I’ve had a lot of clients ask me to explain exactly what anxiety is, and I’ve always been able to give a basic text-book definition: an intense worry or fear about something. I’ve explained that some people have intense fear or worry about specific things like; taking tests, public speaking, or flying on airplanes . Some people feel intense fear or worry about their lives in general. Some people experience anxiety as a result of a traumatic event. For some, anxiety is annoying, but manageable. For others, anxiety makes it hard to function on the day to day. Anxiety does not look the same for everyone, and it can range from mild to severe.
While I’ve had the ability to put myself in my client’s shoes and think about what anxiety could be like for them, experiencing it while at work has allowed for a whole new level empathy. I mean sure, I’ve been worried about a school test and driving in downtown Dallas makes my heart race but until recently I had never wondered, “Damn, do I need medication for this?”.
With COVID-19 and the whole lockdown, people were not coming in to have mental health evaluations. There would be some days where I did one evaluation, and some days that I did zero. I knew that with the pandemic; depression, anxiety, and substance use would likely be on the rise, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for just how busy I would get and fast. As the stay-at-home orders were lifting and establishments were starting to open up, there was an immediate increase in the amount of people needing evaluations. I started to see more people in the lobby (socially distanced of course). People were coming in groups of two’s or three’s to be evaluated. There would be multiple appointments and multiple walk-ins. I started to notice that I was becoming stressed and overwhelmed more easily. Before even getting to work, I would be worried about how I was going to manage. Getting to work and seeing double-booked and back-to-back appointments filled me with dread. The very sight of three or four people in the lobby waiting to be evaluated instantly overwhelmed me.
About a month ago, I started to experience the physical symptoms often associated with anxiety. When I was overwhelmed, I felt I couldn’t breathe properly. It was difficult to breathe all the way in and it was uncomfortable. At the same time, I would feel this pressure in my chest (I hate that feeling so much). These sensations often wouldn’t go away until the lobby was empty, or I was finally able to take my break. Then one day, I did something that I had never done before. I left for my break with people still in the lobby waiting to be evaluated.
I don’t like for people to have to wait to be seen so I usually just put off my break until I can find an opening. I couldn’t do that on that day. I felt slightly panicked and I kept thinking to myself “I have to get out of here”, and so I did. Luckily, I didn’t experience a full-on panic attack, but I was damn sure close.
After that experience, I decided that I needed a plan for how I was going to manage this anxiety so that I could function at work to the best of my ability. I needed to manage this not only for myself, but for my clients as well. I still feel stressed, overwhelmed, worried at times. I still get that pressure in my chest, but I’m managing very well thanks to these tips…
Tip #1: Start your morning with positive self-talk, and affirmations
Think of this as giving yourself a pep-talk before work so that you can go in prepared and confident. Affirm yourself with statements like; “I will not stress over things I can’t control”, “I will do my best and my best is enough”, “I am strong and capable”, “I can adapt to anything”.
Tip #2: Use aroma therapy
Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and wild orange can aid in relieving stress and anxiety. Use a topical oil or a lotion that has the oil in it. If you can have a diffuser in your work space or office, that’s a great option as well.
Tip #3: Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and blood pressure which are usually elevated when you’re anxious. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and then exhale out of your nose for 6 seconds. Repeat as many times as you need to.
Tip #4: Ask for help when you need it
Workplace anxiety can often come from a heavy work load and never-ending deadlines. If there’s something that you can get assistance or support with, ask! Asking for help does not make you incompetent or unqualified, it makes you smart.
Tip #5: Take a break when you need it
Taking breaks is good for your overall health and well-being. Make sure to step away from your work space and do things like; take a walk outside, eat, drink water, listen to music, watch a funny video.
Tip #6: Be kind to yourself
Dealing with anxiety symptoms in the workplace can be frustrating but try not to beat yourself up about it. Becoming stressed or anxious at work does not make you weak! You can learn to manage it, whether that’s on your own and/or with the help of licensed professionals.
Anxiety in the workplace can come from things such as a toxic environment, issues with co-workers, heavy workload, etc. We spend a lot of our time at work and it’s in our best interest to manage anxiety as best we can. Do you experience workplace anxiety? If so, what is your experience like? How do you manage? I’d love to hear from you!
Be honest with yourself about what your toxic traits are.
Having an awareness and being honest about when you’re being toxic is an important first step for change. The more aware you are, the better your chances of making active change. Let’s say for example that one of your toxic traits is gossiping about others, and maybe you have done it for so long that you don’t even realize when you’re doing it. If you find yourself gossiping about someone and you’re able to say in that moment “I’m being toxic right now”, you immediately give yourself the opportunity to stop.
Examine and challenge your negative core beliefs.
Core beliefs are the central ideas that we have about ourselves and the world around us. Negative core beliefs have a huge influence on what we do, how we feel, and what we think. One example of a negative core belief is “I can’t trust others”. If this is a belief that you have deep-down, then you may push people away or assume the worst in people. You could challenge this belief by; thinking of times that someone in your life proved to be trustworthy, thinking about how this belief has negatively affected your relationships, and thinking about what relationships could be like if you chose to adopt a healthier belief.
Write affirmations that reflect the healthy traits you aspire to have.
I am a huge believer in writing out affirmations as a means of manifesting. If one of your toxic traits is being passive aggressive, then write “I am an assertive communicator” or “I am comfortable with speaking up”. Don’t forget to post your affirmations somewhere you can see them daily.
Consider talking to a therapist or life coach.
A therapist or life coach is someone that can provide support, encouragement, and guidance on your journey to healthy change. Making change all on your own could possibly be overwhelming, so it’s nice to have someone outside of your friends and family to get assistance from.
Surround yourself with people who are also working toward healthy change.
We all have the capacity and ability to be toxic, so by no means am I saying to cut off everyone in your life who has a toxic trait. I am saying that surrounding yourself with people who are working toward change, or people who have the traits that you aspire to have can be helpful and motivating.
Be patient with yourself.
Making changes within yourself is no easy task. It takes time to unlearn toxic traits and then adopt healthier ones. Be patient and kind with yourself as you go through the process of change.
Maybe you ghost people
Maybe you don’t communicate properly
Maybe you have to always be in control of everyone and everything
Maybe you constantly need reassurance from others
Maybe you hop, skip, and jump to conclusions
Maybe you constantly compare yourself to others
Maybe you constantly doubt yourself
Maybe you let people take advantage of you
We all have things that we want to fix about ourselves. Toxic traits that we want to put behind us. Self-defeating behaviors that we want to quit. Unhealthy thought patterns that we want to let go of. I’m all for self-improvement, but maybe we need to re-think fixing ourselves. After all, the term “fixing” implies that we are broken. Maybe, real healing starts when we take a moment to discover the “why” behind it all.
“Healing is not fixing yourself, it’s discovering yourself”@theholisticpsyhologist
I’ll use my own example of recent self-discovery…
Unfortunately, I can be a passive person, especially when it comes to expressing my wants or needs to others. I also have a bad habit of assuming that people know what I want or need, instead of communicating like an adult. Obviously being passive has been problematic for me in many different aspects of my life, and I’ve been saying that I need to fix it for a while now. Until recently I had never really thought about why I have such an issue with expressing my wants and needs. The ugly truth is that sometimes I fear being told no or being rejected. Sometimes I’m just being hella prideful. Sometimes I think that my wants and needs don’t matter. Sometimes I may even sub-consciously believe that I’m underserving of the things that I want and need.
So how do we begin to change our toxic traits, self-defeating behaviors, and unhealthy thinking patterns? While I don’t have a complete answer, I do have a tip..
Examine your core beliefs.
Simply put, core beliefs are the central ideas that we have about ourselves. Some common negative core beliefs people have are:
I am unlovable
I can’t trust others
My needs are unimportant
People will end up leaving me
I am weak
I can’t do anything right
I have to be perfect
I’m not good enough
People will leave if I set boundaries
I am bad
I am worthless
You might resonate with one or even a few of these. You might wonder how on earth someone could ever believe that about themselves. Either way, negative core beliefs are real and they have a huge influence on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Our core beliefs are not something that we are born with, but rather effects of our childhood experiences or even difficult experiences in adulthood. Negative core beliefs affect our relationships with ourselves and others. Negative core beliefs affect our decision-making and reactions to the world around us. They shape who we are. Lucky for us, even the most deeply-rooted core beliefs can be changed, thus changing the way we think, act, and feel.
Stay tuned for my next post where I give even more tips for changing your toxic and self-defeating behaviors. Until then, take time to discover what your core beliefs are and how they have affected you.
So, before I get into my routine and the products I use, let me just give you a little back-ground story on my skin and how it has been lately…
In May of this year I stopped taking birth control simply because I had been on it for a few years and wanted to give my body a break. I figured there would be changes, like changes in my mood, but what I did not expect was a whole lot of acne. When I tell y’all I was HURT!!! My forehead broke out badly! I was getting pimples on places like my cheeks, chin, and nose! I probably sound hella dramatic cause it’s just acne right, but at the time it was a huge deal. I felt extremely unattractive and annoyed about it for weeks. Prior to stopping the birth-control I got like one pimple on my forehead every so often but that was it.
I read online that it was very normal to experience acne after quitting birth control because your hormones are adjusting. More specifically as your hormones adjust, oil production can increase. After reading that information, I felt a lot better and I came to the realization that I just needed to be patient with my body. Also, having acne is not the end of the freaking world.
Now we get to the point of the post… my skin care routine!
As my skin was changing I thought it would be helpul to change some of the products I had been using. Some of these products are old, but some are newer as I’ve been using them for a little over a month now. I’m very happy to say that my skin is getting back to being clear and my confidence is on 10.
Step 1: Cleanser
My cleanser was the first product that I looked to change. I was previously using Cetaphil but now I use Acure-Seriously Soothing Cleansing Cream and Neutrogena- Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser. I love the cleansing cream because it leaves my face feeling both clean and hydrated. I do not use the exfoliating cleanser everyday although the directions state you can. It’s more like every other day in order to remove dead skin cells. While I’m cleansing I like to use the Beyond Belief- Deep Cleansing Silicone brush.
Step 2: Toner
I’ve been using Heritage Store- Rosewater Facial Toner for about 6 months now and will continue to do so because I am completley obsessed. I’m 99% sure that this product is the reason my skin tone is even. It’s also very hydrating.
Step 3: Eyecream
I’ve tried so many different eye creams over the past year, but about 3 months ago I found the Belif-Moisturizing Eye Bomb and love it. I can’t stand dry under eyes, and this product is very hydrating.
Step 4: Moisturizer
I was previously using an Aveeno moisturizer, but noticed it was way too heavy for my skin now that it was producing more oil. I wanted something light, so I got the Cerave- Ultra Light Moisturizing Lotion. I love that such a light-weight product can be so moisturizing. It’s also non-comedogenic which means it doesn’t clog your pores.
I also want to mention the Ancient Healing Clay-Deep Facial Cleanser although this is something I use only once a week. When I do use it, I use it after cleansing. This product is great for pulling out any dirt and oil that is deep in your pores.
Additional skin-care tips…
Stay hydrated. Take your vitamins. Use sunscreen (yes, even us melanin infused folks need to use sunscreen).
Throughout this entire week, I’ve been saying “my nerves are bed” which for me means, I’m anxious. I’ve been unable to sit still. I’ve felt very uneasy. I’ve felt like screaming.
I haven’t been able to pin point exactly where all of this anxiety is stemming from. I think it’s just… everything. Everything that I’m dealing with personally. Everything my friends and family are dealing with. Everything that my people, black people, are dealing with. Everything my patients are dealing with. Just everything.
It’s a lot and I know I can’t be the only one feeling this way or some type of way. I’ve compiled a list of various mental health resources that could be helpful. In this list I have chosen to highlight resources that were created/founded by Black people with the intention of assisting Black people.
Want to find a mental health professional? check out these directories…
Black Mental Health Alliance – This mission of the Black Mental Health Alliance is ” to develop, promote and sponsor trusted culturally-relevant educational forums, training’s, and referral services that support the health and well-being of Black people and other vulnerable communities”. After completing a brief questionnaire on the site, someone will follow up with you within 24 hours providing referrals for licensed mental health professionals.
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective(BEAM) -This non-profit organization is comprised of yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists. Their mission is to “remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. We do this through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts”. The site offers a directory of black virtual therapists as well as tool kits, worksheets, videos, and articles.
Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation – This non-profit organization was founded by Taraji P. Henson, in honor of her father who suffered with mental health challenges. This mission of the foundation is “to provide support and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague our community”. On the website you are able to search through a directory of mental health providers and programs that serve the African American community.
Therapy for Black Men – Founded by both Vladimire Calixte and Benjamin Calixte, this site offers a safe space for boys and men of color to seek the help of a professional, and become educated on all things mental health.
Want to listen and learn? Check out these podcasts…
Therapy for Black girls – The host of this podcast is Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist. She focuses on mental health topics with the intent of making them more accessible to black women.
Minding My Black Business – The host of this podcast is Dr. JaNae Taylor, a therapist, who talks about all things business, self-care, and mental health.
Fireflies Unite With Kea – Created by suicide survivor, T-Kea Blackman, this mission of her podcast is to “bring light into darkness, encourage people of color to seek treatment, end stigma and raise awareness”.
Is reading more of your thing? Check out these books…
Dear Suicide – Written by Devaunier’ Cannon, a licensed clinical social worker. Her book not only provides information about suicide, but allows for the reader to engage in writing activities that encourage reflection and essentially safety planning to aid in suicide prevention.
Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear – Written by Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, a psychologist. Her book focuses on what can contribute to anxiety, panic, and fear in Black women and offers various healing methods to use in order to combat them.
AN IMPORTANT NUMBER…
If you are in distress or in a crisis, 1-800-273-8255 is the national suicide prevention hotline. Please call this number 24/7 in order to recieve free support.
The other day my friend sent me a tik tok. There are different variations of it out there, but most importantly it’s a voiceover of Nene Leakes (if you don’t know who that is, it’s ok lol). The context is that Nene visits someone’s home and is disgusted by what she sees.
Nene goes on to say “They had a white refrigerator. I was like ughhhh ooooo, not a white refrigerator. Girl please put your shoes on, let’s go find you a home”. Now, I find Nene to be hilarious so of course I laughed, but I also had a moment where I thought to myself… damn, I used to have a white refrigerator.
It was actually only in February of this year that I moved into a renovated unit in my apartment complex that came with wood floors, granite countertops, and yes…. A STAINLESS STEEL REFRIGERATOR. I distinctly remember living in my old apartment and just waiting for the day I could move into something like what I have now.
I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now
I began to reflect on where I am now in life versus where I was 1-3 years ago. I remembered first moving to the DFW and not being able to find a job for about 3 months. I remembered being so frustrated that I had a bachelor’s degree but apparently still wasn’t qualified enough. I remembered working at different jobs for $10, $13, $15 an hour. I remembered working for no pay at all (unpaid internships should be illegal). I remembered long days of working then heading to class at 7:00 PM. I remembered being worried about rent. I remembered getting a credit card just to pay for necessities. I remembered using that credit card for things I didn’t really need. I remembered looking at people on Youtube and Instagram who went on trips and had gorgeous apartments then thinking “Why can’t that be me?” or “When will my time come?”.
I’m not trying to say that I struggled oh so hard nor am I trying to say that my life is perfect now. I am saying that I feel blessed that the things I mentioned above are no longer my reality. Those things mentioned above are important aspects of my journey in life that have played a part in making me into the woman I am today.
I don’t know where you are in life right now, but if you are wishing and praying to be some place different, I want to tell you that it’s coming. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying. When you do get to that place you wish to be, don’t forget where you once were. Use the past chapters of life as motivation and reminders. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying.
Trying to process everything that is going on right now is like being on a rollercoaster. In a single day I am liable to experience anger, fear, faith, happiness, sadness, hope, confusion and so many other emotions. It’s exhausting. If you are feeling the same way(s) then let me tell you…
First off, it’s okay. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it’s valid . This is a lot and it’s affecting us and the world in ways we probably didn’t really or seriously anticipate.
Second, I encourage you to use this time to self-reflect, educate yourself, meditate, pray, tap into your creative side, discover. By no means am I saying that this pandemic is good, but it is forcing us to slow down and you are able to choose what you do with this time.
Third, appreciate and be grateful for any moments big or small that bring laughter and happiness.
Here’s some small tips that I have for maintaining wellness during this time:
TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE NEWS. I feel most of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on comes from me scrolling through twitter/instagram. There’s so much breaking news, information, thoughts, and opinions that can be hard to keep up with, let alone process. Give your mind a break.
STIMULATE YOUR MIND. Not just with Netflix shows either. It’s important to find other stimulating things to do like read, color, draw, do puzzles, write, learn about something new.
TALK TO SOMEONE. My fellow introverts, this may come as a surprise, but we do need connection. It’s a core part of being human. Social distancing is needed right now but that doesn’t mean you can’t call, text, face-time your family, friends, and loved ones.
GO OUTSIDE. Even if it’s just on your balcony/patio or you take a walk to your mailbox and back. We need fresh air and sun.
BUILD UP THAT IMMUNE SYSTEM. Vitamins, fruits, vegetables, supplements… you name it.
Of course these small tips won’t solve all of our problems, but they can help.
Wishing you all peace, happiness, and health.
I really wish I could sit here and say that I enjoy going to the gym…. but I don’t lol. I don’t know when I’ll reach that point of excitement about working out, but until then I guess I’ll continue spending 30 minutes moaning, groaning, and debating about going.. until finally forcing myself to put on gym clothes and getting in the car. There are even times when I have to call my sister so she can motivate me to go because I know if I don’t call , I’ll stay on the couch re-watching The Office. I wish that I liked to work out because that would make things so much easier, but there’s also this sense of pride that I feel when I finish a work-out knowing that I fought against being tired, unmotivated, or just plain lazy. The point of this post is that sometimes the things we want require a lot from us. Hard work, discipline, consistency, and sacrifice are what separates people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams from the people who don’t. I also think that the people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams accepted that they would at some point have to be uncomfortable. For the longest time I struggled with not wanting to do something if it made me feel even the slightest bit inconvenienced or uneasy. The issue with that is… we don’t grow when we are comfortable or when things are easy. The challenges we experience in life are what force us to evolve and uncover strengths and gifts we didn’t know we had.
“Growth is uncomfortable because you have never been here before, You’ve never been this version of you”Kristin Lohr
Whatever it is that you want to achieve; whether it is losing weight, gaining weight, starting a business, obtaining a degree, buying a house….
What are you willing to do to get it? If you had to go through a period of discomfort to get it, would you?
Imposter Syndrome. It might sound silly but it’s SO real and has been a reality for me for the past couple of months. I’m still working on dealing with it, so this is not a “how to get over imposter syndrome” post , but instead I’ll describe what it has been like for me and how I’ve come to deal with it so far.
According to Wikipedia, “Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent interanlized fear of being exposed as a fraud”. On a daily basis at work, I deal with feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and general anxiety about my work performance. These feelings are pretty new for me and that’s because I recently got my first “big girl job”. I got a therapist position right out of grad school and prior to that, I had never had a job in my field of interest or with real benefits lol. What I noticed really quickly after getting the position is that I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t a REAL therapist and only got the position because of my mentor, not because I deserved it. I wake up worried about how my therapy groups will go. During groups, I worry about if what I’m saying even makes sense. I wonder if my patients think I’m an idiot or a bad therapist. In meetings I worry if other staff think I’m an idiot. I beat myself up over mistakes both big and small. I get annoyed if I don’t know something.
Sounds miserable and exhausting huh? IT IS.
I’ve realized that if I want to be of the best assistance to my patients AND maintain my well-being, then I need to get a handle on imposter syndrome.
One thing that I do to combat my negative thoughts is actually something I have told my patients to do (WOW, look at that, a therapist taking her own advice). Basically, if I think to myself “I’m a horrible therapist”, then I force myself to challenge that thought…
So what evidence is there that I am a horrible therapist?
So what evidence is there that I am a good therapist?
Well…. actually my patients often tell me that I’m very helpful and a good therapist.
What would my manager/mentor say about this thought?
Well… she literally sent me an email telling me how often patients rave about me, so she would probably tell me I’m trippin.
Is this thought based on facts or feelings?
Well… I noticed that I tend to have this thought more so when I’m feeling stressed or when I feel like my group didn’t go the way that I wanted.
After I have gone through these questions or similar questions, I tend to realize how silly that thought actually is.
Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Share your experience with me! Tell me what you’ve tried or done to get over it. I’d love to hear from you!