The pandemic posed a host of risks to my family. I was working in a hospital environment and coming in contact with hundreds of people daily, which forced me to step down in summer 2020. I didn’t feel safe or properly protected.
That career pivot posed every challenge that you could imagine. I made a career shift in my 40s after being married multiple times and having four children. Although I may be a seasoned entrepreneur, working in mental health is a completely different field.
I also recognize as a Black woman that when another Black woman calls for therapy, they’re typically calling from a place of desperation and have tried to talk themselves out of what they’ve already undergone before picking up the phone. Culturally, African Americans are told to pray it away, and it’s observed as a sign of weakness to solicit help from anyone, let alone a licensed professional.
I treat a great deal of single mothers and divorced women who are co-parenting or dealing with the pandemic as a constant state of trauma when they send their children out into the world and wonder whether or not they’re coming back.
I encourage those same Black women to incorporate self-care into their treatment plans by coming up with activities that bring them personal joy. I swear it’s like a deer in headlights when I ask because they don’t know.
I don’t come to the table acting as if I have all of the answers, but I’m highly trained to coax those solutions from the client t. It’s a very complex time to be in mental health.
People enter therapy because of life transitions or for additional support. You have a nonjudgmental, confidential person with a clinical education that does not see you in the same lens as your friends and family. It allows you a safe space to heal from whatever might be on you. To get over the stigma, here are some suggestions that I usually give Black women clients to get through 2022 which has been difficult:
Take breaks: Watch what you consume because the news can be daunting. If what’s happening on broadcast news is too much, don’t watch broadcast news. Read your news to stay abreast of what’s going on. If it becomes too much, you can set it down and come back to it later.
Those breaks are also not specific to the media. Take inventory of all of the things that are on your plate. Saying “no” is a complete sentence and doesn’t require an explanation. Buffer yourself and apply some bubble wrap between you and life. Don’t over command or take on more than you can chew. Check out sometimes from every role you have to play so that you can recoup.
Eat right, and get adequate rest because it does affect your mood: We must watch what we eat or put into our bodies. Make sure that you’re well-hydrated. If you’re having sleep disturbances, that’s one of the main signs that something else is going on.
If you’re getting less than six hours a night, it’s probably a good idea to consult with somebody like your primary care provider to explore how you can gain more sleep. Otherwise, you’ll be less resilient or apt to handle whatever stresses the day throws at you. If you have triggers, your triggers have more power over you on a day where you’ve not slept well the night before.
Identify triggers so that you can come up with effective coping skills for each: Triggers are any type of stimuli – positive or negative – but are usually considered negative, that causes an emotional response in you. It starts with thoughts that create feelings and eventually manifest themselves into behaviors.
If you know what upsets you, throws you for a loop, or causes a change in mood, then you can try as best as possible to prepare yourself for it. If triggers cause a disservice to how you’re feeling, they warrant attention. Figure out why they exist, and then a seasoned therapist can help you take back the power.
We all see things through the lens of our experiences, how we were raised, our value system, etc. It’s about reconciling those feelings around what may have happened. Those experiences are still valid but healing from them and committing to being flexible enough to new endeavors without assuming they’ll turn out bad in the end, can help..
Plan self-care activities: Self-care is a term that gets overused consistently. People have come to a point where they emphasize getting massages or getting their nails done. That’s maintenance.
If you’re a professional woman, those are things you have to do to meet the standards that are expected of you. Self-care is about doing things for you. It’s digging deep to figure out what brings you joy. I encourage my clients, especially the women, to try to get to a space where they’re putting away at least 30 minutes to an hour a day into some type of self-care activity.
It’s very individualized and looks drastically different from person-to-person; it could be reading, a long bubble bath, or lying still in the dark for 15 minutes. Black women are raised to be nurturers, selfless or rise to the occasion, so they’re the population that typically neglects self-care. They don’t usually take pause to discover the things they like, but they know all of the things that bring everyone else joy in their lives.
I am a Black woman and did it for years, and that is not a joy-filled life. When we’re not taking care of ourselves, we’re more easily triggered, we become hypersensitive, we build resentments around those we have to cater to because we’re depleted. We have to be accountable to understand that nobody is going to come along and tell us to take better care of ourselves. It’s important that we take time to explore what brings you joy, and that’s a process in itself.
Be present: Mindfulness is learning to be here and focused right now. Anxiety is usually rooted in fear and usually shows up through overthinking. Whether it’s financial problems, a family issue or somebody dealing with illness, it’s all about what’s going to happen in the future.
If we dial that back a little bit (and it takes practice) to redirect our thoughts back to the present, it allows us to appreciate what is occurring around us right now. It’s taking on the elephant in the room in small steps.
If we can focus on right now, then we’ll push through the moment to get to the next. Any large challenge requires baby steps to obtain that confidence to take it on. Focus on the present to alleviate some of the stresses.
As told to Christoper Daniel. Christopher A. Daniel is an award-winning journalist, cultural critic, historian, ethnomusicologist, and public intellectual. Born in Spartanburg, SC, his work has been featured digitally on Shondaland, FRANK151/The ATLanta Backwoods, Urban Lux Magazine, TheBurtonWire.com, The Hip Hop Enquirer, TheRoot.com, HuffPost Live, soulhead.com, USA Today, Eater Atlanta, Shadow & Act, & Music Enthusiast Magazine. He has served as a U.S. correspondent for the British-based magazines Knowledge (KMag) and Blues & Soul.