Self-Growth is a Steady Journey

This week I decided I needed to take my own advice.

As I have been writing about self-care, self-growth and the preservation of the love we have for our own selves, I came to the realization that these things are much easier said than done. I looked in the mirror and saw someone I love, but she’s not quite present on the surface. The part of me that loves myself to the fullest potential was hiding somewhere deep within.

So, the question stands:

How do I find the version of me that is capable of loving myself, and others, to my fullest potential?

Well, first I had to figure out what was shadowing me and what it was that was dimming my light. This was not easy. This came with tears and telling myself some things that I had been pushing behind me for a long while now. I thought about why I felt like I am not good enough, why I felt like I need someone else to love me, for me to love myself, and why I allow the opinion of others to affect my mood and cloud the lens that I see the world through. Ironically, the answers were simple.

Some very hard questions that revolve around a simple explanation:

I was afraid.

I was afraid that the negative people that surround me are, in fact, right. I was afraid that the ME I see every day in the mirror is not the version of me others perceive. I was afraid that I will never get my happy ending.

This, though, is negative self-talk; something we may acknowledge but ultimately want to stay away from. There is no good reason to consistently try to believe the negative accusations that you direct at yourself.

So, I joined a yoga class. In my practice I focused fully on my breath and my intension. I brought those negative feelings in with me and I let them melt away through my pores as I went through the flow of Vinyasa.

By the end of my practice that day, the stress and anxiety that filled my head and my heart had calmed down and I finally felt grounded for the time being.

After this I suggested connecting with loved ones. So, that is what I did. I met my sister for dinner and we talked about irrelevant topics like school and how we want to redecorate our rooms. A day that started so wound up and uncomfortable turned slowly into a calm, comfortable conversation.

The last step is to set a goal. I am often very busy and find myself feeling overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities so I had to truly think about what I needed. I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin. I needed to be calm and collected while I navigate my day. I needed to show myself that I am capable of giving my body and mind more love than it has been receiving.

With that being said, I set two goals:

My first goal is to attend at least four yoga classes a week. These classes will help me become more in-tune with my physical self, helping me feel grounded in the process.

My second goal is to make time for breakfast every day. I do not always have time for more then a coffee and a quick bite on the go. Changing this routine will not only help adjust my health and eating habits it will become a healthier alternative for my mental stability and sleep cycle by creating a routine and forcing myself to make time for one specific thing each day.

I have been active in following through with these goals for two weeks now. After a week of this routine I felt better. My mind had found a safe space and I began to understand how much I had truly been neglecting myself.

After two weeks, I am thrilled. I have started to see changes in my physical self and I am finally focused on creating a better me for ME, not for others. My path may not be the right path for you, everyone is different, but I encourage you to find one.

As the wise Buddha once said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

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The Truth About Therapy

How do you feel about the word therapy? Some of us are under the impression that attending therapy means we are going “crazy” or “insane.” This is false and if you believe this you are actually stereotyping and increasing the stigma related to mental health. Therapy is for all, the everyday unique person who simply wants to better them self. You do not have to be experiencing a major life crisis, transformation or a traumatic event to benefit from someone listening to you.

I want to debunk some therapy rumors and clear up any misconceptions about therapy:

1. My issues are not a big deal: Your anxiety may be related to things others may not understand or empathize with. That does NOT mean they are not a big deal, it means you can talk to someone who can empathize, listen and understand how your illogical thoughts may be growing in your own head.

2. In therapy I will be told what to do: NO, sorry that is truly the most far from the truth. A therapist listens and guides. But we do not tell anyone what to do. You come up with our choices based on what you want to accomplish. In therapy, you gain insight and the ability to make your own healthy choices.

3. My therapist does not care about my problems: That may be true or not, every therapist is different and unique. If you feel they do not empathize or understand you, leave. Find another therapist, we are everywhere and we all have different talents. The most important thing for you to benefit from therapy is simply your relationship with your therapist and how well you get along.

4. It is too expensive: This can be true, but it can also be very false. Therapists can work with insurance providers, some have sliding scales or discounts for college students. I always say therapy is not permanent, it is an investment. Put away your online shopping habit and instead commit to something that can help you gain better relationships, a promotion and self-esteem.

5. Talking won’t help me solve anything: Of course, it can! You just have not found the right person for you to talk to. See talking to a therapist is not like talking to a friend, spouse or family member. It is unique in that your therapist has no motif, no underlying gain, they do not know you or your acquaintances. A therapist learns to see you the way you see yourself, through your own eyes.

6.  I can not change people around me: Very true, in therapy, you will learn this. But you should not be going to therapy to change people, you should be going to therapy to improve your own thinking and insight.

7. It is embarrassing: If you feel this way, talk about it in therapy. I do not see people feeling embarrassed about going to the doctor, dentist and even your gynecologist. Talking to a therapist is empowering and the most opposite of embarrassing.

8. Therapy is forever: No, it does not have to be forever. Find a therapist with a therapy style that gives you results and you too will see not every therapist is the same, and you do not have to invest your entire future going to therapy.

Please remember your therapist is human too. In fact, many of us attend our own therapy. It is not as shocking, embarrassing or outlandish as you may think. We study the art and science of psychology, it is important for us all to realize our own limitations and to consult with other like-minded humans, who are impartial and non-biased when we need an extra boost.

A Side of Love, Forgiveness and Patience

   You're at your favorite date night restaurant, and you've been looking forward to it all day. You order the salad with dressing on the side and wait patiently as you sip your glass of wine. Finally, the waitress comes over with your delicious salad bowl, and you dive right in! It takes you about a minute to notice...she forgot your dressing. A little dismayed, you flag her down when she's near, and politely let her know. She's is so sorry! She was buzzing around and it simply slipped her mind, she asks that you please forgive her. You tell her it's no big deal at all, you just wanted to remind her. You offer a reassuring smile as she scurries to go get your dressing. Within seconds, it's on the table and you go right back to your meal. It is delicious and you are once again reminded as to why this is your favorite place. 

     So why when your significant other doesn't listen to what you're saying or forgets something, are you not as forgiving and friendly as you were with the forgetful waitress? Surely you love them more than the waitress, so what is keeping you from being just as kind? Maybe because it's a common thing, and you feel as though you are constantly reminding, and repeating yourself. If that is the case, ask yourself this: when is the last time someone had to remind me of something? In today's world, I can guarantee it wasn't that long ago. 

    Communication comes in two primary forms. Verbal, and non-verbal. It seems that in times of frustration or stress, many of us remember our verbal communications well, but what about the non-verbal? Have you ever said something was 'okay' with your mouth, but your face and that long sigh said something else? "It's fine, I'll just run to the store myself and get it." You say, as you snatch the keys and shove them in your pocket, marching towards the door. Body language says everything when your mouth doesn't, and it can be one of the main roadblocks to proper communication. Reactions like this can bring such unnecessary stress into your relationship when one of you feels they have to walk on eggshells and have the memory of an elephant. The solution to this is something that must be practiced, and it involves three words. Love. Forgiveness. Patience. 

   There are many times during our day that I am sure we wish we had more patience. At the minimum, can we try to give our loved ones the same courtesy as we do our waiters and waitresses? All of us know what it is like to be human, and we should try to remember that the next time we say something without saying it. Do we want to be sure that we aren't doing this all for a show, right? Let's not smile through the conversation, and lament in our heads for the rest of the evening. Forgiveness not only releases the person, but it frees you as well from the burden of agonizing over it. The most important of the three is love, and it is my favorite. No matter what, you should always speak to your significant other out of love. This is a great way to keep yourself in check, and in times of frustration, you will be shocked at the results. Their reaction to being spoken to out of love rather than irritation will not only ease them but bring you both happiness in solving the issue together. Try it. Practice it. And be kind to everyone you meet, waitress included! 

Your First Semester at College Survival Guide

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As a high school senior you were on top of the food chain. You probably knew your school like the back of your hand and best of all you were comfortable. August is finally here and the fall college semester will begin soon. Some of you are heading to schools where you will be one of thousands of students, others are heading to small schools in which you will be one of hundreds. Either way it is a BIG change and college anxiety is real. 

Here are some ways to ease your mind and look forward to your first day of college: 

1. Purchase the essentials: Aside the typical dorm items, remember to purchase school supplies and your books. Show up to class prepared and ready to take notes (even if it is the first day of class). In college professors will expect you to always be prepared to learn, there is no movie day or freebie. 

2. Go explore the campus: Learn where your dorm is, the nearest dining halls and where your classes are. Learn to take the bus and time how long you take to reach your destination. This will help you plan how much time you have between classes. 

3. Get to know your professors: No, you do not have to take them to lunch, but introduce yourself during a class break and research their ratings on www.ratemyprofessor.com or a similar website  (this will make you aware of their teaching style and personality).  

4. Get to know your roommates: Spend time together, talk, go out to eat and learn what you have in common. Your roommates can be a great part of your college experience (they still are a great part of my life). You will be living with them so make the best of it and work on building a friendship. 

5. Have a schedule: Write down and plan out your day (from start to finish). This will help ease your stress and increase your timeliness. You can add lunch, time with friends, work out time, study hours and quizzes to all fit your schedule. 

6. Have fun: Take the time to join clubs and make friends. College is not just about your studies. It is a great opportunity to make social connections (future work connections are always great) and explore the things that really interest you. This will help you find your identity, which can help you choose a career that aligns with who you are. 

Prepare yourself for a year of learning, fun and exciting new ventures! College is what you make of it. Remember to take one day at a time. Patience is key to learning your way around, adapting to a new environment and surviving your first semester.  

Mental Health Matters

"Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans...It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible."

–Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
Co-developer of Minority Mental Health Month

I’d like to take a moment to first give kudos to the individuals and groups of individuals who have made great efforts to destigmatize mental health over the past several years. Campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’, and Takethis.org have created safe spaces for individuals and their loved ones who experience mental illnesses to vent about their experiences, and connect with others who they can relate to. These sort of campaigns have been created with the purpose of destigmatizing mental health, and it seems that they have done an excellent job of educating individuals about mental health, and fostering hope for individuals by sharing venues for getting help.   

Unfortunately, it seems that many individuals still feel a sense of shame and helplessness when it comes time to getting care for themselves or for their loved ones. Statistics vary depending on the source, but between 1/5 and ¼ of all Americans are currently living with a diagnosable mental health condition. NAMI reports that individuals who are Hispanic, Black, Asian, and American Indian, are as or more likely to have a mental illness as white individuals. But when it comes to receiving care, White Americans are most likely to receive care for their mental health. African Americans and Hispanic Americans do not tend to receive the mental health services that they need and Asian Americans were found the least likely to receive care. 

So what explains this disparity between white individuals and minorities receiving mental health treatment? According to NAMI, individuals in multicultural communities receive a poorer quality of care, experience higher levels of stigma, receive services within a culturally insensitive health care system, may experience language barriers from their clinicians, and have lower rates of health insurance.  These statistics, although discouraging, serve as a sign to mental health practitioners that we need to do more to reach clients of all ethnic backgrounds, especially individuals who fall into these underserved communities. Minority Mental Health Month was developed to improve the public’s awareness of mental health among minorities and to improve access. 

What can you do to help? Educating yourself and others about mental illnesses may be the first step. You can visit www.nami.org for additional information regarding the facts and myths associated with mental health. You can connect with other individuals and families, neighbors and people who have sought help for their mental health in the past. You may also speak with your doctor to see if therapy may be a good fit for you or a loved one.

It is not always easy to talk about mental health but by just reading this blog you are already helping others. Awareness is key and by coming together we can begin to end the stigma associated with mental illness, especially for minorities.