Seek Change, Schedule Now
How To Prioritize Self-Care As A Black Woman

How To Prioritize Self-Care As A Black Woman

As a Black woman, I see a lot of messaging that praises our strength, resilience and selflessness. The strong Black woman is characterized by her independence, emotional restraint and ability to meet the needs of others. She is expected to put on a smile as she navigates the difficulties that inevitably come with existing as a Black woman in a society that values maleness and whiteness. The strong Black woman is certainly a more positive archetype of black femininity than the stereotypes of the distant past. Yet it still results in unreasonable and harmful expectations being placed on us – both by ourselves and by everyone around us. 

Because we are often so focused on being resilient and selfless, we are more likely to neglect self-care.

Why Black women are more likely to neglect self-care

Self-care can be difficult for everyone, but Black women are perhaps most likely to neglect it. Due to socioeconomic factors, we are more likely to face hindrances when it comes to finding the time and money to invest in self-care. “Time poverty” refers to having little or no time to spend on yourself and the things you want or need to do. This is usually due to the overwhelming obligations of work, family and home life. In the United States, women of color are more likely to work multiple jobs and to be responsible for most of the unpaid labor in the home. For single parents and caregivers, there is often little time left to invest in self-care after meeting the needs of everyone else. Rest and relaxation can be elusive for Black women, and we are more likely to be sleep deprived and to experience sleep apnea.

Black women have the highest rate of labor force participation and are more likely to work multiple jobs or overtime hours. 80% of Black mothers are the sole, primary or co-breadwinner for their household. When it comes to finances, Black women tend to have less disposable income than other demographics. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by a White man, compared to the 79 cents earned by White women. Half of Black women are of the view that their race will make to harder for them to advance in the workplace. Black women disproportionately work lower-income domestic and caregiving jobs, which offer little in the way of benefits and paid time off. With less time and money, self-care often gets pushed to the back burner.

Many Black women have been socialized into toxic productivity. As girls, we’re more likely than our White counterparts to assume caretaking or housekeeping roles in the home. We are also under increased pressure to perform academically and in the workplace, having been caused to believe that we have to be “twice as good to achieve half as much.” The research backs this up, with statistics showing that Black women work longer hours and occupy a higher percentage of the overall workforce.

Unique Challenges Faced by Black Women

Black women stand at the intersection of  gender-based and race-based discrimination. As a result, we face many challenges not faced by men and women of other races. As a woman of color, it’s not uncommon to deal with microaggresions and misogynoir in the workplace, in social environments, and online. Black women are constantly being scrutinized for their hair, body shape, skin tone and the way we express ourselves, leading to increased rates of body dysmorphia and low self-esteem.

A research study concluded that Black women are more likely to experience stress-related accelerated biological aging. Researchers believe that this demographic faces consistent or prolonged stressors, which can speed up the body’s aging process. Physical signs of premature aging include grey hair, hair loss, wrinkles and painful joints. Accelerated aging can also cause memory and vision problems, as well as decreased energy levels.

Racial trauma is real and it can have long-lasting effects. Also known as race-based traumatic stress, it is the after-effects of exposure to racism and other forms of race-based discrimination. When people are subjected to violence, unfair treatment or microagressions because of their racial background, the effects can be similar to symptoms experienced by people living with post-traumatic stress disorder. In the workplace, Black women face micro aggressions, barriers to advancement and the constant pressure to outperform their peers.

There are several health conditions and lifestyle diseases that disproportionately affect Black women. We are more likely to experience heart disease, stroke and diabetes, all of which can be caused or exacerbated by stress. 

Ways to prioritize self care as a Black Woman 

While the general tenets of self-care are applicable to Black women, there are some more specific ways that we can address the unique challenges we face on a daily basis. Personally, I try to be intentional about limiting my intake of triggering media and news stories. While it’s important to be informed, overconsumption can have a traumatic effect. When stories of police brutality and racism are dominating the news feeds, it’s okay to check out.

Another thing I strive to do is consuming media that portrays Black women in positive and inspirational roles. Representation is important. Movies, TV shows and books about Black characters can be a joyful and healing experience. Finally, it’s important to set boundaries regarding racially-charged conversations. Remind yourself that you do not have to take on the role of educating others about social justice issues. You do not have to participate in conversations that you find uncomfortable or triggering.

During Black History Month, we celebrate the achievements and contributions that Black people have made to the world. This time of year also causes us to look towards the future wellbeing of our community. When Black women take better care of ourselves, we’re able to contribute more at home, at work and in the world. 

The pros of Being Single on Valentine’s Day

The pros of Being Single on Valentine’s Day

As January turns to February, you’re probably seeing red hearts, flowers and chocolates everywhere. For people who are unhappily single on Valentine’s Day, this time of year can be especially triggering. People who have recently experienced a breakup or divorce may also find this time to be challenging. Watching friends and coworkers receive flowers and chocolates can really sting when you haven’t been having much luck on the dating scene. These days, social media has upped the ante with extravagant displays of gifts and orchestrated marriage proposals. 

We live in a society that places great pressure on us to be partnered. We are constantly being shown imagery of happy couples and marriage is heralded as a necessary part of adulthood. For many, “finding the one” is on par with finding a fulfilling career or achieving financial stability. You may feel pressure from your family members or friends who ask inappropriate questions about your personal life.

Women are often more affected by this pressure than their male counterparts. Unmarried women are subject to societal expectations of marriage and, ultimately, babies. Childless, unmarried women beyond a certain age are especially susceptible to the demands of friends, parents and society in general. The expectation of “settling down” with a mate can leave women feeling dejected, unworthy and hopeless. For cisgender women who wish to carry a child, considerations such as fertility and the biological clock are at the forefront of the mind. 

What if we changed our views on singledom? By reframing your single status as a symbol of independence and autonomy, you can detach from those societal expectations and pressures. Being single is your time to be selfish. It’s the time to focus on your goals and to develop a deeper understanding of what you truly want out of life. Here are a few ways to make the most being single on Valentine’s Day. 

Single on Valentines Day? Self Love is the Best Love 

Being single on Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to practice self love. Spending quality time with yourself helps to improve both self-awareness and self-esteem. If you like to journal, consider writing about your best traits and triumphs. Solo activities such as visiting a museum or participating in a hobby are fulfilling aspects of your self love journal. 

Use Valentine’s Day to take extra care of yourself. Have you been neglecting self-care activities like feeding your body healthy foods, exercising and keeping up with hygiene tasks? Let the day be a reminder that you are worthy of being well taken care of. Take a nice, long shower or bath and spend some time refreshing your living space. Cook yourself a nourishing meal or visit your favorite restaurant. Move your body by taking a scenic walk or doing some stretching. 

If you like to engage in self-pleasure, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge. Masturbation is a healthy and fun way of exploring your body and making yourself feel good. The practice has many benefits such as stress relief, more restful sleep and an improvement in your body image and self esteem. 

Spend Time with Friends and Loved Ones

The importance of community can’t be overstated. As humans, we need connections with others to foster a sense of belonging. Make the effort to spend quality time with loved ones and platonic friends. Quite often, we’re led to believe that romantic relationships should be our top priority. The truth is that we need a variety of fulfilling relationships and we may achieve that sense of belonging in many ways. Nurture your friendships and make the effort to deepen your connections with the people who are important to you. 

If you’re a pet owner, go ahead and show some extra love to your  fur baby. Pet ownership offers many benefits such as companionship, anxiety reduction and increased levels of empathy. Research shows that petting or cuddling with a dog causes a significant reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol. Dog ownership is even linked to lower blood pressure and improved cognitive function. 

Find the Positives in Being Single on Valentines Day 

The benefits of gratitude include improved emotional regulation and decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout. There are many reasons to be grateful for your single status. Being single affords you the freedom and flexibility to do as you please without having to consider someone else’s needs. Being single provides an opportunity to gain a high level of self-awareness, which can bring you closer to living your very best life. Time alone can help you to identify your priorities, as well as the characteristics of the partner and life that you want. 

It’s important to remember that relationships come with their fairy share of problems. It takes real effort to make a relationship work and romantic relationships have a significant impact on your mental health. Coupled people have to consider the needs of their partner and may even have to compromise on their own needs to make their partner happy. Like being single, relationships come with highs and lows, so it’s important not to idealize coupledom. 

If you’ve been struggling with difficult emotions stemming from being single, you’re not alone. Many people are frustrated with their search for love, leading to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. It’s important to know that you are enough, just as you are. You don’t need a partner to validate your worthiness or to complete you. By developing a fulfilling relationship with yourself, you’re better able to be your best self for the people in your life. By adopting more self love, you’ll soon come to enjoy being single on Valentine’s Day.

The therapists at Flourish Psychology provide a safe space for you to discuss these difficult feelings. By working with a therapist, you can unlearn any negative beliefs regarding your single status, while detaching from the expectations of society. Contact us today to schedule your first session.

How Does a  Parenting Style Impact Us In Adulthood?

How Does a Parenting Style Impact Us In Adulthood?

Many psychologists believe that there are four main styles of parenting. Each style takes a different approach to childrearing and will affect children in different ways. Some styles of parenting are more likely to lead to low self-esteem, behavioral problems or poor social skills. On the other hand, a healthy parenting style results in a positive parent/child dynamic and more well-adjusted children.

Most people will tell you that they want to be better parents than the ones who raised them. Maybe your parents were too strict and you’ve vowed to give your kids more freedom and flexibility. If your parents failed to provide sufficient structure and routine, it’s natural to want to go to the other end of the extreme with your own kids. Many parents struggle with finding the balance between establishing themselves as an authority figure and giving their children the space to be inquisitive, explore and grow.

Understanding parenting styles can help you to contextualize your childhood and gain a better appreciation of how your parents’ influences may still be affecting you today. If you are a parent yourself (or intend to be), this information can help you to create healthier and more fulfilling relationships with your children. 

What are parenting styles? 

Clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind theorized that there is a direct correlation between types of parents style and the behavior of children. Parenting styles were put into four main categories, each with its own characteristics and ultimate effect on child development. The four categories (authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved and authoritative) were found to be an excellent indicator of child wellbeing, as well as a predictor of future success, happiness and stability. 

Parenting styles have been found to impact everything from self-esteem to physical health to academic performance. Adults who were raised by parents who adopted a healthy parenting style tend to have a more secure attachment style, while displaying better social skills and less likelihood of mental illness.

Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents differ from authoritative parents in their lack of consideration for the feelings and opinions of their children. These parents are commonly referred to as “strict” and usually hold the following views:

  • Children should be seen and not heard
  • Children should obey me because I say so
  • Children should not have too much fun

These parents demand absolute obedience from their children because they believe children should be subservient. They may set very restrictive or unreasonable rules and will implement strict punishments for any indiscretions. A no-nonsense approach often accompanies this parenting style, with lilt patience for silliness or fun. 

Though authoritarian parents may intend the best for their children, research shows that there are many drawbacks to this style of parenting. Children of authoritarians generally have an unhappy disposition and are susceptible to clinical depression and anxiety. They may display poor coping skills and may continue to be subservient in adulthood since they were discouraged from asserting independence as children.

Permissive Parenting Style

People using the permissive parenting style are likely to take on more of a friend role than that of a parent. They do not implement enough (or any) structure or discipline and tend to overlook behavioral problems. Due to consistent leniency, permissive parents do not establish themselves as an authority figure and may not gain the respect of their children. 

Children of permissive or indulgent parents are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems and to lack regard for rules and authority in general. They are at a higher risk for developing health problems such as diabetes or obesity because permissive parents do not adequately limit intake of junk food and candy. They are also more likely to have dental cavities or poor oral health because the parent does not enforce good habits and routines. 

Uninvolved Parenting Style

The uninvolved or neglectful parent doesn’t devote sufficient (or any) time to meeting the child’s needs. This can be as extreme as neglecting to provide food or clothing, but is more often a failure to meet emotional needs or to have a consistent presence. They are also largely uninvolved in the daily lives of their children and are unlikely to help with homework or support extracurricular activities. Uninvolved parents may often be unaware of their child’s whereabouts and do not know their children’s friends or teachers. Quite often, children of neglectful/uninvolved parents are left to raise themselves. 

Parents may be uninvolved for a number of reasons, including a demanding job, financial stresses, mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Children of uninvolved parents often struggle with self-esteem issues and are more likely to get caught up in a bad crowd, to try drugs or to experience teenage parenthood. As adults, they often find it difficult to hold steady employment, find healthy relationships or find financial stability. 

Authoritative Parenting Style

The authoritative parenting style is the healthiest style to adopt, as it strikes a balance between compassion and laying down the law. Authoritative parents put a lot of effort into maintaining a positive relationship with their children while providing a structure and discipline. They take care to validate their children’s feelings and take their opinions into consideration. The authoritative parent practices positive discipline by parising good behavior and implementing reward systems.

Research has shown that adult children of authoritative parents are most likely to be well-adjusted, responsible, happy and successful.

Even if you aren’t a parent yourself, this information can be incredibly insightful for those trying to contextualize their own childhood. By working with a therapist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) you can gain a deeper understanding of parenting styles and how they may be influencing your life as an adult. This can be excellent for processing childhood trauma or unlearning any negative core beliefs, habits and mindsets that were projected onto you as a child. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

4 Types Of Self-Care You May Be Neglecting

4 Types Of Self-Care You May Be Neglecting

In a fast-paced world where others are depending on us, it’s easy to neglect our own needs. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t show up as your best self if your needs haven’t been taken care of. By neglecting self-care, we are not only doing ourselves a disservice, we’re also less able to serve the people in our lives or perform well at work.

By now, you’re probably well aware that self-care is more than just your skincare routine or a trip to the salon. Self-care has been described as “taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others.” Real self-care isn’t about escaping the stresses of life. Rather, it’s about doing the things that are necessary to create a life you don’t need to escape from. This often requires doing things you may not want to do, to reduce future stresses and to make life easier in the long run. It may require difficult or uncomfortable tasks, habits, or conversations.

Are you taking a holistic approach to your self-care? Here are four aspects of self-care that are commonly overlooked or neglected.

Financial Self-Care

In a recent survey, almost 75% of Americans ranked finances as the most significant source of anxiety in their lives. For millennials and Gen Z’ers, there is an even greater likelihood of financial stress, given the harsh economic climate they were forced to come of age in. Millennials are more likely to be in debt, and less likely to have savings than Baby Boomers did in their 20’s and 30’s.

Financial self-care means doing the things that are necessary to reduce your likelihood of experiencing anxiety related to your money. This can include setting a budget, tracking your finances, reviewing your statements, and setting financial goals. Establishing an emergency fund can help ease anxiety because you’ll know that you can handle anything that may unexpectedly arise. By taking the time to keep your finances in order, you’re less likely to be stressed out by them. Financial stability brings a sense of ease and comfort.

Practical Self-Care

Practical self-care consists of the tasks that will help your life to run more smoothly. When these things are in place, you’re better able to show up as your best self for the people in your life. Practical self-care can look different for everyone, depending on their needs and lifestyle. Someone who has a tendency to skip meals during busy workdays may benefit from meal prepping and packing a lunch bag to take to work. Those who struggle to make decisions in the mornings may benefit from selecting their outfit the night before, to reduce the possibility of stress tomorrow. Consider the situations in your life that tend to cause the most stress and put practical measures in place to make things easier for yourself.

Other examples of practical self-care include taking care of laundry, cleaning, and other household tasks, getting your car serviced, and optimizing your electronic devices.

Spiritual Self-Care

Spiritual self-care includes those activities that nurture your spirit and help you to find meaning in the world. For some people, this includes practicing a religion, but there are many other examples of spiritual self-care. Practicing meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature can help to bring a sense of oneness with the world around you. Take the time to unplug from technology and read inspiring books or articles. Other examples of spiritual self-care include practicing gratitude, creating a vision board, dedicating time for self-reflection and journaling.

Professional Self-Care

Work is a big part of our lives and can affect our overall wellbeing. Finding fulfillment in your work and reducing work-related stressors are important for your mental and emotional health. Day-to-day examples of professional self-care include using tools and resources to improve your efficiency and productivity. Evaluate your workload to ensure you aren’t taking on more than you can handle. Take breaks throughout the workday to avoid getting burned out. Maintaining good relations with your coworkers also leads to a more fulfilling work life.

More “big picture” examples of professional self-care include taking professional courses, attending seminars or pursuing new qualifications or skills. Assess your long-term career goals and determine whether you are on the path to attaining those goals. By doing what’s necessary to get to a place of fulfillment in your work, you’ll reduce your stress and be better able to spend time with loved ones or pursue personal goals.

Self-Care and Balance

Stress can affect both your mental and physical health. In addition to increased depression, anxiety and substance abuse, stress can also lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, stomachaches and can even affect the menstrual cycle and immune system. When we’re stressed, we tend to be more irritable or quick to anger, which can impact our relationships. By neglecting certain aspects of self-care, we are likely to experience stress-related to those same areas of life. For example, when we neglect financial self-care, we are more likely to be stressed out by bills and missed payments.

By creating more balance in your life, you will notice a reduction in your stress. Prioritizing self-care allows you to balance the various facets of your life, for a feeling of holistic wellbeing. Although it may sound easy, it can be quite challenging to establish consistent self-care habits in your life. By working with a therapist, you’ll have expert guidance and support, which can hold you accountable as you seek to prioritize self-care and reduce stress. The therapists at Flourish Psychology can guide you in developing the skills needed to reduce stress in the moment and long-term.

Contact us to schedule your first session.

This Is How We’re Coping with Uncertainty in 2022

This Is How We’re Coping with Uncertainty in 2022

In 2022, coping with uncertainty can feel impossible. The future has never been certain, but for those of us living through a global pandemic, it’s even more uncertain than ever. Even though we’ve just started a brand new year, COVID-19 is far from being over. Over 58 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and numbers continue to rise as the Omicron variant sweeps through the country. 

Besides causing uncertainty with regard to our health and the health of our loved ones, COVID-19 has impacted us in so many ways. We may be facing uncertainty regarding living situations, relationships, jobs, and finances. Scientists still aren’t quite sure how much longer we’ll be tackling the virus and most of us have accepted that there’s no “going back to normal” after this. 

This kind of uncertainty can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.  Anxiety is often triggered by uncertainty because we naturally have a deep desire for a sense of control over our lives. Uncertainty causes us to feel out of control, which can cause paranoia, panic, and stress. 

How NOT to Cope with Uncertainty

Before we dive into our strategies for dealing with uncertainty, let’s touch on some of the unhealthy ways. If left unchecked, our efforts to cope with anxiety can be harmful to us or those around us. For example, obsessing or ruminating is a common response to uncertainty. You may find yourself fixating on the subject of your anxiety, constantly seeking updates or spending lots of time researching the issue. You may even find yourself micromanaging the people around you as a means of coping with your feelings of uncertainty. 

Procrastination is another common method of coping with uncertainty. Being unable to predict the outcome of your actions can cause you to delay those actions altogether. You may avoid an important conversation because you aren’t sure what the other person will say. You may avoid looking at your bank statements because you feel a sense of uncertainty regarding the management of your finances. We covered strategies for reducing procrastination in a previous blog post. 

Coping with Uncertainty by Developing a Routine

During times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to develop solid routines. Our daily routines are, for the most part, within our control and we should make them as supportive as possible. Your daily routines provide you with a sense of structure and stability in an otherwise unpredictable world.

Consider developing a morning routine to begin your days on a positive note. Try not to pack too many things into your routine and be sure to give yourself some flexibility. Your routine should help to support you, not control you. A simple morning routine can include a few minutes of stretching, making a cup of tea or coffee and making your bed. 

Find Ways to Stay Grounded

Being grounded means having a sense of stability in your life. We all have those moments where we don’t even know what day it is and everything feels out of control. Being grounded means that (despite whatever challenges you’re facing), you’re able to be at peace in the present moment. There are many simple exercises you can do throughout your days to feel more grounded. A five-minute breathing exercise brings a sense of calm and control when emotions are running high. Take a mindful walk and observe your surroundings. 

What does it take for you to feel grounded? For some, it’s having a clean and tidy environment. For others, it’s ensuring their bills are paid on time. These more practical tasks are beneficial for your mental health because you’ll be able to remain present without worrying about overdue or overlooked obligations. 

Make Self-Care a Priority 

During times of uncertainty, it can be easy for self-care to fall to the wayside. We may find ourselves not keeping up with things like therapy or doctor’s appointments, forgetting to take medication, and not sleeping enough. Other examples of neglecting self-care include forgetting to eat or consuming foods with little nutritional value, neglecting hygiene or overworking ourselves to the point of burnout. 

Be deliberate about self-care. If it helps, set reminders on your phone to remind you to perform acts of self-care such as having a meal, staying hydrated or attending to your hygiene. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, eating nutritious foods and moving your body daily are essential. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you’re having difficulties coping with uncertainty, it helps to talk to a trusted friend or loved one. It’s always good to have someone to rely on during difficult times. Feeling supported can bring a greater sense of control over a situation, while a lack of support leaves you feeling alone and overwhelmed. Your friend may be able to offer another perspective, solutions or emotional support. 

Seeking help from a therapist is an excellent way to cope with the uncertainty of these times. Since the start of the pandemic, the demand for mental health services has steadily increased. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology do more than just provide a safe space for expressing your fears. Therapists are trained and qualified in various treatment methods for reducing or eliminating anxiety and other mental health conditions. 

By working with a therapist, you’ll also learn important skills for managing your emotions. By mastering cognitive and dialectical behavioral skills, you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges as they arise in your daily life. Despite the uncertainty around you, you’ll be able to cultivate a feeling of calm, control and stability. Contact us to schedule your first session.