown people to trudge through enormous amounts of pain in order to reach a far reaching goal.
However, there are things you can do to make time for you and organize the chaos causing you stress:
- Prepare the Day Before: Before leaving the office, I cue up any work I have to complete the next day and set reminders for the next morning.
- Create a Daily Master Plan: Creating a time management schedule will allow you to schedule productivity in an effective and regimented way. Having a morning ritual that begins way before you enter the workplace including a relaxing shower, water with lemon, and a morning coffee is important. I also take a few moments to look at my calendar to mentally prepare for what is going to happen that day.
- Utilize Your PTO: I have a 2-days a month rule or one week every season vacation rule.
- After Work "Me" Time: I can't wait to clock out today because Travis - my massage therapist and I - have a date at 6 pm. On days where he is not working the stress out of my body, I take a warm bath or run on the treadmill. Whatever it takes for you to have a few minutes to yourself to process the day and unwind, do it!
- Invest In You: So, I hated my job and complained about it every day but made absolutely no moves to change it. It wasn't until I took advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit and the seminar/conference advance pay that I realized it is important to use your current circumstances to fund your aspirations. Also, take advantage of any pre-tax benefits your organization may afford including retirement, commuter benefits, health spending, or flexible spending accounts. Budget for the things that make you happy and not just the bills. I LOVE eating at a new restaurant at least once a week and travel. Knowing this, I plan to take one big trip a year and budget for the luxury of dining at somewhere posh once a month.
Stress will come but if we can identify what triggers it, we can proactively hinder it from inflicting permanent damage on us. Remember, you are the boss of your own life.