All Articles Tagged "mental health"

Happy People: 8 Simple Secrets They Know Best

August 23rd, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
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Courtesy of United Healthcare.

Do you know people who always seem bright and cheery?

We keep hearing that R. Kelly song in our heads…

So what’s their secret? Research shows that certain simple habits often play a role in happiness. Here are eight ways to cultivate more of it in your life.

Kerry Washington Needed A Break From Social Media After She Started Comparing Her Life To Others

August 5th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Splash News

Splash News

Despite living what we assume is the good life, making millions and stunting on red carpets, celebrities are everyday people. And just like the rest of us, some of the biggest stars can get overwhelmed by social media and start comparing what they do or don’t have going on with the trappings of others. Even Kerry Washington found herself struggling with this. But as she carries her second child and wanted to be as healthy as possible in every way, she revealed that she decided to log off of social media for a little bit recently.

As the Scandal star shared in her new interview with InStyle about taking a break from her three million Instagram followers and four million Twitter followers, it all became a little bit too much.

“I started to feel overwhelmed, like there was too much noise,” she said. “I felt like I had to get back to who Kerry really is.”

And Kerry said that she dealt with the same less than pleasant feelings many of us have when we see people looking as though they’re living the best life while we question what’s going on with our own. As she described it, “That thing that happens in social media where you’re comparing your day or your life or your food or your mood or your kids to somebody else’s. I felt like I needed to create a little more stillness around me.”

And with her current pregnancy, she said she doesn’t have time for anything but stillness and positivity.

“There’s something about pregnancy,” she said, “that willingness to take up more space in the world—that is liberating.”

If there were ever a time to run in the opposite direction of all things stressful, it would definitely be when you’re expecting. But the good news is that Washington must be feeling much more still and centered because she has returned to social media as of late to promote and post a few things here and there. That includes the Confirmation DVD, her OPI nail polish collection and her InStyle cover. But as someone currently on a social media break for the last month, I can totally relate to the need to log off sometimes. How about you?

I’m Literally Sick And Tired Of You: For The Sake Of Your Mental, Physical Health, You Need To Cut People Off

August 5th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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I’ve always been one to say that “Life is too short” to hold grudges, especially ones towards those close to you. I’ve believed, through my faith, that forgiving people for the things they do does more for me than it does for them. Who has the time or energy to hold on to all that anger? I still believe that.

But I also have come to the conclusion that I can forgive you and not want anything to do with you. And that anything isn’t said with rage or animosity behind it, but rather, with my mental health in mind.

In the effort to be diplomatic and to appear less than petty, I’ve given a certain individual a handful of chances to get right after disrespectful comments have been made over the years about everything from my hair to my attempts to go out of my way for this person during important life events. Not to mention that their energy is often off — when it isn’t, that’s a good day.

I’ve hoped for change, and each time, been disappointed by more of the same. More of the unreliability, more of the disrespect, more of the bullsh-t. Recently, I decided that I can’t take it anymore. It’s nice to want to move forward and embrace people, but it sucks when you keep providing opportunities for them to come back into your life, only for them to continue to hurt your feelings. To continue to disregard your time, money and energy. To continue to be self-absorbed and really adding nothing of value to your life but rather, take, take and take. Lord knows I’s tired.

But when I bring my feelings up to the people in my life who tend to play the moral compass role, like my mother or my future husband, I’m told that I’m better off letting my dismay go. Why? Because it was my fault for depending on people. If I learn not to do so, I’ll have less chances to end up disappointed. I guess, mom.

Oh, and the other suggestion was that “You have to talk it out.” When I asked why, I wasn’t really given the “Message!” moment I was hoping for: “You just need to, babe.”

But do I?

I don’t think so. What I do think is that in an attempt to not have what we believe will be drama by ending a relationship, we continue to deal with actualized drama every time that person comes around. It’s exhausting. We continue to be subjected to their moods, their comments, their selfishness and all the other toxic personality characteristics that leave us drained when we finally remove ourselves from their presence. It’s almost like volunteering yourself to be denigrated time and time again and actually believing that you’ll come out of it unscathed each time. Yeah, right.

Not to mention, according to a study, toxic people in your life, from friends to romantic interests, can literally make you sick. In a UCLA study from earlier this year, researchers found that stressful relationships can increase the levels of protein in your body that can cause inflammation, which can lead to serious health issues down the line. When asked to explain such results, Daniel Yadager, M.D. told the New York CBS affiliate that while you might eat healthy and exercise to have optimal health, it’s also important to have good relationships for your overall wellness.

“This is also part of leading a healthy lifestyle, is to make sure you’re around people who are nurturing and supportive.”

And if you leave your friend or loved one feeling more stressed than relaxed, chances are, they are going to make you ill down the line. As I prepare for a new chapter in my life (marriage), I don’t want to take people with me into that stage who, in my heart, I genuinely feel don’t wish me well. People who really couldn’t be concerned with my feelings. And no, I don’t have an exit strategy that will end things on good terms. I’m just separating myself and looking at it as going on sick leave: I’m sick and tired of your a–.

So while I’m all for salvaging the relationships that mean a lot to you and that have seen you through many hills and valleys in your life, those who’ve dragged you through some of those valleys or only come around during the hilly times may need to be reevaluated. As much as I would like to stay close with every person who has played a role in the stages of my youth and adulthood, it’s not worth it if I’m the only one always making the positive effort to ensure that happens, and the one regretting that I did each and every time.


Lisa Nicole Carson Talks Being Blackballed In Hollywood After Bipolar Diagnosis

August 2nd, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Lisa Nicole Carson


Lisa Nicole Carson was, undeniably, one of the “it” actresses of the 1990s. No matter the movie or television show, Carson’s bright smile and curl fro always made an impression as she captivated viewers with witty one-liners. However, as the industry transitioned into the next Millennium, fans saw less and less of Carson, leaving many to assume that she traded in fame for a quiet life. Unfortunately, that was not the case; Carson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and since then the mental illness has affected her ability to work.

Until now.

Deciding to heal, recover and reclaim her love for acting, Carson has chosen to share her story on Centric’s BEING, a documentary series where lauded figures in Hollywood share the poignant lessons they’ve learned as they rode fame’s wheel of fortune.

Premiering, Saturday, August 6 at 7 pm EST, BEING: Lisa Nicole Carson will give fans insight on how the actress became a mainstream icon in such a short period of time and the stigma and rejection she faced when news of her mental illness broke. Check out the preview below.

Why Self-Care Is So Important When The World Is Too Much

July 21st, 2016 - By Niki McGloster
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After President Obama’s PR perfect town hall meeting about race in America last Thursday, I was desperate to plan some distracting (and slightly drunken) weekend fun. In case you don’t have Twitter, woke friends or you’re living in the same land of delusion as Taylor Swift, the news cycle has been far more depressing than it’s been in a long time, especially for Black folks. In recent weeks, I’ve buried myself in the details of back-to-back shooting deaths of Black men and attacks on police officers without taking a real mental break. As a writer, it’s difficult to succeed without being in the know 24/7, but the rage and confusion I felt after watching President Obama and town hall goers gloss over the issue of policing in this country meant a mental vacation was mandatory for my sanity.

On any given day, with a few disparities based on socioeconomic status, African Americans are more likely to feel a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness when compared to White people. Then, imagine those same people constantly digesting the message that Blacks are disposable through the media every day. The mental pressure of both racism and feeling unsafe in your own environment causes higher-than-normal cortisol levels, which can lead to physical reactions like a weakened immune system and heart disease. It can even result in behavioral changes like overeating, heavy drinking and uncontrollable anger. And who wants to lose themselves because the world’s messed up? Nah.

The self-care you’d exercise to deal with everyday stress, like disconnecting from your work email and making a spa appointment, still applies in times of societal crisis. As the world seemingly unravels, find blocks of time to log off social media, hang out with friends (with your phone off) and create new, positive memories. Read something empowering like Sula by Toni Morrison and go to a boxing class (or just get active in general) to release built up anxiety. Or, take a boat ride around the Potomac River with friends like I did this past weekend. Just do anything to relax your mind and help reduce the negative effects of constant stress, and practice these coping methods often.

If you feel it’s selfish to ignore what’s happening in the world for 48 hours, you’re right. Petty people will assume things like the #KimExposedTaylorParty steal black folks’ attention away from “real issues,” but what they fail to realize is that many of us are begging for the mental relief that comes with celebrity clapbacks.

Truthfully, we all deserve some carefree moments. A few laughs with friends (and Twitter fam) far removed from the black hole of injustice is a welcomed psychological vacation. And we don’t owe anyone an apology for taking care of ourselves. Black death is traumatizing, and with the Trumps still trying to buy the White House, things aren’t necessarily looking optimistic out here. So, get your jokes off, ignore trolls and take care of yourself. I mean, you can’t help others unless you help yourself first, right?

According To A New Study, A Coloring Book Can Do The Mind — And Body — Some Good

July 6th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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People have been telling you time and time again that you should try coloring. There is even a coloring book for naturalistas to get you into the idea. And yet, you still haven’t bought yourself a coloring book and a fancy pack of colored pencils. But if you are constantly out here telling people how stressed you are and don’t know what to do about it, you really need to rethink your stance on adult coloring books. According to a new study, “art therapy” reduces stress levels to an amount that we’ve been underestimating.

Researchers at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions conducted a study for the publication Art Therapy called “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making.” They used “biomarkers” to measure stress levels, specifically the hormone cortisol through saliva samples taken from 39 adults between the ages of 18 and 59. These individuals were asked to take part in a 45-minute “art-making period,” and during such time, their cortisol levels were checked before and after.

There were options to color, of course, but also clay and collage materials. Study participants were told to use the materials as they pleased. And while just under half of participants stated that their art experience was limited, researchers found that the cortisol levels of 75 percent of the 39 adults lowered, some substantially. According to the firsthand testimony of one of the participants, “It was very relaxing. After about five minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need [ed] to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective.”

Researchers also found that about 25 percent of participants ended up with increased cortisol levels. But Girija Kaimal, EdD, who is an assistant professor of creative art therapies told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s EurekAlert! that it doesn’t mean they were more stressed after art therapy.

“Some amount of cortisol is essential for functioning,” Kaimal said. “For example, our cortisol levels vary throughout the day — levels are highest in the morning because that gives us an energy boost to [sic] us going at the start of the day. It could’ve been that the art-making resulted in a state of arousal and/or engagement in the study’s participants.”

They also noted a small correlation between the age of participants and the outcome of their cortisol levels. Younger individuals had consistently lower cortisol levels after the 45-minute session. Kaimal pointed out that art could be the perfect remedy for stress for this group of individuals.

“I think one reason might be that younger people are developmentally still figuring out ways to deal with stress and challenges, while older individuals — just from having lived life and being older — might have more strategies to problem-solve and manage stress more effectively,” she said.

And this way of dealing with stress definitely sounds effective, as according to Nielsen, despite only one million copies of adult coloring books being sold in 2014, a whopping 12 million were purchased in 2015. More than 2,000 were published last year, as opposed to just 300 in 2014. And, as we all know, lower cortisol levels mean lower fat levels, and that’s good for the body.

Whatever your artistic background, five great options for folks looking to get into coloring include Color My Fro: A Natural Hair Coloring Book for Big Hair Lovers of All Ages, I Love My Hair: A Coloring Book of Braids, Coils and Doodle Dos, Calm the F–k Down: An Irreverent Adult Coloring Book, Color the 90’s: The Ultimate 90’s Coloring Book for Adults, and Mom Life: A Snarky Adult Coloring Book. Thank us later, sis.

18 Ways to Add More Joy To Your Day

June 30th, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
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Wouldn’t life be great if we could wake up daily in a joyful mood and move through the day without losing an ounce of that joy? Okay, maybe we could lose an ounce or two, but for the most part we would remain pretty happy. The thought of it feels good to us.

But we all know that finding and maintaining joy just isn’t that easy, especially when you are a busy mom with a ton and her plate. For many busy moms, the steps needed to add more joy to your day can prove to be quite tough. After all, who has time to worry about joy when you have work to do, bills to pay, kids to raise, and places to be. Of course, we all know how important joy is, but achieving it consistently can seem impossible.

Yet, here is what we all must acknowledge and embrace as mothers; moving through life feeling weighed down and depleted is no way to live. It’s not just bad for us, but it can really do damage to our kids. You see, the way we live life teaches them a lot about how to live life. Do you want your kids to grow up thinking that joyful living is some elusive dream? We want them to feel like joy is attainable.

So, when life is too much to bear and you just want to crawl under a rock and take a 20-hour nap, how on earth do you add more joy to your day? It isn’t always easy, but I think these suggestions are a start. Doing these things doesn’t make life perfect, and it won’t fix any major dilemmas you face in an instant, but it sure will leave you with days that have a lot more joy and a lot more hope. You’ll take that, right?



Smile… even when you don’t want to.

No News Is Good News: How Avoiding Sad Stories Protects My Mental Health

June 15th, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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I barely watch the news. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty, like I’m an uninformed rube or something, but I don’t avoid the news because I don’t like to keep up with current events. I do it because news stories, like those about the Orlando mass shooting, make me very anxious and very depressed.

The Orlando shooting happened overnight, so I had a brief respite from the breaking story while watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” the kind of news program that fills my need for information. That was until the “Breaking News” graphic covered the screen and I was filled with dread; no TV station ever breaks into programming for a positive story. That’s when I learned what had happened and I was sad, for the families of the victims, for my gay and lesbian friends who lost a sense of security, for the country.

My sadness isn’t clinical, like my depression. You can’t treat it with medication. But it activates the constant thrum of melancholy that I feel every day, even under the best circumstances. It triggers a litany of negative thoughts about when the violence will be turned against a group of Black women like me, and how much worse it has to get before our laws are changed. The thinking and the over-thinking — plus the positive affirmations I need to help move my mind in a good direction — are exhausting. Actually, it’s exhausting to go through the process on a regular day. Add in a national tragedy and the chatter in my brain becomes unbearable.

Added to the story about the Orlando shooting — as happens with all public violence — is the topic of mental illness. The shooter always has a mental illness, or has seen a therapist, or maybe had a behavioral problem as a child. This layer of the story is something that I always ignore. There are millions of people with mental illnesses who aren’t violent. Who don’t buy guns or knives or weapons of any kind. Who are more of a danger to ourselves than we could ever be to others. But the general public will learn, again, that people with mental illness are dangerous killers to be feared and possibly locked up. This makes me just as angry as anything else, ready to don a t-shirt saying “I Have Bipolar and I’m Not Violent.” Not that the rabid news media would pay attention to a bit of truth.

So what do I do to maintain my sanity? Mostly, I ignore the daily drips of information. I never watch TV news, shielding myself from stories that aren’t intended to be useful but are meant to boost ratings. I don’t click on Facebook or Twitter posts about the Orlando shooting; I read the headlines and move along. I refuse to engage in conversations about the violence. Anger isn’t my best emotion, and I choose to avoid i,  lest it turn into anxiety and depression, which it usually does. I look at pictures of puppies and kittens and babies as a palate cleanser and a therapeutic tool to reset my mind.

You might think I’m a baby who can’t handle the real world, but I disagree. Mass killings aren’t normal, and I refuse to treat them as such. And I’m adult enough to know what I need to do in order to keep myself happy and healthy. So bring on the kitties and just let me watch.

For Your Mental Stability, You Should Start Unfollowing And Blocking People On Social Media

June 14th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Remember when social media was a new thing? Or more importantly, when it used to be fun?

I’m talking about the days before mama, grandma, and your aunties and ‘nem joined and started judging your every comment, picture, and relationship status update.
In the early days of MySpace and Facebook, you would gather up your pictures on a scanner (terrible quality by the way) to share with your bunch of friends (or the thousands of strangers you decided to let into your world), excited to interact with people you met at college events and orientations, or just through the world wide web. It was all so simple.

But I should have known that things were going to go downhill when they introduced the “Note” option on Facebook. Out of nowhere, you were being tagged in long messages from ex-boyfriends, stressed friends and the like, where absolutely too much information would be shared. Don’t even get me started on the “As this year comes to a close” notes.

And then, as big events rolled around, whether it be holidays or presidential elections, you started seeing a different side of the “friends” you pretended you knew. Irritated by their rants about your favorite candidate, tired of their gripes with small, harmless things, inundated with subliminal attacks on significant others, former friends, and “haters,” hell, even beefs with the Christmas holiday, it was as if people started to have too much to say and share. Nothing was the same.

At this point, you log into Facebook and other social media pages and find yourself bombarded with all kinds of things that don’t really enlighten or enrich your day to day. Instead, they get on your absolute last nerve. And according to research, these messages and Debbie Downer people can actually leave you depressed.

In a study done by the University of Pittsburgh in March, 1,787 American adults were asked to share how much time they spent on social media, and they had their risk of depression assessed through a questionnaire. What researchers found was that, on average, people spent about 61 minutes on at least one platform during the day. The more time spent on it, the greater the risk of feeling depressed. As Cosmo pointed out from the study:

What you’re exposed to when you dive into your social accounts is also a huge player in how positively or negatively they affect you. Consider signing on to a feed filled with angry political rants, updates on breaking tragic news items, and hundreds of posts about people struggling with, say, debilitating illnesses or interpersonal turmoil. Compare this to perusing a newsfeed peppered with adorable animal photos, funny quips, and inspiring quotes. Chances are, the latter would be more likely to make you smile while the former would make you feel anxious, aggravated, or sad — no matter how strong your self-image is.

I wouldn’t say that I was left feeling down in the dumps by the actions and statements of the people I followed, but I definitely found that my mood would morph when I would come across certain negativity. Irritated by bait set to cause trolls to attack people comfortable in their skin (from women without makeup to plus-size girls and even EJ Johnson), over the shots of people sending the most mindless and offensive memes around with the caption “#facts,” and exhausted by the pointless, self-absorbed images people would post back to back to back in a day, I thought that I just needed another sabbatical from social media–my second in a year. But as my friend pointed out, I just needed to do some cleaning.

“Unfollow them,” she said.

Could it all be so simple again? In the back of my head I always imagined that such a move would create drama. In college, if you unfollowed an individual, say, on Facebook, they would notice. We were so thirsty to have a gang of “friends” that looking and seeing a decrease in just one would leave people feeling some type of way. But as she pointed out, “You have to filter out the negativity. Just follow people and things that bring you a sense of peace. There’s so much foolishness out there.”

And so I did. I clicked and clicked and clicked unfollow until I was left with the people I actually knew from school, media work, and my old neighborhood. That and fitness enthusiasts to keep me inspired. No more looking at friends of friends I had never spoken to, mean-spirited pages, or just flat-out ugliness. It has made surfing social media to be inspired, uplifted and enlightened so much easier…and dare I say, fun.

And I think that’s what more of us need to do for our mental stability and in our search for positivity. Some of us often feel trapped staring at feeds filled with foolishness and videos with the most ridiculous behavior to the point where we feel drained after scrolling through after a few minutes, but continue staring at the shenanigans anyway. And considering that we spend so much of our day on social media (at least an hour based on the aforementioned study), we need to do a more thorough job, for ourselves, of being better gatekeepers to the things that infiltrate our psyche and our spirit.

Social media is a big part of the way we communicate, get our news, and just stay connected to the world around us. Considering that it is something that will likely expand and be around until the next great tech development surfaces, for the sake of your sanity, know what to invite in, and what to block (or unfollow) out.


Women Are Twice As Likely To Experience Anxiety, According To Research

June 6th, 2016 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Women are twice as likely to struggle with anxiety disorders in comparison to men, new research from the University of Cambridge, which was published in the journal Brain and Behavior, suggests.

According to The Independent, researchers also found that the disorder, which is estimated to affect four in every 100 people, disproportionately impacts those under 35 years of age.

“Anxiety disorders can make life extremely difficult for some people and it is important for our health services to understand how common they are and which groups of people are at greatest risk,” said Olivia Remes with the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Cambridge. “By collecting all these data together, we see that these disorders are common across all groups, but women and young people are disproportionately affected. Also, people who have a chronic health condition are at a particular risk, adding a double burden on their lives.”

It’s currently unclear why anxiety seems to attack certain marginalized groups at greater rates than others, but according to Glamour, one licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Alicia H. Clark, speculates that the heightened risk for women my be explained by the fact that, historically, we’ve assumed the role of caretaker, which has caused us to be more protective and cautious. Brain chemistry differences between men and women may also play a role, Clark speculates. Apparently, women’s brains may be more optimized for intuitiveness and analytical thinking while men’s brains are enhanced for motor skills.

“This brain difference is important when it comes to anxiety, or the ability to predict, feel, and protect against future risk,” Clark says. “For better or worse, women appear to be better able to identify and think about future risk, and this can translate into experiencing more anxiety.”

Hormones may also play a role.

“Many studies have noted a correlation between female hormone fluctuation, emotional sensitivity, and anxiety,” Clark explained. “Female hormones appear to facilitate more acute experiences of emotions which can lead to more anxiety.”

“We hope that, by identifying these gaps, future research can be directed towards these groups and include greater understanding of how such evidence can help reduce individual and population burdens,” said Carol Brayne, director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health.