8 Books that Could Change Your Life: Lee’s List of Literature

I was asked not to long ago about books I would recommend to those looking for inspiration or a way to incorporate something therapeutic into their lives. So I thought about books I have read that were influential to me, as well as a few I want to read because they were influential to people I know. I tagged amazon links to purchase all these books (I am in no way being compensated for recommending or sharing these links), but I highly recommend checking out your local library to get these reads for free-ninety-nine instead. So here it is…Lee’s List of Literature.

8 books

Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly

Brene Brown is the queen of empathy and gratitude (in my eyes) and that is what makes this book so important. The discussion about vulnerability is an important one to have if you are pushing to “find the new you” or simply want to be more in touch with yourself. Brown’s research has been instrumental in understanding people, and you will find this book to be instrumental in understanding yourself.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming

It took me longer than most to grab a copy of this book, but it was well worth the wait. Few autobiographies grab my attention, but former First Lady Michelle Obama’s story is one that is as inspiring as it is entertaining. I suggest reading this book as a way to reflect on your own life and dream of the possibilities that your life has to offer.

Shonda Rhime’s Year of Yes

Though I have not read it personally, I have heard great things about Rhime’s story telling abilities in this “self-help-esque ” book. Another story that evokes reflection on how you may be overlooking great opportunities for all the wrong reasons.

Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey

This book of poems is unique in all the right ways. I enjoyed reading this book with my husband and discussing our varied perceptions of the stories told. Though it can be hard to read due to some graphic descriptions, I highly recommend this quick and daring book of poetry.

Charlemagne Tha God’s Shook One

A lot of these books are lady-centered, but I wanted to throw in one with a little more male perspective. Charlemagne may not be for everyone, but I appreciate his honesty and work in reducing the stigma around mental health and therapy. This honest look at how anxiety affected his life is a great read for those hoping to feel less alone on their mental health journey.

Debrena Gandy’s Sacred Pampering Principles

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Gandy’s take on self care for African-American women was as important in ’98 as it is in 2019. She takes a holistic approach on self care that will make you want to #TreatYoSelf. If you are looking for a reminder on why and how to take care of yourself, this will become your go to read.

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

My mother gave this book to me in college and it was such a powerful story. Reading about the trials and tribulations that Dr. Angelou went through to become the magnificent woman she was is incredible. For a look into the real life of a legend pick up this read.

Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass

The title alone makes this one of my favorites. I am all about empowering yourself and if this book can’t inspire you to believe that you are all that and a bag of chips, I don’t know what will.

Reading an inspiring story along with your therapeutic journey can be quite enlightening. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I and those around me have!

Are You Eating Your Feelings?: Foods Impact on Your Mood

I am a big proponent of holistic wellness, basically meaning I believe it is important to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. I believe in this idea because it is relatively impossible to take care of just one of these things at a time.

Nearly anything you do to take care of one of these aspects is going to also influence another. For example, if you are going to therapy to better your mind, there is a good chance you will leave also more in tune with your spirit. Or if you start eating better to take care of your body, there is a good chance it will also boost your mood. Now this is the interconnection I want to focus on.

green round fruit on clear glass mug with water

Feeding your body also feeds your mind. I am no nutritionist by the way, but I highly recommend seeing one [remember I am not a medical professional so this information is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional medical advice]. Different foods impact your body & mind in different ways. General rule of thumb is though, if it is good for your body, it is also good for your mind. As a reminder, chips, candy, and soda are not good for your body…so they are also not good for your mind.

Food is a part of all our daily lives whether we are vegan or the T-Rex version of a human being. So we should stay aware of the fuel we are putting into our bodies because not all fuel is equal. Many foods have affects on our brain that we don’t recognize or connect. The neurotransmitter, Serotonin (aka the thing in our brain that controls our level of happiness and well-being) is affected by certain foods. Particularly, it is fueled by traditionally healthy foods. Think fruits, veggies, and natural, unprocessed foods. The more of these traditional healthy foods we consume, the easier it is for us to feel well and happy.

On the other hand, when we eat highly processed (what I call “fake”) food, it does not fuel our brain and body in the same way that unprocessed, natural foods do. Think of it this way…your body is a fine tuned machine, like a BMW. You don’t just fuel up a beamer with regular, old, unleaded gas. You put the highest quality premium gasoline in that baby to keep it running in tip, top shape. That is the mindset you should use to fuel your body! Only the best and healthiest foods should be consumed.

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Now just like food can influence your mood. Your mood can influence the food you choose to eat. Studies have shown that when people feel sad, depressed, anxious, nervous, or other negative emotions, we often eat more sugary, processed foods. With this back and forth relationship between food and your mood, it can cause you to get in an unhealthy cycle of feeding your body things that will keep you in a negative mood. When you are feeling down or low energy it is important to recognize this, so you can fuel yourself in a way that will jump-start your energy. Identifying the healthy snacks that you actually enjoy and keeping those on hand can mean the difference between a jump-start and  break down.

Ultimately, your mind is a unique component of your body, which means anything that is good for your body is most likely going to benefit your mind. Talk to your doctor about how your diet may be impacting your mood, and consult your therapist if you feel your diet may be impacting your mental health. Collaboration between professionals is an important part of holistic health, and you are the one holding these all together!

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“Out of Office”: Why Vacations are Important for Your Mental Health

Summer isn’t quite over yet, thankfully. But have you taken your vacation yet? As a kid many of us experienced yearly 1-3 month vacations from school, stress, and generally any responsibilities. Then we became adults and all those glorious breaks disappeared. Tragic.

Have you ever wished you took better advantage of those breaks? And if you had those breaks now, what would you do with them??

If you can think of even one thing to answer that question with, you probably could use a vacation. Vacations are a luxury, yes. But vacations can also be a necessity. A break used intentionally can make all the difference in your ability to work and interact with others.

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Why take a vacation and what are you suppose to spend your time doing? The short answers, 1. Self care and 2. What you want to do, not need to do. Taking a break is all about taking a step back from all the duties and to do lists and really giving yourself some intentional lovin’. Vacations allow for intentional self care. The busy work weeks often leave minimal time to check in with yourself and how your mind and body are feeling. Vacation is free time to really dive deep into this self care and make yourself feel good again. Doing what you want with no time constraints or restrictions makes whatever it is you are doing more enjoyable. Cherish this time.

Giving your mind and body a break from the daily hustle allows you time to reflect on your goals, your values, and your desires. These vacations can be mini or extravagant. Whether you take a day off just to sleep in and head to the beach, or take 2 weeks off for massages and world travel. This time is about fulfilling those aspects of life that get put on the back burner throughout the rest of the year. You should feel refreshed, relaxed, and energized after a break.

You may be asking yourself, “How can I even afford to take a vacation?” Here is the key. Vacation is not about stunting on the “gram” or out doing your coworkers. Vacation is about you and how you feel during and after that time off. If you spend all your time focused on taking the perfect picture you are going to come back feeling just as stressed and depleted as when you left. If you really want to be intentional and relaxed plan ahead, and live within your means. Maybe you can’t afford a week off, but maybe you can afford a day or two tacked onto an upcoming holiday weekend. Put in that request now, and not only will you have something to look forward to over the next few weeks, but you will have all your coworkers jealous when you come back to work the day after them.

 

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Do you need to be a world traveler or can you just be a local tourist? My husband and I love using our vacation time to pretend to be tourists in our own city. We try out restaurants during the day that we don’t usually have time in the evening to go to, or we take off time mid-week when normal attractions are empty to feel like we have the whole place to ourselves. We use our time to connect with each other and have those in depth conversations that we don’t always get to have because the little one is needing attention. Parent hack: if you have a little one in daycare or school…leave them their! Take those 8 undisturbed hours to enjoy your partner! It’s cheaper, easier, and trust me they won’t even know you were having fun all day when you go to pick them up from school. 😉

Make vacation your own! Use the time to connect with yourself and your loved ones. Do the things that make your body and mind feel good. Get that dopamine flowing, and have some fun!

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Physical Health tied to Mental Wellness: 5 Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Day-to-Day Life

I recently experienced what so many of my clients come into session concerned about…physical aches and pains.

I woke up one morning with an aching pain in my jaw. It was like having a migraine in my mouth all day long. I tried to think back over the last few days…what had I been doing differently that could have caused this? After some self reflection and figuring out what the pain exactly was, I realized stress was the culprit. I had gotten to a place of extreme stress from working two jobs, being a mom, and managing all the calendars my household had to keep track of. I had begun clenching my teeth while I slept, which caused me to wake up in pain.

The solution to this pain? Physical therapy, mouth guards at night, and pain medication. Um…I don’t know about you, but none of that sounded like a solution or appealing in any way. They sounded more like management, than a cure.

So many of my clients come into session expressing symptoms of depression or anxiety or general stress, then will make a passing comment about chronic back pain, or chest tightness, or other physical ailments that they have been getting evaluated at a physician. They never tie the experience of physical health to their mental health however.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and you should always seek out medical professionals to have any physical health symptoms evaluated. This is in no way a replacement for medical assistance/ advice.

Minority women especially, are more likely to experience mental health concerns as physical symptoms in the body. These aches and pains are almost always directly related to your level of stress. In my personal experience, consciously working on reducing my stress enabled me to reduce my jaw pain to zero.

Now this does not mean medical intervention isn’t helpful, but it can work hand in hand with mental health interventions. Utilizing various coping strategies to reduce stress can assist in a speedy recovery.

Here are my top 5 coping strategies for managing stress:

  • 1. Mindfulness Breathing

  • Mindfulness breathing is a tool that can be utilized at any moment in your day and requires nothing more than the ability to breathe. Pausing in a moment of stress to take a deep inhale and slow exhale allows for your body to experience a sense of calm. It slows down your heart rate and reduces the idea that your body needs to go into “fight or flight” mode. If you want some assistance in practicing this technique try searching for “Guided Mindfulness Breathing” on YouTube, or download the “Calm” app on your mobile device.
  • 2. Journaling

    Journaling can be a great way to get thoughts out of your head and practice letting go of stress. Writing about your emotions whether it be grief, anger, joy, or a plethora of other emotions allows you to release these thoughts and reflect on how they are affecting you. An important aspect of journaling however is practicing to write about gratitude. Expressing gratitude for various aspects of your life provides balance to the challenges and emotions that occur on a daily basis. Nobody wants a book of sorrow, so incorporate both the good and bad.

    3. Skincare Routine

    This may seem frivalous, but hear me out. A regular skincare routine not only benefits your skin, but it gives you time to yourself. Depending on the type of skincare routine you implement (it could be as simple as rubbing some lotion on or as complex as a multi-step regimen) you can give yourself 2-30 minutes of “me time”. Being intentional about this time each day guarantees that you take a break and attend to your own needs even if only for a few minutes.

    4. Low-Impact Exercises

    Depending on your physical symptoms and with approval from your physician, try low- impact exercises such as walking or yoga. Walking is such an underrated exercise regimen. Taking time on your lunch break or before/after work to take a walk outside allows for more time in the sun, increased blood flow, and an overall mood boost. This physical activity kills two birds with one stone as it benefits your physical and mental health at the same time.

    5. Sleep Hygiene

    Last, but certainly not least, ensure you are getting enough sleep. How you feel when you wake up determines how well you’ll manage your stress throughout your day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Take a look at your daily schedule. Where is time wasted? And what could be moved around to create room for a decent bedtime? Also, take a look into what you are sleeping on. Maybe that futon from college isn’t cutting it anymore, or your mattress could use a new topper for support. Nobody has ever applauded themselves for having a late night and waking up groggy in the morning. Elevate this basic need to ensure a brighter day ahead.

    All these coping strategies can be used on a day-to-day basis to reduce the stress that is likely contributing to those physical ailments. Incorporating and practicing these stress-reducing skills will allow you to live a happier and healthier life. And if these things aren’t enough, try attending therapy!

    Cheaters: Why They Do It & How to Prevent It

    So you are in a “committed” relationship (or so you thought), but you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Something is wrong. You start to dig for clues as to what is possibly going on, and slowly (but surely) drive yourself crazy wondering, “are they cheating??” Well I bet there is another question you haven’t asked yourself…”have I been meeting my partner’s needs?” Yep. I bet you haven’t taken a second to think “why would my partner cheat?”

    I wonder why you haven’t asked this question because there is only one reason why people cheat. Yes, one. Here’s the big, top secret reason…their needs are not being met.

    man and woman wearing brown leather jackets

    That’s it. Every person needs certain things to be fulfilled. These things could be love, sex, passion, compassion, security, generosity, time, affection, and an assortment of other things. More often than not people wind up in a relationship where their partner cannot satisfy ALL of their needs. Now this is the point where you are probably thinking, “well if your needs aren’t being met, just break up with the person!” Relationships aren’t that simple. Imagine this…

    If our emotional needs looked more like our physical needs such as food, water, & shelter, how would things pan out? Imagine you were in a relationship where your partner is providing 2 out of 3 (water & shelter), but they were starving you. No food. You have dropped hints that you are hungry, maybe even straight up asked for food, but were denied 90% of the time. Then you come across someone who is offering up a feast on a silver platter. What are you going to do?

    A. Go home to your water & shelter and continue starving?

    B. Leave your whole life behind with only a guarantee of food (none of the water or shelter)?

    C. Or are you going to try and sneak enough food to meet your needs, then go home to a reliable source of water and shelter?

    Let’s be honest with ourselves, the last choice makes the most sense. Now putting this back into the emotional sense…when you partner with someone because they meet most of your needs, there is a risk that the needs that aren’t being met will be met somewhere else. The other option is to learn to live without that additional need, but that is often easier said than done.

    Now, you may be wondering “how do I prevent cheating from happening in my relationship?” Great question. Before I answer, I must remind you that relationships are SELFLESS acts. That means at any given point in a relationship you should be trying to meet the needs of your partner, while effectively communicating your needs as well.

    woman sitting in front of body of water

    The best way to prevent cheating is by utilizing the time you spend as a single person figuring out how you can meet your own needs. This allows you the time and energy when you enter a relationship to focus on how you can meet your partners needs. Because again, relationships are not about you! They are about having a mutual understanding that you will support one another. If you can figure out your own needs, then you will want to be with someone who has done the same, and neither of you will be looking for a partner to complete them. Because you are a WHOLE person. No one can “complete” you.

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    Here’s the trickier part. If you are already in a relationship and feel your needs aren’t being met, then you have to learn what it is you need, and teach yourself/partner how to meet that need. You cannot just say “I need your attention more.” You have to educate your partner on how they can give you more attention. Give them the who/what/when/where/why/how you learned in grade school. For example, if your need is sexual intimacy:

    Who needs to be meeting this need? Obviously it takes two to tango, so your partner needs to be involved in meeting this need.

    What is the need EXACTLY? Be clear. Is this need about actual sex, or is this need about general physical touch? Does foreplay meet this need? Would you like to kiss & hug more often? This is not just a single sentence answer. Go into detail.

    When is the appropriate time to meet this need? Everyone has a preference, but also when is it feasible to meet this need? Maybe kids are in the house so babysitters have to be arranged. Or maybe this is a need that needs to be met more than just once a month. When would you ideally like to meet this need? Be open to some compromise in the process.

    Where is the appropriate place to meet this need? The bedroom, a hotel, the shower? Hey, whatever floats your boat.

    Why is this need important to you? This may be the most important question. This is where you help your partner and teach your partner the reason behind the need. Maybe you feel like there is a general lack of intimacy, or maybe you feel insecure about how you look and want to feel desired by your partner. Again, not a place for a one sentence answer. Be descriptive.

    How can your partner support this need? Explain what role you would like them to play in supporting this need. If they can initiate sex more often or if they can provide compliments that make you feel sexy. Whatever it is, help your partner figure out how they can be supportive.

    No matter what your need is, utilize these questions to effectively communicate to your partner how you two can work as a team to meet each others’ needs. A relationship is about support and giving. Taking preventative steps to care for your partner can help reduce the likelihood of having to take drastic measures to put a relationship back together. And at the end of the day if you are finding it difficult to have these conversations, make a therapy appointment! Therapy is a great place to learn how to communicate effectively and efficiently.

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