Blogging, encouragement, millennials, successful people, wellness

Skills For A Successful Career; Harvested From the Hood🍎

“YOU are not of this world, you just live in it”. — My mama used to quote John 17:16 as she would look dead into my eyes while straightening my pleated uniform and looking around our housing project lined street. Our house was exactly 0.4 miles from one of the deadliest housing projects, D-Block, in Yonkers, NY.

Retrospectively, that world that “I didn’t live in” provided me with lessons that has made me a successful administrator and continues to give me an edge over my competitors and peers in the professional world.

This is my ode to the hood:

Mama- You kept us under your wing. Protected us from the world around us.

Yonkers- So different from the oasis you grew up in, on your beautiful island.

Babies having babies, people slinging drugs.

Displaced persons, mangled families

Just trying to live, to rebuild their lives

Fighting against the patriarchy and the weight of systematic oppression

Cops, shrouded in blue, busting down doors, just spitting distance from our own front door

I remember you whispering: “You are not of this world — Remember that”

But I was, Mama.

I was,

Because I was not blind, and I was not deaf.

I hoarded the lessons of the street.

Breathing them in until they flowed like oxygen through my veins

Stuffing them deep down.

Burying them away below the layers of brown skin, so that my white,rich peers would not happen to catch a glance of them.

I hid them, so I would not be found out.

So that they wouldn’t call me or assume me- Ghetto

Now I’m a professional and it’s the hood lessons chosen time to shine

The ones that have made me strong, creative, bold:

I learned…

The importance of the witty clap back.

I learned… 

To use my voice boldly. 

To sound the alarm-

 To identify- Danger.

I learned ….

Look both ways before you cross the street.

Look up, down and around before making a move. Be strategic

I learned…

To make something out of nothing.

To create my own sunshine, when skies were gray.

I learned…

Follow your gut.

I learned…

It’s ok to be different and to march to my own drum.

I learned…

A little skepticism is healthy.

And

Think Twice Before you Speak.

I learned…

To make the food stretch, when there was little or none.

I learned…

To tell the truth plainly

I learned…

To tell a brilliant and clever story

And

to know when to mind my own business

I learned…

To listen

I learned…

The importance of boundaries

I learned…

 The significance of family

Both blood and chosen

I learned…

How to take action and when to break rules

I learned…

To initiate change and not to wait for it to happen

Mom

I learned…

When it was time to step up to the plate

Most importantly

I learned…

To be resilient

Blogging, encouragement, mental health, millennials, wellness

Epiphanies from 5 Wifi-Free Days in Cuba

I yawned and wiped the sleep out of my eyes. Then I stretched my hand out, feeling around the left side of my body for my phone. I find it, tucked slightly beneath my left hipbone. I unplug it and pick it up.  As per usual, I opened the follower insight app first to check for the faithless unfollowers that I lost during the night. However, unlike other days, this morning I had awakened in Havana, Cuba and there was no data or wifi on hand. Instead there was a sign: “no available service”. I immediately felt a slight surge of panic, but just as quickly that feeling subsided and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

It was in that moment, on an old creaky mattress on the floor in Cuba, that I realized that somewhere along this journey of Live.Laugh.Boss, I had stumbled off the wellness path and had started to embody the two things that I hate the most and advocate strongly against.

  1. I had started to give into my greatest enemy, FONLU (fear of not living up)

and

2. I had allowed marketing for my blog take over a large component of my life.

 My first blog post launched on March 16 ,2017, and I’ve tried to be faithful in posting once a week ever since. I am not always successful with my weekly posting but I try to practice what I preach by being self-compassionate when I am unable to post on time. But that morning, laying on my uncomfortable mattress in Havana, Cuba, sun-blazing brightly through the silky, bright blue curtains; I realized it was the first morning in five months that the first thing that I saw was not going to be my Instagram insights.

In trying to grow this blog, I’ve become obsessed with taking photos, writing and posting to Instagram daily. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing the activities and taking the photos. However, there’s a part of me, an old habit, that has snuck back in to my wellness world: the compulsory need for perfection. I was spending hours of my time, editing photos and blog-posts, re-taking photos that were good enough. Wanting to kidnap and freeze every moment in time to share with all of you, instead of just living my life and allowing the blog to be a part of it.

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I know that this is a part of the growing process as a new blogger, figuring out the balance between work, fun, play and life. I’m still learning how much of my life to share and what parts of my life need to remain strictly private to maintain my wellness journey.

Things I’ve learned thus far:

There are positives and negatives to entrenching myself in my blogging world. On the positive side, since I started writing Live. Laugh. Boss, I have felt more like myself than ever before. Encouraging myself to write as often as possible, working out consistently, eating healthily and finding new and exciting ways to enjoy life every single day, has been exhilarating. Writing the blog keeps me accountable to maintaining and documenting my chosen wellness lifestyle.

On the other hand, there’s the exposure. Prior to the birth of Live. Laugh. Boss, I was not a frequent user of social media. I would actively check my Facebook or Instagram once a day, more to consume media rather than to add to it. Now, I feel like I am constantly checking the insights to see how many likes I have on a post or how many new followers or unfollowers I have. The consistency of it can be exhausting. The other negative is that I find that FONLU (fear of no living up) has found a way to sneak into my amazing blogging experience, working it’s hardest to steal the joy from this experience. I’ve noticed that when I post something particularly vulnerable or a piece that was particularly fun or life-changing to write, my ego takes a hit if I feel that people do not respond to it the way that I expect. For example, if it does not get the right number of likes, comments or new follows. Then, when I’m feeling low from the “failure”, I scroll through my Instagram and see a friend posting similar content that gets 200+ likes. Damn! That FONLU can sneak in and fuck up my afternoon but I’m determined not to let it.

So back to my mattress in Cuba. Since I was unable to check my Instagram or medium followers. I made a list of vows to myself on my phone to remedy the negatives of my blogging experience.

Here are a few:

  • I vowed, that no matter what, Live. Laugh. Boss will always be written for me, to express my opinions, feelings, emotions and thoughts.
  • I will not allow it to take over my life.
  • I will check my followers only twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night, either right after my daily 4pm Instagram post or right before bed. I will continue to live in the moment and not ruin the authenticity of all those moments by trying to capture them in a photo or video but will allow some of my wellness moments to continue to be private and just for me.
  • I will not take the loss of followers personally. It is not about me or the content, it’s about them. That’s okay.
  • I will choose two wellness activities per week that will be photo fasted. I won’t even take my phone.

These are the vows that I make to myself and to you all, Tribe. I pray that as you all venture through your own life journeys that you will take moments to assess yourself and your actions and not be afraid to make changes that are right for you and your sanity. Remember, just because you have a set-back moment or you find yourself giving into FONLU, you are not a failure, it happens to the best of us.

It is how you move forward that counts.

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mental health, millennials, wellness, work-life balance

Wellness Isn’t One-Dimensional: If I See One More Yoga Pose Photo or Gimic- I WILL SCREAM

As you all know, I am the director of wellness services at a prestigious college in the Northeast. Contrary to popular belief, one does not become a wellness director, by getting a degree in eating kale, and/or reaching the heights of nirvana. Wellness programming has a basis in public health theory and is and should be based in evidence, not the most current fad.

In my department, we pride ourselves in being holistic; integrating both eastern and western wellness practices into our health services. We have acupuncture services, nutrition services, yoga, and we provide health education to young people. My health promotion team teaches wellness and prevention lessons on sex, relationships, alcohol, drugs, mindfulness, dating violence, stress reduction and much more. We conduct institutional research that informs policy and decision-making for the college. However, anytime someone asks me what I do and I tell them I am a professional wellness person, they automatically assume that I’m a yoga doing, smoothie drinking, pizza- hating chick; which is the farthest from the truth.

When did the concept of wellness become so pidgin-holed, so commercial, so acculturated and main stream?

Every time I try to make a poster or design marketing material for a new campaign, I type in #wellness and scroll through the first 100 photos on Instagram and Google photos to see the newest images. The images are always the same!!!

White chicks doing yoga, Bros lifting weight,  Goji berry yogurts, protein shakes, salads galore, supplement ads and before and after weight loss pictures. Predictable!

wellness

NEWSFLASH PEOPLE: FITNESS AND NUTRITION ARE NOT WELLNESS!

Fitness and nutrition are components of wellness, they do not define the wellness field.  

Guess what else? Wellness is inherently intersectional because every individual defines wellness for themselves and chooses the practices that best fits their lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Some of the oldest facets of wellness practice, such as meditation, yoga, etc. are integral to cultures that are a part of the global majority. So why is it that when I type yoga into google images: the first 50-60 images are of white women?

yoga.PNGThe definition of wellness in the Caribbean is going to be different than the definition used in the United States, India or China. The snack that uplifts a person’s spirit in the Caribbean may not be a salad, but instead be a plantain. Does that make it less healthy? My wellness activity may not be yoga but instead walking or wading in the river. Is walking by the river any less of a wellness activity than yoga?

And what about the effects on the global majority due to the commercialization of wellness foods and activities like avocado and yoga? Now, because avocado has been deemed a healthy fat by the media, cultures that used avocado in their diets for centuries, can barely afford them now? I digress.

The Merriam Webster definition of Wellness is: the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

My own favorite definition of Wellness is by John Valenty (CEO of wellness.com) “Wellness is the result of personal initiative, seeking a more optimal, holistic and balanced state of health and well-being across multiple dimensions.”

The definition is pretty broad if you ask me. Wellness should be a state of being that we are all actively working towards every day, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. When I say physically, physical wellness does not have to have anything to do with sculpted abs and legs. Instead it means:

  • Do I feel good in my body every day?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  •  Am I taking the necessary preventative measures to insure that my body is operating at optimal performance?
  •  Am I using condoms with new partners to protect my body against STI’s?

Reaching Optimal Mental and Spiritual Wellness should also be personal goals that we are consistently working toward. Mental Wellness is defined by­ the­ World Health Organization, as:

“a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

  • Do you have a personal philosophy? Are you living it on a daily basis?
  • Is my mental space a healthy one, that allows me 100% learning aptitude and memory retention?
  • Do I wake up proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished or will accomplish?
  • Do you take time for yourself and do things that make you happy?
  • How do you handle stress?

These everyday forms of wellness are not sexy. A picture of me sleeping soundly, probably won’t get many likes. Sleeping is a mundane, everyday activity. But, I would love to wake up one morning, and realize that the definition of wellness has shifted. I would type wellness into google images and get pictures of diverse groups of people or individuals doing everyday wellness things: walking, playing with a baby, resting, playing board or video games, having a dance party in their dorm rooms, throwing water balloons or eating ice-cream cones.

video games

All of these activities are wellness because they allow our brains to rest and to smile. No two bodies need the same type of wellness in their lives, but everyone does need a few things: a little exercise, food in proportion, time to breathe and relax, healthy sleep, companionship and time to have fun.

Research shows that engaging in leisure activities, on a consistent basis, is beneficial to your health by reducing Cortisol in the Body

For all of us non-science folk out there. It’s super simple.

You know back in the stone ages when the huntress was out hunting and then the lion appeared on the scene to hunt her instead? THE ULTIMATE STRESS!

Luckily for us- our bodies are designed intelligently for fight or flight, releasing cortisol so that we run, instead of sticking around to be the lion’s supper. The cortisol hormone is released into the body to help us get the hell out of there fast! After we’ve escaped quickly to safety and the stress threat has subsided, the cortisol levels are supposed to return to normal.

It is imperative to engage in wellness activities that fulfill both the body’s need to relax and to reduce the build up of every day stress.

When the cortisol is released due to everyday stress, and we don’t “run it off” it leads to weight gain, acne and reduces the bodies ability to fight off infection.

The Moral of the story is: The wellness field is ginormous and is not limited to any one component but instead, encompasses the whole body: mind, body and soul.  It is diverse. It is global and it is respectful of people, culture and beliefs.

Stop limiting wellness to your crunchy, fitness and body shaming definitions. Expand it to include activities that make you happy and optimizes your definition of a happy, healthy lifestyle. All things in moderation of course. Eating a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie might make you happy, but ten might be pushing it out of the wellness zone into an unhealthy one.

Tribe, GO out, LIVE your life, ENJOY good food! Be Happy in ways that make sense to you.