One of the most common black momma sayings is the phrase, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about."This was normally said after you got upset about something. It didn't matter what happened prior or how you felt, all that mattered was at that moment you were expected to suck up your tears. After your mom left the room, then you would quietly go and cry yourself to sleep. Many black children are taught to suppress their feelings and that any sign of emotion is a sign of weakness. As a black woman I have found it difficult to be open about my feelings. Growing up, all I ever saw were the black women in my life constantly on the go. There was no time to just sit and chill and contemplate how you feel in the present moment. Historically, black women have always been the backbone of the black community. While on the plantation, we didn't have the luxury to consider our feelings. We were more concerned about survival and trying to keep our families together. During the civil rights movement, there wasn't time to sit and ponder about our emotions, instead, we were once again trying to fight for our humanity and dignity. In 2020 our surroundings may have changed, but the instinct to always keep our guard up has not. In the mental health field one of the key buzz words that has been trending for the last couple of years is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as being actively present in the moment to one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations in the body without assigning any positive or negative judgment. Some of the benefits of mindfulness are lowered stress levels, decrease depressive symptoms, more bodily awareness, and enhancement of resiliency just to name a few. Yoga, meditation, body scans, breath practice, and guided imagery are just some examples of mindfulness exercises. Practicing mindfulness can be done while showering, eating, driving, really at any time. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/mindfulness) As a way to connect to my emotions, I began to practice mindfulness. My mindfulness journey did not start until last summer when I read the book, 10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge and found self-help that works-A true story, by Dan Harris. (https://www.amazon.com/10-Happier-Revised-Self-Help-Works-ebook/dp/B07R4NMHJ2/ref=sr_1_2dchild=1&keywords=dan+harris&qid=1587347489&sr=8-2) I could relate to the author in that anytime I attempted to do yoga my mind would wander and think about food and I struggled to recenter myself or with meditation I would fall asleep. His narrative and difficulty with mastering meditation, led me to then try meditation using the app Insight Timer. This then inspired me to try a yoga class at my local community center. My body could not do the moves, but I enjoyed the class which was taught by a dreadlocked sista who sometimes would incorporate old school R&B into the yoga practice (think Stevie Wonder, etc.) Nowadays, I have added mindfulness to my self-care. Some mornings, I wake up and do a yoga video on YouTube, I meditate using the insight timer app while simultaneously doing a face sheet mask, I even will listen to a free Oprah & Deepak Chopra meditation experience. I may not be perfect at mindfulness but that doesn't mean I still don't reap the benefits. I love that now in the black community, Millenials are starting to bring awareness to black mental and emotional health. As a black therapist, I work with black youth who struggle with emotional regulation and self-control. In my private practice, I have had black adult women share with me that they want to get in touch with their feelings and work on being vulnerable. I know for me, there was a time when I struggled with the concept that showing my emotions made me weak which contradicted my upbringing as a black woman. Through my training as a therapist and other tools along the way such as mindfulness, I have re-framed my thinking to reflect that showing my emotions is not a weakness but a sign of strength. It is okay to not be okay. Being resilient runs through my veins. One of my professional goals is to try to introduce the concept of mindfulness to my clients while at the same time keeping in mind that mindfulness may not be appropriate for everyone (https://upliftconnect.com/mindfulness-when-not-to-use-it/). Also, my personal goal is to continue with my mindfulness journey in a way that works for me while at the same time keeping in mind that I should probably have a full stomach and be well-rested before I meditate and do yoga. As a clinician, how do you help your clients connect to their emotions? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to just sit and just be?
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