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Session 191: Community Check-In for Inauguration Day

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
It’s Inauguration Day here in the US and I’m feeling a mix of excitement that the current administration is finally ending and also anxiety about the safety of the day’s events. The grief related to the many lives we’ve lost over the past year also seems to be heavier and heavier each day. If you’re feeling similarly, you’re not alone. When times are difficult, it’s even more important for us to dig deep into taking care of ourselves. In today’s episode I’m sharing 8 tips that might help today and in the days ahead and also answering a couple of On the Porch questions.

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A Mindfulness Exercise for Grounding

Session 19: Sometimes You Gotta Feel the Feels

Session 78: Mindfulness

Session 152: Building Your Coping Kit

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Read Full Transcript

Session 191: Community Check-In for Inauguration Day

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 191 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. Given the start we’ve had to 2021, I thought it was probably time for another community check-in and we're gonna jump right into it, right after this break.

[BREAK]

If you're listening to this on the day it's released, then it’s inauguration day here in the US. And I don't know about you, but my nerves are shocked. On one hand, I'm terribly excited to mark the end of this administration, but given the events of the past couple of weeks and reports of increased violence, I'm also really worried about whether everything will be able to go off safely. I also feel like the grief related to the lives we've lost in the pandemic becomes greater and greater every day. And though the vaccine is rolling out, there continue to be lots of questions about how all of this is going to be handled.

I share this because I know that I'm not alone in feeling this and if you're feeling kind of down or just not yourself, I want you to know there's nothing wrong with you. You are having a completely reasonable response to what has been a plethora of traumatic experiences and circumstances that may have left you feeling angry, invalidated, scared, and probably lots of other things. If you're needing some help with extra ways to take care of yourself today and in the days ahead, here are a few things that just might help.

Number one will be especially important today and that is: it's okay to not watch the inauguration activities live or at all. If you find yourself too worked up to be able to watch the events live, it's okay to just watch the highlights later. Or if you don't want to watch at all, that's cool too. There's no one way that you need to spend the day. Do what feels best for you.

Number two: do your best to stay off social media. If you're not wanting to watch the inauguration activities live, it'll be hard to avoid updates online, so plan to disconnect for a few hours. Number three: get moving. It can be a walk around your block, a yoga workout, or even a dance party in your kitchen. The movement from doing something physical jolts our system and releases endorphins that helps us to improve our mood.

Number four: practice some mindfulness techniques. You heard Devi Brown talk last week on the podcast about how mindfulness helps us to go inward even if there is chaos outside. And mindfulness is one of those things that helps us to strengthen our resilience muscle, which is what allows us to get through difficult times. I'll link a couple of our favorite meditation and mindfulness resources in the show notes, but I want you to remember that mindfulness practices become more effective with more practice. So don't give up after the first try; keep practicing.

Number five: dust off that Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime queue. Some of the things I've watched recently or plan to watch soon are Bridgerton, One Night in Miami, the season premiere of Married at First Sight (the season is happening in Atlanta), Schitt's Creek, Bling Empire, and the most recent episode of This Is Us, which was incredible.

Number six: order in or make your favorite foods. If you have the bandwidth, make some of your favorite snack foods to graze on throughout the day and make yourself or buy yourself a hearty dinner. And don't forget not to skimp on your dessert. Number seven: stay engaged with your support system. Be honest with them about how you're feeling and have a conversation about how you can support one another. If you prefer no inauguration talk, it's okay to say that. If you prefer to communicate only through hilarious memes, it's okay to say that, too. My group chats have really been the MVP this past year, so make sure you're using yours as well.

And number eight: remember to breathe. When stress is high, sometimes we hold our breath longer than normal or we hold tension in places like our jaw, our shoulders or our necks. Set a timer for yourself if necessary that reminds you to take a few deep breaths in and out, and to release any tension you might be holding in your body.

I'm curious, are there other things that you've been doing recently that have been helping you to take care of yourself? Please share them with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. We'll take a quick break and we'll be back with some On the Porch questions.

[BREAK]

I got a few messages asking me to bring back the On the Porch questions and, ta-da! Here we are! If you're newer to the podcast, our On the Porch questions are an opportunity for community members to submit a question or a situation that they'd like to have some feedback about. Just a reminder, my feedback does not constitute therapy or medical advice and you're always, always, always encouraged to make the best possible decision you can for yourself. If you have a question, you're welcome to send it to us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/mailbox and I might be able to give you some feedback during an episode.

Question number one comes from Tara–and all of these names are made up. Tara asks: I've been with my partner 5.5 years, we've known each other 16 years, we are unmarried with two small children. We've discussed marriage and the conversation seems promising, but year after year, there's been no ring or proposal. I plan everything in my life and I'm very organized and I had hoped this would happen, at the latest, year five. I love him and I'd like to stay, but also feel like I've lowered my expectations of myself, which has been affecting my mental health and self-esteem. All of this has been discussed with him which has led to arguments and negative thoughts of marriage on both ends. Is it time for me to leave? Should we try couple’s therapy? Am I overthinking or overreacting and need to go with the flow? I would really love advice.

Thank you so much for your question, Tara. Like I mentioned earlier, it is important for you to make the best possible decision for yourself and for your life in this situation. While I can't give you an answer about whether it's time to leave or not, here are a few things that I would encourage you to consider.

It sounds like you've been clear about the fact that you desire marriage; why does it end in an argument every time you try to talk with him about your expectations for the relationship? What exactly are y'all not seeing eye to eye on? Is it that he wants more time before he decides on marriage? Does he feel like something else needs to happen before you all get engaged? Is he opposed to marriage altogether? Also, what exactly do you mean when you say go with the flow? Do you mean have fewer expectations about what a proposal might look like, or does that mean letting go of the idea of marriage altogether?

Couples counseling could be an option that you'd want to consider but I first want you to be clear about your focus for going. If there are issues that you feel like would make your relationship stronger before marriage, then couples counseling very well might be a great option for you. But you probably don't want to think about counseling as a space that's going to convince your partner that marriage needs to happen, if he's not already committed to that idea. That's probably not going to happen in counseling.

I don't think it's overreacting at all to make your expectations known. That's actually a very healthy quality in a relationship. Finally, I'd like you to consider how you envision this playing out. If you continue to assert your needs and they continue to be met with an argument, what are you willing to change on your end? Because we know we don't have control over anyone except ourselves, so if you continue to find yourself in this space that you find frustrating, remember that you always have the power to choose to react or do something differently. I hope this helps, Tara.

Question number two comes from Kendra. Kendra writes: How do I manage my emotions like anxiety, perfectionism and depression when applying for new jobs and returning to the workforce after a period of unemployment (six months or longer) and after a history of terrible bosses or companies? Thank you so much for your question, Kendra.

In the job search process, I think it's really important to remember that so often, sadly, getting a job is a numbers game and speaks really more to who you're connected with, far more than whether you're the most qualified one for the job. I think you want to just be careful not to equate the job you do with the person that you are. You are worthy and wonderful and magnificent, simply because you exist. Your job is simply how you make money to pay bills and live in the world but it doesn't define you. So when you get the rejection letters or you don't hear back from people, I want you to work really hard on not letting that become an indictment on you, and more an indictment on the processes that are very, very broken.

If you can, I'd encourage you to work with a career coach or someone who helps make résumés shine, so that it speaks clearly to your history and your skills. And then I want you to let as many people as possible know what kind of work you're looking for. Share it on social media, tell your friends about it, and tell any old coworkers that you're still close with. Again, remember, finding a job is often a numbers game so increase your chances by having as many people as possible keeping their eyes open for you. I'm not sure why you've not been working for some time but given everything that's been happening in the past year, I think that companies (or at least I hope that companies) are being more flexible in terms of gaps in employment. And also within this context, know that there are many more people looking for jobs.

I think that all of this really underscores that there may be many reasons why you might not get a job, that have absolutely nothing to do with you. I don't want you to be overly critical of yourself or demeaning of yourself. Understand that this is often a game that we're playing, a lot of times, when we're applying for jobs. Do what you can in terms of completing applications and remember to be gentle with yourself in the process. Also, because of everything that's happening, I'd encourage you to shoot for jobs outside of your local area. Since many more jobs are remote now or allowing people to work from wherever, there may be some opportunities that open up to you that you hadn't considered before. Good luck with your search.

Question number three comes from Diane. Diane writes: How do I tell my friends and family when their emotional baggage becomes too much on my mental health? For example, my best friend calls me every day to talk about her relationship problems or other problems she has and the entire conversation is about her.

Thank you so much for your question, Diane. This sounds like an excellent opportunity for you to practice some boundary setting. I wonder what it would be like to have a conversation with your best friend, letting her know how it feels when she only calls to talk about herself. I imagine it might be hurtful or you might be feeling resentful. Whatever it is you're feeling, I'd encourage you to let her know how her behavior leaves you feeling and then suggest what you'd like to see moving forward. Are you fine with her talking about her stuff as long as she gives you space to talk about yours? Would you like to hear less about her relationship problems? How would you like things to be different?

Once you've had that conversation, then pay attention to whether you see a change in behavior. Are your needs being taken into consideration or is she still only talking about herself? If so, you may need to take different measures to protect your energy. Perhaps by not answering every time she calls, or stating that you only have 15 minutes to chat. It's your responsibility to guard your time and energy and if you make it clear how you expect someone to engage with you and they don't respect it, then it's okay to do what you need to do to make sure that you're protecting your time and energy. The work doesn't end just by telling others or demonstrating what our boundaries are. Often, the harder work is in enforcing it. I hope this helps, Diane.

If you have a question you'd like some feedback about or a topic you'd like to have discussed on the podcast, send it to us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/mailbox and it just might be covered in an episode. Don't forget that if you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Yellow Couch Collective. It's our cozy corner of the internet, designed just for black women. You can join us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/YCC. Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all, real soon. Take good care.