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.
The beginning of a year often results in us taking stock of our rituals and habits to see what’s working and what’s not. And while sometimes it can be an easy process to pick up a new habit, it isn’t always. Joining us for part 3 of our January Jumpstart series to help us figure out what kinds of new routines we may want to develop and how to stick with them is Kristen Feemster, LMFT. Kristen and I chatted about the importance of having a routine, how therapy might help us develop and stick to routines, and how to give ourselves grace and start over with routines if necessary.
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Check out Part 2 of the January Jumpstart series for tips on developing your personal style.
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Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole Howard
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Session 243: Establishing New Routines
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 243 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: The beginning of a year often results in us taking stock of our rituals and habits to see what's working and what's not. And while sometimes it can be an easy process to pick up a new routine, it isn't always. Joining us for Part 3 of our January Jumpstart Series to help us figure out what kinds of new routines we may want to develop and how to stick with them, is Kristen Feemster. Kristen is a licensed marriage and family therapist, fitness coach and the founder of B3 based out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
With a mission of moving women toward freedom, Kristen offers wellness programs to support women in shifting unhealthy patterns and habits to create a sustainable lifestyle. Kristen and I chatted about the importance of having a routine, how therapy might help us develop and stick to routines, and how to give ourselves grace and start over with routines if necessary. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us again, Kristen.
Kristen: Thank you for having me. So excited to be back for a new year and glad to be speaking about routines. I'm excited.
Dr. Joy: I think a lot of people do some intention setting and thinking about what different things they might want to be doing as we embark on a new year, and so we wanted to chat with you today about how people can get established with some of these new routines that they're thinking about. Can you start by just telling us what a routine is, and what are some of the different aspects we may want to think about establishing routines for in our lives?
Kristen: Sure. I think the first thing to highlight is that we all have routines. Now, whether they're serving us well or not, we all have some routines that we function out of. So it's not that we need to necessarily invent something that we've never done before, we may just need to tweak the way we're living our day to day lives as is and make changes. And so when I think of a routine, I think of just a formula–a group of behaviors, a group of tasks that when combined help with overall functioning, help you to be your best self and help you to stay well.
Dr. Joy: You mentioned that we all have routines. Whether they are serving us or functioning is a different story. How might we decide whether a routine that we're doing isn't actually serving us well?
Kristen: For me it comes down to is it getting in the way of my potential? And I think that's a big one and that covers a broad spectrum of things. Because sometimes we're motivated by external factors, sometimes we're motivated by our own personal mental emotional struggles, when we're not taking care of ourselves and staying on top of things that we need to do. But I think the question that is overarching with that is, is it getting in the way of my potential? Do I find myself desiring to change things, desiring to do better in one area or another? If you're questioning that, if you're having that like emotional experience, I think that's the most important part.
In addition, too, your life could be not together, could be falling apart. There could be other things that signal to, hey, something's got to change here. But ultimately, I think especially for when it comes to implementing a new routine, the most important voice is yours and if you feel like it's getting in the way of your potential or your happiness, then it's perhaps time to make a change.
Dr. Joy: Got it. And what are some of the benefits of having a routine?
Kristen: Oh, man, there are so many. I think that for a lot of people there's security and comfort in having a routine. And so if you're someone that’s struggling to find your bread and butter, your flow for any area of life, I think that when you find that formula that works for you, we can definitely bring a sense of control. And we like to keep that in a healthy space of having control but I do think it's okay to feel secure in our routines. And also, if you have goals and intentions that you’ve set for the year or just any particular time, your routines are what are going to support that. And those are the action steps, those are the day to day things that we do, the hour to hour, minute to minute things that we do that actually get us to the things that we desire most in our lives. And so those are some benefits.
And then of course around mental and emotional health with my clients who struggle with anxiety and depression. Your routine isn't always taking a bubble bath; sometimes it's implementing your coping skills on a regular basis. And so the benefits from that come from just improved symptoms and quality of life.
Dr. Joy: Kristen, I think very early on in the pandemic, and still largely as things continue to change, this is one of the things that I think a lot of people struggle with because our routines did get upended. Commute didn't look the same, drop off for childcare didn't look the same. Like everything was all over the place and so a lot of people talked about feeling a sense of being lost in time, so not really knowing when the day ends. I wonder if you have some suggestions around what routine looks like, given that there are so many external changes that can kind of happen.
Kristen: I think what I noticed a lot at the beginning of the pandemic is that sometimes we think we're under routines but really were being drugged by busyness, and so it's like I think I had some routines that were really distractions and kind of overcrowding my lifestyle. On one hand, I did hear of a lot of people who were struggling with how to find a rhythm and a routine with a lot of their day to day stuff taken away. But I also heard a lot of people saying that, wow, I was distracted and busy with things and wasn't necessarily facing the things that I needed to or addressing the things that I needed to, out of busyness and being overworked and being externally focused.
And so I think that for the pandemic and working from home more and just things just being inhouse a little bit more, I think that's a great metaphor for where your routines can really be focused–in house. How are you taking care of your mind? How are you taking care of your body, your living space? The people that you are closest to emotionally, how are you taking care of and nurturing those relationships? And so instead of it being about getting to this meeting and getting to that meeting outside of the house and dropping the kids off here outside of the house, those routines could look like more (of) what are our family traditions in the evening time? What else can we do to stay connected besides taking the kids to sports and the things that, pre-pandemic, were fairly normal?
We're having to like really establish a new normal and I don't think that it's been all bad. I think that it's just an element of acceptance around the changes, identifying some areas that you can maintain your routine. In particular, for me being a fitness coach as well, continuing to move and exercise on a day to day basis was really important. And it was something that I could do from home. Now it looked different, but it was something that I could revamp and do from home. And so I think, one, it's accepting that some things just aren't going to be the same and maybe that's a good thing in some areas. And then, two, what are some important areas that I really want to maintain and what does that look like in this new normal?
Dr. Joy: You mentioned that for some of your clients who struggle with things like anxiety, depression, you help them to look at routines that could be helpful for them. Can you say more about how therapy or a therapist might help to set up routines or help you to discover where a routine might be helpful?
Kristen: Yeah. I think that in therapy, one, a lot of people don't realize their symptoms and I know that's pretty standard that sometimes we don't see what's happening to us. And so first and foremost, I think therapy can be a helpful tool for mirroring and reflecting back what's actually happening.
I had so many clients coming in with racing thoughts and difficulty sleeping and tense muscles and different things, and they were sharing them as little individual symptoms. And then, as a therapist, I was able to say, “If you put all those symptoms together, it sounds like you're experiencing anxiety, would that be accurate?” And they'll say, you know what, I just thought this was normal or I just... I don't know if I was just stressed. And I'm like it's been a while, we've been working for a while. And so I think that having a therapist be able to come in and conceptualize what you're going through in a different way helps us reframe what the goals are. And so sometimes I'll have clients come in for one reason and then once we get to work, two or three months down the road, we're like, oh. “Okay, so we’ve got to shift our goals now because the needs look different than what I thought they did, coming in.” And so I think a therapist can be helpful for establishing that.
And then also, the psychoeducation around what real coping skills look like. In the day and age of social media, I really do appreciate all the information that therapists and other mental health advocates and other people share, but it's not a one size fits all. The Instagram posts may look really cool, and all the coping skills or selfcare tasks, the to do lists that they have may seem very cool or something that would be nice, but is that going to address your mental health? And what do those coping skills look like? What does that routine look like? And I think that's the difference between self-help and having a therapist step in sometimes. It’s those nuanced areas of making sure that what you're doing is actually addressing the root issue.
Dr. Joy: Got it. I think you've already mentioned people who struggle with sleep and we talked about this on the podcast around how important sleep routines are. Are there certain times of the day, like a morning time routine or a bedtime routine, that are really important for us to pay attention to?
Kristen: I still think that it's not a one size fits all thing but I definitely think there is some level of benefit for anybody to have a way of starting your day and hopefully to have a way of ending your day too, just for peace of mind, just for continuity of one day to the next and being intentional with our time. I think sometimes, like we’ve said, especially now when a lot of things are at home, the days start running together. I don't know if it's Monday or if it's Saturday or if it's Sunday morning or Thursday night. And some of those routines can really frame up our headspace for the day and so I think that is very important and can be very beneficial.
Now, the other side that I'll say, just as suggestions for people, is that there's no set way that it has to look. Some people's morning routine, particularly, say, if they're struggling with depression in this season, it may not be getting up and writing in your journal and listening to worship music and making a full course breakfast and smoothie and all of that. It may look like actually getting up out of bed, brushing your teeth, washing your face and getting to work on time virtually. And so I think that's the area where it depends on the person and it doesn't have to look a certain way. But I do think it can help, again, with intentionality and the comfort of having those routines for sure.
Dr. Joy: You bring up a really good point, Kristen, and I want to hear from you where you see people make mistakes with developing new routines. Because you just pointed out this example of somebody’s routine might look like waking up at 6:30 and doing some stretches and doing some movement and then I take a shower and then I write for 20 minutes in a devotional and then I get the kids up. And for somebody else, that could be really overwhelming. But if you are trying to match your routine to somebody else's, it may not actually work for you because you're not actually at that place. And so what are some of the kinds of mistakes that people make when they are trying to develop a new routine for themselves?
Kristen: I think exactly what you said is spot on. That's my number one go-to when I'm helping somebody with a routine. It's like, okay, what are you doing? What are you trying? Let's look at that a little bit more. And most times, people are starting with too much going on at one time and so my first rule is we need to simplify this. We’ve got to prioritize what you want to do. And there is a time and place to do it all, but today may not be the best time to implement all 10 of those things. And so the best way to do this is probably going to be to slowly build, acclimate yourself to one or two things and then once you get the hang of those things, you can go on and add a third or fourth.
But yes, most of the time, it is just an overwhelming structure and almost like a perfectionism around what I should be doing. I should be able to, like you said–6:30, oh wow, that's late. I should be getting up at 5:00 a.m. because that's what entrepreneurs do, and that's when you get your work done, and that's when you read, and that's when you pour back into yourself spiritually. I get that that's the ideal, but let's look at the realistic circumstances that you're under and let's find a happy medium with that.
And then also, I mentioned earlier, the routine not necessarily supporting the things that they want to do better with. One of my routines is around nutrition and making sure I get quality meals in during the day. Maybe my morning is spent–if I didn't get to it at another time of the week–maybe I have a set time in the morning where I prepare my breakfast, lunch and dinner for the day. So if I wake up and I start journaling and I'm doing exercising and I'm cleaning and all of that and I don't leave time for what I'm actually trying to work on, then now what's the point? And so I think that's another area that sometimes can be confusing–what actually will get me what I'm looking to actually experience?
Dr. Joy: I think that would be helpful to play with an example for people. Let’s say one of my goals for this year is to get more movement into my schedule. Maybe I'm pretty sedentary, I'm sitting at the desk most hours of the day, and I really feel like I need to do more movement this year. What kinds of things might you suggest for someone who's wanting to have that as one of their goals?
Kristen: First, I would want to ask. Before we start implementing different behaviors and lifestyle changes, I would want to know what's your why. Why do you want to start moving more? Because I think that ultimately is gonna help sustain you and support and motivate you on days when it's gonna be hard to get that routine going. And so sometimes I'll have clients come to me, particularly for exercise needs, fitness goals and that sort of thing, and their goal will be “I'm trying to lose weight for my birthday in March.” And I'm like, okay, let's back up and regroup on some other reasons why. That can be maybe one of them, but let's go back and regroup on some other reasons why this movement and this routine is gonna be important to you. What are the mental health benefits of that?
And always try to get the foundation around a solid why that's sustainable because routines are hard. You know, change is hard and if you have an unstable shaky foundation around why you're doing what you're doing, your alarm’s gonna go off on Thursday morning and you're gonna be like, you know what, I don't want to go today. “I don't know why I'm doing this, what's the point?” And so that's the first step.
And then the second step I would say again is simplifying. So many times, it's I'm signing up for the gym, I'm going to CrossFit, I'm gonna work out an hour every morning at 5:30 a.m., doing boot camp, and then I'm gonna get home and go to work and all of this. And I usually recommend, as a starting place, let's start out with three times a week for 15 to 30 minutes. Let's see how that goes for a month, let's see how that goes for two months. And then, once you've gotten into that routine and you've shown yourself that you can commit to that, then we can always make those sessions longer. Then we can add in a fourth day and a fifth day. And so making sure to start small and be realistic about we're going from zero to 30 or 50, instead of zero to 100. You know what I mean? I mean not playing the “all or nothing” game.
And then the last thing I would say is adding in variety and doing what you actually enjoy doing. If I'm a boot camp person and I just love to do burpees and sprint and do pushups and pullups and all that kind of stuff, then the CrossFit gym or the boot camp classes will work for me. But if I'm a Zumba girl or if I'm a yoga person, let me go find some movement that's actually things that I enjoy doing. One, so that I'll get all the benefits that I want to out of it and not hate it. And then two, so that hopefully I'll be able to sustain this–six months, a year, two years from now–and not feel burned out from my routine.
Dr. Joy: Are there some resources that you suggest to clients or that might be helpful for people who are starting new routines? Stuff like putting it on your calendar or working with an accountability buddy? What kinds of resources help to support our new routines?
Kristen: I would definitely say there's a lot of different things that could help, I think it just depends on in what order to implement them. But the first and foremost thing that I think is most beneficial is some sort of community or support or accountability. And so for some people, the community is syncing up Apple watches and everybody's gonna be able to see everyone's. And I'm using movement as an example for that but that could be a source of community. For someone else it might be talking to your therapist about some goals that you have and seeing and asking and talking about what accountability (at least from therapy session to therapy session) could look like. It could be another accountability partner or joining a devotional with a friend.
There's a lot of apps where you can be friends with each other and share what you're focusing on and what you're reading and that sort of thing. So I think any level of community that you can grasp onto is gonna be the best starting place because it's hard to do in anyway and it's hard to make changes and implement new routines alone. And so our default settings are gonna be calling for us for a while when you're trying to do something new around your routine and sometimes you need to hear more than just your voice talking back to that urge, to that temptation. So I would say that first.
And then everybody has a different way of holding themselves accountable structurally, I guess you could say. For some people, that's a calendar. For some people, that's alarms. For some people, that can be attaching the new habit that they want to implement with something that they already do. So if I'm a mom and I have young kids that I take to ballet practice on Wednesdays, I'm already going somewhere, I'm already gonna be waiting in my car for an hour, hour and a half, waiting on my kids. So now I'm going to make that time a time where I establish maybe a new routine to do some reading during that time in a specific area, or to look at my budget in that moment, or I'm gonna go to the gym while they are in class. And so I think attaching it to something that you're already doing can give you a better chance but it's really, again, a formula of all those things to help yourself be the most successful that you can.
Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Kristen after the break.
Dr. Joy: As you were talking about the idea of bringing kids to a ballet class and then you have that time, like you're usually sitting in the car or in the lobby or whatever, that could be a time where you could do some reading or maybe get some movement in while they are in class... I think a lot of times what happens is that we don't look at our calendars, and our automatic response is “oh, I want to do this thing but I don't have time.” And so I wonder if a helpful step when we're trying to establish these new routines is actually like a time audit so that we are actually looking at how much time we are spending doing things, that we might be able to now devote to this thing that we're saying that we want to do.
Kristen: Absolutely. I think that's a great exercise and I think that's also where the accountability comes in, too. A lot of times, I've done those time audits with my clients. And so sometimes it's someone else saying, “You don't have time? Really?” You know, just in a loving, supportive way but calling it out. And being like, you know what, yeah, I say that to myself a lot. Because we will justify, we will rationalize, we will deny–all of our different ways our defense mechanisms can sometimes come out around this, and it's to be expected. We usually like to stay the same, we find comfort in whatever just is sometimes, just the routine and the safety of it. And so to change, you have to have somebody or something that's calling that mindset out for you. And sometimes it is, like I said, the accountability piece of someone else saying let's sit down and let’s actually go through how you’re spending your time now so that we can plan for how you’re gonna implement this. And also, so that you can get out of your own way, around using your time or lack thereof as an excuse. For sure.
Dr. Joy: Are there other defense mechanisms or defenses that you've seen come up for people, Kristen, who are trying to start new routines?
Kristen: I think that any justifications could be, like you said, saying I don't have enough time. I would if only this would change, or deferring the responsibility for change onto something else. I would read more if only my kids would go to bed at a certain time, or I would do this if only... Deferring it. “Once that changes, then I'll have more time to be able to do it.” Instead of empowering ourselves–which is also hard to do–to take that time, to make that time and prioritize it.
It could also be denying that there's an issue around our routines or denying what the actual root cause is. For example, for someone who is struggling with some sort of addiction or compulsive issue, they may say, oh well, I'm trying to get it together over here and I'm not sure why I can't wake up on time and get to work on time, but they're not wanting to address that they have been drinking at night or taking a medication that makes them sleepy. And so it's like, let's get down to the root of what's really causing the issue so that when we're implementing these tools, you can actually be successful.
I think those are two examples of how we can get in our own way. And the last one I'll mention is, once you've established a routine, maybe you've kept it for a couple of days, couple of weeks, whatever the case may be, and then you get off track and then say, oh well, I might as well just not even worry about it now. “I'm already two days off my routine, I'll just start over on Monday or I'll just start over on Wednesday or I'll pick up the class again next year.” That kind of stuff can all really be detrimental to a new routine.
Dr. Joy: I'm glad you brought that up because that was one of my questions. Because undoubtedly, when you are starting something new, there will be days where there will be missteps. You missed the Zumba class or you don't read when you thought you would. What is the best suggestion for how to get yourself back on track as opposed to saying, oh, I messed up? Because I think that's where that critical voice sometimes gets very powerful. Like here, I can't do anything right. I tried this thing and look, I can't do it again. And so what is the gentlest, kindest way we can kind of get ourselves back on track?
Kristen: I think this is where you have to realize that this is a long-term commitment. It's not gonna happen overnight. And so sometimes when we have those perfectionistic ideals for how we should do things and we fall short of that on any level, now it's like just throw the whole thing away. And so I think going in with the mindset that this is gonna have ebbs and flows, this is gonna take six months to a year in most cases to really get to where it's almost second nature for me to do this. And even then, I might still need to be very intentional about my schedule and so I think it's just having the compassion and empathy for yourself to know that may happen.
And then the second thing I'll say if you do have a community or support system, accountability partner–being honest with yourself and with them when you can. When there's a trusted situation, to say “hey, I need some support.” Now, some people can't give that kind of support, so I think you really have to be careful about who you're getting that “I need to bounce back” support from because sometimes people can be a little harsh. We're all just trying to work it out and sometimes you have to make sure that the person you're going to is a gentle support system. But being honest with them.
I know with my coaching clients, I can tell when they've gotten off from their routine that we've established because I won't hear from them as much. They'll start messaging me less in the app that I use, and I'll be reaching out and it's just slow to respond and I can already tell. And it's go back to the people who were trying to support you in doing this and allow them to help you. I’d say, in those moments, that's when you need to reach out to me the most so that we can get you out of this cycle. I would say that.
And then after that, revisit your goals, regroup on your why because sometimes we lose sight of that and that can really be what gets us off track. And then simplify again and take action. Do that for a while, revisit your goals, adjust them, simplify them, and then take action. That would be just my three-step go-to for regrouping.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I'm really glad you said that, Kristen. Because I think what happens for people is that shame gets activated. I came to you with these big goals that I wanted to do and now I didn't do it and so I feel really embarrassed, I feel ashamed. And so that is when you see people like even in clients in therapy, like you have a particularly difficult session and then they miss the next session. And so it's really important, like you mentioned, to go back. Even if you didn't do the homework, even if you didn't do the thing that we talked about, to just come back and say I had a really hard time not doing this and let's talk about that. Those are some of the most powerful sessions, I find. Even more than like talking about and processing the homework, is you being able to say I didn't do this thing and I want to talk about why it was so difficult for me to get into it.
Kristen: Exactly, because that will come up again and so let's process that and come up with a different plan of how you can respond. And when you keep it to yourself, you don't get that support and you don't get that opportunity, which is why I highlighted that who you go to for that support is very important. In therapy, you’ll have a trusted relationship where you know you won't be met with someone who's gonna meet your shame with judgment or criticism. And that's kind of the dance that we do, is finding someone who can hold us accountable and pull us along in ways that we need to be, but also be a gentle sounding board to talk through what happened. Okay, what happened? Let's learn the lesson from it. There's got to be a lesson either way you go, let's look at learning it so that you can do differently next time.
Dr. Joy: I think it is also important for us to talk about how mental health conditions can sometimes get in the way of us being able to establish and sustain routine. We know that with things like depression there’s difficulty with motivation. And so even though I may have these great goals for myself, depression makes it so that I can't feel motivated. Can you just share a little bit about like what kinds of things we need to be paying attention to so that we are not even more critical of ourselves as we're trying to establish routines?
Kristen: Yeah. I think it all goes back to realizing that you're gonna have to start small and to start with something that's most realistic for you to do. And so if I'm dealing with depression, it may not be realistic for me to have a five to 10-step morning routine. And that's okay because simple is best anyway. And so that's where you can meet yourself where you are and realize that my morning routine, my goal may be just getting out of bed and getting some sunlight. I'm just gonna focus on that. When I take my head and I think, oh, I remember five years ago when I wasn't depressed and I used to do this and that–and you start comparing yourself to older versions of yourself or disregarding the fact that there is a mental health condition–I think that's where it can be the most harmful. And so when we acknowledge I'm in a different space right now, I'm gonna have to address and handle myself with a different type of care.
And then also, what is something, even the smallest thing, that I can do to help myself get out of this situation? And that also definitely comes with support. I would say the routines that are most important for someone with depression–How are you sleeping? How can we do something to change the quality of your sleep? Are you showering regularly? Are you eating regularly? Are you in contact with anyone on a regular basis? And usually, with depression, we isolate. Lack of motivation, loss of interest, we start to feel hopeless. And with that, usually our day to day just upkeep can kind of go with it. So that's where I like to start with depression.
Anxiety can mirror some of that, too. But I like to note, with anxiety, sometimes it can be more focused on mindfulness and soothing routines. What are things that you have on your day to day basis that are helping you decrease your anxiety? There's in the moment anxiety coping skills and then there's like day to day longer term maintenance coping skills that I think could be important. But it starts with starting very small, getting used to that, seeing if it works or not, going back to the drawing board if you have to, and then moving forward from there. Each step leads to the next one; you don't need to know the answer to start.
Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Kristen after the break.
Dr. Joy: Kristen, you bring up a good point, and this is something I've actually been working on with my own therapist. Increasing mindfulness activities. And because there is so much chaos (it feels like) on the outside world, she's always talking to me about we can't control all of that, “what can you control, like in your inner experience?” I wonder if you have some tips that you might share for people who that may be a goal. Because I think as this year continues, I don't see the stress going anywhere and so I do think mindfulness may be something that could help a lot of people. What things might you suggest for someone, that is a goal to get in touch with more mindfulness activities?
Kristen: For some people who are pretty regimented already and maybe they’re type A personalities or a person who already has a regimented lifestyle, it may be easier to implement a regular meditation practice or deep breathing, deep stretching, yoga, into their routine to help with that soothing. It could be taking a bath. And so those are all self-soothing things. Anything that's gonna calm the central nervous system down and release the tension that you're under. That could also be exercise to release that tension, but we really just want to look at whatever is going to bring you back down. Anxiety is a high alert state and deep breathing and getting back to your body are gonna be some of the best ways to be present. And then also reduce the anxious level as you go through the grounding exercises or what have you.
Now, if it's someone who is struggling with their routine in other ways and is really just trying to find something to grab onto to get started, I say whatever you're doing, just slow it down. Okay? When I'm rushing in the morning, man, I throw the spinach and those bananas and my protein powder in my blender so fast, turn it on, pour it out, I’m chugging it on the way out the door–and it's just high intensity all the time. And so I say, in that moment, to say I'm gonna slow down and I'm gonna take five minutes to do this. I'm gonna take 10 minutes to do this. I'm just gonna, whatever it is, it doesn't matter. Typing an email, I'm gonna reread it and make sure that there's no spelling errors and just be really intentional with my words instead of rattling it off and then hitting send.
Again, it's got the same elements as the other ones but it's not necessarily having to recreate on how I’ve got to go find a meditation app. Nope, you can just do exactly what you're already doing and just slow it down. And pay attention to your senses. What do you see when you slow it down? What do you smell when you slow it down? Oh, my smoothie smells pretty good, actually. I didn't notice that because I was just gulping it down and moving on. What does my skin feel like? What does the temperature in the room...? You can start to notice all those things when you slow down.
Dr. Joy: What about for people who already maybe have pretty well-established routines but maybe need to dust some things off or shake some things up? What suggestions would you have for somebody who maybe needs to breathe some new air into a routine?
Kristen: I'm glad you asked that because I mentioned earlier that sometimes routines can be about control, which can work in our favor or could keep us too rigid and too boxed in. For anyone who's got a rhythm for a routine and you're looking to switch it up or you're realizing that you're getting too hyper focused–obsessed, whatever word you might use, on a particular routine going a certain way, I would say that each area of wellness...
In an ideal situation, we like to take care of ourselves in the areas of wellness–which are mental, physical, emotional, intellectual, occupational, we have social and spiritual. I think that’s all of them. And so if you have routines around those areas already, what I would suggest is knowing, okay, I'm going to do something for my mental health today but it doesn't have to be the same journaling book that I started this time last year. Let me buy a new book. Let me switch it up and instead of being a free writing journaling session, I'm gonna follow some prompts that maybe will take me down a different road. But when I frame it up as I'm gonna do something for my mental health today instead of “I've got to do these four things otherwise I'll go crazy” type of thing, that has more flexibility to it and variety to it.
The same thing for physical exercise and activity, it doesn't have to be the same regimented type of movement each day. One day it could be a walk, one day it could be stretching, one day it could be a class, one day it could be swimming, you know what I mean? But when you frame it up as “I'm gonna do something for my physical health today, what is that thing going to be?” you're still on a routine, you're still addressing that area each day, it just looks different. And so I would say for anybody that's like that, take a deep breath. It's gonna be okay. Variety is good for you and let's see what else could work in case life changes and you need something else anyway.
Dr. Joy: I love that. Thank you for that, Kristen. Are there some resources, any books or podcasts or other things that you find yourself frequently recommending to clients that you work with, for establishing routines?
Kristen: Actually, on my website, I have a freebie that anybody can download just by visiting my website, and I'll leave that information with you guys. But it's a Four Steps to New Habits workbook, it's very short but it's something that I use a lot with my clients or even just for people who engage with my content. To do exactly what we talked about today, which is: let's regroup on your why, let's regroup on your goal setting and what this looks like, and let's really help you establish a firm foundation. So that when you are implementing the things that I know your heart wants to do, you actually have a plan that aligns with what that is. And so that's a great starting place.
I also like to highlight, this is more in a theoretical side of things but there is Stages of Change Theoretical model. I want to highlight that and you can look up articles and information on the stages of change. Because I think that people underestimate what it takes to actually change and implement something new. I think that information of kind of knowing where you are on the Stages of Change spectrum can help with what you actually need to be doing at those different stages. Once you've gotten to the action stage–which there's pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation and action–those other three steps happen before any change even occurs. And then once we've been in action for about six months, then we hit a maintenance piece where there's a completely different, perhaps, type of lifestyle and intention that has to go along with long term maintenance of something.
And most people think that when you google habit change it says “21 days to a new habit,” “90 days to a new habit.” And so when I tell them it's six months long in that model, they're like, really? I’ve got to do this same thing for six months? I'm like yeah, but that's okay. That gives you some time and some grace, you know what I mean? I would recommend looking into information around that, just to better understand yourself. And also, when it comes to making that plan of action, you'll know what you actually need.
Dr. Joy: I like that. And I'm sure that Stages of Change has been around so long, I'm sure there are more like easier to understand versions of it than probably what we had to learn in grad school. A very theory-heavy thing, but you're right. I think it is important for people to understand. Like you having the idea that you want to do something and the process of it actually happening, there are a lot of steps in between and sometimes people stay in the pre-contemplation stage for a long time. And so it is important not to beat up on yourself or be too critical because it's all a part of the process.
Dr. Joy: Where can people find you, Kristen? What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?
Kristen: My website is B3byKristen.com and that's where you can find information on my therapy services, on my coaching services, the freebies that I mentioned, any events or things that I'm having. That's really like a great hub for getting connected with me and you can subscribe to my website through there as well.
Social media, Instagram, it’s my name @KristenFeemster on Instagram. I give information, I also switch it up and share a little bit more of my personal life and just connect with people there, so that's a great platform. And then I do have a Facebook which is Facebook.com/B3byKristen. That'll take you to my page where you'll also be able to get all the same goodies that I post on my website and my Instagram. Either of those would be great and I would hope to see you guys come and show some support.
Dr. Joy: Perfect, we'll definitely include all of those in the show notes. This episode is a part of our January Jumpstart series, and so what words of encouragement do you have for people who are listening, who want to start new routines to achieve their goals?
Kristen: I would just say take your time, it's a lifestyle change. Whatever it is that you're trying to implement, take your time and it's worth your time. I think that when we rush the process, we maybe don't evaluate as much as we would, had we been intentional and slowed down. So take your time. And make sure that your routines are for you. Your routine may look different than someone else's and that's perfectly okay. Only you know what's best for you and so listen to that and honor that in the things that you pursue. And then also, if you have to start over, giving yourself grace. Sometimes we have to start over and that's okay too, but never give up. Never give up on yourself.
Dr. Joy: Love that. Thank you, Kristen.
I'm so glad Kristen was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work, visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/Session243. And be sure to text two of your girls this episode right now. 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 Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. 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.