By Dr. Charmain Jackman
We have been in unprecedented times during the last year. We have faced the death of loved, watched our mental health decline, experienced profound loneliness, worried about this generation of BIPOC youths, lost jobs, lost homes...and the list can go on. The important message is that if you are reading this, it means you survived. Here are a few tips that can help you now go from surviving to thriving!
1. My Peaceful Place Meditation:
When I am having trouble sleeping or I am feeling keyed up or anxious, I will pull out my favorite meditation exercise, the peaceful place meditation. I have been using this meditation more recently as a way to cope with the eruption of racial violence in our country. The exercise involves visualizing a “peaceful place” by engaging the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, feel, and taste). While this exercise is typically less than 10 minutes, I feel extremely relaxed afterwards. My peaceful place is a beach scene in Barbados. You can hear/experience me guiding you through the peaceful place meditation at www.innopsych.com/resources.
2. Write (or Talk) It Out:
Journaling is a strategy that I recommend to clients frequently. It allows you to connect with your emotions, your thoughts, and to notice patterns in your life. The process of reflecting can help you to break unhealthy patterns. While many people use journals to get their thoughts out, you can also use audio journaling or video journaling to help with your reflection process. Check out our fresh journal design on www.innopsych.com/shop.
3. Gratitude Shapes Your Attitude:
Starting and ending your day by listing 3-5 things you are grateful for is a powerful way to shift your mindset when you are distracted by the negative aspects of life. As a Black woman, thinking about my physical safety or the safety of my family members produces significant anxiety. Generating a gratitude list immediately brings a smile to my face, awakens my pleasure center, and puts me in a good mood. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are more likely to accomplish goals and to have better overall emotional functioning. So when I notice that I start down the path of thinking of all the bad things that can happen to me and my family, I use the gratitude list to shift my perspective.
4. Focus on Success
Unfortunately, no matter how much success I have accomplished in life, imposter syndrome often creeps in and then spirals into perfectionism. As a Black woman working in a field where Black Psychologists make up about 5% of all psychologists, it is no wonder why. One strategy that I discovered recently was the profound impact on writing down 2-3 successes in a journal every day. It helps to shift my thinking from failure to success, and helps to put that pesky imposter syndrome, and the anxiety that comes with it, in check. Many people often say look to your failures to help. WHile that can be helpful, my philosophy is to focus on success. When we experience a win, the pleasure center in our brain responds and we experience joy. Building joy pathways is where we want to put our attention.
5. Lavender Shower and Sleep:
When I am stressed out, I pay the price with lack of sleep. My mind and body just have a hard time turning off the worries. I love aromatherapy, but lighting a candle as I am trying to fall asleep is not safe. So when I discovered lavender oil a few years ago, I was beyond delighted. My bedtime routine now consists of sprinkling a few drops of lavender oil in a hot steamy shower. The scent gets infused in the shower and truly works to clear my mind. By the time I am out of my 20-minute steamy shower, I am so relaxed that I can immediately fall asleep. Sometimes, I’ll sprinkle a few drops of Lavender oil on my pillow, if I need an extra dose of calm!
6. Social Media and News Cleanse:
When COVID-19 hit, I noticed that I was listening to the news cycle all day, following along on social media, and talking to friends around the globe on Whatsapp. After a week of this routine, I had to pull away because I was feeling anxious and afraid, and the uncertainty just made it all worse. I recall that I was telling clients to limit their news intake, but I was not listening to my own advice. So, I told my friends in the Whatsapp groups that we needed to add in other stories into the conversations, and I also reduced how often I checked by turning off my notifications. These actions all helped me to regain balance and to feel more in control again.
7. Affirmations and Self-Love:
As a parent and mother of two Black children, I am always looking for ways to build up my children’s self-esteem. Beyond books and telling them how wonderful they are, I have found using an affirmation jar is a great way to bring positivity to our conversations. We created an affirmation jar, where we wrote down positive words and statements on pieces of paper and then put them in a jar. At lunch or dinner, we each choose a piece and reflect on what is written on the paper. This has been a great way to get my children to talk about themselves and to share in a culture of positivity and self-love.
Charmain F. Jackman, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts and the founder of InnoPsych, Inc., a national therapist of color directory aimed at making it easier and faster for people of color to find therapists of color. She is also the creator of the The My Time To Thrive: Feel. Heal. Grow™ card deck which are designed to promote healing and emotional wellness in communities of color. Dr. Jackman’s work intersects diversity, equity, and inclusion and mental health, and she supports organizations in developing strategies to support the mental health needs of their employees of color. Learn more at: www.innopsych.com and follow on Instagram, Twitter and Linked in at: @InnoPsych and @AskDrCharmain.