Assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Florida on building an emotional wellness toolkit and self-compassion.
What does emotional wellness mean to you?
Emotional wellness, from my lens, means having the capacity to understand and respond to your feelings in a way that allows you to manage or regulate them and experience growth.
How can we take better care of ourselves emotionally?
Facilitating emotional wellness is a very personal process. Folx need to check in with themselves and build an emotional wellness toolkit that includes activities and resources that are accessible to them (e.g., financially, geographically, given their schedules) and that feel like a personal and cultural fit for them.
I have a playlist of meditations that range from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, and that are by BIPOC healers. I have stuff in my toolkit that I can do alone or that require others (walking vs. scheduling therapy or time with my bestie).
I would also say that we need different strategies for different emotions. When you’re angry, you may need a release. When you’re overwhelmingly sad and don’t have access to your go-to coping [mechanisms], you may need some strategies that help you avoid your feelings for a while. It’s important that folx build a nuanced, personal, and culturally relevant plan for caring for themselves.
How do you specifically advise brown and Black people to cope and process what feels like a roller-coaster of emotions while being alone in quarantine?
Same as above except, there are so many dope virtual spaces available for emotional wellness lately. Free, or pay-what-you-can groups based on your identity, virtual therapy is open now in a way it never has been before, and folx should try apps/sites like Yoga Greenbook and Liberate Meditate. And sleep y’all. Rest. Try your best to rest.
How would you advise one to find a balance in the “new normal,” in regards to the pandemic?
I encourage folx to develop new measures of a successful day and base it more on process than outcomes. Did you check on a loved one? Were you kind to yourself or your team while you or they attempted to get work done?
How have you seen emotional hurt (such as heartbreak) manifest across other forms of wellness?
Emotional wellness is closely connected to every other aspect of our wellness. I encourage folx to just have as a reference the multiple dimensions of wellness: physical, financial, intellectual, sexual, emotional, social, spiritual, academic/vocational, and environmental. Knowing that they are all connected can help you to make sense of what is happening to you. When your diet, academic performance, or sexual desire change in the aftermath of something like a heartbreak or other loss then you can see it as all a part of a connected experience and perhaps be more gentle with yourself.
As states start to open up, we must submerge and reunite with some. How do you advise we implement and maintain boundaries?
It’s super important to be clear about your boundaries, and that can be hard. Some people don’t care about boundaries, aren’t wearing masks, and get offended when you ask them to wash their hands. Others may not want you in their space and refuse your invitations to connect. We have to respect what folx need and assert what we need, recognizing that we all have the right to have our personal boundaries respected. Period. Open the conversation up with others and it can be mutually beneficial and anxiety reducing.
As some are learning and unlearning generational beliefs and behaviors, what is key to keep in mind?
Generational beliefs and behaviors are just that, generations long. Salute, affirm, and love yourself for recognizing them, deciding how you want to respond to them, and for moving toward that choice. Keep in mind that you are powerful and capable of unlearning and learning what is needed, stay gentle, and get support along the way as these processes take time and can be hard to do alone.
Many women I’ve spoken to have not been feeling like themselves lately, including myself. What do you recommend to those who do feel this way to do or keep in mind when moving forward and trying to reignite a flame or not lose themselves?
Go ahead and explore those feelings. Take some time to yourself. Journal, create, sit in silence, turn inward, and get curious. Get help getting curious. We often think we are alone; that when it comes to the emotional level, we are supposed to know everything or hide our feelings from others or have answers to each emotion immediately. But if we observe our feelings, get curious about them, name them, share them, and sit with them–there are wonders to uncover about ourselves. And if we invite others in, whether a friend, therapist, or loved one, we can also grow our relationship muscle and grow closer to others.
What do you recommend to remain vulnerable during such uncertain times?
Please find a self-compassion meditation that you like. It can be really helpful during trying times. It can also help to pay attention to where you feel most and least vulnerable. In what environments, with which people, what other contextual factors can you notice?
For me, because I know I am least sure of myself at the end of the day after going so hard and that vulnerability is what allows relationships to be beautiful and leads to the feelings of care and connection that I and the folx with whom I’m in relationship need, I spend time with or call my loved ones in the morning or early afternoon.
Our emotions are fluctuating a lot during these times. There is lots of instability in the world. Knowing yourself deeply is, I think, necessary. I would hate for folx to lose connections during this time because they are shutting down, rather than sharing what is going on for them.
For some folx, it may help to know that when they stay open they invite openness. And our people need us now. They need us to be open. They need a space where they can say, “I’m scared to go to work because of Coronavirus,” “I am exhausted from protesting and care-taking and watching the news and I am oscillating between numbness and rage,” “I need help with the kids.” As you give vulnerability, you get it. We all want it. Pay attention to yourself and look at your history and patterns when it comes to opening up and shutting down.