How to Take Care of Your Mental Health in Stressful Times

We’re dealing with some stressful and overwhelming times at the moment. In this video, I’m sharing 10 ways you can take care of your mental health and find calm in this chaos. Plus, I do a brief guided meditation.

Just to give you a quick overview, the ways are:

  1. Practice mindfulness (live in the moment).
  2. Practice self-care.
  3. Use affirmations.
  4. Take a digital break.
  5. Develop a (loose) routine.
  6. Journal.
  7. Go with the flow.
  8. Be gentle with yourself.
  9. Allow your best to be good enough.
  10. Breathe/meditate.

For products to help you find and maintain your calm, visit the Black Mom Calm Shop.

7 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health

 

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

When it comes to health, it seems that the main focus is on being healthy in the physical sense: making sure you eat well, being fit, and drinking enough water. However, being healthy mentally is important as well; and I would maybe even argue that it should be more of a priority because everything we do begins in our minds.

Mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and it affects how we think, feel and act (MentalHealth.gov). It also affects the way we deal with stress, relate to other people, and make decisions.

Since July is Minority Mental Health Month, I’m sharing seven techniques I use (or have used) to care for my mental health:

1. Meditation/Deep breathing.

This is probably the top way I stay mentally well. You can read all about the benefits here, but all you need is a few minutes a day (in the morning works especially well, in my opinion, because you start the day peacefully). You can try guided meditations, or just simply sit in a quiet, distraction-free space, breathe fully and deeply, and focus on your inhales and exhales. Also, deep breathing is a practice you can do anywhere, any time (and it’s how you’re supposed to breathe anyway), and its great for relieving stress, overwhelm and anxiety in the moment.

2. Use Affirmations.

I was introduced to affirmations around 2007, and I’ve been using them ever since. Affirmations help me improve my mindset, which allows me to set the tone for a great day (or to stay positive when the day is not-so-great). Speaking positively to yourself is also important because the things you say to and about yourself are generally what manifests in your life.

3. Take Time To Relax.

Trust me, I get it: You have a lot going on, and you’re trying to get it all done so you can check all the things off your to-do list. But, if you don’t take time to simply relax and just be, you risk experiencing burn-out and maybe even making yourself sick — literally. Listen to your body, and relax when you need to.

4. Unplug Digitally.

All the noise on social media can be a lot and super overwhelming. It can also have a negative effect on your mental health as it relates to comparing yourself to other people, causing you to feel insecure, or making you feel anxious when you see what’s going on in the world. Take a day — or 3 or 7 — away from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and/or limit the amount of time you spend on the sites daily.

5. Journal.

If you’re anything like me, you have some difficulty dealing with uncomfortable emotions. But you have to allow yourself to feel what you feel, get out of your head, and get those feelings out so you can process them and find solutions. Journaling is a great way to do this. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation, or judge yourself for what you’re thinking/feeling, just write.

6. Move Your Body.

Yoga is, of course, my favorite way to move my body. But, you can also get on the treadmill, lift weights (another fave), walk, or dance to get your body moving. Doing this not only relieves stress and helps you clear your head, it can also help when it comes to depression and anxiety.

7. Seek Professional Help.

Although we’ve come a long way, there is still some stigma attached to going to counseling or therapy, or there’s the idea that therapy is for people who have “serious” mental health disorders. Well, since we all deal with the stresses of daily life — and as Black women, we arguably deal with more due to gender and race — talking to an objective third party can help. And I know because I’ve been myself. If you want to try it yourself but don’t know where to start, try the directory on TherapyForBlackGirls.com.

A few more mental health resources are:

Depressed While Black

Consciously Coping

Darkness Rising Project

No More Martyrs

Do you take care of your mental health in a way that’s not listed above? Leave a comment to let us know!

5 Black Women In Mental Health You Should Know

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

One in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. However, many people don’t seek treatment due to stigma of getting assistance and mental illness itself.  In the Black community in particular, having and/or seeking help for mental illness is still seen as taboo and as something to just pray away. Although it’s been a while since I’ve gone, deciding to go to therapy when I was feeling depressed and anxious was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Fortunately, nowadays, people are becoming more open to sharing their experiences and actually getting the help they need with tools like therapy and counseling. Here are five amazing women to help you on your journey:

1. Lindsay Anderson

Lindsay Anderson is the founder of Consciously Coping where mental illness is talked about in an open and safe environment. Their focus is educating, supporting and sharing stories of minorities and low income families. As a non-profit organization, Consciously Coping fully dedicates their hours, hearts, and minds to the millions of mentally ill consumers.

By utilizing social media as a main source of outreach, they hope to increase mental health treatment in all demographics. Their objective is to decrease the number of mentally ill peers struggling with mental health issues without access to fair and consistent treatment. Learn more at ConsciouslyCoping.com.

Facebook: @consciouslycoping
Instagram: @consciouslycoping

2. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford

With Therapy for Black Girls, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford has created an online space dedicated to encouraging mental wellness of Black women and girls. Because the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy prevent Black women from taking the step of seeing a therapist, she developed the space to present mental health topics in a way that feels more accessible and relevant.

As a licensed psychologist in the state of Georgia, Dr. Joy’s specialties include working with Black women in both individual and couples counseling. Her primary areas of interest include break-up and divorce recovery, depression, work-life balance, relationship skills, and self-esteem improvement. Visit her at TherapyForBlackGirls.com.

Facebook: @therapyforblackgirls
Instagram: @therapyforblackgirls

3. Daphne Fuller

Daphne is the founder of Therapeutic Solutions and Wellness, PC. Additionally, she’s an integrative licensed professional counselor, certified yoga instructor, life coach, reiki practitioner and speaker; she incorporates these practices in counseling and coaching with clients upon request.

Because she personally knows how depression and anxiety can affect your life, Daphne’s passion lies in helping adults find their light and shed old limiting beliefs and circumstance that affect their current state of being. She helps individuals and groups tap into the core of what holds them back while providing emotional support, psycho-education and tools to maneuver through the process. Learn more at TherapeuticAndWellness.com.

Facebook: @therapeuticandwellness
Instagram: @therapeutic_solutions

4. Imade Nibokun

Music journalist turned non-fiction writer Imade Nibokun is the founder of Depressed While Black, a brand and an in-progress book about navigating the mental health system while being broke, Black, and from a religious background.  After being diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2012, she wanted to know why she felt depressed and if she could ever live a normal life again.

Through her blog and social media, Imade also shares mental health stories and content through an African-American lens. Visit her at DepressedWhileBlack.com.

Facebook: @DepressedWhileBlack
Instagram: @depressedwhileblack

5. Nadia Richardson

Nadia is the creator of No More Martyrs, a mental health awareness campaign committed to building a community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. Inspired by the loss of Karyn Washington (founder of For Brown Girls) and the number of nameless and faceless Black women who manage their mental health concerns in silence, the No More Martyrs campaign is a call to action.

By encouraging a commitment to revolutionary self-care and unapologetic authenticity, the campaign serves as a clearinghouse of resources for living successfully with mental health concerns as well as a support system for Black women who believe they’re facing these issues alone. Learn more at NoMoreMartyrs.org.

Facebook: @Join.No.More.Martyrs
Instagram: @no_moremartyrs

Do you know of other Black women in mental health? Share info about her below!

On Taking Care of My Mental Health

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As a Black person in the South — and really, as a Black person in general — mental health and wellness is something rarely talked about, and when it is, you’re told to simply “pray about it” or “Jesus will fix it.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying if it brings you comfort and peace, but for many people dealing with mental health issues, it isn’t enough.

My journey to taking my mental health more seriously started after having my daughter. Being a first-time mama was incredibly overwhelming, and I found myself feeling frustrated and disappointed most of the time, particularly because I felt like I didn’t have enough help from my husband. And looking back, I believe I was dealing with some post-partum depression as well.

The breaking point came when my husband asked me if I still wanted to be with him. That was when I realized I had to do something different, not just for the sake of my marriage, but so I could feel better and more at peace.

I wrote new affirmations around how I wanted to feel, and because I’m a researcher by nature, I Googled ways to better my marriage and myself. Through my research, I rediscovered meditation and began my practice, which also led me to restarting my yoga practice and really focusing on taking care of myself. As cliche as it sounds, these practices literally changed my life. In addition to feeling more calm, grounded, and centered, I now know how to tap into my inner peace whenever I need to.

Of course, I’m human, so I still deal with stress, and I have anxiety as well, so making sure I include my mental health as a part of self-care practices is an important part of my daily life. Some ways I do so (that you can, too) include:

  • Meditation and yoga
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Taking social media breaks
  • Saying affirmations
  • Reading inspirational books
  • Listening to inspirational podcasts
  • Going to therapy

Whether you’re dealing with a mental illness or the stress of your daily life, I encourage you to begin making your mental health and wellness a priority.

“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – from”Approaching the Natural: a Health Manifesto”

10 Black Women Who Can Help You Find Your Calm

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the resources provided here at Black Mom’s Guide to Calm that help you find your calm (if you’re not, click here and here). And of course, I’m not the only one who can guide you; there are some other dope ass Black women out here provide products, services, and resources to make sure we’re calm, centered, cared for, and mentally well.

In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 Black women who can help you find your calm:

1. Dianne Bondy is a celebrated yoga teacher, social justice activist, and leading voice of the Yoga For All Movement. With over 1,000 hours of training, she helps her students find freedom, self-expression, and radical self-love in their yoga practice. Dianne shares her message and provides millions of followers with affordable access to online yoga classes, workshops, and tutorials at her virtual studio: Yogasteya.com.

2. Itiel McVay is the founder and owner of Smell Good Spa, purveyors of fine fragrance oils and hand-dipped incense sticks that blend creativity and wholesome ingredients together. It is the company’s belief that a whole woman deserves wholesome products; therefore, each raw-ingredient based bath, body, and home fragrance product can be customized with their signature scents, creating an aromatic spa-at-home experience for the woman who loves to live good, feel good, and smell good.

3. As The Body Relationship Coach™, Ivy Felicia helps people build a loving relationship with body and self. She is passionate about helping individuals learn to embrace the bodies they have right now and supporting them in learning to love themselves no matter what. Through her brand, Me, My Body, and Love, Ivy promotes body peace and provides empowerment, education, and encouragement for those who seek to embrace a body positive lifestyle by loving their own bodies and extending the same love and acceptance to others.

4. Created by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Georgia, Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Because the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy prevent Black women from taking the steps to see a therapist, Dr. Joy developed her blog to present mental health topics in a way that feels more accessible and relevant. Her primary areas of interest include break up and divorce recovery, depression, work-life balance, relationship skills, and self-esteem improvement.

5. Dr. Nadia Richardson is the founder of No More Martyrs, a mental health awareness campaign committed to building an online community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. By bringing together organizations from across the country that focus on the holistic wellness of Black women, the campaign serves as a clearinghouse of resources for living successfully with mental health concerns as well as virtual support for Black women who believe they are facing these issues alone.

6. Founded by Dr. Shanesha Brooks-Tatum, the Life Balance and Wellness Institute, Inc. (formerly the Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness Conference) supports Black women in their quest to live well and thrive. Their mission is to provide evidence-based tools and facilitate dynamic, creative relationships that support women in achieving and maintaining optimal wellness in all areas of life including physical, financial, spiritual, occupational, social, and emotional.

7. Suntia Smith, MSW,LISW-CP, is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist based in Greenville, SC. She uses proven emotion-focused techniques and cognitive behavioral methodologies to help her clients deal with everyday life and relationship struggles better. By taking a positive, proactive, and practical approach to emotional well-being, Suntia teaches others how to develop a stronger sense of self, so they can love deeper and live lighter.

8. Created by Tara Pringle Jefferson, the Bloom Beautifully Box hits women’s doorsteps every eight weeks, full of self-care goodies in the following categories: beauty, health/wellness, and personal development. Tara created the box because she knows just how difficult it can be for women to focus on themselves during the years where their time and attention is often required by someone else — their boss, their children, their family. She wants each box to feel like a deep exhale, a fresh reminder that while you are many things — an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home mom, a student– you are still you underneath it all.

9. Tracey Coretta Ferdinand is a writer and certified 200 hour vinyasa yoga teacher. Her writing inspires lifestyle transformations guided by self-love and self-care, and her mission is to encourage women and girls of color to live vibrant and healthy lives by exploring creative wellness practices.

10. Vernetta R. Freeney is the creator and producer of the podcast “A Toast to Truths” and founder of The Truth Confidant™, a training firm specializing in teaching mental detox as a way to increase your productivity and have peace each and every day of your life. Her assignment is to curb burnout for entrepreneurs, teachers, and corporate employees by teaching journaling as a daily mental detox to ensure productivity and creativity.

 

Why I Started Going to Therapy (and Why I’m Glad I Did)

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Although it’s still somewhat taboo, I’ve always been an advocate of mental health care and therapy. In the Black community, therapy has been seen as what “crazy” or White folks use — not us. We’re supposed to utilize prayer, the church, and Jesus.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying, going to church, or Jesus (or whoever your deity is), but sometimes, you might need something more. And I realized that was true for me almost two months ago.

As many of you know, I started teaching yoga in-person this fall because 1. The opportunities basically fell in my lap; and 2. It’s what I thought I wanted to do. At first, I was excited about this new venture and stream of income, but as time went on, I’d have no one or only one person show up for classes. Needless to say, it was pretty discouraging. But being someone who typically sees the bright side of things and keeps a positive attitude (for the most part), I really tried to keep the faith and continue promoting and showing up. It wasn’t working. I ultimately had a breaking point, which led me to an emotional breakdown. I had been feeling really depressed about this, and it all just came out one Friday night. As I lay in bed, after crying my eyes out, I decided to look up local Black therapists because I knew that I couldn’t continue doing this to myself, and I didn’t know how to pull myself out of the muck. The first therapist I contacted didn’t reply, so the following week, I contacted another and set up my first appointment with Suntia Smith in Greenville (who I highly recommend).

Although I’ve only been to two sessions so far, it’s been amazing and eye-opening. While I’ve always been introspective and have become more self-aware through meditation, I just couldn’t figure out what to do about my work situation (actually, I knew what to do; I just didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to let anyone down). Anyway, talking to Suntia and answering her questions in that first session helped me realize that teaching yoga on a weekly basis wasn’t something I truly wanted to do (on the other hand, I do love doing retreats and workshops on occasion), and the reason why is I enjoy freedom, which is something I’d never really thought about before. And that session helped me get crystal clear on what I want to do with the Black Girl’s Guide to Calm brand.

In addition to admitting that I was still trying to be a people-pleaser, I also recognized that I wasn’t being my authentic self, both of which came as a bit of surprise to be quite honest (haha). This year has been the most transformational one I’ve ever experienced, starting with me uncovering my spiritual beliefs. This came up when Suntia asked me who I really am after giving her the surface answer: I told her I am sensual, fun, have great sense of humor, into the “woo woo” stuff, meaning crystals, chakras, incense, sage…you know, my version of spirituality that a lot of people consider “woo woo.” But I’d been hiding that part of myself, particularly on social media. Now, you might be saying, “Why does that matter? Everyone doesn’t need to know what you believe.” Well, I’ve been blogging for 8 years, and I’ve been pretty transparent about my life and my faith the entire time on my blog and on social media. So, why would I speak on that then and not speak on my beliefs now?

The reason I didn’t really allude to my spirituality is because I was worried about what the people who know me in real life would think about my beliefs. However, that cognitive dissonance (me wanting to just be myself and share vs. me not wanting to ruffle feathers) caused a lot of stress and anxiety for me. And I also realized that this inauthenticity (is this a word?) shows up as me shrinking myself, not allowing myself to shine too brightly (because, for one, I’ve always heard some variation of “She thinks she’s all that!”). For example, I enjoy makeup and playing around with different looks, but I wouldn’t wear certain lipsticks because I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself; or I don’t share my business offerings and my story as much as I should because I don’t want to be “pushy” or seen as someone who thinks she’s all that.”

Thankfully, because of therapy and Suntia in particular, I am in a  place of not giving as much of a fuck (because, at the moment, I still give somewhat of one lol) about people’s opinions of me. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten to this place of self-acceptance, authenticity, and freedom without outside sources– or I wouldn’t have gotten here so quickly.

I want to encourage you to seek professional help if you feel you need it and/or if you’re dealing with anxiety or depression. While I do feel that practices like yoga and meditation are amazingly effective tools, like I mentioned in the first paragraph, sometimes, a therapist, coach, or counselor is necessary. And even if you don’t have a mental illness, it can still be helpful to get an outside, objective perspective on things so you can move forward. To find a Black therapist in your area, check out the sites below:

African American Therapists

Black Counselors

Black Therapist Network

Have you been to therapy? What was your experience like? Also, if you’re a Black therapist reading this, feel free to link to your site below! : )

 

Conversations featuring Vernetta R. Freeney

 

In this interview with Vernetta R. Freeney, we talk about her role as The Truth Confidant™, her podcast, “A Toast to Truths,” and the works she’s doing to help people curb burnout.

Click below to listen to the interview, and get inspired.

#CalmTip: Take a Mental Health Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This one is for my solopreneurs/entrepreneurs in particular (including those who are also working a 9-5). As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to be working on something seven days a week; in the words of my friend, Akilah, entrepreneurs “are never not working.”

Of course, this can have a negative effect and can cause us to experience mental exhaustion and burn out. Prevent or counter this with a mental health day (or half a day). Do your best to leave work alone (you can keep a notebook close by for ideas), and do nothing, or do something you enjoy that you’ve been putting off like reading that new book or heading to the park.

“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Mirelle Guiliano