TherapyThursday | #MHChat: Anxiety

Join Mental Health Chat on Twitter, Wednesdays 3 pm EST! Here’s a brief recap of yesterday’s discussion on anxiety. Note: I have edited names to protect participants.

HALDEN

This past Wednesday marks my first time participating in a mental health conversation with psychiatrists, psychologists, patients, and mental health advocates.

We talked about anxiety vs. fear, what factors play into it, ways of diffusing, coping mechanisms, stigmas and how to eliminate them to allow more healthy dialogue.

I really enjoyed the welcoming round table approach. I made some connections and took away some great information.
Points to consider:

  • Anxiety is unease you experience when expecting a potential future threat, so it’s shaped by our perceptions. It differs from fear, which deals with present and impending threats.
  • Anxiety can build up and paralyze one from taking action: The disruptive unease from anticipating negative results creates tension, stressing out your body and mind.
  • Some factors that can influence our experience and levels of anxiety include fear of the unknown, generational successes and failures, and how our family members coped with anxiety: What did we see our parents do under pressure? How did our siblings and cousins respond to stressful situations?
    In the areas that we saw relatives fail, or succeed, we likely picked up those habits, learning from their examples.
  • Anxiety can become a motivator for moving beyond your circumstances. On the other hand, it negatively impacts our health, sense of self and well being: Anxiety keeps us suspended in a state of fight-or-flight mode, leading to heightened metabolism, weight loss, sleep apnea, and an overall worn down immune system.
  • Triggers can both communal (things that commonly affect a group, such as math anxiety) and individual: They can include major life events and decisions (marriage, having children, college, big move, job transfer and other career decision, death), as well as everyday life occurrences: traffic, academic exams, or social (parties, being in large crowds…etc)
  • Some forms or degrees of anxiety are learned behaviors. A parent’s anxieties influence the emotional responses of their children, because children are prone to blame themselves for problems at home and to absorb and internalize their parents’ stress.

Someone dealing with anxiety may not open up about their mental state, because of the stigmas surrounding mental ill health and seeking help.
PF: Others’ mocking or dismissing our fears increases our anxieties and adds to shameful, guilty feelings.
SC: [They] may isolate themselves from other people and situations or shut down in discussion. That can set off a chain reaction that continues to worsen if not dealt with.
Me: The vicious downward spiral! Sadly some can resort to drastic coping methods like drug misuse.
L: Some avoid triggers (staying home v. social event) or avoid internal conversation (drinking).

I noted how in Black communities, you carry burdens. We discuss mental health issues in house (immediate family primarily) behind closed doors.
LD: I also notice this in some Latino, and some Asian communities, as well.
BY: So true! You’re supposed to be silent about it, too– no complaints, no actions to defend your rights! Hate that!
Me: Our traumas and intersectional oppressions overlap. Each piece MUST be dealt with! Root of anxiety for me.

How do we deal with anxiety as individuals and as a society?
1. Release: Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions, examine your reality for what it is, adjust your perspective. Don’t stay stuck in processing or latch onto the anxious thoughts.
PF: Recognize when in panic; remind yourself that things are not always as we perceive; seek help at times to check out.

2. Redirect: When I’m faced with a situation that makes me nervous, I relax, drink tea, pause, meditate, draw or tweet, and reach out for encouragement from people who support me.

3. Be self-aware: We all have our own triggers. Don’t insulate by isolating!
Practice mindfulness by appreciating the moment, and practicing self-compassion. (thanks @ReflectiveJoy!)

As every person is unique, with their own social, ethnic, historical, economic background, offering generalized solutions by demographic group (such as mindfulness for everybody) may not prove effective. Each person needs their own unique approach:
T: Mindfulness is a very large area. There’s different types, so how does it become mainstream without “one size fits all”?
M: Good question. Maybe endorse different solutions by community?
T: I mean tailored to each individual rather than communities and recognize it doesn’t help anyone.

4. Respond, not react:
MHChat Moderator: To enhance our capacity for anxiety, we need to increase our windows of tolerance and create more adaptive responses.
AK: Almost train your mind to go with the flow. Accept how things are done [instead of] challenging every little thing.
P: Overanalysis can be destructive.

5. Educate: Keep the open dialogues going! Get mental health resources to underserved communities, such as homeless teens in missions, or in red-zoned or impoverished areas. Let’s overcome the stigma and speak on our struggles!
What coping methods do you use to deal with emotional distress? Want to raise awareness, promote good practice, share your views or experiences,  celebrate your recovery, or anything else about mental health? Join & Share your views, experiences, and strategies with @MHChat!
You, too, can be an advocate for mental health! Join Mental Health Chat on Twitter, Wednesdays 8 pm GMT / 3 pm EST / 12:00 noon PST!You, too, can be an advocate for mental health! Join Mental Health Chat on Twitter, Wednesdays 3 pm EST!

Chat summary by Mia A. Jones-Walker

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TuesdayTea| Ownership

We had a pop-up #blkcreatives chat this snow day- Saturday on making progress when circumstances aren’t motivating.

I’ve since had a few conversations about creative license, originality, imitation vs theft (brand designer and Director of Operations Auntee Rik shares more of that here )

For me, all these subjects lie under one umbrella: ownership.

Ownership parallels responsibility, and is usually related directly to a problem; you being the cause/catalyst, are also the solution.

To take ownership of anything, you must declare that you have created it. It’s yours by design; you did not attempt to ride someone’s coat tails or take credit for their efforts. (No Columbusing either)
You were present and essential to its conception; you incubated the idea; you desired to launch the product after approving all designs, and out it comes into the world–soaring past your highest expectations? Yes that’s my baby! 😊

A über flawed, hot mess? Yes….that’s…my baby.😅😪😔😒

The cool thing about ownership is learning. Based on overall response, good, bad, indifferent, you gauge success by impact, engagement or another metric. What went wrong? What is working? One thing you cannot do is waylay blame to another party. If the process is jacked up, it’s up to you to implement or modify your systems.
If the product disappointed you in some way, you get to return to the old drawing board and improve.
You could also bury yourself under the covers and scream, I’m not coming out to face this cruel world; I’m shutting down indefinitely!
But what good will that do for you, the creative? Surely, you came up with this outlet or platform because you needed it.

More importantly, who will you be letting down who needs your work? Your expertise, your product, your solutions, your encouragement?

Sometimes we must resist the temptation to look around us and get discouraged or complacent from our environment. We must push out of “comfortable,” take up the challenges (that we often generate for ourselves) and overcome.

In Proverbs 24:30-34, we find a neat tale about ownership:

King Solomon passed by a field owned by a sluggard: a lazy person, who lacked good sense. It was overgrown with thorns & weeds; the walkways were disheveled; tools in disarray and rusted; fences broken down, goats munching on all the plants! (Ok, I added that in there.)
You see, the lazy person owned the property by right; but did he take ownership by taking care of it? He chose to slack off on the important, everyday tasks, chose to sleep in and be undisciplined. Through a myriad of excuses, he ruined his inheritance.
Being irresponsible backlashes on you first. Then it ripples to affect those lives you’re destined to touch.
On the other hand, true, righteous ownership brings major opportunities!

Do not let us grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up. You are planting seeds right now for your legacy; it’s yours to own.
What’s your harvest going to yield? Weeds? Or wheat? Cultivate what you yearn to manifest by taking ownership of what’s yours and staying disciplined!

TherapyThursdays | Access

pablo (6)Grab a cushiony chair, relax and get comfy; we’re diving in! First a 3 minute mind opening exercise:

Envision yourself in a grey, cold, cramped, dark damp room.

Cinder block walls, a concrete floor, rusted iron chains bolted to the floor.

Follow the chains with your eyes. Are there fetters linked to your wrists?
Now turn.
There is a shaft of light illuminating the floor. Do you see it? Can you sense it’s warmth?
Where is it coming from? A crack in the walls. Locate the spoon on the floor, by your feet. Can you reach it? Now dig for your life! Pause.

Now, picture yourself on the other side. See yourself in a calm space. Breathe in that moist, salty spring air. Feel the cool verdant grasses tickling your toes, the tension rolling off your shoulders. Walk along the warm dusty dirt path to the beach. Pick up some pebbles and toss a few. The ocean roars off in the distance, signaling low tide. Listen to the waves lap against rocks, the crabs scuttle in the tide pools. Look, a jellyfish!

And now, You’re turning on a level, sandy path to return back to your hotel room, or office, or bungalow, put at ease in this environment.

What a way to get your heart racing! So you’re probably wondering, What was the point of that exercise?
Sometimes you must fight for your happy place.
When immersed in a toxic environment, it takes a steadfast commitment to maintain your peace to overcome the negativity.
Tune out the distractions and bring yourself to a place of calm, balance, soundness of mind, mental and emotional discipline.
Retreat to that place where there is no rush, no confusion, no busyness, no anxiety, no fears, just liberty, transparency, shalom.
Psalm 131 is one of my favorite scripture to chill me all the way out:
Psalm 131:2
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

What’s more chill than a baby satisfied and sleeping in its mother’s arms?

Once you have entered that rest and tranquility, bask in it! Worship within it! Listen close to the word spoken to your heart! The presence of the lord is where true security resides; all else is simply unsatisfying.
Whatever you choose, do not relinquish it!

Guarding that peace means that you simply cannot allow your inner (and outer) environment to be disturbed by other influences. You cannot give toxic people access to your life. How can you identify them?
1. The idea of being in their presence or speaking to them Troubles you. I’m not talking a prideful stance where you don’t want to forgive someone or apologize for an offense. I’m talking about an unusual anxious knot that surfaces within your gut when the phone rings, or that your eyes roll involuntarily, or that you’d rather be ANYWHERE ELSE including at a Jersey toll booth, than in their space.

2. The relationship itself is not reciprocal. Whatever you give, is received. There’s not much of a fair exchange going on here, of monetary, physical, mental, emotional support–and you didn’t sign up for this to waste your time and energy.

3. You do not feel welcome in their space. You’ve got a twinge of discomfort and maybe even disorientation going on. There’s a persistent sense of waiting for the shoe to drop, or a bit of awkward friction between you that hasn’t dissipated after a few minutes. Are they even happy to see you? Is this all in your head? [No. That’s your spirit urging you to take leave.]

4. You have inappropriate discussions. What is this battle of semantics? There’s unnecessary role reversals, or constantly being offended, coarse language flying everywhere and no real communication occurring as a result.

5. After being around them, you feel so tired. This isn’t normal, party hard exhaustion. This is your energy depleted from holding up walls and deflectors, wearing a fake smile, laughing at deprecating/condescending jokes…

People that drain you, neglect to appreciate you, berate or deride you, or are not impacting your life in a positive way unless it serves their own hidden agenda, do not have your best interests at heart. People who begrudgingly offer you assistance/support/resources but keeping careful record of every single thing you consume, to throw back in your face later–you don’t need them no matter how close they are to you. People who are unforgiving of themselves are going to be harshly critical towards you. You don’t need those voices of doubt poisoning your creative efforts.

Why introduce a prison cell before the pleasant beach? Good question; here’s a better one to ask yourself: Why introduce toxic people into your environment, renting head space and dealing you misery? That’s bolting yourself to the cement floor of a cold room–and remember, you have the tools to get free.

Ready to let go? Did reading this challenge you? Let me know! 

TuesdayTea | Escapism: The Uphill Battle

Usually after I choose a topic, these writings come relatively easy to me. But not today.

Today, I wrestle with procrastination. Today, I wrestle with the outcry of the urgent and my sluggishness. Though I would much rather crawl back in bed with this migraine, and sleep “it” off, I must get to the root of this issue:

Excuses surface when we’d rather not put that same energy into the challenging things.

Escapism is related. Like the giant’s castle at the top of the beanstalk, our favorite fantasy perches atop a matted network of interwoven excuses and busywork. We hinder ourselves from using our most productive hours to get the tough/tedious/overwhelming jobs done.

I know how my brain operates, you say.
I thrive and produce the best work under pressure. I can clear my space later; it’s just a bit of organized chaos. I’ll just check this one email/Facebook group/Instagram post update…and there you are, 3 hours later, with the same pile of work on your plate.
You didn’t just get caught in the undercurrent of the Internet rabbit holes without intention. You touched a toe to the waters edge and decided to jump right in. Why?
Because escape appeals to our sense of vicarious arbitrary adventure, and our comfort.

See, practicing escapism is not limited to recreational drug use, partying, or emigrating to Europe to avoid student loan debt. It’s simply seeking a way out of the present by pursuing an alternative reality.
We often escape in an activity meant to be mindless: daydreaming about exotic places while perusing tumblr or Pinterest, tossing back drinks and dancing the night away, fantasizing about the glory days of high school or college, hookah and hookups.
We let our minds wander in daily quests for intrigue (consuming click baiting articles along the timeline), philosophical wheel spinning (sitting inside holistic food stores discussing the plight of the community without taking concrete action), indulging in RPGs building and conquering imaginary kingdoms.
Who doesn’t want to be the hero, the expert, the attractive warrior, or the sage at the city gate? All without doing the worthwhile work to yield tangible results! We get to pose, to cross our legs, and that is a dangerous place to reside mentally.
I’m not against these extra activities.
Just don’t get sidetracked from your purpose while pushing agendas and pursuing worthless/irrelevant things.
Here’s the thing about a fantasy lifestyle:
It is unwise to invest in something made to divert your time, focus, and power away from what you’re meant to do.
What you’re SUPPOSED to do, who you’re meant to become is still ahead of you, not behind you. Fruitfulness lies beyond your distraction.
Escapism leads to procrastination because we settle in the comfort of the fantasy. We eat the lotus fruit and forget to carry on with the odyssey. When you feel as though you are skating uphill and you would rather take a detour, remember a detour is not a shortcut.
Escapism is not a viable solution to feeling displaced/hopeless/bored/discontent.
Your problems will follow you wherever you move; wherever you go, there YOU go.

Solutions?
1. Schedule a quick break. Take 5-15 minutes to recenter yourself, to reevaluate your available time, adjust your priorities, eat a protein-packed snack, rest your eyes.
Recharge.

2. Schedule your margins. This is dedicated goof-around time, daydream and doodle time, space for sudden interruptions in your day, breathers. Decompress.

3. Put an H on your chest and handle “it.”
Your fiercest “it” is the giant you’ve got to slay first, from a cover letter to a blog post. I prefer to focus on that top scary it for 1 hour. Getting that one task/phone call/list done provides momentum to do the next big thing.

4. Create your focus points.
If you’re anything like me, you get overwhelmed by lists and lists and lists of #allthethings. Even if you write them down and place them where you can easily be reminded, sometimes that’s just too much! Info overload! Get your vision board and target ONE image on it. Bold, underline, circle it, and turn from your screens to look at it when feeling stretched.

5. Commit to It’s Done.
Commit to the task. Envision yourself at completion. Make a countdown if you have to, and reward yourself for making it! That’s where those margins come in!

Now, back to this data entry assignment I was supposed to be polishing 😉

What’s your favorite distraction? How do you combat the urge to escape?

My One Word for 2016

Hey!

I came across this gem of a blog on creative process, writing, and education. Sweet as, Karyn! (Sometimes I use kiwi colloquialism, don’t mind me) Her personal reflections capture the essence of moving forward:

” And I know after this chapter, a new one is to begin, and I cannot afford to let the experiences happen to me. To me, thriving is living in and beyond the moments that you make, whether they are good or bad (hopefully more good).

I couldn’t agree more, Karyn; I want us all to escape survive mode and really start LIVING out loud in 2016!

 

Source: My One Word for 2016

TuesdayTea| As the Smoke Clears

Welcome to TuesdayTea! Ease into it. For a moment today, let’s talk about crystal clear clarity.

Have you ever set yourself up to have quiet time and still not achieved that Aha! moment you were looking for?
I mean, you went through all the trouble to get up early, find relaxing meditation music, prepared a nice mug of green tea (or pulled up to the drive-thru at Starbucks). You brought along a nice notepad and fancy pen, put your smartphone on Do Not Disturb or airplane mode, plugged into chill zone, hoping to get some peace and resolve to writers block/artist block/insert stressor situation here, and still…nada. No striking simple solution, no angelic choir singing in the background as heaven opens and a beam illuminates your study space.

It’s that nebulous pocket of time in which the work does not yet resemble what you see in your head–it’s totally on its way there, but on a tightrope: vulnerable, susceptible to criticism and possibly being overworked, or being left unpolished.
So you came to meditate, to read some Scripture, to om in the sun and be still for ten minutes…Yet you don’t really know what you’re doing–not yet.

I have been  T H E R E, in that uncomfortable, tight place where everyone from your biggest fan to Big Mama expects you to be on point, including yourself.
*cue music video of  David Bowie/Queen x Under Pressure* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoDh_gHDvkk

Can I tell you a little secret to unwind your nerves?

Clarity does not absorb into your system through osmosis.

Clarity comes when you align what you say you are believing for (better opportunities to serve, increased capacity to handle X, a platform to speak from) with your commitments, and your ACTIONS.

Proverbs 12: 14 puts it this way:

A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words;
And the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.

So, then, words plant seeds that spring up and produce fruit that is meant to satisfy us. When we not only name and claim that a great future is coming for us, but we also take the necessary time and energy to cultivate the visions we’ve been given, then we will be satisfied by what we have spoken. ONLY once we pull the trigger on our fears and launch forward! That’s the law of reciprocity, of sowing and reaping, and it’s universal!

Clarity comes when we firmly decide not to take any more L’s:

No more lying to ourselves, limping through life with low expectations, lackluster “lovers”, limited mindsets, laboring in vain to produce wind (that’s up there with chasing distractions and wasting time on worthless things).
No more loyalty to causes and people who are not serving our purpose!

What have you committed yourself to, and how will your very next steps honor that commitment?

Rewind & Pause|Post #BlkCreatives Chat

It’s the second Tuesday of the year. Have you already dropped the ball on your goals this week, month, quarter? ( Let’s get back into gear, ahem. Just shake off the uncertainty, anxiety, condemning fail feels, and reset your mind. It’s a new day! :D)

Have things already begun to take off in an entirely new, exciting direction for you?

Message for the artists, the bloggers, the creative entrepreneurs, the not-quite-fit-in nonconformists, the musical geniuses:

pablo (5)

 

 

Last night,  I joined the monthly #blkcreatives Twitter chat hosted by Melissa Kimble of My Creative Connection, on The Art of Promotion. I woke up so invigorated to tackle today!

Some takeaways that resonated the most with me:

  1. “Never, ever as a black person tell yourself ‘No.’ The world will do it for you.”
    How about we stop taking L’s in 2016: low level thinking, limited mindset, laziness, lackluster work, lukewarm devotion to things that do not fuel us?!
  2. It is absolutely more than okay to toot your own horn–just to do so tactfully and seamlessly. Talking about your own work concisely and confidently is key to establishing trust, and getting other people onboard with your idea!
    You came here to this earth full of God-given gifts, some you have honed and others you have yet to uncover and harness. The greatest disservice you can do to God, your legacy and yourself is to leave here full–and unfulfilled.
  3. Everybody is playing on a team. Flex for your team. Make everyone shine!
    Shoutout to #takeover2016: Brittany, Summer, Rik, Alice, Kelly, Tyshia, JoEllen, Shanti, and Sherelle.–y’all the real MVPs.Never forget the people you serve. Remind yourself daily that its not all about you–it’s about them–their desires, needs, habits, hangups, hangouts.
  4. Results may vary. YOU be consistently excellent.

The art of promotion is tact, precision, purpose, and inclusion. The art of promotion is building authentic relationships, engaging your people.

In the course of discovering how to say what you need to say, you will achieve clarity! You will become more comfortable and more effective! But don’t you ever quit on your voice! Whatever medium you utilize, whatever platform you speak from, soapbox or pulpit, know this:

Your voice matters. Your viewpoint is needed. Someone out there needs your story to be shared.

pablo (7).png

Now let’s boldly push forward with excellence!

How are you taking steps to self-actualization? How are you going to promote yourself and your work in the future? Let me know! 

 

Tuesday Tea|How to Help Yourself Help Others

#TuesdayTea

Whenever you need to encourage yourself, go give a vote of confidence to another person.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.

Why? It pays tremendously to adjust your perspective by taking your eyes off yourself, your pity party, your faults and problems, and to squarely focus for even a few moments on a friend/relative/stranger at Kroger’s/ kid at Sevananda and how you can help that situation. You never know; maybe your day, like mine, will be filled with divine appointments!
I got a call from my good friend Precious, who, unbeknownst to me, had been having a spectacularly tough time this past season: Work, overwhelming financial and social pressures, scripts for film gone awry, illness and a mobility-wrecking car accident had taken their toll on my chipper friend.

(It’s hard out here for creatives. We must take care of each other.)

We each vented and joked in turn, and then looked for solutions. We looked towards heaven for the wisdom we sure couldn’t see in our compact surroundings, gave it over to God Who can carry our woes and complaints. We agreed to be each other’s accountability partner for saving money, getting certified to teach, and other world changing goals.

What a relief it is to have friends that you know can bear your burdens and bring them before the One Who takes care of us! If you are examining your circle or scrolling through your contacts to search for that person, it’s high time you switched out for friends that stick closer than a brother! Or became one for someone else.
After exchanging loads of You got this and other affirmations, I got off the phone with a lifted spirit.

Next, my friend Crystal shoots me a text to edit a flyer for her solo art show coming up in a couple of weeks. Our conversation proceeds thus. (In the spirit of transparency and good ol fashioned convenience, I screenshot everything. 😁)

Lessons:
1.You never know what anyone is up against or walking through; just offer some kindness. No one can really refute kindness or a listening ear, or sympathetic heart. Someone can better receive your objective viewpoints when you first reassure them that you actually care. Empathy 101

2.Humor goes a long way in curing the blues. Proverbs 17:22 puts it this way:

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

AMEN.

3. Even the people who inspire and encourage us need a boost every now and then. It’s okay to desire and need emotional support! Do not apologize for being human!

4. The best mental assistance is laced with the truth. Always come from a wise and gentle loving place.

5. We unburden ourselves when we are willing to lift others’ weights.

That’s it for Tuesday Tea this week! Who do you count on in your support group? Can you think of practical ways this week that you can return the favor?