How are you feeling?
As leaders in our communities, workplaces, families, and homes, Black women are often carrying a physical and emotional load for themselves and those around them.
Earlier this year we got a sobering reminder of the invisible baggage we carry when we learned about the death of Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA and entertainment news correspondent at Extra.
From the outside, the 30-year-old appeared to have it all. With a pageant crown, multiple degrees, talent, and charisma, she exuded what some would describe as “Black Girl Magic.” But in a social media post confirming her suicide, Kryst’s mother, April Simpkins, revealed Cheslie was dealing with high functioning depression.
What is high functioning depression? The clinical term is dysthymia. According to Psychology Today, three causes of high functioning depression are trauma, intergenerational depression, and unresolved frustration, something many Black women know about.
In 2007 the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development published the report “Cultural dysthymia: An unrecognized disorder among African Americans?” The report states, “After more than 250 years of enslavement, prejudice, and discrimination, dysthymia is reflected in chronic low-grade sadness, anger, hostility, aggression, self-hatred, hopelessness, and self-destructive behaviors.”
As we’re starting to emerge from the pandemic and the stress of the past two years, it’s OK to not be OK. But if you’re not, it’s important to get help.
Here are six ways to mind your mental health:
- Make a to-do list and a to-don’t list. Too often we try to take on everything and consequently suffer from burnout. Try this Trash, Transfer, Trim, Treasure exercise we use at The Ladipo Group to help you recognize responsibilities and activities you should stop doing, delegate, spend less time on, or continue doing because it brings you joy.
- Ask for help. There’s no shame in admitting your emotions might be too much to process on your own. Use resources like TherapyForBlackGirls.com to find a therapist in your area.
- Rest, rest, rest. Whether it’s getting the amount of sleep you need each night or taking small rest breaks throughout the day, allow time for your body and mind to stop moving, shut down, and rest.
- Move your body. Dance, exercise or do anything that gets your body moving daily. Movement boosts your mood by releasing endorphins which make us feel good.
- Curate your social media. Oftentimes we scroll through our phones and feel lousy. Review the people you follow and content you absorb, and delete those that don’t add joy.
- Intentionally cultivate and connect with your tribe. Our tribes of sister-friends get us through the darkest times and celebrate the joyful times as well. Don’t wait until you’re in the depths of despair to reach out. Sometimes a text or funny meme is all that’s needed.
If you struggle to take time out to care for your mental health, remember that you’ll be better able to care for others when you’re filled and refreshed from first caring for you!
Tonya Ladipo is the Founder and CEO of The Ladipo Group, the region’s only therapy, counseling, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consulting practice specializing in serving Black and African-American communities.