When we want our bodies to be toned, we head to the gym. If we need our nails and toes to be weekend-ready, we pay a visit to our local nail technician. But when we experience trauma, break-ups, life transitions, or painful memories, we tend to push them to the far corners of our mind and do our best to forget about it. Push it down, repress, and keep your chin up, give it to God.
But when it come to mental health, there is no shortcut.
The only way to a better you is through by doing the work. Working on your mental health is an important part, not just in growing up, but in seeking partnerships. If marriage and family is part of your future plan, then going to therapy should be on your current to-do list.
The taboo associated with therapy in the black community is beginning to melt away, thanks to the rise in self-care awareness. But where do you begin?
Here's a little guide to get you get started.
Know Your Mission
Keep in mind you shouldn't ever wait until you've reached a point of burn-out or emotional breakdown to find a therapist. It could be post-break or pre-two-weeks-notice, ask for support around transition. If you've never attended therapy sessions, you're more than overdue. Consider your first session a nail shop appointment for your soul.
Do Your Research
Having a new therapist is like starting a new relationship. There's a period in the beginning that will be focused on getting to know who you are and where you've been that may feel like an awkward first date if you settle in with the wrong therapist. It has to be a fit, so do your research.
Websites like Therapy For Black Girls, founded by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, offers provider listings and a guide for starting therapy. The Sad Girl's Club is loaded with helpful blog posts all about mental health - which is a good place to start.
Find A System That Fits Your Life
Therapy has come a long way since our parents' days. There are options for people who have specific goals and lifestyles to consider. For example, if time is a problem for you, there are convenient apps like Talk Space that offer daily texts, video, or voice sessions with a therapist, even a few times a day depending on the plan you choose.
Know The Difference Between Therapy & Life Coaching
I remember my biggest gripe about therapy when I first began was that the therapist did way more listening than talking and it was unnerving. After a while, I got used to it and enjoyed the space to speak freely about what was on my mind, but it's important to know that most therapists tend to be that way. If you want a more active and involved process, you might consider finding a life coach instead.
Supplement Your Self-Healing Journey
Going to see a therapist or life coach isn't the only route to healing. There are a lot of books and podcasts that can help keep you on the right path by dropping daily gems available at your convenience. Podcasts such as Black Girl in Om center around emotional and mental wellness, as well as physical health. If starting therapy is changing your diet, then books and podcasts can be like taking a daily vitamin.
Keep A Record
If you have ten minutes to check Twitter, you can make ten minutes to check in with yourself. Try using the voice memo feature on your phone and recording check-in messages highlighting how you feel that day, how therapy has possibly made you think differently, and what challenged you want to bring up in your next session.
It's also a great tool for understanding yourself more. There's something about listening to yourself talk that makes you much more aware of what you're talking about.
Be Okay With What Comes Out
The most important part of starting therapy is to allow yourself emotional space to feel vulnerable. The process of digging into your past or into a situation that was painful can open up a window that can let out a lot of feelings perhaps you were keeping inside. Instead of pushing them away, work on embracing them. Until you accept whatever pain or emotions you have within, it will be impossible to let them go completely. And letting go is the entire point.
Whatever your therapy journey looks like, remember you're not alone. We're all fairly new to this self-care thing. There's plenty of support waiting for you on the other side of whatever has been keeping you down. Reach out, have faith and go forward.