3 Ways to Manage Stress and Bring Back the Sunshine During Dark Times

(This piece was written for the Kin+Dignity blog. Major shout-out to them for allowing me to share my words and this amazing layout! Enjoy!)

3 Ways to Manage Stress and Bring Back the Sunshine During Dark Times

When I sat down to write this article, I fought exaggerated thoughts and senseless doodles before I even began to outline what I wanted to write. Fast forward to ten minutes later and I still cease to have a full sentence written.

As I flipped through my mental Rolodex of topics to write about, I started feeling hopeless. Nothing was good enough. “I’ve already written about this, that topic didn’t age well, I don’t want to ruffle feathers with this one, etc.” Like an epiphany in the dead of night it came to me — Stress management.

When I realized that I couldn’t be creative due to the stressful thoughts taking up space in my head, I just had to laugh. In the past, I’ve touched on how stress can turn your brain into mush and create a mental and physical domino effect. Since then, I’ve learned more ways to cope outside of controlled substances and screaming into the pillow.

The current pandemic is a dark time for the world, and it may feel difficult to stay positive. There are plenty of ways to manage your stress and bring the sunshine back into your life. Being that I am not a licensed mental health professional, please keep in mind that these solutions are personal suggestions. Please reach out to a licensed mental health professional should you feel the need to. 

There’s power in thinking positively.

Photo by   Retha Ferguson
Photo by Retha Ferguson

To say that this is easier said than done is an extreme understatement. Resetting your mind to ALWAYS think the best takes a lot of practice, but it’s not unrealistic. I have found that the best way for me to manifest positive thoughts is to start with being present.

Take a deep breath and take in the environment. Give your mind a clean swipe, think positively about what you can do in that moment to make it work for you, and just DO IT. Don’t think, JUST DO. By proactively taking charge of that one positive thought, you invoke more positive actions and thoughts. Also, a good prayer reigns supreme!

When you feed your body good, your soul heals too.

Photo by   Retha Ferguson
Photo by Retha Ferguson

Believe me, when I say, I’m taking my own advice here. Curling up on the couch with a big bag of chips and a video game is my jam! Ten pounds and a dad gut later, I’m left with regrets and more hunger. Junk food is the devil in all its forms.

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a staple in every diet. Lean meats, less fatty foods, and healthy snacks like nuts, boiled eggs, or popcorn (my favorite) can be filling and comforting. Your body will totally thank you.

Get your blood flowing.

Photo by   nappy   from   Pexels
Photo by nappy from Pexels

Far be it from me to tell the next person to get some exercise. My workout routine mainly consists of a series of stretches followed by lifting food to my face. Whether you’re pumping iron, doing yoga, or going for a relaxing self-isolated run; it’s imperative that you stay active and keep your mind at ease. Healthy food and exercise go hand in hand!

These three tips have really helped me thus far. I hope they will help you effectively manage your stress as well without relying on alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behaviors to de-stress. Your peace starts with, is maintained by, and ends with YOU.  

Review: “Kasey” by Lowkey Kemp

Oklahoma City artist, Lowkey Kemp, is best described as a true original. He doesn’t adhere to any traditional rap guidelines and his formula is simply authentic. When you listen to his music, you’re not only getting powerful lyrics and soulful production, it is audible art. His album titled “Kasey” is a compelling retrospective on his life.

“Kasey” Album Cover

The album begins with an intro of Lowkey Kemp and Kasey having an intimate father and son moment and fades excellently into “World So Crazy”, a message of caution from father to son about the state of the world. The talented lyricist pairs heavy topics with a smooth hip-hip beat and a super catchy hook. (Trust me, you won’t be able to get it out of your head!) You can feel the love all over the record and it sets the tone for the entire LP.

The mellow “Soul Glow” is an ode to inner beauty and shuns the often shallow and deceptive outside world. One the album’s many highlights, and one of my favorite songs from the album is “Seen A Lot”. The beat catches your attention but the known measured flow that Lowkey Kemp commands keeps you engaged. This album is not only ambitious with the heavy content, it also features the variety needed to sustain a compelling listen. By the time you’ve made it to the bold and audacious “RNDRS” you’re absolutely going to be hooked. With lines like “Bullets ain’t got no name and niggas ain’t got no aim”, you‘ll be nodding your head and talking back in
agreement.

The honesty and familiarity throughout this project gives you that back-in-the-day, barbershop on a Saturday vibe. Bar-for-Bar, Kemp takes you on a spiritual journey through his heart and soul. Whether you have been a fan of Lowkey Kemp or just discovering him, “Kasey” will certainly not disappoint.

Lowkey Kemp in the studio with his son and album namesake, Kasey.

Kasey, the album’s namesake, is not to be upstaged by his talented father. He kicks off the uplifting and genius “Black Woman” with his rendition of a song I’ve never heard but his conviction in singing it makes it adorable and impressive nonetheless. “Black Woman” is not only an amazing record, but it’s also a pure and beautifully written open letter to Black women.

The album closes with the smooth and bass-heavy “Italya”, a sentimental and raw tribute to his beautiful wife and how they fell in love. He raps “It was love at first sight so I had to play my cards right.” This track will certainly leave your heart melting. It is most definitely a side of this artist a lot of fans will be surprised and pleased to see!

Lowkey Kemp definitely wanted to make a point with this album. The engaging delivery, impeccable collaborations, fully captivating lyrics, and nostalgic tone make this project a classic. It all adds up to an album that’s exactly what his fans have come to expect and then some. In a world where trap music is all the rage and artists come and go; it’s refreshing to have true lyricists like Lowkey Kemp bringing real hip-hop back to center stage.

-Landon Payne

C., Production: n0_DNA, Big Dew, Lowkey Kemp

The Virtue of Forgiveness

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

I have heard this saying so much it’s practically ingrained in my brain. When you’ve been hurt, it can be challenging to forgive. Some people even say that most victims find it easier not to overlook. It’s human to be resentful and angry with those who have hurt us. Holding onto that pain and anger is like a security blanket. Sadly, that security blanket is a slow killer. To truly move past the pain, we must forgive.

Forgiveness is actively overcoming the feeling of resentment or revenge for the person who has done wrong actions. How and when you chose to forgive is relative. Some of us take longer than others to tap out of the negative emotions. Also, some people feel like one action is more unforgivable than another. Others may feel like forgiving that person may encourage the wrongdoer to be offensive repeatedly. There may be times where the transgression is so severe that it causes a person to think differently about someone, never being able to forget what they did to them.

Putting yourself in place to forgive is incredibly crucial to your psyche. It is never easy to forgive someone who has wronged you in some way. People don’t forget betrayal, but forgiveness is still mandatory. It is especially hard to forgive someone if what they have done has immensely hurt you emotionally or physically. Forgiving is not weak and doesn’t make you look like a doormat. This act symbolizes love for yourself.

If you are being forgiven for something you did, be sure to SHOW why you deserve forgiveness. Asking for and being bestowed mercy is just step one. Show how grateful you are for being forgiven by involving the forgiving party. Words are powerful, but actions say so much more. Holding back forgiveness leads to more pain for us than the offender, and the practice of forgiveness is not a one-shot deal; it is a life-long discipline.

Stop Biting the Bullet On Gun Control

The state of America is in shambles. The number of mass shootings from 2016 to the present are absolutely alarming. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and mortally wounded 53 others in Orlando, Florida. Since that cataclysmic night, over 200 more mass shootings occurred; and that’s just the number for 2016! A staggering 273 mass shootings have ensued in America.
According to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, an average of more than 100,000 people are shot every year in the U.S. Also, an average of 289 people are shot. The Brady Campaign also reports that Eighty-Six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention. One person is killed by a gun every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week.

Many people are losing their lives behind senseless acts of violence, freak accidents, and, unfortunately, a constitutional right that allows Americans in all 50 states “to possess firearms for self-defense.” I believe everyone should know how to defend themselves, but some people don’t know the difference between defending and destroying. How many tragedies must we face before action is taken against guns?

Now that I have presented the statistics, let’s ask ourselves why Congress hasn’t taken action to find a solution? There are moments I get anxiety about being in a crowded area because I’m afraid someone is going to spray bullets across the room. We shouldn’t fear for our lives going to movie theaters, nightclubs, concerts and churches. This asinine violence is incomprehensible. I respect the Second Amendment and the rights of individuals, but we absolutely need to take action and be cautious of those we allow to carry firearms.

#MeToo

Every morning I wake up to the news. It’s difficult not to begin my day without Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Strahan and the rest of the “Good Morning America” family. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “news junkie” yet I still find it important to stay abreast on current events. Between our local news stations in Oklahoma City and the reports coming in from around the world, there are certain stories that stick with you. Amidst the deadly hurricanes and intractable wildfires (my thoughts and prayers are with the victims), the exposing of Hollywood film producer and movie magnate, Harvey Weinstein, and his history of sexual abuse have me reeling.

Some of Hollywood’s most revered actresses have gone public accusing Weinstein of sexual assault. Social media has erupted with think-pieces and emotional confessions from sexual assault victims using the tending topic “#MeToo”, a campaign started by Youth activist Tarana Burke in 2007. America Ferrara, Gabrielle Union, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and a host of other A-List actresses have broken their silence on sexual abuse and the effect it has on women and children. These revelations are so powerful and inspiring that I’m seeing stories shared from friends and family on Facebook.

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Actress and author, Gabrielle Union, has been transparent about surviing sexaul abuse. She shares this and more in her book “We’re Going To Need More Wine“.

The stories being revealed by sexual assault survivors about their abusers are harrowing. Ever since the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein came to light, the floor for this conversation has been opened. Many women, and men, have been shamed or threatened into keeping a secret that they don’t want to keep. Sexual abuse, assault and exploitation happen every day to people of all ages, races, and gender. According to Twitter, the #MeToo hashtag has been used over 825,000 times since Sunday.

Sunday, Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:

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She couldn’t have been more right. The confessions haven’t ceased since. When I’m listening to the radio, it’s the first topic of conversation. Have we looked over sexual abuse for so long that we’ve turned a blind eye and ear to it?

Sexual violence is an epidemic we must take more earnestly as a society. Acknowledging and understanding sexual assault is the first step toward working to end it. The list of effects of sexual violence has on a survivor are endless. We can advance towards a future where this reality ceases to be. Our community’s ethical/moral principles should be evolving toward paying growing attention to the emotional aftereffects of all sexual encounters.

Mental Health and the Black Community

The topic of mental health as it pertains to Black people is one that is rarely discussed. I needed to conduct some research prior to writing this to further educate myself on the matter. Over the years, I have had family and friends suffering from a mental illness that they weren’t aware of. It wasn’t always discussed openly amongst family. After perusing multiple articles, my eyes were opened to a bevy of information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Service, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic Whites. Life-altering events like the death of a loved one, illness; and “psycho-social” issues such as unemployment, crime in our communities, and racism just to name a few, contribute to psychological distress. With everything going on in our world today, just imagine how many of us are suffering mentally. A lot of us are suffering in silence because of how we were raised. In some cases, we don’t feel comfortable disclosing how we’re feeling because we don’t want to hear “just pray about it” or “you just need to man up”.

Everyday we’re losing people due to suicide because they don’t know what else to do. By not investing in our mental health and the mental health of those closest to us, we do ourselves a great disservice.  The topic of mental health in regards to Black people is so taboo and the stigma is damaging.

A piece in Ebony magazineA piece in Ebony magazine featured Simone Sneed, Director of Development and External Affairs for Inwood House. Sneed has also suffered from bipolar disorder. She considers herself “episode free, med-free and hospital free for over three years”. In the piece she credited her mother with investing in her mental health. What stood out to me was what she said about why the Black community approaches mental health the way we do:

“Historically, African Americans have normalized our own suffering. During slavery, mental illness often resulted in a more inhumane lifestyle including frequent beatings and abuse, which forced many slaves to hide their issues. Over time, strength became equated with survival and weakness (including mental illness) meant you might not survive.”

I have heard this before and it still makes me shiver when I think about it. What our ancestors endured all of those years ago has evolved into a self-harming way of thinking. As a strong and resilient people, we have to learn how to lean on each other more. Having a mental illness is not a weakness. If you or someone you know feels like they need to seek professional help, don’t take it lightly or be embarrassed. This is not a “White person’s disease”, it affects us all.  We are entitled to our feelings, good and bad. No one’s feelings are invalid. We must address this issue head on and end the stigma of mental illness.

Save Classen Circle

The history of the Donnay Building stretches far beyond my 29 years of life. The building was commissioned by architect and its namesake, Matt Donnay, in 1948. Over the years, this landmark became home to many well-known establishments like the Patio Restaurant, the Drunken Fry, and the fabulous Hi Lo Club. Sadly, just a few months ago Braum’s announced their plan to demolish the iconic Donnay Building and the building where Classen Grill is located. Many Oklahomans are outraged and are doing everything they can to counter this plan.

Braums
The Classen Circle at NW 50th and Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

In July, protestors gathered in front of the Donnay Building to protest. Generations of people showed up. I have read accounts from people who ate at the Patio Restaurant and others who have had their first drink at the Hi Lo Club. I absolutely love Classen Grill. The food is delicious and the staff is always welcoming. I had no idea that they’ve been operating there since 1980! I have passed through Classen Circle all my life and I always wondered why the ugly building in the middle was so popular. As an adult, I have enjoyed Classen Circle favorites like Edna’s, SpeakEasy, and of course, the Hi Lo Club.

A good friend of mine introduced me to the Hi Lo Club last year. I had never heard of the place, but I really enjoyed myself and met some pretty awesome people. Soon after I learned that the Hi Lo Club is more than an average “hole-in-the-wall”. This establishment has served as a place of refuge for LGBT individuals since 1956 and is historic to the entire OKC community. To wipe away something so special to so many people is unethical and contemptible. To make matters worse, there is another Braum’s that already exists on NW 17th and Classen, less than ten minutes up the street from the Donnay Building! How many Braum’s locations do we need? The food really isn’t THAT good and they always seem to be out of Butter Pecan and Rocky Road!

I’m asking all of you reading this to help us save the Donnay Building and Classen Circle. This space means a lot to so many people in our community, especially those who work there. So many compassionate and hard-working people would lose their jobs and plenty of warm memories. Braum’s isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t believe we need yet ANOTHER location here in Oklahoma City.

For more information on how you can help save this historical landmark visit facebook.com/SaveClassenCircle. I will also provide information on my Facebook page facebook.com/LandonsViewsOn, as well. Or you can contact Braum’s directly at 405-478-1656 or send a message at www.braums.com/contact-us/general.

Rachel Doazal & the Media Circus

If you have been living under a rock you don’t know about Rachel Dolezal, head of the local NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. Dolezal is a White woman who has lived and identifies herself as an African-American woman. Her estranged mother claims that she is “being dishonest and deceptive with her identity”. Dolezal has built a successful career as an expert on and advocate for the black community. Not only is she president of her local NAACP chapter; she is also an academic expert on African-American culture and teaches many related classes at Eastern Washington University.

Rachel Doazal (pictured) has been exposed for “being dishonest and deceptive with her identity”.
Rachel Doazal (pictured) has been exposed for “being dishonest and deceptive with her identity”.

In my opinion, I feel this entire charade is a well-timed distraction from the recent event in McKinney where an African-American teenage girl was attacked by a White police officer. This young lady has been scarred for life, but we’re more worried about a White woman wanting to be Black and is actually doing some good for our community. Don’t get me wrong, I am not justifying Rachel Doazal’s actions. It’s alarming to see how easily distracted our society is when it comes to things that matter most.

I’m sure most of you didn’t know that Rachel Doazal has also appeared alongside Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has filed charges against police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man. Is it a coincidence that this story of her deception in regards to her race is coming to light now? Are we not to believe that those who worked closely with her and her family didn’t know about this? The NAACP is standing by her saying:

“One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership,” the group said. “The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.”

To me that says not many members cared (if they knew) about her secret. Her service and dedication to the organization stood out above her color.

Without further digression, I’d like to go on record as saying that a lot of us have small, one-track minds. Our society is so fickle and inconsistent in the things we stand up for and care about. We’re all standing up and protesting for Black lives but we destroy Black lives in the media every day. Developments have been posted about the case of the little girl in McKinney and a lot of us are so busy discussing “the fake Black lady”, we’re losing momentum on a greater issue.

Wake up, friends. The media is playing a game with us and we can’t let them win. Black lives matter and they will always matter. Let’s notbe blinded by the smoke and mirrors. This is all a circus act.

Sources: CNN, Buzzfeed