We’re always on the hunt for the next great bedtime routine. In our Sleeping With… series, we ask people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life how they make sleep magic happen.
It’s far from news that there is a lack of space and resources allocated for Black women to heal. And as Black people face inequitable barriers to health care and treatment during COVID-19, the onslaught of police and vigilante killings that have occurred during the pandemic, and the resulting protests, the urgent need for such a space has only become all the more apparent.
This historical lack of one is precisely why Jasmine Marie, an Atlanta-based breathwork practitioner and business school graduate, founded Black Girls Breathing in 2018. Originally, Black Girls Breathing, or BGB, offered in-person and virtual meditation and breathwork classes created specifically with Black healing in mind. Over the next couple of years, BGB would expand, making countrywide tours and teaching breathwork in cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston.
When the pandemic hit, BGB went completely virtual, offering a now-monthly breathwork circle that participants can join on a sliding scale from $0 to $25. After George Floyd was killed, Marie again prioritized accessibility, launching a crowdfunding mission to completely cover the costs of breathwork classes for 100 or more Black women for a full year. Now, BGB has increased its fundraising goal for 2021 even further so that the business “can commit to making [its] virtual breathwork circles accessible (free and low cost) forever,” according to the fundraising page.
“As someone who’s in the healing business, as business grows that means that I’m holding space for more people,” Marie tells SELF. “That means more energy. That means I get tired faster. I really had to relearn what it looks like to rest and how I rest; to be honest in what I need in this particular chapter, and finding that what worked before is not working now.” Here, Marie walks SELF through her bedtime routine as a startup founder and wellness practitioner, including how she’s shifted her rituals during the pandemic, how she handles “self-care shame,” and the short exercise she uses to thank herself each night.
On Monday evenings, I have my meal prep service from a local chef here in Atlanta delivered.
It’s an affordable meal plan and I’m so excited about that. It gives me more time to rest in the week and not have to worry about how I nourish myself. Then, Monday evenings at 8 p.m. I have Reiki. I try to cut off right after Reiki and let it lead into bedtime. But last night was a different story—my body was not shutting down, so I just listened to a podcast and turned on a little bit of reality TV.
At a certain time in the evening, I don’t have bright lights on.
I have a heated candle in my room that gives off light, and I’ll light another candle. When I take my evening shower, I never use the full light. I always either have a candle or a plug-in heated candle for light, just because that ritual is like washing away the day, or everything that worried me at the beginning of the day, cleansing that away.
My room is very minimal. I have my favorite colors in there: rose gold, white, and oak.
That’s also been a ritual, finding the art that I like to finish some of my walls so it can feel like home. But I love to keep a minimal space. I have candles on all the time. All the time. There are so many candles. I even have candles in the drawers and stuff, and they’re ready and on deck when I need a new one. Candles are my jam.
I love to keep a very low sensory space. Low lights, very soothing scents.
Right now I’ve got blue fir smells in my candle warmer. I love the wooden [wicks] because it’s also auditory with the crackle. I tap into all five of my senses when it comes to creating a space that feels super vibey and calm and in alignment with how I want to relax and fall asleep.
I don’t have any TV in my bedroom, and even if I work on my bed there’s something about the energy of the charge cord to my laptop being visible [that bothers me], so it has to go away either in my office space or in my drawer. When I’m ready to roll over and breathe a bit or turn on a meditation to make me fall asleep, I put my computer in a drawer so I don’t see it. Then I don’t feel that work energy. I don’t wake up to seeing my laptop as the first thing in the morning and then being like, “I need to work.”
Before I fall asleep, I give myself what I need, and breathwork isn’t it every night.
It could just be I’m lying down listening to my favorite lo-fi music and that puts me to sleep and gets me in the vibe I want. It could be a podcast. I love a good bedtime story meditation. Sometimes I may incorporate a breathwork exercise, but it’s always based on what I need in the moment. I love a good body scan coupled with thanking each part of my body as I go down, like: “Thank you, head and mind, for getting me through the day, and thank you, hands, for helping me serve.” I also say thank you to my body when I’m moisturizing in the morning. As I’m moisturizing, I’m saying thank you to each and every body part.
Something that has helped me make sure I stay asleep is moving my body.
Even before the pandemic, just getting a walk in was so helpful to clear my mind, and I would try to do that midday and evening: walking with headphones and just being in touch with nature and being away from my phone. Once quarantine happened I wasn’t able to get in the gym, and home workouts just were not hitting it for me. I recently got a virtual personal trainer and we just set a schedule where I do Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays [one week], and then the next week I do Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m putting things on my calendar that make me stop working and switch into the mode of “It’s Jasmine time,” and I think that’s something that any founder will say they struggle with.
When you have that growth spurt and there’s a million things that need to get done and you’re hiring, you may not have the help you need in one area, so you take it on yourself. I’ve just been super kind to myself during that period. Rest is important, yes, but there are chapters in your life when you’ll put in a little more work and stay up later than you desire. This is normal. Feeling the stress of being a business founder, there’s nothing wrong with me in that. I’ve just been really kind to myself on that and I am reconfiguring how I rest.
I even tell some of my friends that telling me to rest does not help me, because it makes me feel shame.
Grace is so important. I think my rest ritual includes a lot of grace. I would say that the consistent thing in all of this is just being very direct with those close to me about what I need and what I need to hear at this time. I would tell friends, “You saying, ‘Take a break and rest’ is not helpful right now.” Telling someone to “take a break” is such a huge blanket statement.
Detaching from needing a set schedule right now has also provided rest for me.
I realize a lot of the shame—a lot of the weight and extra work and energy—feels like, “What’s the new thing? What’s the new schedule?” You’ve got to have one now, and that’s not how it’s working for me. Every day I ask myself what I need, and I try to give myself that. Some days it’s great. Some days it’s like, try again tomorrow. In my work, too, I always preach that your self-care evolves with you. It feels like more pressure and more work for me to be like, “Here’s my set routine.”
When I am not getting a full eight hours of sleep, I detach from any shame related to that.
As much as possible, show yourself compassion for what you’re able to do right now even if you can’t fall asleep. How much more stress gets added from the thought process of “You should be sleeping”? That makes things so much worse than pure acceptance of “I’m having a hard time sleeping tonight and that’s okay. There’s a lot going on in the world. There’s a lot of stress and anxiety. I’m having a hard time. What can I do for myself in this moment that would feel good?” and just switching that internal voice to one that’s more supportive than one that’s shameful and based in the should. A lot of us have issues living in the “should” world, and who can blame us? That’s how we’ve been indoctrinated to motivate ourselves. It really doesn’t help us in the long run to shame ourselves. Instead, we should use lots of self-compassion and understand that “Hey, I’m having a hard time sleeping and that’s okay. I’m human. I’m feeling all that’s going on in the world. The world is stressful. I feel stress in my body because of the stress happening externally. That’s okay and normal. Nothing’s wrong with me.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.