Right about now, it affects everyone. Mental health has always been a taboo subject particularly in minority communities, until now. A lack of understanding by families, friends, and individuals, alongside a fear of being associated with the stigma of mental illness have created roadblocks to mental health. Words like disturbed, sad, broken, crazy or lazy come into the mix, but all of the above is FALSE! Mental health is all about the wellbeing of the brain, and since we all own one, it’s an issue for all of us.
The health of our minds is associated with things like genetics (depression and the impact of trauma runs in families), environmental stressors (like a pandemic or witnessing injustice), social (role ambiguity, poor relationships), or cultural factors (norms, beliefs). The behaviors or responses associated with mental illness can’t be ignored, and isn’t any one person’s fault. However, unless we are proactive in addressing the evident mental health needs associated with the pandemic and recent events, there will be enormous long-term consequences for everyone.
Similar to any other health condition, it is important that we take care of our mental health, and do our part to protect it. You would be surprised at how simple it is to get grounded, recharge, and reclaim your mental health. Read more
If you weren’t exercising your self-worth before this apocalyptic level crisis by balancing daily demands with our natural need to say “no”, “rest” and “recharge”, well for sure, the time has come to indulge and nurture what you’ve neglected. Don’t presume that one takes a back seat while navigating the new demands of remote work, google classroom or a looming recession. Regardless of your evolving role, pausing to engage in self-care may be one of the key tools to protect your energy so we can survive and thrive through this pandemic.
Let’s call out this thing for what it is, insane! It’s a profound loss of control that has shown up in every aspect of our lives and that is exactly what trauma is. Adding on to this ordeal is the physical and mental strain on our health. This shows up differently for everyone depending on several factors like emotional support, ability to self-care and skills to cope. It may look like irritability, restlessness, constant worry, a decrease in productivity, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, increased flashbacks, self-doubt, depression and more.
Why self-care? We all need to take time out to decompress and let some of the steam off. This lessens the impact of stress and worry that is building in the background.
Raise your hand if you aren’t stressed and worried. . .crickets.
Pausing means taking time to nurture your needs and for some, some untreated emotional wounds.
How to get started– Take a minute (actually get out a piece of paper and a timer and set it for one minute) and jot down all the things you love to do or maybe wanted to do but just didn’t have the time to do. Now push yourself a little bit further for the next five minutes and think deeper about what you really need to nurture right now. Now take a look at your loves list and consider what you can add to further nurture your needs. For example, going to church is one way I recharge but I don’t have access to this form of reconnecting right now, at least not in the same way. Nevertheless, I can listen to a YouTube worship service or dynamic inspirational song at my desk while at work daily. I can add devotionals to my nurture list or learning a bible based affirmation. My strength comes from the Lord.
Once you have your list ready, the next part just requires regular and consistent action on your part. Take a few things from your list, especially the ones you can do now considering the circumstances and build it into your daily schedule. That’s it.
Your Pandemic Edition Plan might look like this:
Pausing daily to check in with what you need emotionally, physically and spiritually. Notice it and nurture it. Maybe incorporate some meditation or mindfulness practices. Check out the calm.com app, Headspace or Stop Breathe Think. A colleague and I are also hosting a Virtual Wellness Summit on 4.25.20 to help you pause, reconnect and recharge. You should come, it’s free. Register on Eventbrite: https://bit.ly/34OuTOT. Or consider other similar events.
Figure out your daily routine to incorporate the items you love and to make sure you are creating things to look forward to during your day. Without goal directed action it’s easier to lose track of time and procrastinate as days blend together. Read, write, take a drawing class or enroll in a free course at Yale (yup, that’s happening).
Take time to connect: Call, text, or even write to a loved one or a friend to not just see how they are doing, but to chat about live, practice being social, and maybe as a byproduct find inspiration to you. Of course its ok to set limits on this. If you just don’t feel like talking, that’s ok. Another great option is joining some online groups with friends or finding events like the one mentioned above through Eventbrite or maybe even link up with a charitable group to be of service to others and foster a sense of connection while supporting your community.
Move your body. Your body is craving to be noticed and to move. There is freedom and healing in our bodies, especially when we connect it to silence or the rhythm of our ancestors. Try a free yoga application like Down Dogg in the App store or free online workouts being offered by YMCA. You can also join in on the IG DJ Battles and dance it off, or maybe even join your kids for a “Just Dance” session in the Livingroom.
Get outside. Walk, run or just sit outside and get some fresh air and sun. Kick off your shoes and feel the earth beneath you- we call this type of grounding “earthing”. As you ground yourself use that time to think about a few reasons to be grateful.
Continue to ground yourself in the one thing that you have control over: Simple acts of self-care and nourishment of one’s mind. Taking it in step by step each day. I am grateful for you, proud of you for doing the best you can, and wish you endless days of self-love, care, compassion, phenomenal health and healing.
We are resilient people. Our minds, however, were not designed to handle this level of direct exposure to trauma. From our medical and mental health workers with first hand visuals of the brutally of Covid-19, to the rest of society inundated with daily updates meant to inform us, yet simultaneously engaging us in the narrative of secondary trauma. By bearing witness to the magnitude of loss and uncertainty, we become living fatalities of trauma.
There is no way we can ingest over 6,500 people losing their lives in New York City, all the while still adapting to the consequences of this illness- from loss of income, to adjusting to life at home, to a virtual way of existing, and claim to be ok. Without question, we are not ok.
The secret toll of this pandemic is the one that’s brewing in our minds with each passing day that we shelter in place, or go out to work as an essential worker. The depth of what that means I had a chance to discuss with several professionals in the field and they all agree we are all in response mode, but slowly unraveling. However, here is what to look for and what to do.
The signs of traumatic stress:
Changes in sleep including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Increased irritability and arguments
Fear you can’t shake
Physical ailments like headaches or stomach aches, or tightness in the chest or arm that last a few days
Increased anxiety and worry
According to Charles Darwin it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. To increase your resiliency these experts suggested:
Pause and check in with yourself. What is your body saying to you? What do you need right now? Nurture that.
Maintain a routine to keep your mind and body active and stimulated.
Acknowledge when you don’t feel your best, or when it’s hard or that you are just overwhelmed. The truth is, this is all out of our control and you are not alone in how you feel.
Do whatever action you can to foster a sense of empowerment. What can you control? What can you do?
Disconnect from social media and even from your family or friends. Create a sacred space to de-stress and inforce boundaries where needed.
Know its ok to cry and take the pressure off.
Build pause and self-care in every day.
An important resource is also any option to talk about your experiences and get some support. Therapy is a wonderful resources and if you need help finding a therapist reach out to us at 347-868-7813. The Office of Mental Health also offer a free and confidential support line: 1844-863-9314. Now is a great time to boost your mental health and you don’t have to do that alone with fantastic telehealth options available. For more great insights and tips catch the full episode at www.facebook.com/therapyisdope or watch it here.
Anxiety affects over 40 million people worldwide, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It is one of the top 3 reasons people come into therapy. When you think about anxiety you usually correlate it with easily flustered, nervous, scared, and constricted because of impossible thoughts about uncertain outcomes. All of the above is true, but most recently we’ve seen an increase in successful clients at Kensho Psychotherapy, who can achieve high levels of success because of their anxiety, but still find themselves unhappy, anxious, and overwhelmed. High-functioning anxiety is the term used to describe folks who are ambitious, high achievers, and also anxious. Didn’t know that was a thing did you? Well, it is. You would be surprised to know that anxiety for them is constant and unpleasant, even though their accomplishments make it seem like everything is extraordinary. They however, secretly can’t enjoy their success, and are constantly at war with themselves and relentless expectations.
So how do you know if this is you? It may look like this:
• To-do lists for the to-do list
• Always expecting the worst in terms of your performance despite prior success (those are conveniently forgotten)
• A high demand for excellence that may show up as perfectionism
• Mental and physical exhaustion
• Constant overthinking or worry
• Jam-packed schedule due to an inability to say “no”
• The Workaholic – staying late to do just one more thing and not hesitating to take work home
• Never satisfied with gains and already thinking about what’s next
• Procrastination galore
• A clandestine fear of failure
Are you thinking, “Yes that is me?.” Often those who suffer from high functioning anxiety may ask themselves, “How did I get here?”. It can evolve from genetics, brain chemistry, or in response to personal life events (like a deep fear of failing and becoming like your parents, or underlying feelings of shame or guilt related to a trauma, so you work hard, ALL THE TIME) and is often an automatic process that is out your control.
Regardless of the reason, it’s not your fault! You may not have total control over the chemical make-up of your brain, and you certainly didn’t choose your life circumstances, but now it’s up TO YOU to figure it out.
This is where brilliance comes in to restore balance:
1. Get grounded. Clear your mind and recharge your energy by practicing techniques such as deep breathing and focusing on the present. When you are fully present, or have the mental dexterity to bring yourself back using your breath, it reduces anxiety. Think of it as training your mind to come back to center or back “home.”
Follow Your Breath
Dim the lights or close your eyes, and as you inhale (big breath in), trace the air as it enters your nose or mouth and goes into your lungs, and as you exhale (release), follow the air leaving your lungs and exiting your nose or mouth. Repeat for a few breaths.
This grounding technique gets more effective with practice. The key is to pay attention to your breathing, notice if your mind wanders, and if it does, say “that’s ok” and gently bring it back to the breath. Let your body lead and your mind will follow. Set a timer and try it for 2-3 minutes and build your practice from there.
2. Evaluate your lifestyle – Gain the upper hand by treating your body like the queen or king that it is. Commit to going to bed an hour earlier every day this week to get more sleep (ok, pick one night to start), get in at least one healthy meal (go light on the carbs), and embrace some form of exercise. These slight changes are rejuvenating and helps you better tackle the mental mind field of anxiety.
3. Utilize mantras – a positive personal statement that counters those unhelp automatic thoughts like “I’m never going to be successful” or “I messed up”. It can work wonders on one’s self-esteem, confidence, and even create a calming effect for you and your frazzled nerves. Try one like: “I am ____” and fill in the blank with what you need, like capable or strong. You can also try one of acknowledgment and reassurance, like “I am scared and I’m going to do this anyway”. There are even apps for this, so get connected and be consistent with your practice.
4. Practice saying “no” – often those with high-functioning anxiety overextend themselves by saying yes to every invitation thrown their way. Do yourself a favor and say “no thanks” every once in a while. You don’t even need to explain yourself or feel bad about it because having a healthy mind and choosing you first is reason enough.
5. Ask for help – You may be thinking, “I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems.” Many who struggle with these issues suffer in silence. Keep in mind that while deep breathing and affirmations go a long way, at some point you have to tackle the core issues you are probably avoiding. This is where therapy is dope and can help anxiety sufferers understand their love hate relationship with anxiety, unpack core beliefs, and teach how to break up with anxiety and enjoy your success. You deserve that.
Kensho Psychotherapy Services is located in Valley Stream, NY and specializes in Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma. Amanda Fludd LCSW-R is the Executive Director.
So, you’ve finally decided it’s time to see a therapist, only to find out there are many types of professionals, including Psychiatrists, Social Workers, LCSW’s, Ph.D’s, and MHC’s, who address many issues like childhood trauma, depression after a job loss, managing a break up, life transitions and more, which can make the search confusing. It’s important to know it can take a bit of research, time, trial and error, and patience.
To help you better navigate finding a therapist or mental health provider, we have compiled a super easy list below. Several professionals across the U.S. have joined in collaboration of this project, including Amanda Fludd, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R) and NYC Therapist, to give you all the tools you need to navigate the challenging task of finding a psychotherapist.
Start with a Licensed Professional. A licensed professional means the person in front of you has had to meet a standard of supervised training and education and took an exam designated by their State governing body to earn their license. Their license usually also requires them to take additional training to maintain their license, so they are constantly learning and growing. If someone is unlicensed, you will want to ask if they are supervised by a licensed professional (get their name and research them), and how that would work in your case. Some limited permit holders or interns are examples of unlicensed professionals who can help, if they have quality supervision and regular oversight to best address your
The fit. Knowing yourself and the type of person you best respond to is essential in this process. For example, if you’ve experienced a traumatic experience with a male, you may not be ready to talk openly and honestly with a male therapist. In general, you want to feel comfortable with your When looking for one, something about their description when researching should speak to your need. Fit is important to us at Kensho Psychotherapy Services. From the initial consult, we are listening to your needs and assessing who on the team would be a good fit.
We always recommend staying with your therapist for at least two months to see if a working therapeutic relationship can develop where you are open, you’ve developed goals, and feel like you are doing work in therapy. Therapy is a beautiful working process, and sometimes it’s just not the right fit for the client and therapist. You as the client, may also come to realize you may not be ready to commit to the time therapy requires, or face deep emotional work, and on the other hand, the therapist may recognize your needs like complex trauma, anxiety or chronic depression are out their scope of practice, and in that case refer you out. If you just want general support and direction, and less intensive work, you may benefit more from a counselor, that unlicensed intern, or a life coach. At Kensho Psychotherapy we treat the difficult and offer deep connections and strategies and specifically specialize in general anxiety, depression, trauma work and minority mental health.
Be patient. As more people are looking for therapy, it means there may be wait-lists and trouble getting through to someone on the other line. It helps to reach out to multiple providers that may be a fit and leave a message with your concern, type of insurance, and the best number that you can be reached. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t reach the first person you call. Other places to look include Psychologytoday.com, Therapy for Black Girls, or just reach out to us here, and we will do our best to connect you.
4. I’ve found someone, now what? It is important to know that everyone is nervous for the first appointment and your therapist will be asking you lots of questions to figure out what’s going on, and if they can help. You can also ask questions too because you need to know if this is a potential match for you as well. Just go right with this list and ask:
Have you treated other clients with my particular issue?
Do you have a niche you enjoy working with? What about a particular clinical approach? Can you tell me more about that?
What will sessions look like?
What happens if I’m not comfortable, and this isn’t working out, how would we end services?
How long have you been practicing and are you a licensed professional?
If unlicensed, what has your training looked like and are you under supervision? Can I have your supervisors name.
Is it easy to reach you, how can I reach you in an emergency, or non-emergency?
Therapy isn’t always pretty; it’s work. With these tips, you are well on your way to finding a good connection on your journey to a healthier and more balanced you.