Maintaining Joy During These Trying Times

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What a time to be alive! We are experiencing so much emotionally, and maintaining joy is difficult because of it. COVID is one global issue. The beginnings of toppling racism and reforming criminal justice in America (I’m trying to stay hopeful) is another. These issues cause me to reflect on past traumas, particularly the small things I did to preserve peace and presence of mind. In my teens and 20s, self-care was an intuitive process. We did what made us feel good subconsciously.

Remembering Joy

When I reflect on my youth, I remember how joy was all I was concerned about. There is beauty in the selfishness of youth as it allows the time and space to figure out what we love and how to take care of ourselves at the core. We were figuring out who we wanted to be and how to maintain happiness.

Recently, I was talking to a great friend who was also my roommate in New York for five years. I expressed that I had been feeling a bit off. She suggested I take a walk, run a hot bath with all the fixins’ (candles, salts, music), and listen to new music. I told her I loved her ideas! She said, “Shaniece, those are all things you did religiously (spiritually, more accurately) when we lived together!” She was so right! I wasn’t even aware of what the activities did for me. More than 15 years later, I’m a stay-at-home Mom and I realize that I have to be intentional about maintaining joy by seeking out these treasured indulgences.

Practicing Joy

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my husband, children, and I have been home together constantly. I am on call around the clock. My children need more attention and assurance these days, and I am blessed to be home to give them what they need. I get burnt out without realizing it because I do enjoy giving to my family. But hey! I count too! I’ve learned to sneak away for my solitary indulgences as a way to maintaining joy. The indulgences that lift my spirit may change a bit over time, but I now know where to start. I ask myself, what I would do if I was 22, or 19 and something fun and uplifting usually populates. I didn’t make much money at that age, so what I come up with is usually economical. Win, win!

Shaniece’s shortlist of joyful, spirit-lifting indulgences:

  1. Baths (or sitting in water generally) I LOVE taking baths. Sitting in water with candles and music is spirit-lifting for me. Baths aren’t always possible, so I have a bench in my shower where I can sit and relax under the water. If relaxing in water sounds good, but you down have a tub, consider a shower stool. Sidenote: I am also always down for a salty jump in the ocean, but I don’t get to do it often. One day I’ll live at the beach, sigh.
  2. Walking in nature By nature I mean anywhere outside. If you live by the beach or in the mountains, walk there, and invite me (smile)! If you live in the city, try walking around your neighborhood or through a park. Fresh air always heightens my mood and clears my head.
  3. Music My jams are so important! I listen to all types and I’m super-moody when choosing my music from day-to-day. If I get it right, which is almost always since music is now so easy to access, my energy soars and it jazzes up mundane tasks. Also, if you have a musical instrument in your home, play it!
  4. Flowers and Plants I love having plants in my home. In fact, I have a few plants that have become members of the family. I also cut pieces from the bushes in my yard and put them in vases to bring life to our dinner table. I buy flower bouquets from the grocery store to add color to my bedroom. It feels so good to be invited into a room by a plant or flowers.

Bonus: This one is completely superficial, but it works for me. Putting on a sun-dress and flip flops make me happy. I don’t know what it is, but I feel light and feminine and it brings me back to my California upbringing. Double points if I’m also wearing turquoise jewelry, as it is known to promote balance and instill inner calm.

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Shaniece James
Shaniece is a California girl living in DC. She discovered DC in 1995 when she came to study theater arts at Howard University and left DC for New York in 2000. Fast forward to 2008, she excitedly moved back to DC with her husband (found him in NYC) and daughter (grew her in Atlanta). She’s been living, loving, creating art and making connections in DC ever since! She now has two daughters (11 and 6). Shaniece enjoyed working in the non-profit/NGO sector for years until making the transition into full time chef, organizer, manager and volunteer (you know, a stay-at-home mom) and a part time artist, and occasional thrower of a good party. Shaniece loves family, reading, art, international relations and development, and building bridges. Exploring the world is very important to her and she loves to travel with family and friends.

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