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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    Suite303 Podcast: Episode 6: Mental Health & The Stigma of Therapy feat. Lee from SimpLee Therapy

    I had the pleasure recently to collaborate with not just someone I look up to, but one of the people that inspire me daily, Mr. Albert Phang, also known as my big brother. His podcast, Live from Suite303, is THE place for entertainment, culture, and generally uplifting the community known as The Inland Empire. I was privileged enough to get to sit down on the show and discuss how mental health has become such a big conversation in every community, but also how the stigma around therapy is being shattered by new generations in the black community.

    Take a listen at Suite303 on SoundCloud or

    Watch the podcast on YouTube at

    Live from Suite 303 – Episode 6

    Fatherhood: What’s It Like to Be a Minority Dad?

    I know I often discuss what it is like to be a mother (especially a black mother) in today’s age, but what about being a father? Why are there so many so called “mom blogs”, but not as many “dad blogs”? Maybe it is because of how fatherhood is portrayed in society.

    The role of “father” in society and media is often portrayed as someone who supports the family financially, is a workaholic, doesn’t know what’s going on with the kids, maybe enforces the discipline, maybe completely ignores discipline, or (more frequently in portrayals of minority fathers) is just straight up absent from the household. Hmm…this list is sounding very negative.

    Why is being a father associated with negative/disengaged behavior? What would it be like to see a positive image of what a father is?

    That is why I wanted to interview a [minority] father that plays a big role in his family and displays as close to perfect (in my image) of what a dad should be. Ernesto Camacho, full-time father, full-time therapist, and a full-time spouse (my spouse specifically). How does he do it all? I’m not quite sure. So let’s ask him!

    Ernesto Camacho & Family

    Q: How are you so successful in every role you play in your life??

    A: There are two main reasons why I believe I am successful…I invest in my relationships with others and I pay attention to the minute details. So, I think of the roles you described, as all relationships in which the worth of those relationships or the success of those relationships are dependent upon my deposits. By deposits, I’m referring to those check-ins to see how the other person is doing, by educating myself when I don’t know something, by being aware of my shortcomings and by constantly improving on them, and having open communication with the people I’m in relationships with.

    Q: What’s it like being a minority father in your community? Are there any extra pressures?

    A: I think there are extra pressures on myself because there were no good role models. Like you mentioned, there are negative representations of a father when you look at movies or media in general, you see “abusive fathers” or the “deadbeat dad”. You also see the polar opposite of this in the “workhorse father” who provides financially, but is never around. It was hard in the beginning trying to figure out what type of father I wanted to be, but once I figured it out, it was easy.

    Q: Out of the various roles you play, which is your favorite?

    A: Being a dad. It’s the most emotionally fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had. No offense.

    Q: What was on your mind when you found out you were going to be a father…truthfully?

    A: Ah, sh*t. Thinking of finances, what kind of father I wanted to be, and how I was going to manage a full time job, being a full time student, and a full time family. When I found out it was a girl, I started crying. I remember that. I wanted to make sure she knew how a man should treat her and the fact that she shouldn’t feel less than in this world. I knew I would play a role in how she viewed herself in society. I was really honored and appreciative to play that role.

    “It’s amazing how your involvement is tied in with their growth.”

    Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your first year of fatherhood?

    A: How quickly your child learns from you. I’ve taught her many things like how to brush her teeth, and I wasn’t sure how quickly she would pick it up, but now she says, “brush teeth”. It’s amazing how your involvement is tied in with their growth.

    Q: What has been the biggest reward of becoming a father?

    A: It’s gonna sound cheesy, but just being her dad. I’m really happy to be her dad and be the person she plays with and hugs and kisses. She is very glued to me and looks for me all the time. It’s a lot of unconditional love.

    Q: How do you practice #SimpleSelfCare as a dad?

    A: I practice it often. Having a developing toddler you definitely need to. Some of my go-to’s are asking [mom] for a break from the kiddo. Having hobbies. Coffee. And exercising. And not skipping meals because parents do that all the time. Feed yourself first then feed your kids.

    Q: What’s your advice to new mothers on how to support their “baby daddies”?

    A: Let him know what your expectations are because a lot of times we get lost. We want to help, but we just don’t know in what way we can. New moms should also practice #SimpleSelfCare so it can lower the overall stress at home. And don’t criticize them if they are doing something wrong. It might take more time now to teach the things like how to swaddle or bathe the child or change a diaper. But in the long run you’re making deposits to your relationship and increasing the value and connection.

    Q: Would you recommend therapy for soon-to-be dads or new fathers? Or even couples who are expecting?

    A: I think it would be unfair to just single out the fathers and it would also be unfair to the relationship because both partners could learn about each other’s parenting styles during therapy. Therapy can provide soon to be parents with a safe space to communicate their concerns, explore their parenting values, and prepare them for the new and difficult transition.

    Q: What is your advice to new fathers or soon-to-be fathers?

    A: It will be alright. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s going to be stressful, but it will be worth it. Make sure to take care of yourself and lean into the discomfort.


    Lots of take-a-ways for you dads out there (and moms). You learn some new things when you interview your spouse. Here’s your homework for this week, ask some of these questions to YOUR “baby daddy” or modify them and ask them to your “baby mama” and maybe you’ll learn something new about how you interact as parents.

    All the thanks to Mr. Ernesto Camacho, IMF #100564 for cooperating with me, and for really speaking from the heart! I couldn’t appreciate you more for all the hard work you put into being a fantastic father and spouse! Love you!

    And Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there! May this be a special one!

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