How to avoid break downs

a9XpDvkyDdMk7BmhrMdttd1. Eat regularly. (BOOM!)

2.Get adequate sleep! (10am-2am is when you hit REM cycles 1-3, if you aren’t sleep during those times you aren’t fully resting. Also, for every hour of sleep you get outside of the REM cycle, it takes 4 hours to equal ONE hour of REM sleep.

3. Exercise. Exercising at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes can improve mood and decrease your chance for just about any negative complication you may face with out it (heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc..).

4. Decrease your caffeine intake. Coffee makes us more alert, and in many cases helps us perform better on short term tasks. But it can also make you jittery, irritable nervous and cause your heart to race. You DO NOT want this if you are already predisposed to anxiety. Trust me. Sensitivity to caffeine, is in fact, heightened in people with a panic disorder and social phobias–and caffeine can provoke panic attacks in some individuals. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can cause dehydration; which can be an anxiety trigger.

5. Spend less time on screens. A 2014 study by Baylor University found that American students spend an average of nine hours a day on their phone. Of course, technology vastly improves our lives in innumerable ways. But too much of it makes us anxious. Screen-based entertainment increases central nervous system arousal, which can amplify anxiety. Social media is similarly associated with low moods and depression. In one study, participants felt more depressed and anxious after watching just two hours of TV than those who didn’t. Another study found that those with anxiety and depression spend significantly more time on the computer and watching television. While resting reduces anxiety short-term, research reveals that its effect is short lived, particularly compared with exercise. Instead: Do ANYTHING but watch TV when you’re done with work. Go on a walk, grab drinks, knit, draw, write, call your parents, actually cook dinner, build something, play a game, GO READ YOUR BIBLE.lol

6. Establish a support group. Who’s in your circle? How many people actually know what you deal with? Who knows to check on you? Who can you talk to before you get to the brink of breaking down? I have a support group and it was humbling to share what is really happening with me but it is also empowering. There is strength in numbers.

Advertisements

I tried!

dark knight

Have you ever been proud of yourself for something? It could be a small or large feat, but have you ever been proud of yourself? I find things to be proud of all the time. It really helps to give me balanced thinking and a much better lens to look at life.

Small feat:  I was very excited about missing the train the other day! You read that right. I do not often commit to things out a fear of being embarrassed. Again fear is like a masked bandit that forces me to withdraw and holds my fun and enjoyment hostage. But I look for opportunities to disarm and render fear harmless. In this case, I decided I would attempt to run and catch a train in a crowded subway station. There were people everywhere but I hopped, skipped and dodged everyone and everybody til I got to my target. When I finally got there, a baby stroller in a crowded entryway stood between me and an accomplishment. The door closed before I could maneuver my way on and make some space in that crowded entryway and I decided I would catch the next train. Although I didn’t make it I was very proud of myself for trying. I tried! I don’t try things. I don’t set myself up for disappointment. I don’t leave opportunities to be abandoned or let down. I’ve been working in counseling to sort through those issues to let those things go. And guess what? I try things now.

Large feat: I scheduled a book signing (I published a book by the way!) for July the 28th. That’s huge for me! I really had to step out of my comfort zone and actually commit to doing this. I have to plan and schedule things out still but this is a huge win. Again I look to avoid a bunch of attention and things that could potentially bring embarrassment. What if no one shows up? What if I stutter and am too nervous to actually speak in front of people? Fear will show up in the back of the room like hired muscle come to shut down my function and disable my confidence.

I’ve learned I no longer have to let the hired muscle in the room. I don’t have to curb my enthusiasm. I don’t have to be held hostage by disappointment, I can enjoy small things.

For anyone that reads my blog, would you be interested in seeing Youtube conversations along the same lines of what you see in my blog? I feel like I can add more character to some of these topics in a video but we’ll see. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think. 🙂

Traumatic Events pt.2

 

 

 

IRONMAN

Now its time to explore my 2nd traumatic experience in the water.

This what 19 year old Steve experienced.

I had just transferred to Liberty University with the hope of being a walk on track athlete. The coach seemed excited to have me and things were fine. Then I had an issue with the NCAA clearinghouse and that slowed my roll tremendously. I found out from an NCAA clearinghouse representative that my high school guidance counselor had not registered me whatsoever. I was FURIOUS. I called my high school and asked to speak to my guidance counselor and she told me it wasn’t her fault she didn’t think I wanted to go to college. Did I say I was FURIOUS yet?

This information was relayed to the head coach and he told me that he didn’t even want me on the track. I was so full of courage at the time and couldn’t be stopped. So I decided I would work out in the pool on a regular basis. GENIUS I thought. I go to the pool, and start to jog down to about 8 feet and jog right back– simple right? I jog down, go just a little too far and out of nowhere I get stuck floating in the middle of the water just below the surface beyond 10 feet. I start to panic. NOT AGAIN, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! I fight and I fight to reach the surface, and I don’t make it on the first try; I panicked even more and inhaled water. I thought this must be when I die. In a last ditch effort I pop up and to the surface unexpectedly and and attempt to breathe but I simply spit out water. I struggled with the last bit of fight I had in me and finally I inhale air. I do this over and over for about 30 seconds until i make it back to about six feet. I climb out of the pool and just laid on the floor and cried. I cried for about an hour off and on. And guess what? I never spoke of this for the next 5 years. Man oh man.

Trauma can happen, and we can suppress it and attempt to pretend it never existed. But it warps your brain. It can literally stop producing the necessary chemicals and shut off genes. Do yourself a favor, pray first–Ask God what you might have been suppressing all the year and that He brings it to the surface. Then take yourself to counseling to try to flesh it out. You may have no idea how it may have affected you and continues to play out in your actions and reactions. In a few weeks I will be touching on how we let our traumas keep us in bondage. I will be posting a much lighter post next in the meantime, that was very heavy for me and I need to debrief in counseling myself.

Traumatic Events pt.1

IMG-8201

I almost drowned twice. Once as an adult at the age of 19 and once as a child at the age of 5. I remember both of them like they were yesterday. My brother was present with me at the age of 3 and the one at 19, I was in an Olympic sized swimming pool by myself. Writing about this still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes.

I’m going to start with what Steve experienced at 5 years old.

This experience has scarred me in a way I’ll never forget. I still can’t believe what happened. Seriously, what in the world? Why would I ruin my life like that? (I’m cringing while typing this by the way). I couldn’t sit still and listen to my older sister? She said to stay on the edge of the pool and wait until she got back. But no I didn’t listen. I was zealous and courageous at that age. I attempted EVERYTHING. I was FEARLESS, but that all changed in a matter of seconds.

The pool wasn’t very busy and there was room for myself and my brother to have a seat on the edge of the pool. We waited there as our older sister gave us instructions to sit there until she got back with our towels. I examined the pool and saw steps on the other side of the pool. I assumed that the steps that descended into the pool on the opposite side would be there for me as I stepped down into the pool with no supervision. My amazingly intelligent younger brother said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Steve.” I didn’t listen, I was sure I knew what I was getting my five-year-old self into. I fell in (there were no steps) and I will regret that decision for the rest of my life. My sister who left the pool, came back to find me in the water drowning and fished me out. There’s so much pain associated with this memory. I wish I could go back and save little steve. I wish I could protect him, and prevent this trauma to his brain. No child should have to deal with this. I should have been able to continue to be carefree, but that ended that day.

I do not remember how this was handled by my parents. I don’t remember being put in counseling or talking to a therapist. I never talked about in general. We were poor and my parents most likely didn’t know any better. And it took until the age of 24 for me to pursue that trauma and that came by way of a mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and learned these two events were connected to it. Anytime I am overwhelmed my cognitive skills and abilities revert to that of a 5-year-old. This is why rock climbing was a big deal to me. I overcame a fear.

 I’ll be recalling my experience at age 19 in a few days, stay tuned.

 

Renewing your mind

megamind

Lately, I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Caroline Leaf. The book is called Switch on your brain. My mother gave me this book to read after I had my mental breakdown a few years ago (It’s been about three years thank God!) and I never could get around to reading the book. In counseling, I realized the reason I didn’t read this helpful book was that I was personally beefing with her and walking in unforgiveness and anything she gave me—even if to help me—subconsciously I would reject and develop a mental block around it. I didn’t realize at the time I was programming my mind to reject things (that could possibly be helpful) but now I know. You ever tried to hurt yourself to hurt someone else? Sounds ridiculous but trust me, examine your thought patterns and the motivations behind your decisions (like I touched on in my last post) and you’ll see.

Now, in chapter three of this book I’d like to include a brief excerpt:

Our choices—the natural consequences of our thoughts and imagination—get “under the skin” of our DNA and can turn certain genes on and off, changing the structure of the neurons in our brains. So our thoughts, imagination, and choices can change the structure and function of our brains on every level: molecular, genetic, epigenetic, cellular, structural, neurochemical, electromagnetic, and even subatomic. Through our thoughts, we can be our own brain surgeons as we make choices that change the circuits in our brains. We are designed to do our own brain surgery.

This scientific power of our mind to change the brain is called epigenetics and spiritually it is as a man thinks, so is he (Prov 23:7). The way the brain changes as a result of mental activity is scientifically called neuroplasticity. And spiritually, it is the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2).

I learned a few things here that I’d like to share. All thoughts are not our thoughts to begin with. We have an adversary that doesn’t mind planting seeds in your mind and watching them grow. According to 2 Corinthians (the book in the bible Trump saw for the first time while giving his speech at Liberty University, but I digress) not only are thoughts ours but we can take them captive. When someone is taken captive in a foreign land they typically don’t live to tell what they experienced. MAN, in my mind I have allowed thoughts to stick around affecting my feelings, eventually my emotions and subsequently my behavior. Those thoughts that shouldn’t even have been there got excellent treatment. MAN, I was tripping. I can take them captive and they have no power in my life, now I know.

Knowing that thoughts can get under your skin and turn genes off or affect you in multiple ways blew me away. It makes perfect sense. That’s why the bible says as a man thinks so is he (again Prov 23:7). I’ve thought a lot less of myself for YEARS so there’s a lot of work to do. I understand better the purpose of God’s word in my life now. There are stories in the Bible (as an account of events and examples) and also promises in the bible. Those promises are to be meditated on and rehearsed to literally TRANSFORM your mind. The bible says in Romans 12 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. You meditate and rehearse the word and those promises over and over again until you renew your mind! Renew means to make new again! Neuroplasticity is a scientific way to describe this. A gene can be switched off by our thinking and its our job to go back in their and switch it back on.

I will leave you with this last excerpt:

Epigenetics (the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off) is referred to as a new science, but actually, it is an ancient science that we find throughout the Bible. At its most basic level, epigenetics is the fact that your thoughts and choices impact your physical brain and body, your mental health, and your spiritual development (Deut. 30:19; Ps 34:11-16; Prov 3:7-8). And these choices will impact not only your own spirit, soul, and body but also the people with whom you have relationships.

MAN this is literally blowing my mind away showing how connected everything is! When I saw that she said “with whom” I was shooketh. You only use whom when you’re dropping some knowledge lol Check out the scripture references when you get a chance!

Who needs counseling Pt.2

IMG-7513
Question Time!
Do you know why you do what you do? One major staple of the mental health community is– habits can be broken and new behaviors can be created. Do you know how your behaviors and the status of your mental health can affect your relationships?
You can lunge out at someone but not realize what could be building up inside of you.
One of the major benefits of therapy is that you can compartmentalize your thoughts and debrief. Take a moment to realize what you’ve been dwelling on and write it down. Walk through this with me. What is it that has been consuming your thought life? What are you meditating on? Do you know what drives your actions? Is it a healthy motivation? Take some time to assess it. Take a moment to write down your goals and underneath include what are your motivating factors. Be brutally honest with yourself!
Example:
Goal- I want to lose 50lbs.
Motivating factor- I want to get back at all the people that called me fat or turned me down because they thought I was overweight.
Why that’s unhealthy:
You should want to lose weight for YOU! You should want to be more healthy for YOU! Not to impress a shallow group of people that didn’t value you for you. What happens when you drop the 50lbs and still don’t receive their approval? I can answer that! You become frustrated and lose all motivation or set another unhealthy goal thinking that will fix the problem. NO! In that process, you value yourself less and less and won’t even be able to see crucial progress. With a healthy mindset, you are able to grow and the progress is SUSTAINABLE; not stressful.
This is what healthy looks like:
Goal- I want to lose 50lbs in a year.
Motivating factor- I want to be healthy and make everyday tasks easier. I also want to hit the beach at a much more comfortable size.
SIMPLE and SUSTAINABLE!
A major tool I want you to add to your repertoire is critical thinking. Have you ever sat down and thought about some issues you’ve had in the relationships you have and thought about how much you contributed to those issues? Ask yourself these two questions, what are your 3 biggest strengths in your relationships and what are your 3 biggest weaknesses? Write them down. Then, I encourage you to ask 2 or 3 people the same question about YOU. See what they say about you, write their responses down. If any of the responses you get are a little lackluster, that’s great! It shows you what areas you need to work on in your life! REMEMBER, anything that’s not growing is dead. Working on yourself is very healthy we all need the catharsis and self-reflection. Counseling/therapy is GOOD!

Who needs counseling? Pt. 1

IMG-7513You read the title and answered it right? If you answered that question with a firm “no”, or skipped over the title you might need counseling (And if you saw Infinity War you should be in counseling ASAP.LOL). All jokes aside, there is an unnecessary stigma that has been attached to mental health in the black community and it needs to be broken down. Your mental health is just as important, if not more important, than your physical health. Obviously you need both but for instance;  I know a handful of bodybuilders and fitness models with daddy issues and they have no clue that a lot of the issues they dealt with as a child (such as abandonment, rejection, traumatic events etc,..) are linked to a lot of their behaviors. Now it is years later and they are still dealing with the same issues as adults. I’ll use myself as an example to make this an easier pill to swallow. I’ve experienced many unrelated traumatic events that cause me to act in very similar ways each and every time. I almost drowned as a child, to be specific, at the age of five. That was anxiety attack number one. But then, I also almost drowned again at the age of 19. That goes in the book as another numbered anxiety attack. I never talked about these instances and for almost 15 years I didn’t even look at water. No, I don’t want to go to your pool party! Completely avoiding the conversation about my traumatic experiences and any activities around it should have solved my problem right? I wish it worked that way. Anxiety doesn’t just go away. That’s not how it works at all. Fast forward, I had an anxiety attack at church one Sunday. It’s a megachurch (a thousand or more members), just imagine that number of people all in the same place. Back to the story, I was attempting to walk against the grain of traffic when service was dismissed. That’s when I realized, I parked on the complete opposite side. I turned around and began to fight against the traffic and was completely overwhelmed. That hallway seemed to never end, the exit I needed to get to never got closer. Next thing you know, I was sweating like crazy. I struggled to breathe and I immediately tried to find the nearest exit. I needed to get out of there! I had no answers as to why this happened to me after this event and thought maybe I just shouldn’t attend that particular church. But the church wasn’t the problem. The problem was my past traumatic experiences.
After attending counseling that week, I learned that the root of my problem (anxiety attacks) was my traumatic experience of being overwhelmed by the water. You know, the time that I almost drowned at age 5? That anxiety attack was a recurring feeling at the most inconvenient times. My anxiety decided to continue to make cameos when I was overwhelmed by other situations. Discussing previous traumas typically goes to the root of a lot of our unexplainable behaviors and can be key to mental and emotional health.
Still on the fence? I’ll have a few questions for you to answer in a few days to inspire some much need self-reflection. REMEMBER to let your guard down and be vulnerable for a few moments.