Taking Care of Self Inside and Out

Women today are more stressed and pressed than our mothers and grandmothers ever were. We are wives, mothers, businesswomen, students, grandmothers, employees, etc. Unfortunately, because of the many roles we play, women are dying of strokes and heart attacks in record numbers. Even the statistics for suicide among women is unusually high. So, how can we, women of the 21st Century, manage our many roles and health? Here are five strategies that were created with you, your life and your budget in mind.

Journaling: Writing to Feed the Soul

My favorite quote of all time is by Maya Angelou: “I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.” When I was a teenager, I was teased about everything: my bottle coke glasses, nappy bush hair, those awkward knobby knees, my ill-fated sense of dress (I loved to wear big ti-shirts with ankle length skirts and a pair of white Pumas) and my uncanny ability to speak proper English while living in the “hood.” I was a target from day one, and tears flowed like the Nile practically every day of my teenage life. But writing saved me.

I am a mega fan of journaling because I learned very early in my life that writing feeds the soul. From 14 to today, writing in my journal enabled me to grow and glow in my womanhood. But you do not have to write in your journal everyday; you can write it in weekly, monthly or even when you feel the need to vent or give thanks. Just remember that journaling is a very personal experience. It can be used as a moment of personal reflection, to write poetry, letters to yourself or someone else (not with the intention to mail it as that is not the purpose) or to just, as I mentioned earlier, go on a tirade. But whatever you use it for, make sure that you buy a journal that feels good to you: it smells good, the paper size is large enough or small enough (can you carry it in your purse?) for you to work with, and budget for it.

In other words, don’t purchase a journal that will break your bank account. The purpose of journaling is to feed the soul, not to show the world that you are a bona fide member of “The Jones.”

Walking: Getting Your Life in Perspective

Not only is walking good for your heart, but this is your time with God or your spiritual being. You need this 10, 20 or 30 minutes to get away from the poison of people’s actions/voices. Pray while walking; talk to the divine Spirit and let it all out. Voice your joys and pains to him/her. Go over your plans for the day. Our time is so precious today, and many of us can barely get a handle on many of the things we must do throughout the day, so get it all in order in your head and your spirit as you are walking. Finally, enjoy the scenery; nature is a healing remedy. Take this time to breathe in the fresh air and peacefulness of your surroundings. If your neighborhood is not a safe place for a woman to take a walk alone, however, find a trail or park that is safe and walk there. So, whether you walk in the morning, afternoon or evening, just set aside the time to do it…for you.

The Three M’s: Massage, Manicure & Make-over

Massage: What better way to end your week or start it than with a massage? Thirty minutes of peace & tranquility; who could ask for more? A massage can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on two variables: the type of massage you elect to have and your budget.

The full body (my favorite), the Swedish, hot stone, reflexology and a plethora of other massages are designed to de-stress, relax and exfoliate the body. But be careful with this “M” because massages can be expensive, hence the second variable. Check on prices from local salons; ask for references, check out the establishment’s d├ęcor (one must feel comfortable in a place where they are about to be semi-naked for an hour) and staff friendliness. Speaking of staff friendliness, you will need to look deep within yourself to ascertain your level of comfort with having a masseuse who is either the same sex or the opposite. Account for all of this when budgeting for the massage. I suggest going once a month or every other month as this bill can add up depending on the type of service you purchase.

Now, when you set your appointment ladies, do not, I repeat, do not let anyone in your family know where you are going. The whole objective of this particular “M” is to get away and have time for you to reconnect with yourself. We take care of everyone else every day. The massage is an hour made just for you. You can’t relax if your kids, husband or the office keeps blowing up your cell phone. Turn it off, bury it beneath your pile of clothes and escape to Fantasy Island.

Manicure: Your nails and hands are your first impression, especially in business. There’s nothing worse than going to shake someone’s hands and their nails are chipped or broken, or worse, dirty. What does this say about their character? If they can’t keep themselves well kept, how then can they take care of your business? Keep your nails groomed at all times, but more importantly, there’s nothing that can compare to how good you feel when your hands and toes look pretty. Again, you must budget for this two times a month, if possible.

Make-Over: I am not talking about a make-up or wardrobe make-over, but a spiritual/physical/mental make-over. Positive thinking begets positive experiences. We must not only learn to surround ourselves with positive people, but create for ourselves affirmations and self-declarations that uplift us. My friend and beauty expert, Susie Galvez, insists that the first thing a woman should do upon waking up is to stand in front of the mirror and say confidently to yourself, “Hello, beautiful!” Why? Because if you don’t believe that you are beautiful, no one else will.

Okay! I know it’s difficult to do this with most of our schedules, but we must find the time to workout (see Walking), whether it be in the am or pm (whatever works best for you). If you can, find a personal trainer. They can be expensive, so see if you can barter services. For example, I approached a local fitness trainer about working with me, but I could not afford his services. So, I offered him a deal; ‘you train me and I will give you a health and fitness column in my magazine.’ He accepted. Free PR wins every time.

Read one book a month that teaches you something new about yourself, life, politics, etc. If you are a fan of fiction, read non-fiction (ex. finances, autobiographies, self-help books). If you love non-fiction, read fiction. I love mystery/suspense novels, so let me recommend my favorite author, Jane Evanovich. Her “Stephanie Plum” series makes me laugh so hard, I get a headache (www.evanovich.com). Try reading poetry or writing some. This will definitely stretch your imagination.

Tea Party, the Girls and Me

Nothing says love and compassion than a cup of hot tea with milk – not cream – and sugar. Mail invitations, or if you cannot afford it or don’t have time, send an evite (www.evite.com) to your closest girlfriends. Schedule the tea for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, whatever works best for you. Purchase tea cups/platters from a local Goodwill or consignment shop. I found a set of 5 at the local Goodwill store that were in great condition; you can even purchase doilies and napkins at the Dollar Store. Purchase light finger foods such as Spanakopitas, cheese quiches, mini scones, muffins or fruit and a single dessert like cake; do not go over board – the purpose of the tea party is to have fun and laugh. So, do just that! Have fun, laugh and share stories at the tea party; play some jazz or classical music for atmosphere. Or, invite an inspirational or motivational speaker to add some extra “girlfriend, can we talk?” conversations.

Day of Chocolate Decadence

I LOVE chocolate because it always takes my blues away, and if it’s Hershey’s or Ghirardelli’s chocolate, I am over the moon. Research says that 50% of women prefer chocolate to sex. HELLO!
When you have gotten through the week with your mind in tact and as many of your goals achieved as humanly possible, enjoy a piece of chocolate: dark or milk chocolate. There are even chocolate fragrances you can drown yourself in. In my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, there’s a local tea shop that sells Chocolate tea. It’s the best kept secret in town. Find a local tea shop in your city and indulge yourself. Visit http://www.chocolate.com to learn more ways to eat, sleep, drink and breathe chocolate.

If you don’t like chocolate, then treat yourself to a taste of your favorite treat, but reward yourself nonetheless for having made it through yet another busy week: not by shopping or spending money on something that will kill your budget.

Ladies, life is hectic, but it doesn’t have to wear you down if you don’t let it. Implementing some of these strategies into your lifestyle is just one more tool you can add to your arsenal in your quest to become not only the woman you know you were meant to be, but will help you to live longer.