Deep Breathing is your Ultimate Chill Pill

thermometer-temperature-fever-fluInhale, exhale. Seems easy enough, right?

Those of us who suffer with anxiety or a panic disorder know this isn’t the case, especially when in the midst of a panic attack. Amid a racing heart, dizziness, sweaty palms and nausea, the act of breathing in and out is usually the last thing on our mind. In that moment, catching your breath just doesn’t seem possible.

However, a slow, deep breath could be just what you need to calm the f*@#! down. Deep breathing is known to restore a comfortable breathing pattern and remedy the physical  effects of a panic attack. It’s also great for relieving muscle tension and bringing clarity to the mind and body.

Many of you may have tried deep breathing before, but to know avail. It might not be working simply because you’re breathing incorrectly. When taking a deep breath, you want it to start in your gut – specifically your diaphragm. This isn’t one of those breaths you take while the doctor is listening to your heart beat.

You want to be sure to fill your lungs from the bottom up. Hold the breath for a few counts, and then exhale slowly. Repeat this as many times as you need, or until your panic subsides. It’s also important to keep your breathing long and slow. Fast, shallow breaths can make the physical symptoms of a panic attack worse.

Deep breathing isn’t one size fit all though. There are a number of different breathing techniques and it may take a couple of tries to find one that works for you. One of my favorites is known as “triangle breathing”; I inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts and then exhale for 4 counts. Other techniques include the “measured breath” and the “bumble bee” breath.

So the next time you feel your anxiety taking a turn for the worst, stop, drop and BREATHE! The best thing is that you can utilize these breathing techniques anywhere and everywhere; in the car, at work, in class, etc. Now you have all the tools you need to tackle those “out of nowhere” panic attacks (:

Tried any new deep breathing techniques lately? How did they work for you? Let me know by commenting below.

Until next time,
Tanasia K. ❤

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An Open Letter to the “Strong Black Woman” Suffering in Silence

SplitShire-6767“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with you.”

“Deal with it. You’ll be alright”

“You don’need therapy. Jesus will take care of it.”

I’ve heard it all before. And there are probably a thousand more dismissive statements like these,  but Lord knows I don’t have time to run through them all.

It’s little quips like these that make mental illness an untouchable topic in the Black community. It’s rarely talked about…if ever.

And if you’re a Black woman? Forget about it. Between juggling school work, kids, relationships, friendships and whatever else you’ve got going on, there just isn’t enough time left to tend to your OWN needs. We all know self-care usually takes a backseat to daily responsibilities, especially when you’re already wallowing waist-deep in symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, etc. So what makes black women different from any other woman grappling with mental illness? Let’s back up a bit.

As a little girl, I was introduced to the concept of the “Strong Black Woman.” Actually, it was more than a concept – it was my reality. I had strong, beautiful Black women all around me: my mother, sister, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, family friends, you name it. So naturally, I caught onto this “persona” and aspired to be her.

She was the definition of independence and oozed confidence from every pore. She served as the backbone of the family, holding everything (and everyone) together like glue. She did whatever she had to do to get the job done, making the seemingly impossible, possible. She was a multitasker, like one of those plate spinners balancing 4, 5, 6 plates at a time. Hell, she was damn near Superwoman. But of course things aren’t always what they seem.

On the flip side, “The Strong Black Woman” is expected to do all this and never break a sweat. She better not cry, flinch, complain, bitch, moan or groan about it because it’s what she’s SUPPOSED to do. All that “emotional” stuff is dealt with behind closed doors – mental illness included.

The pressure to hold it together coupled with the shame of dealing with mental illness in secrecy is enough to make anyone crack. But, the lack of availability/affordability of mental health care for low-income women of color often exacerbates the problem. And let’s not forget about the unfavorable reactions we sometimes get from peers and loved ones when we finally get the gumption to speak on what we’re going through.

And so, with the pressure to be perfect weighing her down, the limited opportunities to get help and the slew of negative stigmas attached to her mental state, the “Strong Black Woman” retires to her bedroom and continues to suffer in silence.

To that woman, I want to say you’re not alone. You never were. You may be hurting and in pain, but it’s not to late to take control and turn it around. YOU are in charge of your own happiness.

“Strong Black Woman” is your descriptor, NOT your identity. Underneath, you’re a human with wants and needs, thoughts and feelings, strengths and weaknesses. There’s no reason to be afraid to let the world see.

Lastly (and most importantly), if you need help, reach out NOW. The sooner the better. It’s time you finally put yourself first. And when you do, I promise this gets better.

Sending all my love and encouragement your way.

Sincerely,

A “Strong Black Woman” who refused to suffer in silence ❤

 

Understanding CBT

picjumbo.com_IMG_6106For those who don’t know, CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

My counselor advised me to begin practicing CBT during a time when I was experiencing several severe panic attacks throughout the day. The process looks simple on paper, but can be challenging in that it forces us to face our self-defeating thoughts/habits head on and change them. The goal is to “re-frame” these negative thoughts, thus altering the way we think when faced with a tough or unpleasant situation.

The basic CBT process involves:

  1. Identifying the specific thought or situation that triggered your anxiety.
  2. Describing the emotions you feel, rating their intensity BEFORE and AFTER the process of re-framing (on a scale of 1-10).
  3. Listing your automatic negative thoughts.
  4. Providing evidence in favor and evidence against these thoughts. You’ll find many times that the reasons against such thoughts outweigh the reasons in favor.
  5. Asking yourself, why is this thought wrong or distorted?
  6. “Re-framing” the previous negative thought into a positive, reasonable statement that you believe. Rate it.

And that’s all there is to it! Here’s a link to the worksheet I use to guide me through the process. I hope this helps you all!

Until next time,
Tanasia K. ❤

Have you been kind to yourself today?

Well, have you? If not, here a few positive, reaffirming thoughts to tell yourself throughout the day. Negative self-talk can be detrimental to our mood and mental health. So be kind to yourself today and trade out those self-defeating thoughts for a few of these:

  • “I am worthy and a good person.”
  • “Look at how much I have accomplished, and I’m still progressing.”
  • “I know I will be okay no matter what happens.”
  • “I’m not responsible to make other people okay.”
  • “Don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s all small stuff.”
  • “My past doesn’t control my future.”
  • “I choose to be happy.”

These are just a few of my favorites. What are some reaffirming thoughts you tell yourself when feeling down? Feel free to comment below!

Sending love and happiness,
Tanasia K. ❤

Mindfulness & Why You Should Practice It

picjumbo.com_HNCK9713When I started therapy over 6 months ago, my counselor introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. What is mindfulness you ask?

He described it as taking the time to stop those racing thoughts and simply live in the moment. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings at that point in time, without judgement. Take in anything and everything that surrounds you.

Take notice of  your 5 senses; What do you see? Can you hear anything? Smell anything delicious? What about taste or touch sensations?

Simply taking a minute to quiet your mind and appreciate the idea of being present can have profound effects on your mental well-being. Mindfulness meditation is good for:

  • Increasing positive emotions, reducing negative ones
  • Strengthening our immune systems
  • Concentrating
  • Coping with the stress of daily life
  • Improving brain chemistry

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, go to your safe place for a little mindfulness meditation (:

I hope this helps!

XOXO,
Tanasia K. ❤

Source:
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition