Each year, 1 in 5 US adults experiences mental illness. That’s approximately 18.5% of individuals over the age of 18. Each year, 1 in 20 adults experience a serious mental illness that interferes with or impairs their ability to function in life. More than half of those with a mental illness are not aware and are undiagnosed. Let’s take a moment to really think about that.
When someone is coughing, sneezing, experiencing an itchy throat, or bleeding, we know something is wrong and will typically inquire with concern about “what’s wrong” with that individual. We see symptoms of physical illness and acknowledge that something in that individuals body is compromised. On the other hand, when we see symptoms of a mental illness, we either are completely oblivious, attribute the symptom to the person’s personality, dismiss it, or tell the person to change, stop or get over it. Would you tell someone with cancer to just stop having a compromised immune system? Or tell someone with an asthma attack to just fix their breathing?
I bet that’s a hard no.
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If I asked the average person in the US what routines and practices they implement in their life to take care of their physical health, something tells me at least 3 out of 4 people would have some answers. Even if they aren’t considered to be at their healthiest, most people can at least share general ideas of steps to take towards improving their physical health. If I asked the same questions, and replaced physical health with mental health, I’m not too confident that one would be able to share information as quickly or thoroughly.
With so much information about mental health and major mental illnesses available to the masses, why is the topic of mental health still not integrated into our thought process about general health management? It seems that mental health becomes a trending topic when an atrocity is exposed in the public eye, e.g. a mass shooting, a suicide or substance induced death of a public figure, and then gently fades from peoples’ attention until the next time. Because mental illness (not mental health) becomes a circumstantial topic, I presume it can only be understandable why mental health is a back thought, but it is a personal focus of mine, to change that.
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Sometimes what you “know” doesn’t help you or make sense until an appointed time. Sometimes you don’t walk in what you “know”. Sometimes, something can make sense or feel like common knowledge, and you just don’t connect to it, even though it sounds good. Sometimes, you share concepts and life wisdoms that sound good or are relevant to others, but those same concepts aren’t intertwined in your life as best as they could be. Sometimes its just easier to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.
Some of us spend our life collecting the many wisdoms known to human kind in order to live with the highest intention and clarity. We gather wisdom thru reading personal or mental development materials, acquiring formal knowledge through schooling, reading and memorizing spiritual texts, and going on personal pilgrimages with hopes of arriving to a higher state of consciousness. In recent times, I know motivational memes have become popular, along with the practice of collecting compelling and insightful quotes.
…our ability to KNOW a truth and ACTUALIZE a truth is not the same thing.
As humans, we are an extremely curious and analytical species. We want to know the answers to life’s biggest questions. We want to be equipped enough to live our best life. However, our ability to KNOW a truth and ACTUALIZE a truth is not the same thing. Knowing a truth (cerebrally understanding/comprehending a truth) vs. actualizing a truth ( spiritually understanding and implementing a truth in your daily walk) are two very different subset of skills.
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We're 10 days in, how is your year going so far?
In the beginning of the year (the first couple of weeks) many people are still on a high from all the big declarations, goals and resolutions they made for the year, but that enthusiasm begins to fade by March. The enthusiasm begins to fade because most are focused on the big picture, but disregard what it takes day to day to get to the place that is desired.
Our lives are a reflection of all the in-between steps, actions, behaviors, decisions, and circumstances that are in play before arriving to a "destination." It is what we do everyday that provides a compounding effect and shifts our lives. Aristotle said, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Instead of focusing on the whole meal, take a step back and look at the ingredients. Prepare each portion of the meal. Plate it. Then, proceed to eat it. Some folks become so focused yet overwhelmed with outcomes and by the big changes in life, but it’s not necessary. There are simple things that matter EVERYDAY:
Creating Tasks List: Having a plan and making clear lists of what you need to do, to accomplish bigger tasks really get you moving, and keep you motivated. When the brain sees you check off even the slightest task, it feels productive and releases happy chemicals, which in turn help you feel good. Imagine if you made task lists everyday, and were able to check off items everyday. By any check-in time, you would feel "accomplished." As opposed to just staying busy and sporadically working; you may not complete as many tasks and it may leave you feeling like a failure or as if you haven't made any progress
Making up your bed: Your environment matters. Order matters. It breeds clarity and good energy. Taking the time to make up your bed in the morning or before you depart your room, etc. give signal to your brain that YOU matter. You are taking the time to make your sacred place comfortable, clean and orderly. If you don't have a bed, then just make sure to keep some type of order wherever you lay and rest.
Healthy snacks: What you eat matters. Both your large meals and your snacks. Food is fuel and the better the fuel, the more productive you can be.
Body movement: We are not meant to be sedentary yet most of us spend time laying or sitting. Make sure you stretch, get your blood flowing, get your heart rate up a couple of times throughout the week. Its not necessary for you to be a gym rat however, 30-45 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week is highly recommended. We want to keep strong bones. We want to honor our bodies to decrease the chances of obtaining a lifestyle-connected illness or disorder. Also, using exercise as a tool to build mental tenacity will help you develop the discipline you need to see your goals through.
Having at least 1 hearty laugh: Laughter is revitalizing. Did you know that laugh therapy is a practice? Research has claimed that the muscles used in smiling are connected to the release of happy chemicals in the body. Both an authentic smile and a forced smile, boosts mood, but an authentic smile or laugh keeps the chemical flowing a bit longer. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, choose to smile; find someone or something that makes you laugh. You can be more productive when you're in a positive mood.
Eating fresh, live food: I already mentioned earlier, that what you eat, matters. Regardless of your take on a non-meat diet, understand that there are so many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables. Live food has higher source of nutrients than food that comes from animals. Therefore because we're living with billions of live cells, we want to feed our cells what it recognizes most! Live food aids in your digestion, energy, concentration, ability to fight bacteria and viruses and so much more. You need to be sustained and think clearly while working towards your goals.
Having a grounding practice in the morning (eg. prayer, meditation, thinking in silence, gratitude statements, stretching, affirmations, smiling at yourself in the mirror, etc.). The world is full of pandemonium and distraction. There are so many powers at play that challenge our esteem, confidence, focus, faith, and openness. This is why we must make time to be with ourselves and ground ourselves in our highest truth EVERYDAY. Just like you practice caring for your hygiene everyday, do the same for your mind and spirt.
Drinking water: The most natural detox, moisturizer, and energy booster is water. We are 70% water, yet most don't drink nearly as much water as they need, so they walk around dehydrated. Often times we're so dehydrated, we think we're hungry. Water helps you release toxins. Water nourishes the largest organ on the body, your skin. Wen you're hydrated efficiently, drinking more water gives you energy. Also, drinking the necessary amount of water keeps you satiated, which means you wont typically be reaching for larger portion meals. Giving your body what it needs not only makes you feel better physically but also boosts your personal morale, confidence in and focus on yourself.
Think before you speak: Being self aware of your language before you speak your words is a technique of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of present awareness of your internal state, as well as the experiences your senses are having at any moment and time. Many of use move through the world with a lack of mindfulness, intention or awareness. There's power in your words. Both the words you speak to yourself and the words you speak to others. This mindfulness practice will also benefit you as you navigate your journey of discovery, growth, and accomplishment. Being able to check in with yourself, and be mindful of what you need, what serves you, and what your capacity is at any moment, will allow you to flow with life and bring your desires to you in a much more efficient and fluid way.
BREATHE! When stressed, overwhelmed, irritated, worried or when overthinking occurs, practice taking a slow 6 second inhalation and exhalation through your nose. Breath work is the more underutilized yet powerful tool when it comes gathering groundedness but also focus. Also understanding this very concept is pivotal: You have EVERYTHING you NEED inside of you to obtain what you want and to become who you desire. Remembering and relying on the fact that within you is a supreme source of life and grounding, is so empowering. Your breath is life. Your breath is your power. How could you not take over the world with a focused intention as that?
2018 is upon us. For some people, it's just another into the next month. For others, its a special opportunity to re-start, re-configure, and re-do time and their lives. With that being said, I would love to offer you a couple of simple reminders that I received this year, that may support you in your 2018 journey and beyond:
1. Setting intentions are powerful. Focusing on something you want to feel or a mode of character (e.g. altruism) that you want to manifest, provides such a well rounded experience. You will be tested and often granted those desires, and the effects are long lasting. For example, mine last year was freedom, faith & flow. For 2018, mine are confidence, focus, love, and flow.
2. Goals are great, but open-mindedness and faith will lead you beyond your visions. Goals are good guides but can sometime be constricting and overwhelming. Set your goals, work towards them, but remember that great things can happen beyond your goals.
3. Don't underestimate yourself. We often look at others in amazement because of who they are, where they are, the lifestyle they've obtained, or feats they've accomplished. Its great to be inspired by others, however never forget to see the amazement within you. Don't forget that you can manifest an amazing life, filled with amazing roles, and amazing experiences.
4. You don't need anyone's permission to live your best life. We're afraid of the unknown and we sometimes look for others' approval before we take steps and make decisions in our lives. Its your life. If its something you want to do, and it brings no harm to you or someone else, do it. If it works out, great! If it doesn't work out, still great.
5. You never know how your life is impacting someone else. We are always being watched. What we don't see in ourselves, others may be inspired by. It could be how you communicate, walk, get things done, serve & nurture others, or laugh in the face of uncertainty that may leave appositive mark on someone else.
6. In the end, it will make sense, if you're open to connecting the dots. When we're in the thick of life, it can be hard to see "the light." Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Therefore perspective is everything. Learning to find or even create meaning in life makes it a little bit easier to manage.
7. Its ok not to know, and its ok to not feel ok. Its something about uncertainty that the mind can't accept. As humans we chase meaning and answers to life's biggest and smallest questions. This can lead us to feeling like we always need an answer for everything, to appease ourselves and others. Some seasons will be full of questions with no sure answers. Sometimes people will ask you what's going on and how do you feel, and you may not have words, not feel like your best...and its ok.
8. Just leap. Whatever it is you've been scared to do, whatever conversation you've been scared to have, whatever place you've been scared to go to, just leap. At least its one more story you can add to the book of your life.
9. BE Gentle with yourself no matter what. We can get a bit excited and overwhelmed with transitions, plans, goals, and anything that comes our way in relations to a shift and a desire for newness. Remember that life doesn't always happened as planned, and many times there are pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
10. Stay in your flow. Flow is good for us. In flow, time doesn't exist. In flow, we surrender to a stream of consciousness that overpowers us and allows us to experience ecstasy. In positive psychology, its a state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Lastly, before all goals and resolutions, think about how you want to feel, and what you want to experience mentally and spiritually. Follow those feelings. Whether its awe, peace, amusement, adventure, joy, freedom, fearlessness, or whatever, let these feelings guide you with ease.
It’s the time of year when people begin gathering thoughts around their lived 2017 experience, and begin focusing on their desired 2018 experience. People assess their growth and accomplishments, as well as major lessons, losses, and disappointments. Reflection is such a useful tool to get us to the next phase in life, however it must be used with care. Reflections can spark inspiration and a sense of pride, as well as blame, regret, anger and a sense of failure. When we don’t know how to properly both praise and critique ourselves, we let our critical voices take charge. Taking our criticism with us into the next year or phase in our lives, literally keeps us involved in the same cycle of self-inflicted abuse that our inner voice subjects us to.
The inner voice we have, may have a couple of sources. Some believe it to be our ego, which I agree with. Its not bad or good, however it’s the aspect of our mind that is most reactive and most expressive. It is governed by pride and fear, and the laws in which it abides, come from narratives that we have collected throughout life. The corrosive, destructible and often critical internal narrative, is a concept I’ve been fascinated with, ever since my life coach brought my own to my attention this year.
It was in July, and at the time, we were discussing if I should proceed in my decision to go on an epic 2-week trip to Peru, and trek the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in September. I had been experiencing so much indecisiveness because I recently left my job, was living off of savings, and was so worried about the financial commitment to go. This had been a trip I declared a year prior and had already made plans to do, I just didn’t complete the financial commitment. I told her it would be irresponsible of me because what if I didn’t get back on my feet with the plans that I had in my head. In getting to the space of making my decision, my life coach asked me 6 simple words, who’s narrative are you listening to?
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What kind of life or lifestyle will help me feel free?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years. In my pursuit of the answer, I’ve come to understand that freedom for me, is a feeling. Freedom is a subjective perception. What seems like freedom for one person or society, seems like imprisonment or damnation to another.
There are people who live extravagant lifestyles, who don’t feel free. There are people who live in first world countries who don’t feel free. There are people who live in secluded indigenous settings who feel free. There are people who live in third world nations, who feel free.
Freedom, as a value, has been written about by history’s greatest thinkers who’ve influenced the establishments of governments. The ideology of freedom is what has influenced the fight for human and civil rights. However, what does freedom mean to you? How do you come to a place of finding and living in it?
I have learned that learned, at any time, I have the privilege of creating the life I want, in order to feel free. The exchange, is that something in the present, will always have to be taken away or released to give room for something new in the future. Old mindsets, habits, relationships, possessions, and environments must be set aside to usher in new. To live a life of freedom, we must let go of what exists in the state that we consider ourselves to not feel free in.
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Life is always happening. Stressors are constantly coming our way. Under heightened periods of stress, it is so easy to either throw ourselves into staying busy or completely vegging out on unhealthy foods and mindless activities.
However, there are practices and tools we can utilize to support our self care. When one thinks of self care, you can be inclined to think of massages, nail spas or hair salons. Yes that may be one form, but there are simple, affordable and natural tools that you can utilize to combat stress.
When it comes to stress, it is important to know, that your body is responding to external stimuli on a neurological, physiological and energetic level. Most of the time when we are "stressed", we do not even perceive it because consciously we are built with protective factors and operate thru resilience. Regardless if our conscious selves process all of our stressors, its beneficial to have tools that stabilize us neurologically, physiologically, and energetically.
-Burn Something Edifying
Burning herbs, woods, and incense to clear energies, bless bodies, and purify the atmosphere of the home is an ancient practice utilized indigenous, African, Asian, and LatinX cultures.
Look for these scents which are known to have a positive effect on the nervous system. They may reduce feelings of nervousness, anxiety and stress. Lavender, eucalyptus, jasmine, vanilla, and sandalwood.
Sage, Palo Santo, or Incense
These are shorter burning items, that only require a little bit at a time. You can purchase and look up how to burn white sage or palo santo. Sage and palo santo are used to smudge (clear energies and toxins) so you would burn the tips and let their smoke fill the air for 30 seconds to 2 minutes (depending on how much you have). Incense will surely burn longer but not as long as a candle.
-Meditate and/or Pray
Meditation is essentially the practice of focused breathing, typically done in silence. In meditation, you become mindful of your thoughts, and as you deepen your meditative practice, you develop the strength to quiet your thoughts. Because we are so overstimulated, the thought of meditating can seem challenging, and initially it is. Fortunately there are tons of apps and wellness channels on YouTube, that support meditation, no matter how fresh or seasoned you are.
The goal is all about stillness and awareness.
The same goes for praying. Praying is a time where people talk to their respected higher power and that power responds back and guides that individual on their life journey. Prayer time, allows you to shut the outside world down, and focus on your intention in that moment.
-Practice Sound Healing
Listen to binaural beats, meditative music, music that stimulates your chakras.
Every object and every person is composed of energy. As the great Sir Isaac Newton theorized thru the law of conservation of energy, energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but it can be converted from one form to another and it can be transferred from one object to another. This means that you, during times of stress emanate certain energy. Therefore, one energy based tool you can utilize is sound healing. All that "sounds" are is energy captured in frequency form. Of course there's a science to it, but for the sake of this conversation, just know that there are specific sounds that you can listen to that scientifically enhance your mood or relax you.
You can simply use YouTube or your favorite music app to search for binaural beats, meditative music, sound healing songs, chanting, or chakra balancing hymns.
An essential oil dropper or roll-on, a tincture, or a tea
As herbs come from the ground, we humans have mastered various ways to ingest them. Either on your skin or thru your blood stream, utilizing the power of herbs works. Some herbs can be used for cooking as well as aromatherapy. Others can be used for tea. When herbs are doused in rubbing alcohol, they become what we call tinctures, and can be placed in water or tea. No matter if the herbs are in a form of an oil that can be burned, rolled on you, in a tea bag, or in a tincture, utilizing the different forms are great for your well being. You can locate herbs in various forms at your local farmers market, health food store, alternative healing store/clinic, or online.
Look out for the following
- Lavender -Licorice root
- Chamomile - Holy Basil
- Eucalyptus - Ashwagandha root
- Kava - Eleuthero root
- Vanilla - Rhodiola root
- Cinnamon - Bergamot
- Lilac - Jasmine
Your breathe is the most centering tool for self care that you have. Taking intentional moments to practice 6 second inhalations and exhalations can center your body, improve your oxygen flow, and stabilize your fight or flight system. Focus on inhaling thru your nose and exhaling thru your mouth or breathing in and out of your nose.
When it comes to self care, there are endless tools you can use, however these are tools I have utilized in the last couple of years that have helped me.
Of course other steps you can take include quality rest, having a diet full of live foods, physical activity, practicing boundaries, being in nature, and taking quiet time.
In BE Love: Daily Intentions Guiding You to Self Love, I provide you with 35 activities and steps to practice self care and support you on your journey of self love.
What self care tools do you utilize?
Me in Botswana. April 2017.
Many people don't know themselves, are uncomfortable with themselves, and experience voids within their lives because they can't stand to be alone.
This is why some are constantly in need of being in social settings, being the center of attention, being in romantic relationships, or glued to their tv/laptop/tablet or phone.
We live in a time where not only are the art of relationshipping and building intimacy with others are issues, but experiencing intimacy with ourselves is even a greater issue.
There are so many distractions that people have that keep them from having time with and by themselves. The cure? Creating solo experiences
Solo experiences can be doing anything by yourself:
I started employing solo experiences for myself around 20, when I was in college. As I was regularly in therapy at the time, myself and my therapist, found it beneficial for me to start deplugging and really getting to know myself, by doing things alone. Over the years I just got so comfortable, that now I just feel like I LOVE being by myself. My favorite past time has become travelling solo.
Me on the train in Amsterdam. April 2017
Solo experiences are key to me re-grounding myself, and I have been in need of a major overhaul. Part of the reason there haven't been frequent post was due to blockages I was having around creativity and expression. I somewhat lost touch with myself because of my anxiety, depression and grief. I went on an amazing 3.5 week trip through Southern Africa, and it was astounding. I will surely do some posts on my travels, but I want to just share why travelling solo for me, helped me grow deeper in love with myself.
Me in Maboneng, Johannesburg, South Africa. March 2017.
Me in Granada, Spain
Being alone, I had to trust myself, my judgement and discernment. Travelling solo as a woman, is still a foreign concept to some people, so I had make sure I was open enough to my experiences, but o guard about where I went, and who I interacted with.
I got to see myself through others eyes, and re-realized, wow I'm pretty dope. Sometimes its affirmations from others that leave us to recognize the light within ourselves. For me personally, I rarely acknowledge or give myself credit because I feel like I'm just living my life the best way I know how, but I recognize, just as encourage my readers, we must honor ourselves on a daily basis.
Being alone, always allows one to observe their inner thoughts, and what are thoughts tend to be, is a major indication of whats going on in our lives, or how our lives will be in the future. For me, my greatest moments of growth come when I am alone, with nothing to distract me.
With no alternative voices or stimuli, I can find it much easier to stay present because I am not obliged to give my attention to a person or thing (aka phone).
I believe you get to challenge your own self concept, and step beyond who you are or were, and decided in that experience, who do you want to be. Because an introverted person, on solo experiences, can find that when they want to, they surely can break out of their shell. Or a person that is always afraid of danger, can learn that in their boldness, the world may not be a scary as a place that they've previously thought it to be.
On my recent travel in South Africa, after disclosing my solo journey, many would say, you are so bold! When, in actuality, I don't think so.
I just leave you with this question, what are we afraid of in the world or within ourselves, to prevent us for spending long durations of time alone?
If you and I chatted for the first time, and I blatantly said, may I join your sisterhood, tribe, group of friends, etc., what would you say? How would you feel? If you considered answering yes, what would be the criteria that I would have to fulfill?
Do you honestly feel like you have a strong sisterhood with at least 2-3 women?
Yes, you are the givers of life, and in so many ways, you handle a lot more life and baggage than most men, but having others to check in with, who authentically care about you or who offer to support you and lighten your load is so important.
Outside of settings like school and possibly work, it is difficult for many adults to develop new friendships, and even when you do, you may have an overly romantic or underwhelming idea of what that looks like.
Yet the reality is, life can be challenging at times. Stress is a real thing, and its not always self care activities like yoga, fitness, writing, fitness, etc. that can bring our stress levels down. Sometimes we need human contact, affection and support to get us thru tough times or even a tough day.
According to the Office of Women's Health, the following are signs of stress:
Some of these can also be signs of greater mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
One of the ways to help manage your stress is having and leaning on a supportive network of family and friends that you can talk to. But dare I say, its not just any type of friends. We all have different types of friends, that may serve different purposes. They may be in our lives now because they entered during very different seasons in our lives, whether as children, adolescents, young adults, or in the present. Nonetheless, for the sake of this post, I want you to think about the kind of friends, or sisters, to include in your sisterhood.
A sisterhood would be comprised of a group of women, that would fulfill the criteria above. Every single one not, but collectively they are whole tribe of support. The truth is, no one person can be everything; not even you. This is why its important to have parts of a whole. The women in your sisterhood don't even all have to know or be friends with each other, but if you had to have sleepover/please come pour into me session-my life is in shambles- would you have a group of women you could depend on?
Remember, stress has effects on your health, so its never something you just want to keep inside. Not only would you have your self love tool kit, but you would human outlets that can help you deplug, process, and restart. The power of a sisterhood is that it creates a safe space for you as a woman. We bear a lot of burdens, have so many insecurities, doubt ourselves, compare ourselves, and often have feelings of lack. All the while, we carry on with idea that we can hold weight on our backs, and just continue doing laugh as if the weight is not affecting us.
With a sisterhood, you are reminded you are not alone and don't need to feel like you have to go thru life alone. You are also reminded that someone else, has or is going thru your same or similar stresses. There is simply power in connection.
If a sisterhood is not something you have, lets be grateful that you're in the age of technology bringing people together. Join Facebook groups with interests you have. Look for meetups where you are. Join local women focused membership based organizations. Step out your comfort zone, be vulnerable, and go on sister dates to build relationships!
To have support is honoring thy spirit; the 4th commandment of self love, so be open.