The Focus On You

Self-Care Is A Lifestyle

Category: Mental Health (page 2 of 13)

Yoga, Mental Health and Healing: An Interview With A Yoga Instructor

Sometimes the things that look so simple, bring the most benefits to our lives. If you have been curious about yoga and wonder why people get hooked on it, this article can definitely help!

When we’re looking at restructuring our overall wellness, there are many healing activities that can incorporate your mind and body. I sat with a fellow mental health therapist, blogger, Podcaster and registered yoga teacher, Davia Roberts, and asked her to help us understand how yoga can change lives.

Davia was first introduced to yoga in her teens and she practiced it on and off throughout college. Fast forward a few years and in 2017 she decided to take the leap and become a registered yoga teacher. She spent three weeks in Costa Rica in September 2017 and acquired 200 hours of hatha yoga training.

Here are some highlights of our discussion:

“What surprises did you learn about yourself after the training program and what changes have you made since then?

Davia states that she learned how much of an introvert she really is. She realized how sensitive she is to people’s energy. As a therapist she listens to, and sometimes carries, other people’s wounds. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with this baggage. A fellow student in her training was impressed at how Davia was able to separate herself from uncomfortable energy. Davia realized how confident she really is because of this.

In yoga practice, there isn’t a focus on poses. The focus is on the feeling. Pinpointing where in your body you feel tension and discomfort. Davia can now pinpoint where she holds certain feelings and is more conscious about what she does with that energy. She is now changing how she handles stress, is open to asking for help from her “team” and prioritizing more quiet time to help her recharge. She emphasized that she is now more “proactive” instead of “reactive.”

Sidenote: If you’re a beginner to yoga but are serious about reducing your trauma or mental health symptoms, you don’t have to become an instructor to enjoy these benefits. Personally, I use yoga to help with fibromyalgia and as a stress reliever. Despite my aches and pains, I walk away from an hour-long session feeling like I got a massage. It loosens my tight, anxious and under used muscles and gives me one hour where I’m not thinking about anything but breathing and keeping my balance.

“Therapeutically, what benefits does yoga provide?”

Although yoga isn’t a cure-all for everything, it can provide relief from symptoms of anxiety. She added that anxiety can be wrapped up in many other diagnoses or ailments and having healthy anxiety reduction skills is crucial. Yoga can help you slow down and be present, regulate your breathing, slow your heart rate and quiet racing thoughts. Becoming more aware of your body can help you before your next anxiety attack. You understand how to ask yourself, “How can I slow down so I don’t have an attack.”

In addition, research now shows that certain yoga poses can help with depression. It helps reduce inflammation in the body, which can contribute to chronic pain issues. She also mentioned that for trauma sufferers, it is important to tell your yoga instructor that you don’t like to be touched. I have personally been in classes where an instructor may come by and assist you with stretches or correct your form. This isn’t always the case, but it’s worth noting.

Davia says she will soon begin yoga classes in collaboration with a mindfulness teacher in the women’s correctional system. Yoga stretches and breathing exercises are low maintenance and easily accessible tools for healing trauma and managing stress.

  “How does healing the body relate to healing the mind?”

Davia shared that therapy is now treating trauma as a physiological issue, and not just a mental health issue. Research is now showing how trauma gets “stuck” in our bodies and many people don’t know how to let go of it. Certain yoga poses have been shown to help with depression and stimulate parts of the body that may have trapped energy.

She emphasized that someone with trauma and/or mental health issues shouldn’t get forced into thinking their only solution is psychotropic medications or talk therapy. Therapists are moving away from traditional treatments and can now use free tools like yoga and mindfulness to help people manage their symptoms.

For further resources on mental health and wellness, check out Davia’s website, Redefine Enough. She hosts a biweekly podcast called Affirm (you can find me chatting on Episode 18 about Domestic Violence and Relationships) and will be hosting a webinar on February 15th called, Mental Health Maintenance For Creatives. Register here

How are you incorporating overall wellness into your routine this year? How could yoga help you or a loved one?

The Connection Between Minority Mental Health And Belonging

As a Mexican-American, I naturally gravitate towards wellness issues that focus on people of color. Inclusivity is becoming more than just a buzzword, and honestly, it’s nice to finally be invited to the party.

In lieu of spouting off statistics about the effects of depression and anxiety on people of color, I want to explore a problem with mental health that goes unnoticed.

Belonging.

Being seen.

Although there are layers of barriers that people of color face in relation to mental illness (inadequate healthcare coverage, citizenship, poverty, taboo subject in your home), having a feeling of being unwanted or unseen can be damaging to one’s core.

You see belonging relates to fairness.

Fairness is what our kids gripe about in their classrooms. Fairness is missing in our board rooms, where the majority of upper management are Caucasian males. Abused women and mothers want fairness in courtrooms for restraining orders and custody agreements. (Don’t ask me how many times I have seen the court give the kids to an abusive father because he earns more money).

When you’re treated unfairly and go “unseen” you develop a sense that you don’t belong. For minorities, every incidence of being passed over for a job, harassed by cops, having nasty glares from sales associates or pre-judgments about your intelligence builds layers of “I don’t belong” messages.

Imagine adding on years of these messages with a newly diagnosed mental illness.

For anyone with mental illness you may wonder, who will believe me? Who will dismiss your illness and claim you have to “suck it up?” How do you talk about anxiety and depression with elder family members who survived a dangerous migration, escaping a war torn country or extreme poverty?

Even when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I wondered how I would be judged? How can I complain about being tired when I have friends who are running non-stop with kids, career, mortgages and large families? And how do I describe fibromyalgia as more than being “tired?”

And as popular culture focuses again on the mindset behind suicidal ideations, many suicide survivors would admit that their thoughts cannot be trusted with loved ones. You can have the greatest family in the world but suicide is not a topic you can bring up comfortably without people shoving questions and doctors down your throat. So if you feel suicidal, where can you feel like you belong?

Luckily, social media is providing groups and websites chock full of resources, hotlines and chats that are opening up discussions about all these sensitive topics.

My wish? In this expansive web of social connectivity, I want people struggling with painful symptoms to find a safe spot where they know they belong, and will be accepted.

And my continued passion with this blog and future projects, is to open up the door for people of color to have these conversations and begin the healing process.

Resources:

Talkspace – Online Therapy

Buddy Project: Project that uplifts young people with mental illness and pairs them with supportive friends. They frequently share Twitter threads full of resources (playlists, affirmations, etc).

The Focus On You podcast: Yes, I have a podcast now! I dig deeper into the topics I write about on this blog! I’m on Anchor, iTunes and Google Play!

Affirm podcast:  Podcast for women of color created by a mental health therapist.

To Write Love On Her Arms: Non-profit devoted to finding help for people dealing with suicide, self-harm and depression.

Tessera Collective: Online community and empowerment for girls and women of color.

PsychCentral: Mental health social network overseen by mental health professionals. Fabulous resource for ALL topics related to psychology.

Psychology Today: Online directory of licensed family, marriage, mental health, addictions and trauma therapists. Plug in your zip code or city and find a therapist tailored to your needs.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Trevor Project Crisis Line (LGBTQ): 1-866-488-7386

 

 

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