4 Proven Ways to Be Calm Amongst the Crazy

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When I was pregnant with my son, Christian, I experienced some of the most trying times in my life. The pregnancy had sapped all of my energy, my youngest daughter at the time, Ariel, was only one years old and my oldest son, Nile, was three. They had tons of energy from morning until night. I had a full time job, and still had a lot of responsibility in caring for my family. My body felt tired and so did my mind, so it was easy for me to lose my cool. How do you stay calm when everything in your life seems to be going crazy?

Most of us have been there.

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Perhaps you had a late night, or your little ones woke you up ten minutes too early. We’ve all been there.

And when you have children, it can be even more trying. You want to be full of energy and have endless patience bounding freely, but after juggling career and school priorities, cleaning the house, preparing meals and putting out business and family fires, aint’ nobody got time for that!

When life seems beyond your control, how you respond can make all the difference. The wrong attitude can set your day on the wrong course affecting your job, your family, your health, finances and more. While you may recover with time, the damage done may not be easily repaired.

So how do you navigate through daily challenges that threaten to overwhelm your sanity, while still pressing forward to be great, to be better, to achieve your goals?

Here are a few proven ways I use to keep my cool! 

Keep Calm and Be Still

Everyone needs quiet time. Alone time to just to be…in your own skin. On your own. But what if you don’t have alone time. What if you are the primary caretaker for your child and you can barely get a minute alone?

In moments where you want to be alone, but can’t, I would encourage deep breathing. Children seem to be gifted in the art of creating stress! But when that child is crying for more graham crackers (which is what’s really happening right now!), commit your emotions to calmness, stillness, not anxiety or frustration or the need to respond immediately.

If you give way to stillness, and do nothing. Things sometimes have a way of working themselves out.

I have a tendency to run towards the next thing that’s demanding my attention. But what I learned is that when I do that I make the situation worse with my anxiety and need to control the situation.

Instead, try silence.

A study conducted by John Hopkins University proves that meditation improves patients with conditions of anxiety, depression, pain and stress. When we face a problem, we have the tendency of allowing our minds to run wild. We think of every possible thing that could go wrong, we try to wrestle our way around it. However, by being so involved in the problem, we end up making things worse.

A better solution? Try stillness and prayer.

Proverbs 21:1 says “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

God has a solution already planned out for you and He’s waiting for you to TRUST him. Be still, listen for His voice…He will speak.

So before we move on, let’s dig into stillness a bit.

Stillness is sitting and doing nothing. Breathing deeply in, breathing out. Focus on your breath. Clear your mind. Don’t allow your mind to race. Don’t allow thoughts to overtake your stillness. Feel what it’s like to be in your skin. You are spirit. You are made in God’s image. Who are you? Do you know? Sometimes we are going-going-going and associating our worth  with what we do rather than who we actually are.

Before you sit and be still, ask God to tell you who you are. Ask Him to show you what to do today. Sit and listen. Listen for God. Listen for purpose. I start everyday this way. I breathe in the world. I think about where I am, where my family is, where my loved ones are, I think about everyone and everything connected to me. And then I breathe it all out to God.

I can do this in silence. Sometimes, when there are a billion things going on, I do this in chaos.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Keep Calm and Focus – Be in the moment.

Be anxious for nothing. (Phil. 4:6)

There is this myth about multi-tasking. That it makes you more productive and helps you get more done.

In an article by Health Day, David Meyer, professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan shares “The brain responds to impossible demands by pumping out adrenaline and other stress hormones that put a person “on edge.” These hormones provide a quick burst of energy, but energy won’t make multitasking easier, he says. An old pickup can’t go 150 miles per hour no matter how much fuel you put in the tank or how hard you step on the gas.”

Zoning completely in on the task at hand, helps you to achieve that task better, and removes the stress of things that you can’t get to right away. In my previous job, I had two roles, a Brand Journalist and an Executive Assistant. What I learned is that in trying to do both roles, although I learned more about the company – it was difficult for me to focus enough to write the content I needed.  No matter which I turned it, flipped it and tried to manage it, email breaks would lead me down rabbit holes of communication that stopped by blog posts dead in their tracks.

Here’s another example. Have you ever tried to cook a meal while giving the kids a bath? Not a good idea. Pancakes COMPLETELY burned.

If you are under pressure to perform immediately, don’t be afraid to ask for two minutes to finish your work – even better, just say no! Focus on what you’re great at – and allow others to take the plate for tasks that you do just “okay” in.

Keep Calm and Stay Ahead of the Game.

Winners have a game plan. Whether it’s what the kids are eating for breakfast, or what you’re going to wear the next day, or what you’re going to say when you make that phone call. Make it a habit to start your day with a journal of what you want your day to look like. Let that list or word of the day serve as a focal point throughout the remainder of the day, when you have a few extra minutes and you’re wondering what you should do next.

Envision what a successful day would look like. What do you need to do to get it there? A little extra thought, during your commute or before you start your day can avoid much frustration in the aftermath. With children, this tip is particularly helpful.  My motto is “if you don’t give a child something to do, they’ll find something to do”. Now, there’s no guarantee that you’ll like what they “find to do”, so it’s best to just plan ahead. It could be as simple as:

  1. Pick up Nile from the bus stop.
  2. Give them a snack.
  3. They can watch a movie, while Nile does his homework and I make dinner. If they get bored with the movie, let them go outside.
  4. Dinner, bath time, bed.

Having a plan of action keeps me from being overwhelmed. A plan brings order to your life. Order reduces chaos – and stress!

Keep Calm and Take Care of your Health.

One day, I noticed how much more tired I was after eating a #3 from McDonald’s versus having turkey and cheese on wheat with a banana. Yes, diet affects your level of fatigue and overall sense of wellbeing.

A study cited in WebMD states that “Long-term exposure to an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression.” So the worse your eating habits, unfortunately, the worse your mood may be. The good news is – this kind of thing is easily turned around. While it may take weeks to see the physical change due to a healthy diet, it only takes hours to feel the emotional benefits of eating right. And that goes for exercise, getting enough sleep and other healthy practices.

You are in control of your life.

God made you in His image and He gave you Free Will. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to maintain control, even when things are crazy and you should be losing it. Your life is more than what is happening around you. It’s what’s happening in you.

Center yourself through quiet time with God, through preparation and a little TLC so you can be your best body, mind and soul.

Did I miss anything? What do you do to keep your cool? Leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Are You Getting the Payoff from Your Relationships?

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“Coffee is a language in itself.” ~ Jackie Chan

I have noticed that relationships are the greatest and richest source of return that one can focus on.

Our relationships provide love, connections, finance, wisdom, and they are pivotal to our success.

My entire life would not exist if it had not been for the connection of my mother and father. For the care and love of my adoptive mother to provide meals, nourishment, love. For the host of Sunday school teachers, grandparents, family members, coaches, mentors, and friends who taught, trained, corrected, laughed, talked or connected in some manner.

If you go back in your mind right now, I’m sure you can think of a number of faces and names that were there for you in some fashion.

Studies even show babies who were institutionalized as infants and starved of warmth and connection grew and developed improperly, in comparison to infants who were raised in a family like environment.

Well, in business, and in life, as we get to be adults, for some reason, we can sometimes veer towards isolation as opposed to connection. We aim to “lead our own lives” rather than following the wisdom, the legacy and the foundation that has been laid for us.

Or to take it a step further – we fail to continue the legacy and teach those after us how to live, succeed, thrive. What ever happened to “it takes a village to raise a child”. Nowadays, there is a self-preservation, “to each his own” mentality – where many are unwilling to help, or go beyond their comfort zone for the sake of others.

If you think about the most impactful person in your life, there is a good chance that it was some one that helped you in a time of need. Whether you needed a meal, a job, or a word of encouragement or prayer, that person gave.

So what is a relationship?

A relationship is more than a conversation. Think about your friends and close loved ones. My brother-in-law, Bishop Lyle Dukes explains it as “relating in the ship”. Relationships are not built on a series of conversations, but they are built through hardship. Through times of giving, sharing, sacrificing. Show me a person who is self-oriented and I will show you a lonely person.

If you are looking for deeper connection with friends old and new, here are ways you can invest in better relationships:

 

  1. Get to know them.

    If you want to get to know a person, you need to know what they like. You should understand their desires and passions. What do they feel passionately about? What do they enjoy? You cannot help a person if you don’t know them. When you’re sitting down for a cup of coffee, don’t monopolize the conversation, ask about the other person. Ask about their family, their background, their hometown…learn what is important to that person.

 

  1. Be there for your friends.

    Once you learn what is important to that person, be there. Simple as that. Some times showing up is better than a gift or a favor. If they’re hosting an event, their kid’s birthday party, be there and be the life of the party. If you see they’re struggling with a project, or having a bad day, buy them coffee. Friendship is taking the time to notice and to show compassion.

 

  1. Hang in there.

    Relationships are built over time. As you find commonalities with the one you love, create a cadence of opportunities to connect with that person. Understand that the relationship is not about you, trying to get something out of the other person. A relationship is a pipeline where hope, joy, strength, encouragement and laughter can flow freely. You are a contributor and the ambiance, tone, flavor that you add will likely contribute to or even become the flavor of the relationship.

Whether you are looking to build your marriage relationship, how you relate to your children, looking for new friends or networking in the corporate arena, relationships are not an overnight sensation.

Even if you have an immediate spark with some one, the relationship will be built through tears, trials, arguments, prayers, ups and downs. When you can look back and say your relationship endured through all the pain and you didn’t leave, you didn’t walk out – that’s when you know you have a true friend.

What are your most valuable relationships and What do you do to keep them in ship-shape?

Why Public Housing is More Than Meets the Eye

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“It’s like they took everything bad and dumped it in our town”.

The hollow words of an East St. Louis adolescent still echo in my mind (Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol). Prostitution, drugs, poor sewage infrastructure, polluted air quality, dilapidated schools – all in one place. 

We pass by them every day, yet many choose not to notice the worsening conditions – the faded paint, water damage, rusted playgrounds. But for me, it’s hard to ignore the place I would live, in alternate life, if I hadn’t been adopted. 

My mother was raised in a public housing project, a low income community, known to be ridden with crime, addiction, sexual abuse and such, but public housing has not always been in its current state. 

Low Income Communities
It’s more than meets the eye.

The Racial Divides behind Public Housing

Public housing was created as a result of the New Deal, established by Franklin D. Roosevelt. They were coveted as a stepping stone to propel middle to low income families forward. However, racial segregation drove the standards for black families lower and lower, as the standards for whites grew higher and higher. According to a Washington Post article, How Section 8 became a Racial Slur, “The FHA required developers to use restrictive covenants barring blacks, and it denied black families the mortgages that allowed working-class whites to leave public housing.”

So, while white public housing patrons were afforded federally supported opportunities to purchase homes through white-only mortgage loans, black families were left behind in poorly maintained homes, such as the one my biological mother was raised in. Jobs were hard to come by, so residents created their own economy, selling sex, drugs and any other temporary analgesic to remove the sting of their suffering. 

Barry Farm

Barry Farm is a notorious public housing project in Washington, D.C. The black community has been labeled for violence, crime and drug abuse. Unfortunately, many are unaware that Barry Farm, or Hillsdale, was once an affluent black, mixed-income community.

Barry Farm was part of the 375 acres of land purchased by the Freedman’s Bureau. This was an act to help former slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War, with food, housing and education. Barry Farms was the first black, thriving community in Washington, D.C. to be established after the Civil War. However, public housing projects disrupted the initiative that was flourishing in Barry Farm. This changed the chemistry of the community.

Barry Farm soon became a revolving door that is characteristic of public housing. People were placed in Barry Farm from foreign communities, feeling lost and protective over what little stability they had left. A dangerous sense of self-preservation began to spring up like weeds in the once friendly neighborhood. The fruit of home gardens and brotherly love, slowly shifted into the fruit of isolation, crime, drug abuse, mental illness and hurting generations of black families.

With poor living conditions, those who were affluent enough moved away, to better conditions, better schools, and better opportunities.  While those who couldn’t afford to leave, learned to survive. This was the plight of my birth mother, Brenda Byers.

I Should’ve Been Born Here

Brenda grew up in Barry Farms, right on Pomeroy Road. As a six year old child, she bravely endured years of sexual abuse. She numbed her pain using marijuana, alcohol and other controlled substances. Her environment led her to prostitution and did not serve her well.

Her environment destroyed any hope of a future for her. So, when she had children, my brother, my sister and myself, her environment raped her of her motherhood potential. My sister was adopted at the age of one years old. I was brought into foster care weeks after birth.

I would like to think that her pain was for a purpose. I would like to think that even though she struggled through much of her life, that everything she went through, was for a purpose greater than every tear she ever cried.

Taking Action

As a survivor, I’m partnering with the community to fight for better living conditions, the best of education, and empowerment for disadvantaged families. In all of its liberties, somehow America has failed to provide access to the Dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of, to low-income black families and the generations that would spring from their seed.

There is an entire community that is suffering. The children are not getting the education that they deserve. The parents and families that support the children need jobs, resources, education and cultural exposure to shift out of their circumstances, to change their community, and to provide the hope of a legacy for generations to come.

I am currently working with community leaders across D.C. to develop solutions to bridge the gap for low-income families in Ward 8. Please join my email list for updates and opportunities to join the movement.