The Importance of Homeostasis & Self-Love
Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, gender, ethnicity, hue, or identity. All humans can be subjected to experiencing mental health challenges. The objective is to determine how to manage these conditions to avoid losing control of your life and mental state.
African Americans are a vulnerable population because of past and present experiences that have contributed to psychological distress. Many African Americans do not acknowledge that they have a mental health issue, and some that do refuse to seek professional assistance. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), African Americans experience more severe forms of mental health conditions because of unmet needs and other barriers. In addition, the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health agrees that African Americans are 10% more likely to have psychological distress and socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, education, social, and economic resources. Disparities can worsen mental health outcomes, which may then be exacerbated by African Americans’ hesitance to seek help.
There are a multitude of reasons why there is a misunderstanding of counseling/therapy among African Americans. The most common statement some African Americans make is, “I’m not crazy, I don’t need therapy.” Hence, many African Americans are reluctant to seek counseling because they see it as a weakness in the eyes of God, surrounded by shame and stigma. Having trouble recognizing the signs of mental illness can cause misinterpretation such as depression being viewed as the “blues” and an attitude that a person will get over it soon. Traditionally, many African Americans address mental health illnesses with prayer, although prayer can be viewed as support, but it is not the only avenue to address severe problems like Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Trauma.
NAMI found that because of distrust and misdiagnosis many African Americans do not follow through with maintaining mental health treatment. Negative perceptions of therapy can change simply through education. It is important that therapists and counselors become more culturally cognizant because there is no guarantee that their clients will be of the same race. Counseling is known to be a helping profession, which should be accessible to all people.
Homeostasis is a state of equilibrium or balance that begins with “You.”
If you are seeking counseling, NAMI shares some questions you should ask your provider before moving further into treatment:
- Have you treated other African Americans?
- Have you received training in cultural competence or on African American mental health?
- How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
- How do you plan to integrate my beliefs and practices in my treatment?
Please note that as a therapist, I encourage you to ask these questions for the sake of your treatment. If your treatment starts out unbalanced, you may not maintain treatment or move towards healing. Know the signs of mental illness. Do not ignore how you feel or what you observe. Balance can be maintained by having a strong ecosystem. Having a mental illness can be scary. Much like fearing the unknown, you do not know what is waiting on the other side but accepting a guide to lead you through can reduce your anxiety. Avoid negative people around you, especially those who do not have an idea of what therapy is about and anyone who says therapy is for “crazy people.” Don’t tell them your personal business. If they are not encouraging homeostasis this may be an opportunity to get rid of these unbalanced people in your life.
Self-Love. Are you there yet?
Throughout the years of having conversations with other black women about loving themselves it has become clear to me that some women have a hard time putting themselves before others. It is easy to tell another person, “I love myself” because there is no expectation to describe how you love yourself. The first thing that some women default to is “I take care of myself by going to the spa, getting my nails done, shopping, etc.” That can be a way to show love for yourself through material things, but when you see yourself in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? The hope is that you are telling yourself that you love yourself no matter what you look like or what you have going on in your life. Just remember what you put out into the universe can dictate how people may treat you.
Let’s Define Self-Love.
Self-love is defined in many ways: as the instinct or tendency to promote one’s own welfare or well-being; an excessive regard for one’s own advantage and interests; conceit; vanity; a feeling of self-respect and personal worth; and an exceptional interest in and admiration for yourself.
Self-love can also mean to shut out everyone else. Let’s focus on that. As women, at times we put ourselves on the back burner, especially when we are mothers, spouses, or girlfriends. We forget about loving ourselves and when we try to put ourselves first we begin to feel guilty. Or we may have someone in our lives who makes us feel guilty because we want to live. This is when you should focus on self-love that shuts out everyone else. If you have someone in your life who is not good for you, what is convincing you to stay with that person?
For some women, the love they had for themselves ultimately shifts to other people in their lives. There is nothing wrong with that if you equally love yourself. But love becomes unbalanced when a woman begins to disappear in the mirror she is looking at daily. You know that things have become unhealthy when you no longer see yourself as valuable, you lose self-respect, you lose self-love, and you lose self-esteem.
Are You There Yet?
Let’s get started learning how to have “Love of Self.” Clinical professionals know that carving out time for self-care helps women gain awareness of their own needs, learning different methods for how to cope with life problems and, most importantly, learning ways to balance self-and-other-care.
Women are often exceptional at multi-tasking. Use this skill to bring balance that is needed to maintain “Love of Self.” Self-sacrifice comes naturally to some women and at times when you take on more than you can handle, it is important to be in tune with knowing when you hit overload. When you become cognizant of these overloads, start focusing on rebuilding and putting yourself first. Here are a few steps on getting there: Say daily affirmations to yourself. Look in that mirror and say “I love me.” Avoid comparing yourself to others. Say “no” sometimes. Get rid of people who should no longer be in your life. Most importantly, know your wants and needs. Just remember, “Love of Self” is needed to build self-respect, self-esteem, self-love, and self-value; You need these in combination to ultimately know thyself.
April Piercy, PhD, MFT is a Staff Therapist at our Voorhees, NJ Office; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at email@example.com or 215-382-6680 ext. 7006.