The Phoenix Rising Collective

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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Leisan

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I love myself first by working to live my most authentic life. To me, this means being true to who I am and speaking my truth. I started coming out as queer (lesbian) right after I graduated from college. While a lot of my coming out journey has been loving and supportive, there have been definite bumps in the road. I’ve had to continuously remind myself that regardless of other people’s opinion, I am worthy of love, which starts with loving myself first. As I’ve continued to embrace and love all of who I am, my voice has gotten stronger in advocating for myself and for others. Every time I speak up for myself or for others, I feel better about who I am.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)

As the mom of a two year-old, self-care is hard. I need to be more intentional about my own self-care so that I can show up better for my daughter. Actions that demonstrate the self-care I do provide for myself are napping and counseling. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a mom was “nap when she naps.” It sounds easy, but when you have a list of things to do and the option to take a nap, there can be guilt when you decide to sleep. For the sake of my self-care, I nap when my daughter naps. I am a better person, and I function better when I have had sleep. Counseling has been important especially over the past two years. In less than 1.5 years I had a lot of changes happen in my life: I got pregnant, had a baby, lost my mom, resigned from a job I loved so I could move back to my home town, and started a new job. With all of these changes, especially the death of my mother six weeks after the birth of my daughter, I needed someone to talk to. I didn’t realize it when I first started, but I was/am definitely battling depression. I know that mental health is something that is often not discussed in the black community, but consistently going to counseling has provided me with good self-care for my mind and my soul.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

There are two challenges I’ve overcome (and am still overcoming) that continue to lead me to a deeper love for who I am: coming out as a queer black woman and becoming a single queer mom. I love who I’ve become as a queer black woman. With the current political climate and the way folks seem to be coming out of the closet in terms of their racist and/or homophobic beliefs, it has been difficult. However, I continue to remind myself that their loud opinions do not define me, and that I am an amazing woman. In terms of becoming a single queer mom, it is the best decision I have ever made. I knew my biological clock was ticking, so I decided to get pregnant before I couldn’t. I know for sure that I was born to be a mom, and I love who I am as a mom. I am re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” mom, and now that I am in a good, loving relationship, we are re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” family. I love who I am and who the three of us are as a family.

One of Leisan’s favorite photos with her daughter

What have you learned from self-love?

I love loving others. However, I have learned that the only way I can effectively love others is to start with loving myself. I have also learned that it is okay and necessary to be intentional about self-love. I have to schedule time to take care of me and know that it’s not selfish, but in fact, the best way for me to survive and thrive.

 


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.


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How To Give Yourself a Mid-Year Health Check

MidYear Health Check[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

As mid-year rolls around there are more than likely a number of thoughts racing through your mind.

How much money have I saved so far?

Should I finally join that gym?

Where is this relationship going?

Maybe I should apply for that management position?

Self-inquiry is the key to self-mastery so you’re right on track with your questions and thoughts. However, now is the time to go even deeper with your self check-ins. To ensure that your life is going in a steadily positive direction you need to also put some laser focus on your overall health.

Don’t worry, performing a mid-year health check is free and painless.

Evaluating the state of your health should fall into three categories:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

Focusing on all three allows you to look at your life holistically. True self-care is about seeing yourself as a whole being, not just certain areas of your life.

Ask and answer these series of questions to gain a snapshot of your health this summer. A solid rule of thumb is to record your answers on pen and paper or audio. That way you can go back and reference your answers at the end of the year to do another self check-in and compare notes on your progress.

Physically

What are my energy levels when I first wake up, mid-day, and at night?

If you are waking up feeling fatigued then you could be struggling with an adrenal imbalance. Or if you are sleepy around mid-day or early evening then that could be the effect of sugar crashes. Keep a food and energy journal to track patterns.

Am I eating consciously?

Think about your sugar intake, daily water consumption, and daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Make a commitment to be conscious about what you are putting in your body.

Am I taking supplements daily?

Supplements provide the nutrients that our bodies need that we don’t get from our meals.

Am I performing breast checks after my cycle ends?

Our breasts are more prone to reveal any abnormalities or lumps right after menstruation.

Am I exercising regularly?

Monitor how you feel after physical activity. Consider your recovery time and how your muscles feel after every workout.

Mentally

Am I suffering from mood swings?

If you are unsure, survey your child(ren), partner, and colleagues.

Am I pursuing expressive outlets for work-life balance?

Do you love cooking, photography, poetry, blogging or singing? Whatever delights your mind and spirit indulge in it often and with wild abandon.

Am I creating and maintaining healthy rituals?

You deserve to spoil yourself and to do it regularly. The possibilities for self-care in this area are endless. Everything from journaling, to massages, to solo date-nights, to splurging on a latte every Saturday morning, can be on-going rituals worth maintaining.

Am I saying NO more, so I can say YES more?

The powerhouse that is Shonda Rhimes literally wrote the book on this very same idea (see Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person). The No’s are just as powerful as the Yeses that you give out to yourself, loved ones, and outside commitments.

Spiritually

Am I practicing gratitude daily?

Studies show that doing so can increase your happiness, inner peace, and productivity.

Am I practicing mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a simple art. Consistently step outside yourself and view your behavior and thoughts. Are you always coming from a place of love? Posing this question daily will drastically increase your self-awareness and improve the energy that you give to the world.

Am I practicing forgiveness?

This is a practice that can lead to profound spiritual and emotional breakthroughs. Forgive yourself for your own shortcomings and forgive others who have disappointed you. Letting go of the pain that you have experienced through forgiveness opens up a pathway for receiving unconditional love from yourself and the environment around you.

 

These three core areas are the foundation for a systematic health check that honors your entire essence. Give it a shot this summer and watch your self-care go in new and healthy directions.


About the Contributor

CJChildressCoachCJ Childress is a nutrition, wellness, and health focused freelance writer. She is particularly interested in the intersection of organic nutrition, mental health, and holistic living, and how they can all work in concert to live a beautiful and balanced life. You can find her on Instagram. Check out CJ’s other Health + Wellness posts HERE.


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A Letter of Love To My Sisters: A Truthful Conversation about the Pressures of Everyday Life

black women and mental health[the phoenix rising collective]

On her Saturday morning news show in mid- April 2014, Melissa Harris-Perry interviewed hip hop emcee Pharoahe Monch. During the interview, she asked him about the significance of his new album being titled P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He calmly replied that he wanted to be more transparent on this album and discuss his personal challenges with depression. While watching this short but candid interview I was also skimming various online articles about beauty/lifestyle blogger and founder of FOR BROWN GIRLS, Karyn Washington, committing suicide. While the details vary (at least expressed through various media outlets) about the reasons the beautiful 22 year old committed suicide, my initial response was, what it always is when I learn someone – anyone – decides to take their own life, “why?”. This isn’t a question to judge or criticize with a “chile, please” side-eye. It’s more of a question that’s posed to understand the psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual rationale for the decision. It ponders whether or not it could have been prevented. It’s an inquisitive attempt to discern what seemingly unresolved inner struggles led to suicide as a final decision. It’s a “why” harboring great disdain toward a healthcare system in which African-Americans are disproportionately under served or denied access to quality mental health services. Of this striking statistic, black women specifically are drastically impacted. According to NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Health), “Many African American women do not seek treatment because it is viewed as a weakness and not a mental health problem. Only 12% of African American women seek help and/or treatment.” We have been conditioned to mask or suppress symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc. by hiding behind a face full of M.A.C., taking antidepressant pills, gulping down bottles of wine like Olivia Pope, or the other extreme, contemplating ending life altogether.

karyn_washington_16x9

Karyn Washington, Founder, For Brown Girls

This cyclone of thoughts swirled in my head for about 15 minutes. Then I went on a reflective journey examining my own battle with depression, as well as the need for even more transparency in my relationships and candor about discussing my mental health issues. I also considered all the black women in my family and intimate circle, as well as those whom I work with and others I may share an exchange or two with during the morning commute. We all attempt to bare the face of Ms. Got-my-stuff-together-and-I’m-in-control; yet many of us are visibly and quickly unraveling at the seams. Generally speaking, many black women are not communing with one another (or anyone else) to have truthful conversations about the daily pressures that plague us.

I am a firm believer that every human emotion is governed by either fear or love. We can attach a myriad of adjectives to our emotions, but essentially they all trace back to fear or love. That said, how can black women begin to collectively conquer the fear of admitting to mental exhaustion or defeat in our lives? How do we begin to shatter the illusion of poker-faced perfection we’ve allowed to permeate our beings? How do we create the sacred spaces amongst ourselves, and if necessary, go back (one, two, or three generations) to our foremothers and examine the cyclical and recurring themes surrounding battles with mental health? Finally, how can we nurture and support one another in operating at our highest capacities within institutions that are mere microcosms of a larger culture that explicitly undermines and devalues our effort (to say the least) toward equal existence in every facet of our lives?

I don’t have all the answers nor am I a mental healthcare professional by any stretch of the imagination. However, as a womyn that considers herself to be colossally self-aware and observant of other womyn around her, I very vividly witness my reflection all around me. Sisters, many of us are sharing a global experience. Let’s open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our mouths to vehemently discuss all that runs rampant in promoting constant turmoil and decay. We cannot and should not carry this burden alone. Let’s seek out the help, support, treatment, circles, resources etc. that we need to help us shift into the divine image and likeness we were created in.

It has been one of my most intentional prayers that black women can embark on a new journey. And on this journey we learn the profound impact of initiating decisions that support us compassionately, intensely, fearlessly, unabashedly, and fully loving ourselves and one another. Divine Goddesses, we have the ability to be vulnerable and powerful at the same time.

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About the Contributing Writer:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions. She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.