TW: This article may contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.
In early 2022, the world felt like it slowed down a bit as people digested the shocking news of beauty pageant queen Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide. When you scroll through her Instagram, the photos she had posted only weeks before her death were images of her smiling, looking happy, and being carefree. You can see photos of her working, being in front of the camera, and doing what I imagine was her norm. These pictures and videos, however, began to spark a conversation among Black women who knew too well that feeling like you're carrying the world on your shoulders and forcing yourself to smile through it all to hide the pain.
For many of these Black women, like Cheslie, it’s hard to see the hurt because the smiles are so radiant. It’s hard to sense the pain when they’re so energetic and exuberant, and for many Black women who struggle with high-functioning depression and anxiety, it's hard to tell that this feeling and heaviness is actually the result of a deeper issue connected to their mental health, and it’s even harder for people on the outside to see what’s going on with them within.
The concept of "high-functioning anxiety and depression" is not commonly known because it is not a classified diagnosis in the DSM-5. However, it is a term that was developed to describe people who struggle with these mental health disorders but are able to function well in different aspects of their lives—creating an illusion that they are coping with their mental health—when, in reality, they are just managing as they go but deeply struggling day-to-day and remaining productive allows them to avoid their pain.
Research indicates that after the death of George Floyd, anxiety and depression among African Americans skyrocketed from 36 percent to 46 percent which equates to more than 1.4 million people who reported a debilitating difference in their mental health to the Census Bureau.
Black people have to carry the burden of racial stress, pandemic stress, and day-to-day stress, and often, must do so while trying to operate and function at their best ability in order to move through the world without falling apart. The issue is, that many Black people truly are falling apart, and in particular, Black women are "1.8 times more likely than Black men to report sadness most or all the time and are 2.4 times more likely than Black men to report feeling hopeless more or all the time.”
The feeling of sadness and hopelessness is a direct symptom of dealing with major depression and anxiety, and in our society, the world does not stop when there is racial injustice, white supremacist attacks, pandemics, and global trauma. Instead, we are required to keep going, and Black women are required to push through despite it all and show up in all aspects of their lives including as mothers, caretakers, and within leadership in the workplace, a space that can almost often be a breeding ground for microaggressions and subtle acts of racism that impact Black women daily.
To further understand the impact anxiety and depression have on Black women’s health, let’s unpack these two terms.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health disorder where a person experiences consistent worry, fear, and feelings of anxiousness in their everyday lives, and it is not tied to a particular reason. People who have high-functioning anxiety may experience this kind of anxiety, but what makes them different is that people with GAD experience symptoms that are debilitating to the point where it impacts their ability to function, meet tasks, and perform certain obligations.
High-functioning depression is clinically known as persistent depressive disorder. This is when someone experiences symptoms of depression such as feelings of sadness and hopelessness, changes in mood and appetite, low energy, sleep disturbances, and other issues in a less severe manner that still allows them to function and manage their obligations and responsibilities.
People with high-functioning anxiety and depression may use their feelings of worry, anxiousness, and sadness as a catalyst for productivity and managing success. Black women may carry this trait by being high achievers, operating in roles of leadership, are helpful, and often seen as the “strong friend,” they often appear happy and seem to have their life in order and are often looked up to and revered by others because of how great their lives seem to be unfolding.
Some may look at these characteristics and think this seems healthy and unproblematic, but the issue here is that this is what we see on the surface. On the inside, the Black women we know who are experiencing issues may also be silently dealing with:
- Low self-esteem and low self-worth, and channel this through overachieving
- People-pleasing and living in constant fear of rejection, driving people away, being unavailable to others, and not being seen as good enough
- Chronic feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of relief from self-debilitating thoughts
- Poor boundaries and an inability to say no out of fear of other people’s reactions or the fear of missing out on something good
- Constant overthinking and self-sabotaging thoughts
- Poor relationships and no social life from an inability to create genuine connections that are not tied to achievements or what they can do for someone
- Imposter syndrome or constant comparing to others that causes them to suffer
- Problems with alcohol and drug abuse
- Thoughts of suicide ideation and/or self-harm
All the success, accolades, and achievements, can be distracting to those on the outside because many of us know that in order to obtain these things, hard work and dedication are requirements and we are used to the narrative around those who suffer from mental health issues looking a particular way. They appear sad, dejected, lonely, isolated, and unable to do basic things for their own personal and mental hygiene when in reality, that is not how everyone copes with their mental health.
Black women are aware that the world does not stop for their pain, so when we are wounded and need healing, we have taught ourselves that strength is to be found in propelling forward instead of seeking help, learning to rest, saying "no," and being at peace with our existence without tying it to the things we can achieve or how well we can perform in the midst of chaos.
Getting help can be scary when it’s not something you’ve ever done before, but wellness means learning to prioritize the things that enhance your well-being, increase your lifespan and benefit your mental health. Black women must be reminded that they do not have to earn their rest, nor do they have to wait until they're struggling before rewarding themselves with life pleasures and do what they need to care for themselves.
Take control of your mental health. Here are everyday tools that you can use to manage high-functioning depression and anxiety:
- Better boundaries with yourself: Take inventory of the things you say yes to and then get to the root of your, ‘why.’ Do you say 'yes' in order to please people? Is it because you think you’ll be missing out? Because you fear people’s reactions if you say 'no'? This is a sign that you have poor boundaries and this is actually exasperating your mental health issues rather than healing them. Make a list of five things you want to commit to doing for yourself daily, and define what boundaries you need to put in place to ensure you commit to doing what you need for yourself.
- Practice mindfulness/meditation: When people are severely anxious, they are trapped in a spiral of their thoughts and it can be hard to get out of their heads. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that teaches us to be present at the moment and to be grounded in reality, rather than in our heads tangled up in our thoughts that most of the time are not real and are things we made up in our minds as a form of catastrophic thinking that stems from anxiety. Practicing mindfulness can look like engaging in tasks and being in tune with your senses. Consider the work of cooking. During this task, you may focus on what you feel as you use your hands, what you smell as you use ingredients, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Think of a practice that makes you feel grounded and commit to practicing mindfulness daily.
- Journaling: Sometimes you will need to get out of your head. Studies have shown that journaling is a beneficial tool for managing mental health issues. During this practice, you can follow two themes. 1: Free-form journaling is when you write out your thoughts and express yourself through your writing. 2: Theme-based journaling is when you focus on a particular theme such as gratitude journaling, intention setting journaling, affirmation journaling, etc. Consider which options are most appropriate for you and commit to this practice a few times a week or daily.
There are going to be times when our mental health is suffering to the point where we need additional care and assistance outside of what we’ve cultivated in our self-care toolbox, and seeing a mental health professional may be the best option for your well-being.
Consider finding a therapist by visiting the following directories:
When finding a therapist, make a list of at least five questions that you want to ask during your consultation call to give you a better understanding of how therapy with this particular practitioner works. The top two questions I recommend that you include in that list are:
- Can you tell me about your treatment approach for people who struggle with depression or anxiety?
- Can you give me insight into your therapeutic process and what I should expect as we work together?
Remember that getting help is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength because a wise person understands that we all have limits and that we cannot do it all.
Community care means learning to be vulnerable and giving ourselves permission to lean on those who offered to be supportive structures for us to hold ourselves up on.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Getty Images
- 49% Of Black Women Over 20 Have Heart Disease & May Not Even ... ›
- Mental Illness & Mental Health While Social Distancing - xoNecole ... ›
- Healthy Practices For Days You Feel Low Anxious Depressed - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Self-employment is something many people prefer or aspire to, as being your own boss is both admirable and empowering. And women are bossing up more than ever, representing almost 40% of all self-employed professionals. Being self-employed myself, I can attest to the benefits, but like everything in life, there are two dueling sides to every coin. And if you're considering taking the leap from 9-to-5er to self-employed, there's a lot to consider before totally pulling the plug on your day job.
Here are a few things to know, from my own experience, before transitioning into self-employment:
1. Recognize that self-employment is not entrepreneurship.
There are key differences between being an entrepreneur and being self-employed that many people get all mixed up and confused about. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are definitely not the same.
A self-employed person operates just like an employee, often offering services and talents to business owners, nonprofits, or organizations. An entrepreneur typically offers goods and services to a client or customer, registers their business for tax purposes, and can reap the benefits of resources like business bank accounts, financing, and investments.
When you're self-employed, you often don't get paid if you don't work, most typically as a freelancer or on a project-by-project or client-by-client basis. When you're an entrepreneur, you can successfully scale a business where you can reap the benefits whether you're actively working in it or not.
You can indeed launch a one-person business (i.e., as a limited liability company or LLC), but there are requirements related to that, particularly when it comes to taxes. There are also things to consider, such as lifestyle, goals, and risk tolerance. The annual and financial obligations entrepreneurs have aren't the same as self-employed professionals, like additional taxes, filing fees, and mandatory financial reports.
(I know some of y'all entrepreneurs might be reading this with a side-eye, but hey, not every self-employed person is a business person, and some simply might not want the extra maintenance and responsibilities of having a registered business, no matter the perks.)
While I'm not discouraging any self-employed person from launching a business, knowing the difference between the two is important because it sets the tone for how you approach the work that you do, your expectations on the lifestyle and requirements, and what benefits might be afforded to you.
Many entrepreneurs can employ people, scale their businesses for expansion, get capital investment, and even take days, weeks, or months off without having to actually work yet still reap the benefits. This is often not the case for a self-employed person whose salary largely depends on actual work hours, paid invoices, and strategic budgeting.
2. Inform yourself about the tax obligations and other financial shifts that might happen once you are self-employed.
When you're working a 9-to-5, your company handles taking taxes out of each check. This is not the case for self-employed folk. There's a quarterly schedule that must be followed for federal taxes, and there are other regulations based on the state where you primarily work (even if you're working remote). If you're used to having a hands-off approach to taxes (other than going to the tax preparer once a year), you definitely want to shift your expectations and get to know all the information you can about self-employment taxes.
Also, the way you budget might be a bit different when you're self-employed. If you find, for example, that you're constantly living check to check or that you're used to a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks, you'll need to shift the way you look at how money flows in your household.
Self-employment can include periods where you're not getting paid as consistently, and many companies work with invoices that are paid 30, 60, or even 90 days after you've finished the work you've done for them. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly based on the industry you'll be working within.
Talk to a tax or personal finance professional to find out about how your finances and tax obligation might change once you decide to become self-employed, and then set up a plan so that you won't get caught slipping come Tax Day. The process is different for self-employed people, and this is an important aspect of the process that will save you lots of money and stress in the long run.
I learned the hard way to negotiate, upfront, a set period of time for my services (when applicable and reasonable) to be written into a contract and to set my rates not solely based on my previous salary but considering additional costs like WIFI, travel, health insurance that I have to pay for out-of-pocket, home office technology and tools, and the time it actually takes to complete tasks. The pandemic brought home how super-important this was because, as a freelancer, someone can simply cut you with no compensation or warning.
3. Get to know your true strengths and weaknesses when it comes to work ethic, skills, environment, and motivation.
Self-employment is definitely not for the faint at heart. It can be a constant hustle in the beginning, and if you're not careful, you might end up wondering how you'll pay your rent or car note simply because you don't have clients or work lined up. It's good to be a self-starter and super-organized. It's also good to brush up on your marketing, communications, and sales skills because you'll need to pitch yourself and your background in order to land projects and clients.
While working your full-time job, take a few courses or find a self-employed mentor so that you can strengthen your skills in areas where you might need some improvement (i.e., pitching, online marketing, social media branding, or project management.) Practice self-employment on the side as an intern or with a side hustle so you can learn a bit more about yourself that you might be overlooking while serving as an employee.
Being self-employed means you become multiple departments in one person. For example, your current company provides support like assistants, accounting departments, legal teams, and IT, so you might not be used to having to handle all of those things on your own. For some, this can be overwhelming, while others find the challenge invigorating and worth the sacrifice if it means having autonomy and financial and time freedom.
Also, if you're motivated to do your best by being around teams or working in an office, self-employment might be too isolating for you. True, there are groups and co-working cultures you can join, but it's definitely not the same as having built-in comradery of fellow full-timers at a company. Be aware of these things so that you're realistically making a choice that suits the life you want to live and the work experience you want to have in order to thrive.
4. Create an emergency fund solely for the transition.
While you're working a 9-to-5, create a separate savings account just for the transition. Anything can happen between quitting your job and getting your first freelance gig, client, or project. When I first stepped out to be self-employed, I thought I had the dream client, only to find out that it wasn't a good fit and I'd be looking for a new one after six months. This might happen several times before you really hit a groove, find your fit, build up your reputation, and get consistent work.
Having a financial cushion outside of your usual emergency fund helps to soften the blow if something like a client loss, a late invoice payment, or an unexpected work-related expense (i.e., computer replacement or broken equipment repair) comes up.
Sometimes, self-employment can include certain up-front costs like renting an office space, investing in new technology or other tools, travel expenses, or hiring other self-employed professionals (i.e., a consultant, web designer, or tax preparer), so you'll want to be smart, be prepared, and keep your receipts.
5. Understand your why.
Every great and sustainable journey starts with a good reason---a "why" that keeps a person going. If you know your why, you're less likely to just give up when things get rough, and you're less likely to make costly, mentally and physically draining mistakes. I decided to go for full-time self-employment because, after more than a decade working in my field, I really felt burned out at the time, began to resent not being promoted as quickly as I thought I should, and saw that I could make more money contracting my skills and talents out than working full-time for one company.
I also loved that I could pick and choose who I worked with and align my values with the projects that I was part of (versus being forced due to being a full-time employee beholden to a contract and the so-called values of a corporation or company.)
I've made quite a few mistakes over the years, but my why remains the same, and when times get hard, I simply remember the overall peace, flexibility, and autonomy I have in serving the women millennial audiences I want to serve through journalism and communications.
6. Be sure that you're offering services or expertise that can be used for years to come and that's competitive.
If you're considering self-employment, be sure your skills are competitive and have a future of need. I knew, even a decade ago, that much of the media industry was going the freelance route, and today, with layoffs becoming commonplace and full-time employee budgets being cut, contract work has become the name of the game. I saw this industry shift coming a mile away, and, like my early foray into digital media before publishing houses were monetizing it, I knew eventually, freelance work would be abundant and preferred.
If you're already doing a job that is in high demand or you offer something niche and one-of-a-kind, working for yourself might be the move. But if you've found that your current skills might be obsolete in the next two to five years, try learning another skill, shifting how you do the work you do, or tapping into another passion that can ensure you're offering something valuable in a market where it's direly needed.
Self-employment can be a joy and a pain, and for many of us, it's the only choice for self-care, mental wellness, and financial freedom. If you're considering taking the leap, take into account these tips and go forward in bold confidence, informed, and prepared.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image LaylaBird/Getty Images