Can you think back to December 31st, 2018? What were you praying and manifesting would happen in the year to come? I knew 2019 was going to be a culmination of growth and reflection. Well, I feel every year consists of those two things, but I don’t know…2019 was different. Think about it, 2019 is the last year of the decade; this was the year of completion. 2019 made us uncomfortable; it made us question how we treat people, our past decisions, and the ways in which we have let other’s interact with us. We were kind of lost going into this year. I can speak for myself when I say that 2019 was my wake up call. January 1st got right in my face and said “get it together!” 2019 dragged me by my heels and made me face reality. It was scary, it was harsh, but it was needed. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response, and I was a lunatic. 2019 made me question who I was as a person and who I wanted to be. It made me question the energy I allowed to infiltrate my space, but with that being said…it made me ask myself why I was attracting this type of energy?
I spoke a lot to my younger self, and it was good to see her again. She was around the age of seven or eight. She had a braid on each side of her head with one in the back, and pink barrettes clipped to her scalp. She was chubby and cute, two things that she didn’t think could coexist with each other. She wanted someone to tell her that she was worthy. She wanted to be told that she was beautiful; that she was smart, talented, and intelligent. She wanted to be told that she didn’t need to lose thirty pounds in order to look good. She wanted to be told that her physical flaws aren’t flaws at all; they’re little idiosyncrasies that deserved to be celebrated. At the age of 21, I was glad that I was able to give that to her.
In 2019, I was able to confront a lot of things in my life that used to poke and prod at my self esteem. I highlighted the things that I love about myself, as well as the things I want to change within. I was able to forgive myself and others for the past, and leave those memories there. I have become more content with being alone and spending time with my thoughts. I am learning that I am my own soulmate. Myself and I were courting in 2019, and now we are in a relationship. When deeply in love with yourself, you move differently. I learned that everything is not a competition; just because I failed does not make me a failure. What’s meant for me will be for me, and I should speak positively over my life because it is precious. The things that I cannot control I will not give energy to, and I will be more careful with the things I can change.
I am so excited for 2020. I got a glimpse of what could come if I continue down the right path. I haven’t felt this hopeful in a long time. I feel confident in myself, and when the bouts of insecurity come, I know what to do to remind myself of my worth. I’m being more selfish this year. This new decade I pray will be the new emergence of the person I want to be. I will be a better woman, a better sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, writer, student, artist…all the things that I consider myself, I will be better. I pray for a cleansing of the heart, mind, and soul. To anyone reading this, I pray that you tap into that potential that you know is there, and that you too become the best version of yourself.
In August 2019, singer/songwriter Summer Walker, announced that she was going on tour. Me, a relatively big fan, freaked out over this news. Now, I can’t say that I knew about Summer before “Girls Need Love Too” hit the radio waves, but if you look at my Apple Music, I guarantee Summer Walker is always an artist that I have recently been listening to. I think I’ve listen to her latest album Over It a million times…no, a million and two times. When I first heard the song, I was greeted with sultry and soulful tones; her voice reminds me of old school rhythm and blues. I was sold. Since then, me, and many other music lovers, have followed Summer’s career, and when she announced that she was going on tour, I immediately tried to gather my coins together and go see my girl sing “Playing Games” in person. The name of the tour, however, was a little interesting. The First and Last Tour…well, it’s pretty self explanatory. It sort of reminded me of The Eagles Hell Freezes Over Tour. After fourteen years, the band came together after they claimed that they would perform together…when hell freezes over. So I was assuming that by her title, this would most likely be the only tour that she will have for a while. Maybe she doesn’t like touring. Michael Jackson, although he did it, he hated it. Maybe she just thought it was tiring. Touring is exhausting, but it isn’t just physically exhausting for Summer, psychologically, it takes a toll on her.
During Summer Walker’s Tiny Desk Concert debut, people noticed that Summer didn’t seem to be acting “like herself.” She seemed nervous and she looked annoyed; singing stiffly into the microphone placed in front of her. To me, she looked tired, but her voice overpowered that. You can’t deny that her voice is three steps towards angelic, but she did look uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one to notice this. There were so many news publications, people on Instagram, Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube talking about how Summer Walker didn’t want to be there and how ungrateful she was acting, when it was actually a much deeper underlying condition.
Summer Walker has spoken out a numerous amount of times about her social anxiety. Social anxiety is the fear of situations where a person has to interact with others. Social phobia is the third largest mental health care problem in the world. Social anxiety effects around 7 percent of the population. This condition is chronic so it can’t just go away, however, there are definitely ways to manage it; medication, meditation, therapy, and etc. A lot of the time, people may confuse social anxiety with shyness or aloofness, but many people who have social anxiety are very friendly, open, and relatively happy people, they just can’t act that way freely due to their disorder. Once I learned about Summer’s dilemma, I could see some symptoms manifest. In a few of the videos that I’ve seen from her tour, you can see Summer standing there almost like a deer in headlights or sitting down very still. Even if you didn’t have social anxiety, picturing what’s going on through her eyes sounds a tad bit terrifying to me. You’re standing in front of a crowd of thousands; people yelling and screaming at you. There are bright flashing lights around, the music booming through the surrounding speakers and you can feel the vibrations of the bass through your feet and up your body. Wouldn’t that trigger some nerves? I get nervous when I go to arcades for that very reason. People are running around, people are loud; talking over each other, pushing, and shoving. It’s typically dark, and there are bright flashing lights from the games that are around. I can empathize with Summer, although my anxiousness is not as severe as hers is.
Recently, Summer Walker has cancelled most of her remaining tour dates due to her social anxiety, and it has a lot of people talking. For those who do not have anxiety, it may be difficult to understand. Many people on the internet are claiming that Summer is acting and that her social anxiety is not that bad; exaggerating her condition for…ugh I hate this word…clout. I didn’t know Summer was a stripper prior to singing, and that’s a big reason as to why people are claiming that she is lying. I do not personally know Summer (I wish I did though); I cannot read her mind, but it is kind of disheartening that so many people are shaming Summer. It’s not the weirdest thing in the world to be a person in that type of industry and have an anxiety disorder. Just think about how many people know her and how popular she is and how many instances she is confronted with having to surround herself with people now; the anxiety factor might have gone up a notch. After accepting her award at the Soul Train Music Awards, the topic of discussion came up once again with people dragging Summer through the mud. Summer has come out defending herself. In an Instagram post, she says…
One of the reasons I started this blog is to shed some light on mental health in the black community…and this kind of solidifies how desperately we as a community need to educate ourselves. Summer is stating some good points with her Instagram caption. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and all of the mental health disorders that are in between can affect anyone…that’s right…even you! And it will really hinder a person if they show signs of something, and they are told to ignore those signs; thinking that they will go away or that it can just be suppressed. It seems like we never take black people seriously; especially black women. If we have anxiety or exhibit any emotion that isn’t pure joy and happiness, we are seen as bitches or God forbid angry. We are told that we are faking it. And what’s sad is that it’s other black people that are trying to regress the black mental health discussion. A lot of it has to do with just not knowing and being ignorant to the fact, but there are literally people out there that think that black people just don’t suffer from mental health conditions. I will say, when you have a condition, it is your responsibility to get the help that you need if you are of legal age. My anxiety is…anxiety. I used to feel like someone else was controlling me when I would get into these little mental fits; sometimes I still do. I’ll give myself some credit; I am at a much better place mentally. That came with a lot of self reflection, hard work, more reflection, getting out of my comfort zone, more reflection, a great support system…did I say reflection? If you have done the same and can see some progress, no matter how little, you should pat yourself on the back. Seriously, I hope you’re doing it right now. I think with Summer Walker speaking more candidly about her condition, she can not only start a discussion about anxiety and other mental health conditions in the black community but she can set limits for what she can and cannot do, as well as pinpoint certain methods of healing that may work for herself.
I feel like when people are famous, their fans expect them to be somewhat superhuman. What we forget is that they too are human beings as well. They can get social anxiety; they aren’t immune to these things. There are so many people who look at their friends and family member’s social anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and so on and don’t see it for what it is. They tell them to get over it or to suck it up; not knowing that what they are doing is more harmful than helpful. Anxiety isn’t a little bout of nervousness, it can really affect a person and what they deem to be reality. Instead of pointing fingers and stating that other people’s (emphasis on other people’s) mental health conditions are exaggerated or fake, maybe we can educate ourselves a little better on what some of our peers may be going through. Okay? Thanks.
We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:
if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
insomnia or difficulties sleeping
hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
increase or decrease in weight
a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
having a hard time focusing
Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.
Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.
Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).
I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.
It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.
I have been following Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram for quite a while. In my head, she’s an old friend of mine. I grew up on Girlfriends; watching the reruns while my Mother was asleep laughing at the chaos and lessons that ensued with each episode. I am Joan Clayton to the tee! With a little bit of Toni (I loved her character too). I admired Joan, a hard working attorney and entrepreneur who knew how to make things happen. I wanted (and still want) to be that…I wanted to be her! Tracee portrayed that character so well, probably because she encompasses a lot of those go-getter and slightly quirky traits (traits that I would like to say I possess as well).
She is the embodiment of the rich auntie that kind of does whatever she wants, and that is a major mood. I have come to the conclusion that this lifestyle will probably be my life; traveling around the world on my own dime, wearing designer clothes, and sending expensive gifts from Paris to my nieces and nephews…a girl can dream. Anyways, people have kind of looked to her for lifestyle advice, even if they didn’t ask her directly. Tracee seems to be living her best life. People (including myself) may ask, well how is she thriving so? What’s her secret? Tracee does exude this youthful energy, what makes her stay so young? Physically and mentally, at 46-years-young, she is as lively and as vibrant as ever! Well, Tracee decided to go into detail and bless us with the information on how she does it, and I think these actions can really improve ones way of life. Let’s dive in!
Laughter is the best medicine, I can attest to that one. Laughter is a complex response and reaction. It is our physiological reaction to humor according to the popular website How Stuff Works. It all contains a set of gestures and the production of sound. Laughter is created through many regions of the brain like the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the back of the brain). If any of these parts are damaged, this can actually disrupt laughter and what one person may deem humorous. The higher function in the left brain hemisphere decode words and syntactical structures in a very analytical way, the right brain hemisphere understands the humor. The center of our brain creates an image of the funny idea or statement in our heads, while our limbic system releases the chemicals that promote a better mood. Laughter releases a substance called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. The endorphins go through your veins, traveling through your body and eventually ending up in your brain. This gives you a more relaxed, positive, and happy feeling. Laughing gives your diaphragm a pretty good work out! Not only the diaphragm, but your legs, faces, abdominal muscles and back. According to Organic Facts, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can be brought down significantly through laughing. Laughing also increases blood flow and the respiratory system. It also boosts your immune system. Laughing improves your health over all!
Number 2: Get Your Sleep
On average, I think I get about six hours of sleep. I’m trying to get another hour or two in there. Eight hours I think would be a pretty good amount of time to catch some z’s. Human beings are diurnal creatures, meaning we like to function through the day and take the load off at night. Owls, for example, are the opposite. They are nocturnal, they love the night time, but you probably won’t see them out and about during the day. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine states that sleeping less than six hours and more than nine hours increased diabetes risk. They say between seven and eight hours is great! And what about naps? According to the National Association of Sleep (that sounds pretty credible, right?), a twenty to thirty minute nap is recommended. Sleeping and napping helps improve focus and alertness. It can also help enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. Now for some people, naps might be a no go. Some (me….I’m one of them) are left to feel groggy or even more tired after a nap. Sometimes it may also affect later sleep patterns. But if you are tired…GO TO SLEEP…if you can. That’s your body’s way of indicating that you need a rest.
Number 3: Drink Plenty of Water
Please! For the love of God…drink some H2O. I literally drink water 80% of the time. I just bought a twenty six ounce Manna water bottle from Meijer a few days ago, and I carry it all the time and keep it near my bedside. Water keeps your body at a normal temperature. Do you want strong knees like Megan thee Stallion? Well you better start drinking up! Water cushions your joints and lubricates them. Water helps your body protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Through perspiration, bowel movements, and urination, waste is removed from your body.
Number 4: Have As Much Sex As Possible
Okay Tracee! I see you girl! Besides the obvious reason why sex is good (or should be), sexual activity does have some health benefits as well. Having sex once or twice a week helps boost the immune system by producing higher levels of immune fighting antibodies. No more illness for you! Sex may protect people from heart disease; balancing estrogen and testosterone hormones. It helps lower blood pressure too. Remember to practice safe sex and consensual sex (not sure what’s considered consensual, check out my blog post on what consent is and what it isn’t. Here’s the link: https://underneaththefro.com/2019/08/18/what-consent-is-and-what-it-isnt/). And let’s not forget about masturbation (is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?). There are a load (I have a dirty mind) of health benefits when it comes to masturbation. The following include:
reducing sexual tension
helps you sleep better
improve self esteem and body image
relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic region and anal areas
If you aren’t having sex, you can get the same result from a low cardio workout or a brisk jog. Meditation helps too, as well as taking the proper steps towards boosting self confidence.
Number 5: Love With An Open Heart
You lost me there Tracee. No, I’m kidding, but sometimes when you’ve been hurt so many times, it can be difficult to love with an open heart. I took it more so as loving yourself with an open heart. Truly loving yourself is such a beautiful thing, but it is a journey; a journey that I am still on. There are people that have lived their whole lives hating who they were, and I don’t want to be that way, and you shouldn’t want that either. It is easy to love openly and freely when things are just peachy. But what about when things aren’t looking so good? It’s a lot harder isn’t it? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also cause a lot of paranoia and create more doubt and fear. Our mind and our heart seem to be on a different page from time to time (or all the time). Keeping an open heart can help heal past pain and transgressions. The heart is so powerful. The heart has the ability to heal hurting wounds. This one might be a little tricky, but it can be done.
Well, that seems simple enough, right? It’s the little things that can help us get through our days just a little easier. Thanks Tracee for the advice!