I am honored to be speaking at Black Women for Wellness (@bwwwla) Mother’s Day Tea, 12 ways to Health and Well Being, Celebrating Mothers in Our Lives and in our Communities, on Saturday, May 11th.  As I sat down to write my speech I reflected on my journey as a woman and as a mother. I asked myself the following question: outside of the common prescriptions for wellness (healthy diet, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, etc) what is the path to health and well being, particularly for mothers who tend to give so much of themselves? Can mothers care for themselves as they take care of others? What is the impact of their requesting help?

 Allow me to take you on my journey...

 Giving to others

I came from humble yet beautiful beginnings. I was born in the Jamaican countryside and lived the first years of life without electricity and running water. My father was a farmer, which gave me an understanding and appreciation of the gifts that nature offers us. I migrated to Harlem, NY at age 6 and learned the art of giving to others through my grandma who at the age of 61 took on the responsibility of raising my 3 siblings and me. One of the bedrooms in our 3-bedroom apt was designated for those who needed a place to temporarily rest their heads. At age 12 when I started babysitting grandmother told me it was important that I send a portion of my earnings to my family in Jamaica. Giving to others became a constant in my world. This translated into my career path of caring for others…an educator, a health coach, a healer, a community health activist. I became a mother at 27 and in the first years of raising my daughter, I focused on teaching her to give to the world.

 Wake-up call

My way of moving through life in this capacity came to a severe halt 5 years ago. For months, I had been on auto pilot working full time, overseeing my non-profit, and managing my household.  I was doing what I had done most of my adult life...taking care of others.  As it always does, life decided to give me a wake up call.  It began with a difficult menstrual cycle riddled with symptoms that I had not experienced before: intense nausea, heart palpitations, and hot flashes that arrived at the same time nightly.  With the physical symptoms came anxiety and insomnia.  After running routine tests at the hospital that showed no complications, I sought out a naturopath. The physical symptoms had subsided, but I continued to experience anxiety and insomnia and I wanted to get to the root of it.  After a series of more in-depth tests, the results showed that my body had been producing high levels of cortisol to keep up with the demands of my schedule. My adrenal glands had pooped out. I was hit with the reality that I, the Health and Wellness Coach, had to change the way I was existing.  I had to take time out and rebalance which meant that I could not give to others in the same way.

 Although I was eating healthily and exercising, I was out of balance. I had mastered the art of giving to others but did not know how to give to myself or receive. The path to health and well-being begins with seeing yourself as a being that needs to be cared for…mind, body and spirit. The first step is learning to be vulnerable and allowing yourself to embrace all emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. When you begin to listen to your internal voice and recognize your needs, the next step is to ask for help and receive your gifts.  I had to experience the uncomfortable emotion of fear so that I would feel capable of giving to others.  I also came to accept much needed support from my community to make it through a challenging time.

 Ask yourself

So ask yourself, do I care for myself as I care for others? Do I ask for help and have the openness to receive my blessings? Do I harbor a feeling of guilt when I put myself first?

 A Mother’s Day gift

Now, instead of focusing on teaching my daughter to give to others, I say to her…stop, listen, embrace all emotions, be vulnerable and ask for help. When we honor ourselves, we step into a space of awareness that sets us on a pathway to optimum health. Giving to ourselves and receiving enables us to give to others in a helpful way that does not lead to the demise of our well being.