Since graduating from college two years ago, I’ve been writing freelance articles, taking classes part-time at a community college, and holding down a full-time job at a PR agency. I’ve been grinding in order to accomplish my goals.
And I’m not the only one. A recent report shows that the number of Black-women owned businesses grew 322%. Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation.
Black women are making things happen—starting businesses, graduating from college at exponential rates, leading #BlackLivesMatter protests to make our nation a better place, and raising children to be even more successful.
Basically, we get shit done.
But sometimes, many of us are too productive for our own good.
Many of us live up to that Strong Black Woman image, which both empowers and harms our well-being. Sometimes, we are so busy making moves that we forget to take care of ourselves.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve chosen to write an article or work on items on my never-ending to-do list over cooking myself a decent meal. I’d gotten into a bad habit of choosing productivity over emotional and physical health—and, as a result, my diet was lacking vital nutrients, I was always worn out, red and glossy became the normal look of my eyes, and I’d began to pull out my hair.
When I recently took a few days off to relax, I noticed that I literally could not sit still. While I was eating a meal at the dinner table, I had impulses to check my phone for new emails. I couldn’t focus on doing one single thing because I’d become so accustomed to multitasking.
My desire to be hyper-productive all of the time had driven me half-crazy.
Originally, I thought taking a break every now and then would help me remain sane in my busy situation. But I’m not very good at taking breaks. I’m currently pursuing three careers at once, so I work seven days a week and usually only remember to take breaks when I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Mindfulness has become my remedy.
Mindfulness is the practice of giving your full attention to whatever it is you’re doing. It means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It can be extremely therapeutic, especially for busy-bees like myself.
Mindfulness counters crazy schedules by reminding you to chill out, take a breath, and smell the roses.
I practice mindfulness in three small ways:
I cut down on multi-tasking while eating
I used to be one of those people who eats lunch at her desk so I can get more done—which such a shame, considering I usually cook pretty delicious meals. Rather than mindlessly shoving food down my face, I started paying more attention to what I’m eating. This way, I can make sure I’m getting enough food and savoring every bite.
I watch my time-obsessiveness
Because of my hyper-productivity, I often plan things by the hour. I’ll schedule my whole day so that every hour is accounted for and so I can make sure I’m getting things done every hour. I was constantly checking the clock and setting alarms. This became tedious, turning everything into a chore and adding unnecessary stress to my day when things took more than the amount of time I allotted myself. Instead, I try to pick two or three important tasks to do and not worry about the exact hour I will complete them.
I take the time to breathe
Journaling and meditation help me take breaks throughout the day. Sometimes that means walking outside of the office to take deep breaths for a few minutes (this helps a ton when clients are asking me to move mountains, as they often do). Other times I’ll journal in between various weekend errands. Taking a few moments out of my day, or sometimes a good chunk of time to write and process my feelings helps me to reflect, solve problems, and just breathe.
Now, I’m not a pro at this. I only just started, and often mess up. But I’ve learned not to judge my ability to practice mindfulness. For people who live by their multiple to-do lists, mindfulness can be difficult. I’ll often catch myself reaching for my list when I’m supposed to be enjoying the delicious mango sorbet I treated myself to. Then, before I begin criticizing, I slide the phone away and promise myself not to get up from the chair until I’m done fully enjoying the sorbet, which also often fails. Sometimes I think I should tie myself to the chair with my phone and computer completely out of reach.
But over time, I think I’ll get better. Mindfulness is a beautiful practice of self-care. And it reminds me that self-care is just as important as hard work.
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Janet R. via Flickr.