Hello 2019

I want to live more aligned with my core beliefs in 2019 which means using my voice regardless if other people want to hear it.

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I swear, I start this blog over every year and can’t ever seem to maintain it. While I don’t typically set New Year’s Resolutions, this blog is the most Resolutions thing I have since I give up on it every year. That said, here we are again with my attempts to be a writer.

The truth is that I think of things to write about all the time. I am a deep thinker and I spend ridiculous amounts of time thinking about lots of different things and forming opinions on them. When it comes time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard in this digital age) it seems all my thoughts dry up. Honestly, it’s probably because I don’t think my thoughts are that interesting. I don’t have a revolutionary perspective to share so I feel that sharing my thoughts are a waste. That sounds ridiculous now since my personal belief is that every perspective matters and should have an equal spot in the marketplace. I am so out of alignment in how I view myself versus others.

I don’t think I was always like this. I used to feel very confident in my abilities and the power of my voice, but the last few years some things have happened that have made me questions the value I bring to humanity. I must confess that my mind focuses on the negative. I consider it a byproduct of having a depressed mind…having to fight to see the positive in a situation instead of all the ways things have or could go wrong. “You always remember the bad parts”, my sister said a few months ago when we were discussing the way we both have different perspectives of a shared childhood experience. She’s the Joy to my Sadness (though we both wanted to punch Sadness in her face) if we are Inside Out characters.

Anyway, a series of events over the last few years has pushed me to place where I have tried to minimize myself. I feel uncomfortable using my gifts and talents because I’m worried how they will make other people feel. I pull back from sharing my knowledge so I don’t come off as a “know it-all” when in reality I do know a little about a lot of things because I spent a couple of hours of my life researching random topics…for fun. This plethora of random knowledge makes me a great conversationalist (in my own mind), but creates some unique challenges in a world where one’s uninformed opinion is given gravitas due to social media. I was called rude for correcting someone’s misuse of a psychological term (I have a Master’s degree in Counseling and Psychology) because the incorrect use fit their narrative and I was hindering their attempt to appear “insightful”. Over the course of the last few years, I have learned that the path of least resistance was to simply say nothing at all. I gave up my space to make others more comfortable.

As I am thinking about what I would like to be different in 2019, I have decided to stop minimizing myself. One of my core values is to add value and I offer no value in making diminishing myself. I want to live more aligned with my core beliefs in 2019 which means using my voice regardless if other people want to hear it. I am not responsible for anyone’s actions. If no one wants to read my writing, so what. If someone doesn’t like what I have to say about a topic, oh well.

I intend to spend more time taking up space and using my voice all 2019. That means more commentary from me on all the topics I find most interesting like faith, fitness/health, politics, and skincare. If someone has a problem with that then I suggest they “sell it on let go”.

*Happy New Year*

3 Mistakes Trainers Make With New Clients

I am 10 months into a “fitness journey” and after spending a fair bit of time in the gym and engaging with the online fitness community I have seen some troubling trends in the way some trainers approach their clients and attempt to recruit new ones. I am in no way an expert in this field, but I’d like to offer some insight i have gained over these last few months. If someone is going to be successful they need to start with a good foundation or they are being set up for long-term failure with short-term results.

1. Starting With Too Heavy A Weight

Injury in the gym is real. It’s actually really easy to injure yourself if you are using improper form. Although most body builders train from injury to injury, someone who is seeking to get in shape and shed a few pounds probably doesn’t want to wake up the next day after their first trip to the gym at the urgent care. My preferred form of exercise is strength training which means I lift weights and most of the time, they are pretty heavy. I’m also exceptionally careful in the gym to prevent injury so I will drop weight and focus on form before moving up in weights. Also, there is a benefit to strength training when you use low weight for high reps. I see a lot of trainers start their clients off with heavy weights or difficult workouts without correcting their form. This is the best way for a novice to get injured in the gym and derail their progress or worse, scare them off all together. You get results from pushing your muscles, but if you are overly sore and tired then working out becomes a chore. If you’re not enjoying it then you won’t be able to sustain the behavior.

2. Providing/Encouraging An Unrealistic Meal Plan or Diet

80% of the progress one makes in getting fit is found in the diet plan. Dieting has a negative connotation in this day in age, but regardless of whether it’s referred to as a diet or a meal plan it is integral to the overall success of your fitness goals. You have to restrict certain foods and limit your calorie intake in order to lose weight, but eating should be enjoyable and most importantly should be fueling your workouts. Hunger is fine (as my trainer reminds me often) but being miserable is not. Some meal plans are so restrictive and limiting that it makes eating a chore and leaves people uninspired which means they won’t be able to sustain their progress. The results in the mirror and on the scale will only provide motivation for so long.

3. Overstating Results

There is no magic pill or quick path to sustained weight-loss. Fitness results are an accumulation of sustained effort in the gym and/or in the kitchen. I’ve seen so many trainers who post “before and after” photos declaring “three weeks of progress!” or some other ridiculous time line. Most likely, those results are due to the trainer making the mistakes stated above and the client may have some quick results, but they are not sustainable long term. What happens when the person misses a workout because of work, life, or just being tired of eating 1200 calories of food they don’t like and being in the gym for hours a day? Society is obsessed with quick fix results, but you didn’t gain weight overnight so why expect to lose weight overnight? Trainers should temper expectations and remind their clients that it is the accumulation of effort that leads to long term results.

I have been blessed to have a great trainer that eased me into the exercises and diet by giving me food I actually like to eat on my plan and making the plan centered around my  lifestyle. We work together on my meal plans and have dropped foods and meals when necessary without sacrificing my results. She encourages me to push myself in the gym, but she doesn’t force me outside of what I am prepared to handle. My first set of workouts were 3 days/week and used the level of weight that I was comfortable with enough to do the moves without sacrificing form. Ten months into this journey and I exercise 6-7 days/week. Starting small helped me to build my confidence and develop my discipline. My meals were the hardest thing to overcome because I was not accustomed to eating so often in a day and my palette and stomach had to adjust, but that too has become more disciplined. I have a relationship with food that allows me to choose foods that bring me closer to my goals or that work against my goals without feeling shame or embarrassment.

I highly suggest reaching out to Kat at Arise Fitness if you’re looking to work with a trainer that focuses on YOUR goals and YOUR progress in a collaborative relationship.

I’m Fine…

Unless you’ve completely unplugged you are aware that there have been two high profile suicides in the last few days. Reporting suicides are difficult because you run the risk of sensationalizing a really tragic event which can lead to spikes in suicide rates. The typical response in these situations is the obligatory “Reach Out” status and posting the Suicide Hotline number (1-800-273-TALK).

Here’s the thing, there’s nothing wrong with these statuses. They are low-cost ways of helping and they make people feel like they are being part of the solution. The issue is: people don’t care about depression until someone dies. 

Our society is structured in a way that we engage and interact with actual human beings as little as possible. Our lives are lived on our social media pages. Depression doesn’t have a distinct mark or visual. There’s no banner to suicidal ideation. How would you know if someone is suffering from depression or contemplating suicide? Those aren’t the things we tend to post in our IG story or on Snapchat.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and the leading cause of disability in the US. 16 million people a year (6.7% of the population) report experiencing at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. That’s just people who report symptoms. Many individual suffer with depressive symptoms without seeking treatment due to the stigma that still exists in our country, especially in specific population groups, surrounding mental illness.

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I understand that encouraging those around us to seek help makes us feel like we are helping, but think about whether or not you’ve cultivated an environment where someone can feel safe to open up. When you ask someone, “How are you?”, are you taking the time to hear their response? In my Social Work class we had to do a “feelings check” where we had to tell our teacher what we were feeling that day before class started. We weren’t allowed to use the word “fine” because it stood for: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional. The purpose of the exercise was to expand our feelings vocabulary, but how many of us hide behind “Fine” when we’re the complete opposite?

My personal experience with depression is that when I’m at my lowest point reaching out to someone is the last thing I want to do. I’m physically and emotionally fatigued and the easiest thing to do is to close my eyes and sleep. It’s also been my experience that when I do reach out, people don’t take me seriously when I say “I’m having a rough week”. Once someone laughs it off enough, I just stop answering that question authentically. I had one friend once say to me that they don’t have the time to listen to me talk for hours. This is the danger of not crafting an environment where those around you can be honest about their experience. People pick up on the little ways their feelings are dismissed. Trust in a relationship is so delicately maintained.

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The other thing about being sick is that all you can see is your illness. The depressed mind won’t reach out because it’s tricked itself into believing that no one cares. A friend of mine, who is also depressed, once explained that they don’t want to open up because they don’t want to make the rest of us depressed or bring down the mood. The feeling of being a burden to others is so real for the one managing depression. It can be all consuming to manage these symptoms. Every day is a battle for your peace of mind. Some days you win that fight and you’re able to be with your friends and have a good time. Some days you lose that battle and you barely have enough energy to take a shower. The hardest thing is to keep fighting. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lost their battle with depression. Unfortunately, it is a battle that someone loses every 40 seconds around the world.

If you think someone you know is depressed or at risk for depression reach out to them. Don’t expect them to reach out to you. Be proactive in your relationships. I encourage you to try to make an effort to actively listen and engage with no judgement.

Its-so-difficult-to-explain-depression-to-someone-whos-never-been-there-because-its-not-just-sadness.-J.K.-Rowling

Goodbye 2017…

2017 is gone and 2018 is here. I know I’m not the only one who felt relieved to have 2017 over. Last year was exhausting.

It is typical for this time of year to be filled with reflection of the past year and anticipation for next year. If I could define 2017 in one word it would be FAILURE.

I was supposed to graduate with my Master’s degree in Counseling in May, but I had to retake 2 courses which moved my graduation date to August. That date was moved to December when I, again, had to retake 2 courses in order to graduate. Lack of progress on my Thesis moved my graduation date again to spring 2018. My academic progress felt like I was moving from failure to failure.

My struggles in academia where reflected in every aspect of my life throughout 2017. My social relationships were basically non-existent by the end of 2017. Graduate School can be hell on relationships, but by the end of the year I felt completed isolated and cut off from almost everyone I considered to be a friend. There was one exception, and I am deeply grateful for this individual. The small business I started this year only had one regular customer and she was related to me. It was as if everything I put my hands to in 2017 was met with failure.

As I look to 2018, I am afraid that it will be more of the same. I believe that what you do on the first day of the year, you will be doing all year so I have spent the day trying to develop a more positive outlook on towards this year. I can’t say that I am excited for 2018, but I am hoping that this year will be better than last year.

It’s Like You’re Trying To Speak To Me…

So it’s been a good minute since I’ve posted anything, but if you’ve ever experienced graduate school then you understand how my life spiraled out of control once “Thesis” appeared on my schedule. Thanks for sticking around fam!

I’m not going to give you an update on Grad School because no one needs that kind of negativity in their life. You’re welcome *Maui Voice*. Let’s talk about friendship instead!

In the spring of 2016 I fell into a conversation about race relations with an acquaintance at church. When I say “fell”, I mean that I made a half-joking comment about our country moving to a ‘us vs. them’ situation across race lines that sparked a 3 hour-long discussion with this guy, who we will call Arrow, that I had barely exchanged pleasantries with, but such is life right?

Fast forward to winter 2016 when I’m on break from school and I haven’t spoken to Arrow since Spring. I wasn’t thinking about it because you know, Grad School *jazz hands*.  Arrow, my sister, and I go to lunch which ends up lasting until dinner time (I didn’t have anything to do, but homie probably should’ve gone back to work, but whatevs *shrug*).  You ever have a friend where either you don’t talk at all or you talk to each other for hours, there is no in between? This is our friendship. Weirdest thing, yo!

Arrow is the epitome of the white, southern, cisgendered male. He loves Jesus, his momma, his guns, and his truck. His life is legit a country music song. I am a first generation Nigerian-American asexual cisgendered woman. He’s conservative (tragic) and I’m liberal(ish). Clearly, we don’t have anything in common (except a love for Jesus) so we have a hard time finding common ground, but we try. We more often find ourselves talking past each other, but I think we’re getting better at communicating.

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This friendship is fascinating to me for two reasons: 1) We engage in a mutual exchange of ideas where we actually listen to each other. 2) We are learning from each other. I honestly feel that I have become a better person from our friendship and its only been 4 weeks!

When I think about how our friendship will progress I wonder if we will ever be able to find common ground. Arrow thinks that the biggest barrier in our communication is a lack of shared experiences. I would agree with him *gasp*. To potentially remedy this issue, Arrow has suggested we engage in some shared experiences. We’ll do something he’s passionate about (shooting) and something I’m passionate about (TBA). I think this is pretty exciting!

Maybe after some shared experiences it won’t feel like we’re talking past each other. Arrow is the Marlin to my Dory 🙂

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I lived…

grad school

 

Dear reader, I have completed my first official semester of graduate school and I’m just thankful that I survived. The last time I updated was at the end of the first 7 weeks of the program and I had successfully completed my courses with a 4.0. The next 7 weeks were not so pleasant.

I took Research Methods and Psychopathology in the second term of the semester. Psychopathology was a breeze. There was a lot of work involved but nothing too taxing and the teacher was extremely laid back, which made the course very easy. Research Methods was a whole different animal.

My first foray into Research Methods was this graduate level course. I did not take RM in undergraduate like everyone else in my cohort so my knowledge of the course material was very limited. I spent the majority of the four hour long class completely lost….not a fun feeling at all. On top of being lost in the course material, my professor would assign multiple assignment each week that were due, including over Thanksgiving break. Since I have to drive 2 hrs to class every week on top of working in the morning before I leave, I quickly got burned out. To be honest, I almost quit the program.

Between driving, working, school work, and other responsibilities I was rethinking my decision to go to Grad School at this time. If not for the fact that I want to be a psychologist and this degree being one step closer to that goal I would have quit. I am sure that there will be many times throughout the next 18 months that will make me wish I could be content to be a Trophy Wife, but at this time I am just glad to be on break for the next 4 weeks.

Until next time friends!