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3 Mental Health Advocates on Staying Positive Amidst Quarantine

3 Mental Health Advocates on Staying Positive Amidst Quarantine

In 2020, mental health is no longer a stigma, but a priority. With much of the world staying home and social distancing, isolation has led to an increase of loneliness, stress and depression involving the current situation. And ways to mitigate our emotions and feelings, such as hanging out with friends and family, aren’t possible, at least in-person anymore.

I spoke with three mental health advocates (and women of color!) on ways to effectively navigate our mindsets, learn how to release control, and put some things in perspective. Even if you aren’t someone who has practiced or believed in some form of therapy prior, the following strategies are perfect for ways to move forward.

Jordan Madison, therapyismyjam

As a marriage and family therapist, Jordan Madison has worked with individuals to strengthen their relationships to one another and themselves. Her specialities include navigating couple counseling, career transitions, relationship distress, and more. Acknowledging the stigma of mental health in the black community through speaking engagements and engaging instagram content, Jordan talks to us about her thoughts regarding mental health and staying positive.

What is your unique take on mental health? Mental health is the status of your thoughts and emotions. Many people think mental health only applies to someone with a mental illness, but that is not the case. It’s not as obvious as physical health, but is just as important. Just about everything in life can tie back to your mental health, so taking care of yourself and your mind will have much more of an impact than you think.

How and why is wellness important to you? Wellness is important because when it comes down to it, that is all we have. If this pandemic has taught us anything, I would say it’s the reminder of the importance of good health. And good health doesn’t just mean physical. If you’re in constant internal turmoil, feeling anxious or sad often, it’s hard to enjoy anything in life, let alone get out of bed to live your life in the first place. Wellness encompasses your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Each aspect is essential, to help us be our whole selves and live our fullest potential.

How has your business changed, or been affected, by the current circumstances? Fortunately, I am still able to practice as a therapist amidst this pandemic. It has changed all of my sessions to virtual though, which is great, but I still prefer seeing my clients in person. I think this pandemic is shedding light on the importance of mental health, and increasing the amount of people seeking therapy. However, for those who have been laid off or are experiencing economic hardship, that is causing them to stop therapy to save money for other things.

What are strategies and resources that are helpful for you? Some strategies that I use include: journaling, reading devotionals, meditating, doing yoga, drinking more water, bubble baths, lighting candles, burning sage, practicing gratitude, praying, being conscious of how I speak to myself, and setting boundaries with those I love. Self care can take many forms, but anything that is done with the intention of taking care of yourself counts.

Priscilla Agyeman, Saddie Baddies

For Saddie Baddies, a virtual safe space for women of color intended to destimitaize mental health, finding strength in community is no secret to Priscilla Agyeman, the CEO and Founder. Started in 2019 with a focus on curating resources, discussions and more, the term “Saddie Baddie” can be defined as anyone who has experienced any sort of tumultuous emotional or mental challenges, yet still must remain “together” at all times. As women of color, this space has never felt more necessary. Below, find Priscilla’s responses to our questions, packed with wisdom and clarity. 

What is your unique take on mental health? To me, mental health should be as palatable as any other topic. I’m a firm believer that it’s okay not to be okay, and we need to normalize having “bad” mental health days as much as we glorify feeling good all the time, or being productive. I also think that mental health is much larger of an umbrella than what we know to be as just anxiety and depression. It’s loneliness. It’s intimate partner violence. It’s codependency. It’s verbal and emotional abuse. It’s sexual trauma. Our mental health impacts how we go about life, and the more we expand our definition of mental health, the more people will understand how important it is to check in with yourself and utilize tools like therapy.

How and why is wellness important to you? I didn’t intentionally start taking my wellness journey seriously until about 2-3 years ago. That’s when I started reading more about holistic medicine, herbalism, meditation, crystals, and incorporating things like yoga into my routine and becoming plant based. But at the end of the day, you can utilize all those tools and practices and still be unhealthy. Your heart, mind, body, soul and spirit in unison is wellness to me. I also think we’re in a sort of renaissance right now of Black people becoming very aware of how the food we eat affects us, and we’re seeing more Black and Brown wellness practitioners, which is so beautiful to me. Wellness is our birthright, it always has been.

What are strategies and resources that are helpful for you? Resources that help me stay grounded are guided meditations, going to therapy regularly, praying, keeping my home clean, journaling, being intentional with what I consume, caring for my plants and my loved ones. These all keep me grounded and healthy.

Are you keeping a routine these days? If so, what does a typical day look like for you? Yes, I still keep a routine. I typically wake up around 8am, do a brief yoga/meditation combo, and either my partner or I will make coffee or I’ll make an iced matcha latte. I’ve become more connected with other Black and Brown creative womxn who are doing amazing work, and I’ve had way more time to dedicate towards Saddie Baddies and fine tune my direction for it as a brand.

I do most of my content prep, brainstorm ideas and topics I want to cover later in the day. I’m a night owl by nature, so not staying up too late is definitely a challenge, but I’m working on it! When I’m really in the zone, I can work for hours nonstop and not even notice the time. Before bed, I do my skin care routine, shower, and finish the night off with reruns of The Sopranos (ha!).

Leeza Joneé, The.Breathing Space

As the founder of The Breathing Space, Leeza Joneé has worked tirelessly to cultivate a community attributed to the senses. With a keen focus on allowing audience members to  identify with one another through discussion based incentives and spaces, Joneé has ushered in an environment of collective inclusion and immersion, guided by the words “there is healing in community.” Joneé spoke to us regarding her personal experiences with mental health below. 

What is your unique take on mental health? I truly believe everyone needs therapy. Not because something is wrong or needs to be fixed. Things happen in our personal lives regardless of positive or negative impact, that we all need clarity and assistance navigating. 

Over my adult years, I’ve learned that mental health needs to be addressed in different lights. Whether it’s your creative health or emotional health, your thoughts and feelings need to be tended to because they overall affect your mental wellbeing. I learned this while working a very demanding full-time job, and realizing that my creative endeavors had fallen short. I felt as though I was losing pieces of myself. Having found myself confiding in people who couldn’t relate and receiving advice that may or may not positively influence me, I decided I needed an unbiased ear. 

How and why is wellness important to you? Since creating The Breathing Space, I’ve learned how much cultivating community has contributed to my wellness. A friend and huge supporter once described The Breathing Space as “Something like group therapy.” Connecting with those who share similar or even varying experiences offers comfort, challenge and reassurance, something I believe is more than necessary for growth and healing. 

Growing up, even coming into adulthood, I would bottle up myriad emotions then explode should I be triggered. My upbringing wasn’t very traditional, and some major experiences have become the origin of trauma. Creating an understanding of wellness has allowed me to mend from this trauma. Community has played a huge part in my healing: catering to my wellbeing offers a sense of clarity I otherwise would not have. 

What are strategies and resources that are helpful for you? My personal strategies are reading and exercising my creative skills. The work I do can be quite meditative. A lot of my wellness practices have been discovered in my adulthood. I used to only think meditating was sitting in silence with your legs crossed, humming “Om” repeatedly. I pay attention to my internal more when I am writing or drawing, and I’ve come to fully realize that meditation can look like anything. 

Journaling has also aided me. I’ve spent much time unpacking love, friendships and community during this time, and being as introspective as possible. Questions that keep me wondering are: 

Where do I feel secure?

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Am I triggered?

Do I feel full?

Do I feel drained, thin?

Do I need to step away?

Where do I need to show up more (inwardly and outwardly)?

How has your business changed, or been affected, by the current circumstances? As far as my art goes, unfortunately, the printing company that I work with is not currently accepting orders. However, I pride myself in being resourceful and have found alternative options for my work to be distributed. 

As far as The Breathing Space, it’s a space for in-person exchanges. Shifting things digitally has been a challenge, as we thrive off of shared energy. What I can say, however, is our community is now even more connected. Those outside of New York have an opportunity to join in on conversations they’ve only experienced via flyers, recaps and word of mouth. I’ve found beauty in this change.

Are you keeping a routine these days? If so, what does a typical day look like for you? Yes, and no. I make coffee almost everyday. I make sure I still get up and get dressed; do my hair and makeup, put on earrings. Not so much a routine, but enough of an activity that gives me energy for the day. I also make sure I do something creative, whether that’s writing (creative or journaling) and/or drawing.

I have a daily alarm that goes off at 1:06p (no real meaning behind the time) that asks me “how are you feeling? what are you observing?” thus allowing myself a midday check-in. Every other night or so, before bed, I journal my thoughts and what I’ve observed and learned over the days prior.

Responses have been condensed and edited.

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