At the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, we are dedicated to improving mental health in Black communities by building culturally competent resources, programs, and education across the country. Our mission is to create new ways of healing in Black communities, clearing pathways that allow People of Color to see what their lives look like on the other side of suffering. We also strive to produce a diverse workforce that will be successful in improving the capacity of individuals, families, and diverse communities to promote productive, satisfying, healthy, and safe lives across the lifespan.
My name is Dr. Kyaien Conner, and I am honored and excited to be serving in a new role as the Provider Training and Outreach Coordinator for the Boris Lawrence. Henson Foundation (BLHF). I am a licensed clinical social worker, as well as a public health practitioner with a specialization in minority health and health disparities. I am currently an Associate Professor of Mental Health, Law, and Policy at the University of South Florida and also serve there as the Special Assistant to the Dean on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As a Black social worker, I have seen firsthand the challenges our community faces when it comes to maintaining our mental health and seeking effective culturally competent mental health treatment. This is why I am so excited to be working with the BLHF, an organization that focuses on working with Black communities that lack trusted mental health support systems and where informed relatable support is required.
The reality is that mental health challenges are common and occur more frequently than one might think. In fact, 1 out of 4 individuals will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetime. And even more, are currently living with symptoms of a mental health condition and may never get appropriate treatment. Knowing the difference between symptoms that can be addressed on your own, and when it may be important to get professional help is sometimes not easy to determine. And once you have determined you may benefit from professional help, deciding what kind of treatment may be most beneficial for you can be even more challenging. This will be the topic of my next blog post. But in the meantime, there are several things we all can do to help promote mental health and overall wellness in our own lives.
Here are my top 5 tips:
- Live a Healthy Lifestyle: Our mind, body, and soul are connected, and what we do and consume has a direct impact on how we think and feel. It is important to eat foods high in nutritional value, incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, and get a good night’s sleep every night. Being intentional about this can have a huge impact on your mental health.
- Feed Your Soul: Engaging in activities that feed your spirit can lead to an immediate boost to your mental health. And what this means may be different for all of us. For some of us, this can be prayer, reciting scripture, or spending time in a place of worship. For others, this may mean an intentional meditation practice, yoga, or time spent with nature. Some things in our lives are spirit-filling, and others are spirit-draining; it is important to know the difference.
- Engage in Intentional Self-Care: We often spend so much of our time doing and taking care of others, that self-care is something that we feel like we don’t have time to do. The truth is, we cannot be what we want to be for others if we don’t prioritize taking time for ourselves. Be intentional about scheduling activities in your day that bring you joy, peace, and happiness. Try something new, splurge this week for that massage, take that dance class you’ve been thinking about, go out to dinner with your friends, or enjoy a relaxing bath. Try to take at least 20 minutes a day where you focus on caring for yourself; your mind, body, and soul will thank you.
- Embrace a Positive Support Network: Surrounding yourself with people who care about you, love you, and fill your cup is so important. Think about who the people are in your life who truly have your back and reach out to them for support. Asking family members or friends for help if you’re struggling isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather an indicator of strength. Being open and honest with a positive support network can help you begin the process of healing.
- Choose Joy Over Everything: Happiness and Joy are not the same. Happiness often is reliant on external circumstances, but joy is not. Joy is much bigger, and you can choose to focus on joy in the present. You can also be intentional about doing things that bring you joy every day. Watching a funny video can bring you joy. Being compassionate to others (and to yourself) can bring you joy. We often focus so much on the negative things, that we don’t stop to reflect on all that we are grateful for. Reflecting on your gratitude can bring you joy. If you are willing to engage in this process, you may find a glimmer of sunshine even through the cloudiest storm.
Every month I will be posting about topics that are important to our community and that focus on optimizing your joy and overall health and well-being. I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss your questions, comments, or concerns. I hope you will view me as a resource, as I am here to serve you. If there are issues, questions you’d like answered, or topics you would like me to blog about, I am happy to oblige. I sincerely look forward to hearing from you. Until next time, remember to choose joy over everything, and that your health is your most valuable asset.
Kyaien Conner, PhD, LSW, MPH
Provider Training and Outreach Coordinator
Boris Lawrence. Henson Foundation