When you think about living your best life what comes to mind? Do you imagine yourself jet-setting to fabulous locations around the world? Do you picture what you would be doing once you finally make the salary you deserve? Do you imagine yourself getting married and building a life with a doting partner? Often, when we think about living our best lives we focus on the external. For many of us, living our best life is about the way we look, where we are traveling, the parties we are going to, our relationships, the jobs we have, how much money we make, etc. While these external things can certainly help us to live our best lives, I’d like to propose that the most impactful way to approach living your best life is from the inside out.
Have you ever found that after the first few months of having a new car or kitchen appliance the excitement wears off? Have you gotten tired of the pattern of partying and recovering? Have you ever noticed that two weeks after returning from your vacation you were longing for the next one? I think if we’re honest with ourselves the positive effects of these external things that make it look like we are living our best lives wears off fairly quickly. We often overlook the fact that we need to live our best lives from the inside out in order to have the lasting joy that many of us are longing for. We may go on a vacation hoping for peace only to find that we’ve brought our harsh and critical mind along with us. We may find ourselves distracted and disengaged when we are doing things we enjoy. We may find that our obligations to other people keep us from living for ourselves. The following are my recommendations for ways to live your best life from the inside out. My hope is that these approaches to living your best life will help every day to feel better and also enhance your enjoyment of the fun, instagram-worthy activities that you engage in. Continue reading “Living Your Best Life from the Inside Out”→
I notice a tightness in my chest and an empty feeling in my abdomen. It’s uncomfortable. I am able to identify these sensations as signaling feelings of sadness and anger for me. I remind myself to accept these feelings as I’ve learned from both professional training and spiritual teachings. I am able to sit with the feeling for a moment or two and then my mind is off and running. Coming up with explanations about why I feel this way. Blaming someone who I think is at fault for me feeling this way. Blaming myself. Thinking of things to help me feel better. Maybe if I listen to a spiritual teaching, eat some chocolate, or drink some wine I’ll fee better. Maybe if I get some reassurance or affirmation, I’ll feel better. This usually continues for a few minutes and then in a moment of space between thoughts I am able to step back and gently remind myself to just feel it. To welcome these painful feelings like a cute puppy and to offer the feelings and myself some comfort. This is hard. I know I’m progressing in this area because my awareness of what is happening has increased. But this awareness has made it easier to see how much my mind tries to help me escape these feelings with strategies that would probably help me to feel good in the moment but ultimately don’t allow me to process and release what I’m experiencing. Continue reading “Being There for Yourself in Times of Pain”→
I started to feel overwhelmed again last Tuesday morning. My to do list felt too long and the hours to get things done felt too short. I needed time to rest but felt stuck in the commitments I had already made. The combination of needing a break from work and managing a few projects outside of work was pushing my ideal balance of busyness too far. I have always tended to do too much. However, over the last few years, I have made an effort to increase my time for rest and self-care, to get comfortable spending time relaxing and not doing anything productive. Though I’ve gotten better at cutting back when I start to feel overwhelmed and saying no to things that I don’t have time for, I still struggle with these things and am making efforts to grow in this area.
It is essential for us as Black women to take a hard look at the ways we are complicit in wearing ourselves down. The stress we hold from always carrying a heavy load and taking on too much contributes to the negative health outcomes that we see among Black women. Higher rates of mortality from breast cancer and heart disease and higher rates of other physical illnesses. We also know that stress is a trigger for mental illness. There are a myriad of societal factors outside of our control that negatively impact our health and well being and it’s important that we take responsibility for the things we can control like how much we do.
There are a number of things the cause us to do too much and I’m highlighting them in this post. I encourage you to take some time to reflect honestly on the things that cause you to do too much in your life. To think about the things that prevent you from creating space for the rest and care that you need. Continue reading “Freeing Yourself from the Trap of Trying to Do it All”→
2016 has been a rough year for many of us. There have been deaths, losses, grief, disappointments, heartbreak, and more. It is easy to dismiss 2016 as a horrible year that we would like to forget. However, when we don’t reflect on what we’ve been through, we miss the opportunity to learn from what we’ve experienced and move forward in healthy and constructive ways. It can be alluring to externalize all of the hard things we went through, feeling as though we had no role to play, no power or agency in difficult situations. While this is any easy stance to take, it puts us in a passive position and keeps us from learning from our experiences. Additionally, when we fail to take stock of what has happened we may overlook things that feel proud of or positively about.
Despite the challenges most of us have faced this year, the beauty, creativity and strength of Black women has shone through 2016. Black women have continued to lead as activists, in the arts and entertainment industries, in business, politics, sports, literature, and health care fields. We have continued to push the needle forward, speaking truth to power, advocating for our communities, and encouraging each other along the way. It has been a tough year and like a tea bag put into hot water our bold, sweet, strong flavors have been highlighted as we were immersed in 2016. Continue reading “Year of the Black Woman: Taking Stock & Moving Forward”→
Last week Kid Cudi courageously shared his struggle with depression with his fans and the world. I hope that this starts a trend that enables more people to feel comfortable opening up about their mental health struggles and and seeking help. Mental illnesses can develop from traumas that we have experienced, overwhelming stress, genetic factors, or not learning healthy ways to cope with daily stress. No matter how mental illness develops, there is no reason to feel shame about it. Mental illnesses should be thought of as symptoms on a continuum. Many of us experience symptoms of mental illnesses from time to time and sometimes those symptoms meet criteria for a mental health disorder. We all should take steps to promote our own mental health just like we work to maintain our physical health. That is one reason I started posting Daily Mental Health Tips on my Twitter and FB pages.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audrey Lorde
We are in the midst of troubling times and it’s not clear when we will get relief. In my last post I talked about the trauma many of us are experiencing in response to the killing of black and brown people in the US. After I shared my post, many of us witnessed the shooting of 11 people, most of whom were police officers, by a black man who stated that he was angry at police and white people, and seemingly fed up by the frequent and disproportional killings of black people by police. This has heightened already elevated tensions between black people and police. No matter where you fall in the context of this debate, as black people it is essential that we take care of ourselves during these trying times. Continue reading “Self-Care: A Form of Activism”→
A couple of weeks ago two articles came out highlighting a study, which found that black and poor people seeking therapy in New York City are much less likely to be called back by therapists. These findings are disheartening and as a psychologist and advocate for black women’s mental health it is something I must address. While I am well aware of the history of racism in the field of psychology, I naively hoped that the mandates for diversity training and modest increase in racial/ethnic diversity among psychologists was doing enough to address ongoing issues of racism and discrimination among therapists. Sadly, it turns out that not nearly enough progress has been made. It is frustrating to know that after someone has the courage to acknowledge their need for therapeutic help and takes the steps to find a therapist, they may have to call a large number therapists to find someone to work with or even return their call. Continue reading “Addressing Therapist Discrimination”→
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns that people experience and black women are no exception. The pressures that black women face related to handling responsibilities at work and home, with family and friends can lead to anxiety. Feeling like you have to work twice as hard to be recognized or that you have to do everything perfectly for fear that a mistake will not only reflect badly on you but on the entire race is anxiety provoking. Further, worrying about your physical and emotional safety and weathering the jabs of microagressions is exhausting and can lead us to be on edge. While anxiety is an understandable response to these difficult circumstances, it is associated with increases in cortisol (stress hormone), which can cause our bodies to function poorly over time. Understanding our anxiety and learning to manage it while we work to change the systems and circumstances that make us more likely to experience stress is essential for our health and well being. Continue reading “Understanding & Managing Anxiety”→
The last time I was really depressed was in response to a break up; unexpected heartbreak sent me into a depressive episode that took a few months to pass. I was crying frequently, my appetite was low and I started to lose weight, I’m usually an outgoing and sociable person but I didn’t want to spend time with my friends, my energy and mood were low, and I felt sad most of the time.
Sometimes depression comes in response to a difficult experience like a break up, the loss of a friendship, or a loved one passing away. Other times, depression emerges unexpectedly and without a clear trigger. No matter what prompts depression, it seems to roll in like a heavy thundercloud, weighing on us, making the air thick and hard to move through, blocking out the sun and warmth, and causing us to question what life was like without this cloud of depression and to wonder whether whether this storm will ever pass.
Boundaries are important. I’m not talking about defensive walls or impenetrable barriers. I’m talking about the things that allow you to know what your limits are, what types of relationships you are comfortable with, and how far you are willing to go in various situations. As black women we may vacillate between having boundaries that let everything and everyone in and putting up emotionally concrete walls for protection. This dynamic reflects the tension that many of us feel between wanting to be loved and cared for and feeling the need to proactively or re-actively defend ourselves against being hurt emotionally. Unfortunately, too many of us have experienced the pain of heartbreak and betrayal that prompt us to build emotional walls which may be moderately successful at keeping us from getting hurt again but also prevent us from experiencing joy and connection. Continue reading “Establishing Healthy Boundaries”→