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
Covid 19 has reached new milestones not just in mass casualties, but in consequential losses as we grapple with epic rates of change. From grieving the loss of a loved one, or tangible losses like graduations, friendships within classrooms, being furloughed from work, the ability to go anywhere as we continue to shelter in place, or even a loss of safety in the context of recent community issues. Grief is a response to loss to which a bond or affection was formed. Simply put, grief is love. A love that exists across multiple dimensions including spiritual, philosophical, and social dimensions. It’s an experience we will all have just because we exist.
Grief brings with it many different emotions like sadness, guilt, disbelief, confusion, shock and anger. The emotions have often been described as a rollercoaster and can quickly leave its mark emotionally and physically, whether or not you realize it. Unfortunately, loss and change have always been a part of our history and always will be, but we have learned some fundamental ways to deal with it.
Here are some tips to help you embrace your grief and loss:
Take your time. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel as though you’re taking too long to process your loss or that you have to get over it and “move on”. There is no time frame on how you experience grief. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. With all the emotions that you experience, acknowledge and feel it as much as you may want to hide from it or make it go away. We can’t get around the pain, but can work our way through it and begin to create new meaning and experiences that work around your loss.
Give yourself credit. Don’t beat yourself up for the way you feel about the loss. Acknowledge your growth as you progress through your healing process. Allow this to happen naturally. (For example, if you cried all day for two days straight and on the 3rd day you only cried twice, acknowledge that and try to look for other signs that there is life outside of sadness).
Get out and get active. Be sure to do something physical even if it is just going for a walk outside. Grief and you can coexist together. Remember to take time to care for your body, mind and soul. Physical movement will help with those difficult feelings.
The language of grief. Grief wants to be heard, validated and supported. It needs to pour out. Talk about your unique losses with loved ones, a friend or maybe even seek out a support group or community events like a grief circle. Pour it on to the pages of a journal or through music or art. While grief is an inevitable part of life, navigating it can be challenging and it’s ok to ask for help if you get stuck. A therapist can help you find a way to pick up the pieces and move through this process if you are struggling to find your way. For some, its easier to be fully open with a non judgmental stranger.
The 5 stages of grief, according to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Although these are the common stages, there is no guarantee that you experience them all or in any order. For the most part, most of us will go through a loss and never need a therapist, but it is also ok to seek professional support to assist you in coping if you are having a hard time on your own and the grief seems more persistent with feelings of hopelessness, despair, trouble with daily tasks and difficulty feeling pleasure or joy.
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.
Is a month ever enough to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to our American experience? As we pause to reflect on those who have forged a way forward in liberty, justice and compassion, let us also examine how we can be informed and inspired today. Black history month signals an invitation to remember, act with purpose and re-engage with compassion.
Compassion is an emotion that comes from a place of concern for others. It’s a sense of shared suffering and with a deep desire to go out of our way to alleviate or reduce that suffering in others. As we interact with diverse communities, we have to be aware of the realities that these communities face. Many Black people feel that there are not treated fairly in our country, particularly by law enforcement, in hiring practices, immigration policies, higher education and mental health systems. Compassion is coming from a place that the injustice of one impacts all people. We can do our part to change larger injustices but cultivating compassion in our families, our workplace, our schools, our institutions, and simply within ourselves.
Compassion can help you feel happier as you work to do things that promote happiness in others. Contribute is a distress tolerance skill we often teach in therapy because doing for others when you are depressed has a favorable impact on you and the person you did something for. Compassion has been found in scientific studies to increase DHEA hormone which counteracts the aging process, by counteracting the stress inducing hormone cortisol. Overall, those who have a positive connection to others are healthier and found to be more resilient to illness. That makes compassion beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing.
The key to developing compassion in your life is to make it a daily practice.
3 Compassion Practices
Create a morning routine. Start your day bringing awareness to you. Notice your body in bed, take a few deep breaths, slip into your prayers or maybe a morning affirmation like this one: I am loving and compassionate to myself and others or today, I abandon old habits and take up new, more positive ones or “today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can,” the Dali Lama.
Read carefully. Expand your library and invest in books that nurture your social conscience. Books that will facilitate conversations about relationships, the human struggle and empathy. Books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Crossing the Wire; Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria; The Emperor Has No Clothes; and Wonder. It’ll give you a chance to consider things from a new perspective.
Seek opportunities for awesomeness. What can you actually do to ease suffering? Volunteer at a local nursing home, put on a free workshop at a local library using your gifts or trade, pay for someone’s meal, donate to a charity, send flowers to a friend, bring your assistant coffee, pass along a book you’ve read, research other ways to lend a hand, invite someone to lunch and practice these tiny acts regularly, even daily.
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”