May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Recently, Blk and Fit spoke with clinical social work/therapist Katherine Crooms about mental health and the Black community. African Americans suffer disproportionately from the stress of everyday life. Black women, in particular, bear the brunt of that stress, taking on the responsibility of not only themselves, but the lives of their children, husbands and partners, and those in their communities.

“Black women have a higher rate of mortality as it relates to heart disease, but of course, stress affects our physical health. When we feel responsible for everything and everyone, that traumatic response to be overprotective, we don’t recognize the physical, emotional and mental stress it has on our bodies. So it’s important to become aware of those thought patterns that inform our behaviors, which has an impact on our physical, emotional and mental health,” Crooms said.

Ways to Care for Self

Crooms says self care goes beyond getting your nails done. Although a day at the spa is great, she says coping skills need to go along with the healing process for optimal results.

“Spa days are temporary. In that moment, they feel wonderful, but then you have to go back to reality at some point in time, and if you haven’t begun to identify those thought patterns and identify where some healthy boundaries can be set, then you’ll be returning to that chaos.”

Crooms suggests focusing on creating peace in your space and mind. For example, if there are dynamics at work or with co-workers that causes stress, then shift your perspective and get to the root of why that person triggers negative emotions.

Other helpful tips include incorporating coping skills, like recognizing when you need to stop and take a minute of deep breaths to give the body and brain a break to reduce harmful cortisol levels. Lastly, Crooms says getting restful sleep as well as moving your body in healthy ways daily are also vital to mental wellness.

Katherine Crooms is a Dallas/based clinical social work/therapist, LCSW and owner of Thrive Integrative Counseling. Click here to go to the Thrive Integrative Counseling website for more information.

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