Arlene is a Vincentian Canadian writer and registered nurse. She writes for women who are ready to make big leaps in life. She writes about emotional wellness and self discovery and healing.

Obsessing about the outcome is our attempt to control and ease anticipated pain.

We fear being happy. What we fear even more is having our happiness taken away.

We live in constant terror of what if, never allowing ourselves to immerse in what is.

We’ve heard the answer to ‘living in the present’ is letting go of attachment, but that sounds like a mystical far-off task. It’s a little easier to let go of our attachment to material possessions, but it’s harder to let go of attachment to people.

Impactful people become part of our energetic makeup. They circulate through our bodies and cycle through our hearts and mind until we let them go. They conflict with, and compliment parts of ourselves. That’s why it feels so gut-wrenching when they’re gone. We feel like a part of us is missing.

Instead of trying vehemently to “live in the present” and “let go”, have the mindset that,

You’re resilient enough to withstand whatever happens to you in the end.

You’re equipped enough to soothe yourself through the circumstances.

And you’re resourceful enough to get more. So live your life.

You’ve felt emotions you thought would kill you. You’ve felt chest pain and little rips in your heart.

You’ve felt the physical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headaches, and sudden illness.

You’ve been stuck in bed for days, unable to shower, eat, or move.

These are uncomfortable experiences that will pass as you gain the strength to navigate.

Not all happy experiences end in pain, though you may feel painful emotion if you’re attached to it, simply because it has meaning to you.

Our bodies and minds care for us. Everything they do is an attempt to protect us. It’s our job to sort out the real danger from unwarranted fear. Pain gets our attention.

I remember when my brother unknowingly ruptured his kidney during a football game. He kept on playing, but the pain intensified.

He eventually went to the hospital where he had emergency surgery and was admitted, which saved his life.

His soreness warned him that something was wrong.

What’s your pain trying to tell you?

Maybe it’s bringing awareness to something you want. Maybe it’s telling you that you strongly care for a person. Maybe it’s telling you to look deeper at yourself.

Regardless of what lessons our afflictions are trying to teach us, we don’t have to turn it into fear.

We can allow ourselves to step unnerved and fully present in our experiences. This isn’t because we’re naïve to the fact that circumstances may change, but because we can never live if we’re petrified of the outcome.

This is what anxiety looks like. We don’t need more deep breathing and grounding. We know what to do.

We need to believe that we’re not going to die from embarrassment or anxiety, that we’re capable enough to survive the results. We embrace new experiences when we recognize that pain isn’t the enemy and we have tools of combat.

Tools to help your ease pain

It’s easy to list off mindful habits-pray, ground yourself, exercise, get sunshine, eat your veggies, but it always comes down to your perspective, resilience, and mindset.

Our individual processes for achieving this look different, but the theory is the same.

You’re not searching for new information, you’re searching for reminders. You’re searching for stories that are relevant to you.

This is how humans work. We need the same lessons, in different ways, by different people, in different formats, until something clicks.

The tools that help you overcome your pain are habits that aren’t self-destructive (ex. excessive drinking, binge eating), yet motivate you to grow and make you feel good.

I can’t tell you what that looks like for you. I can only direct you toward how to find it. Pay attention to what you’re doing when you feel good, who you’re around, what you’re reading and watching. Do more of those things. It takes stillness, awareness, and conscious effort.

A safe place to start is a hobby that awakens your creativity.

Remember, overcoming discomfort takes time, weeks, months, even years. It’s not linear. You may regress before moving forward. You may stagnate, you’ll take the slowest steps, even drag yourself, but you’ll progress if you’re determined to.

I’d love to know the tools you use to transition through pain.

Start opening your eyes to those that do.

Originally published on Medium- Assemblage

Practicing self-care, spoiling myself, and adventure isn’t a white branded experience.

“You’re such a white girl”, he said.

This was coming from a date I was on with a black guy, who later confessed that he only dated white girls- but I was different, a different kind of black girl. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends that he was actually dating a black girl

Huh? Well, this was a new one. I was stunned, not mad. Even curious. I went on a few more dates with him. I wanted to understand his perspective of this-situation.

Shouldn’t I be outraged for all the black women out there? 

At the end of the day, maybe I’m jaded, but my hate is too high of a price to spare. People are allowed to love whoever they want, regardless of their race.

I think the outrage comes not from dating another race, but from simultaneously trash-talking and hating your own. Men and women are guilty of this. 

He was open and honest with me. His confusion, preferences, and identity issues weren’t my problem. Technically on a bigger scale, I’m sure they were, but I’d been down that road too many times before. Miss save-a-man-at-your-own-expense. Nope.  

During our dinner conversation, I got down to the root of his hesitancy about dating black women and my whiteness. His summary was that, 

  1. He was bored of seeing black women. Only to find out that he was 25-leaving me whitewashed and a cougar.
  2. My look and mannerism, associated with feminity, gave him white vibes. 

After some time our dates dwindled for various reasons. I became anxious wondering if I was going to be added to his- see, this is why I don’t date black women hit list. Who knew?

What Does Being Called White Washed Mean?

Is being called whitewashed a derogatory term or a backhanded compliment?

Perhaps first, we should look at what it means to be black. An Afrometrics research study questioned participants on their self-definition of being black. Six themes emerged.

  1. Struggle and resilience– Twenty-five percent of participants identified being black with the struggle for equality, justice, fighting against racism, and other forms of oppression.
  2.  Ancestry– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having and honouring their African ancestors.
  3. Pride– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having a sense of empowerment, rich culture, and dignity.
  4. History and Legacy– Fifteen percent of participants associated being black with a past story, roots, and continuation of the lineage. 
  5. African Descent Community– Thirteen percent of participants associated being black with having a like-minded community, embracing cultural traditions and values. 

Why Do We Call Each Other White-Washed?

We call each other white-washed when we assume that a person cannot adopt aspects of another culture while maintaining their own.

Does adopting aspects of another culture contribute to a loss of our identity?

We’ve felt rejected in so many areas of life that we can’t bear the thought of being rejected by our own people.

I too have been guilty of calling people whitewashed. Subconsciously I was scared, scared that I’d be contrastingly black around them, that I’d have to keep my defenses up, that we couldn’t relate. Wasn’t that the same mentality that caused hate crimes and slavery? Just saying.

We, as black people, need to start taking more chances on each other. 

We are the ones who put expectations on our blackness. We judge each other’s blackness or lack thereof the most. 

We’re not blind or delusional to the racism and limitations society has tried to place on us. In light of our protests, there have been increasing opportunities for advancement. Now is the time. Now, there are platforms to challenge the stereotypes of what it means to be black.

People say that slaves were taken from Africa. This is not true: People were taken from Africa, among them healers and priests, and were made into slaves.- Abdullah Ibrahim

Why We Should Say Goodbye To Calling Each Other Whitewashed.

Being called whitewashed is a barrier to healing, self-esteem, and acceptance. We should say goodbye to the term, as it undermines the multifaceted nature of who we are. We’re more than rap music, WAP, drama, and thugs. We’re tech nerds, punk rockers, outdoor adventurers, and classical music connoisseurs. Renaissance people.

Assumptions That Being Called White Washed Creates,

  • That it’s not possible for black women to enjoy or try something outside of their culture or environment.
  • That black woman can’t be associated with femininity, travel, adventure, or sophistication. It’s normal to be seen as ratchet, but you’re fake when you act otherwise. 
  • That white women are rich, prim, proper, and have never experienced struggle. 
  • That it’s not safe for black women to be vulnerable, ask for help, or seek protection because we’re used to the struggle. It opens us to abuse.

Closing Thoughts

 In calling each other whitewashed we put limitations on ourselves.

The story started with a date centered around expectations of what black should be like. It continued with curiosity about what it means to be whitewashed, or not black enough.

We are the ones who judge each other the most. We put expectations on our blackness, although in part, fueled on the backs of media and society.

Twenty-five percent, (the majority) of people identified being black with struggle and resilience. They also honour pride, history, ancestry, and legacy.

While it’s important to acknowledge and honour the struggle of our ancestors it’s also important to acknowledge that black is multifaceted. We clutch on to struggle for dear life, feed it to our children, and sing it’s praise when we can create black identities through our individual stories.

Being called whitewashed creates barriers to esteem and acceptance. 

Being called whitewashed says that it’s not okay for black women to be vulnerable, feminine, and protected. 

Being called whitewashed says you can’t explore another culture without hating or abandoning your own.

Let’s change the narrative on what it means to be black. 

Black is expansive. Black can’t be boxed. 

Stop calling me whitewashed.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium in an Injustice.

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The people that see, know your worth

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Maybe you’re still waiting because not all eyes have been trained to see you.

God has hidden you behind the cleft of the rock with his hand.

You weren’t abandoned, you weren’t forgotten. You aren’t unworthy, you aren’t rejected.

Even with eyes closed, they could feel your light beneath darkened eyelids. They hated you, and wanted to be with you at the same time.

You were a heat they never felt before, you harassed their demons, made them uncomfortable. In your presence, they had to look at themselves and they hated what they saw. You were a reminder of what they wanted but couldn’t be.

They said you were too happy, they smirked secretly at your challenges. It was never about having you. It was always about keeping you from everyone else, in case someone should recognize you, know your worth, and question what you were doing there. In case they tried to set you free.

But only you can set yourself free.

So here you are caged, with everyone on the outside clamouring to see you, but you don’t realize it. You can’t see yourself.

Maybe you’re still waiting because you’re not ready for joy. It seems silly to say. Of course, I’m ready, but maybe pain has become so familiar that happiness scares you.

Maybe you don’t yet realize your rarity, your infinite value.

Maybe you’ll accept the lowest bidder. Maybe you’ll rob yourself of all that you are, of all that you can be.

Maybe you still believe all the ugly things they’ve told you. Maybe you’re still healing, but in your healing, you’re still worthy.

Maybe you’re still waiting because not everyone has eyes to see you.

I know it feels like a lifetime. It feels like you’re floating in the abyss of despair. I know you keep crying out, when will it be my time? Haven’t I gone through enough?

I know you’re tired of hearing that you need to hold on. I know you’re tired of being patient.

So I’m not going to ask any more of that from you.

You see, not everyone has eyes to see you.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium-Assemblage

Dance Dancing by Julie Winegard

Ever get into a bad mood for no reason? Yeah, me too. 

I used to beat myself up about it. My life is great! I don’t have much to complain about, so what’s the problem? Anyone who knows what bad moods are like knows how this story ends: instead of psyching myself out of the bad mood, I’d just end up feeling guilty for not being able to power through it.

Then something happened. I first noticed it because I realized that after some time of going through a low mood I’d feel perfectly fine. This made me think that maybe it was normal to have these swings in moods. Maybe some subconscious stuff was going on behind the scenes, to help me snap out of it.

So, I started paying attention to the little details of what went on during my mood swings. Here’s what I tracked, and here’s what helped.

Since I could feel the events leading up to my low mood. I started tracking the main triggers that exacerbated them. A few basic categories emerged:

  • Not getting enough time alone to recharge
  • Persistently stressful situations, including people, environments and a loop of negative thinking
  • Doing too much/being too hard on myself

These are what I called my triggers. Everyone has to deal with these things to some extent, so getting rid of them isn’t really an option. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge when they get out of hand because you feel fine, then the next thing you know you’re laying in bed in your panties all day- which is kind of fun though. Knowing that these are the things to look out for meant that I was able to emotionally intervene a little earlier with myself.

Identify Mood Triggers

Identifying triggers can be difficult because you might not be aware of what’s going on in your body. This is where you need to take time to notice subtle things that cause a change for you. Each one of us is different. So how are you going to know your triggers? 

You can identify mood triggers by paying attention to your body as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual state.

  • Take notice of where you feel tense in your body
  • The thoughts that are running through your head in a particular situation. Where do you get caught into looping thoughts?
  • Certain people that you don’t want to be around. If you’re like me, you may identify as an empath, sometimes you don’t even want to be around people that you like because you’re feeling too much of their emotions, even if they are just telling you a story.
  • Notice when you overreact or become volatile in certain situations.
  • Physical environments that shift your mood (lack of sunlight, clutter, dust, lights, sound)
  • Some people identify as highly sensitive people (HSP). Do you easily get overstimulated by noise, movies, or touch more so than other people? 
  • You can no longer pray, or perform your spiritual practice.

Here’s what it looks like for me.  

  • When I feel low moods coming on I spiral into negative thinking and self-accusations.
  • My back becomes very tense.
  • My period becomes more painful, heavy, and irregular times of the month.
  • In severe cases, I sometimes have inflammatory responses. I break out, my face and body get swollen, and it’s more difficult to breathe.
  • I get low moods due to lack of sunlight, cluttered/messy space

See how this works? Although the first step was for me to identify situational triggers, the things I mention above are internal indicators that I am entering bad-mood territory. Triggers often have certain results even before you get into your full-blown depressed mood.

Identify Results of Mood Triggers

Some of us are programmed into certain behaviors that we don’t realize are really coping mechanisms for us. These may show up in things like:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Binge eating (reaching for the pizza, candy, sugar)
  • Love addiction
  • Thrill Seeking

My drug of poison is usually always sugar.  When I’m stressed, my best friend is a bag of M&M’s and licorice (or chocolate-covered licorice-yum). Once, I was on a remote nursing assignment in Northern Manitoba, where I was on call virtually every night. It was a very stressful situation and a new experience for me. Although I tried to eat healthily, I caved and ate M&M’s multiple nights before going to bed, lying there and waiting for the on-call phone to ring.

What’s interesting is that the results of your triggers, or a form of addiction, are usually not singular. They come in pairs, triples, or even more. That’s why people who drink and smoke actually find it easier to quit both than to quit just one: if they force themselves to find healthier coping mechanisms altogether, then they’re more likely to be successful than if they lighten up on one crutch and allow the other one to take over (quitting smoking, for example, but drinking more).

If you know how to identify your bad mood—or maybe even preemptively see it coming—based on behaviors you’ve learned are associated with bad moods, then that gives you that much more of an advantage when it comes to reacting to it.

Track The Amount of Time Spent In Your Low Mood

Is there an amount of time that you “typically” spend in a bad mood? Like I mentioned earlier, I often snap out of a bad mood without really realizing it, and for what seems to be no good reason at all. If you’re able to identify how long it typically takes you to feel better, you can “emotionally quarantine” until you feel better, just like staying home from work or school on a day when you feel sick.

Track The Things That Make You Feel Better

I admit: “munching on candy, in bed, in my underwear all day is not a sustainable  way to deal with my problems.” But, if doing this has been your coping mechanism, then maybe don’t beat yourself up about it.

While these behaviours aren’t sustainable or healthy in the long run, it’s even worse to stress about it. Learning healthy ways to deal with stress is just as important to help us maintain good mental health, but that’s a topic for another day. What you do on a timescale of weeks is more important than what you do on a timescale of hours or days.

Here’s an example of what this looks like for me. You know those movies where you see the girl dealing with the bad breakup, surrounded by cheap snacks and binge-watching low-grade romances? YUP. The time in bed is my recharge. I just have to make sure I don’t stay there, maybe replace the snack with healthier choices, but it works for me. 

Add To The Things That Make You Feel Better

I’ve helped to run some workshops on managing depression and anxiety. In doing so, I’ve learned some pretty valuable techniques for taking care of myself when I’m feeling like crap.

  • Hide in my car. This is my favorite. I’m introverted by nature. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t like people! It means that I like being with people, but that social situations wear me down, and being alone recharges me. The “car” part isn’t the important part; the “hide” part is. Get away from everyone and everything. Listen to music, pray, read a book. Some of my favorite times are just driving to scenic places, opening the door, and sitting in the sun.
  • Hot and cold showers. It’s a no caffeine kick. Caffeine makes depression and anxiety worse, but it’s a hard habit to kick. The equivalent to a slap in the face in the morning is having a hot and cold shower. I do 3 minutes hot and 30 seconds cold for a minimum of 3 cycles, always ending on cold—you can pick whatever time intervals work for you. The hot water opens the blood vessels and gets them pumping, the cold water constricts them slowing the blood down, thus the end result acts as a pump, which actually helps pumps stagnant blood.

This alternation between very hot and very cold water is also a miracle method for headaches. I have used this method to get instant relief. Take two basins, fill one with ice water, and the other with water as hot as you can stand. Submerge your feet into the basic, same thing 3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, alternate for three cycles and end on cold. Of course beware if you have PVD, or any other circulatory issues.

Adjust and Repeat

I’ve almost got my depression routine down to a science… almost.

Without using any of the steps listed above—identifying triggers, seeing signs, taking preventative measures, and giving myself some self-care therapy—I can go into a funk that lasts for a couple of weeks. If I’m on top of it, I can shorten those bouts to 2-3 days. Of course, the toughest part of any mental health challenge is that if you’re in a dip in mental health, that tends to mean you also have decreased resources to stave it off. But think about it. Isn’t some extra effort worth the payoff of getting those couple of weeks back? In my mind, the answer is clear.

Tracking your moods can help you identify, and decrease your triggers. This lessens the time you feel down and lets you know that it’s normal to have ups and downs in life- the key is not staying there.

Arlene

Originally published on Swaay media

You’re not alone if you feel a spell-binding desire to return to the comforting yield of the soil.

You’re not alone if you feel called out of the city and into the country.

You’re not alone if you want to nourish your body with the fruit of your hands.

The call is bigger than you. There’s a shift in the world, you can feel it. It’s a healing of the nation.

This matters because women are nature and nurture. You’re wired to know the decisions you need to make to thrive. It’s no coincidence that you feel the need to breathe cleaner air, eat nourishing foods and find peace of mind.

You feel the shift, but don’t know where to start or know how to get there.

I promise you that if you’re a woman of faith, you’ll know.

It will bring you the people you need to connect with. It will deter you from places that aren’t meant for you, guide you where you need to go, and show you where you need to wait.

How do I know?

I am a woman of faith and I’ve seen it time and time again.

Three years ago I went casual at my nursing job and started travel nursing.

I felt the need to explore the scenic parts of Canada in hopes of finding a new home. Traveling for work allowed me to do so.

It was a scary decision, I didn’t know where it would take me, but do we ever? Our steady job, home, and access to services give us a false sense of security.

Security is the responsible plan but once it’s gone we can spiral into hopelessness. Faith is the ever-resilient plan.

I traveled and worked in the Northern parts of Canada, on Native reserves, in mountainous areas and I’ve found black women with similar stories.

Why it’s important to see like-minded women.

I started traveling to remote locations for work, not expecting to see many women like myself. I was having adventures like:

driving past 12 bears in the mountains

taking part in an Heiltsuk Indigenous potlatch ceremony

getting to work via helicopter

and bathing in a hot spring surrounded by trees in winter.

I saw black women in many of the locations I went with similar stories. It was important to see like-minded people because it affirmed that I wasn’t alone. No matter how hard people try to stereotype us, you can’t take away our uniqueness and adaptability.

We encouraged each other along the way. We exchanged similar phrases like:

“It’s no coincidence that we met”.

“You’re not alone”.

“I needed this reminder”.

“You’re on the right track, we’ll figure it out”.

Bring back community.

Growing and operating a farm is laborious. I was reminded of this when speaking to a woman who said, ‘I’ve lived on a farm before and it’s hard work, at this point in my life I won’t be able to do it alone’.

As someone who cherishes my quiet time, I low-key dread having too many people around, but the truth is, we can’t survive without community. We are interdependent on each other.

The country is right around the corner.

Some people imagine living in the middle of a secluded mountain without a neighbour around for kilometers- that doesn’t have to be the case. You can live in an area as close to half an hour to an hour outside of the city that feels secluded.

I see this frequently living in Alberta. There’s so much land around that you don’t have to go very far to escape.

Start where you are.

You may not be in the position to move right now, but start taking the necessary steps towards the life you want.

This can look like:

getting your finances together

buying seeds

learning about gardening

or changing your diet

Doors will open and help will come.

Takeaway

Feeling the desire to move closer to the country and grow your own food isn’t a coincidence. It can be as small as moving to the suburbs and having a home garden or moving to large acreage. Start preparing for the life you want even if you can’t see the way yet. Find balance in community.

And remember, you’re not alone.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium-Assemblage

Give yourself time

Photo by Marlon Schmeiski on Pexels.com

We barely got over one hurt before they gave us another, sometimes dropping them off at the same time. We would run back and forth between them, soothing one while flaming the other.

We gave them names like “never again” and “only this once”. Some stayed many years while others were fleeting.

Some returned to visit although we kissed them goodbye. We treated some like lovers listening to their incantations,

why me?, why me?, why me ?

We handled them gently as they etched their way into our hearts.

We couldn’t let them go. We studied every detail of their memory, we remembered every drench of sweat they made us work for.

We hated them, and we loved them. We loved hating them, though it was fleeting.

Those hurts came in flavours. Some bitter in the same instant, while others a steady sweetness that faded away, but most came in rancid, simply stinkin’ rancid.

So we worked. We worked until we knew them well. We worked until they did not sting, until they did not burn. We worked until they did not scratch.

We worked until we were strong.


Originally published on Medium

YOUR PERSPECTIVE, OUTLOOK, EXPECTATIONS, AND BOUNDARIES CHANGED.

You think that your life miraculously got better, but the truth is, life runs on monotonous cycles offering the good with the bad to everyone.

Our environment affects how much good we’re able to see or pull out of life.

Your life didn’t suddenly get better, you did.

Your perspective, outlook, expectations, and boundaries changed.

Before you saw limited options, now you create opportunity.

You’ve taken time to discover yourself, in part voluntarily, and in part through forced life experiences.

The job you hated 10 years ago is a piece of cake compared to what you’re doing now.

The relationship you thought you couldn’t stand 5 years ago is the same relationship you’re searching for now.

The friendships you’ve had since high school are the same friends who are strangers now.

The family members you were striving to please are the same ones you’re distancing yourself from now.

Opportunities to thrive are presented time and time again but you’ll never see them until you’re ready.

You know you’re ready when your ego dies a little bit.

It’s when you simultaneously realize your vulnerability and your strength. It’s when you’ve learned through your mistakes and experiences. It’s when you take responsibility and stop blaming other people.

It’s the feeling of having drunk too much and now reality hits. You’re sober.

It’s letting go of unrealistic expectations, not because you’ve given up but because it wasn’t ever the life you wanted.

It’s when you realize that you’ve based so much of your happiness on other people and societal norms instead of what you really want.

It’s when you realize you can do whatever you want.

You’ve had to change. You were faced with trauma that shattered your being and emotions to the core.

You’ve suffered enough and decided it’s not serving you anymore. You’ve experienced joy, a taste of something more, so you commit to choosing better.

As you change so do your needs. As you become more self-sufficient, you require less. You pinpoint the make it or break it factors, what really matters, and leave the rest.

You realize that life isn’t some fairy-tale, it’s what you make of it. Life didn’t improve, it’s always been there. You adapted.

So now what?

Do you live in mediocrity? Hell no.

You keep on exploring and figuring out what an actualized life looks like for you.

It’s easy to lose ourselves along the way. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come, to get discouraged and feel alone.

What you need are reminders, it’s about tracking the little wins instead of looking at what everyone else is doing. This is about you. Your path is different.

Look at everything that’s going right for you and keep evolving.

You see, your life didn’t change, you did.

It was always you.

~Arlene~

Story originally published on Medium publication- The Assemblage

Creative therapies have been linked to decreased anxiety, depression, stress levels, increased immunity, self-worth, and social identity.
Photo by Dazzle Jam on Pexels.com


I’m a Registered nurse, writer, and spoken word poet. I dabble in various forms of creative arts.

I’m most balanced in my health and emotions when I’m creative. I’ve called it the sixth vital sign.

Creativity isn’t optional, but now a necessity for my health.  

Creativity is a non-negotiable part of holistic health, especially for women. John Gray, authour of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus says that women have twice as much stress as men. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is twice as high when she walks into the house. She’s thinking about everything she has to do.

It may not necessarily be that she has more stress, but that she feels more stressed. This is why socks on the floor or dirty dishes may send her through the roof. It’s added to her list of stressors, while it may not be a big deal for her partner.

This may contribute to women losing attraction and sexual desire for their partner.

The quickest way to a woman’s heart and libido is doing anything that promotes less stress- it’s probably the same for men as well. 

Hey, let’s stop stressing each other, and ourselves out. 

Gray, suggests one of three de-stressors women can do for themselves is to, 

“do the things they love to do.”

Enter creativity.

Throughout documented history, people have used stories, drawings, dances, and chants as healing rituals.

Music Therapy

Music therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety. I help facilitate a depression and anxiety seminar by Dr.Neil Nedley and we specifically use classical music to help with reducing anxiety. 

Studies show that enjoying music with someone can also create emotional balance.

Even music that’s added to positive words is shown to reduce the effects of pain. Research results on cancer and coronary artery disease patients showed a reduction in heart rate, oxygen demands, and tension levels- producing a calming effect after music therapy.

Music is an expression of what is felt but not said. It represents the range of your emotions. Music represents the range of your personality. 

Practical Use

  • Try incorporating, specifically classical music into your day, in your car ride, or as you wake up.
  • Use it in combination with other health modalities such as walking outside, sunlight, or while taking a hot-and-cold shower.

Here is my Spotify writing playlist. It’s not all classical, but some of my favourite tunes.

Visual Arts

Art helps us express experiences too difficult to put into words

Visual art is a part of self-expression that can help you think good about yourself, especially if you’ve received a new health diagnosis. 

In trauma, cancer, dialysis, and chronic illness patients the positive effects of visual arts therapy were identified as, a distraction from thoughts of illness, reduced depression, improved outlook on self-worth, life experiences, and social identity. 

Women participating in art, especially things they could touch, such as pottery, textiles, card making, collages, and pottery saw 4 specific benefits.

  1. Focusing more on positive life experiences.
  2. Increased self-worth and identity by creating opportunities to overcome challenges, grow, and reach personal achievement.
  3. Positive social identity by not letting their illness define them.
  4. Expression of feelings in a symbolic way when words are difficult.

Practical use

-Incorporate touch with creativity. Sleep on silk sheets, arrange flowers in your home. Wear a plush bathrobe. Make a vision board. Create multiple levels of healing.

The first time I went for therapy they had adult colouring books. I didn’t even know it was a thing back then. All I knew, was that it brought my anxiety levels down and made expressing myself easier. 

Movement Based Creative Expression

In middle-aged women, elderly patients, and breast cancer patients, movement-based therapy has shown improvement in physical symptoms such as walking. But also in mental, such as learning ability (through theater training), and mindfulness.

I’m memorizing lines for a theatre audition right now. It’s sure exercising my recall ability, which doesn’t seem to be as sharp as before. Wish me luck! 

Body movement is linked to the mind. Movement moves emotions. 

There’s a type of primal therapy, which encourages the release of suppressed emotions through instincts like screaming, dancing, and movement. 

Primal therapy says, let me run free, like how I was as a child. Even during social distancing we can go into a quiet spot in nature and move our bodies.

Practical use

-Dance, put on some music, loosen up, even if just in your living room.

-Transmute your suppressed emotion into repetitive action, chopping wood, boxing, knitting, sewing.

You’ll find me at home or on the grass dancing, doing cartwheels, stretching, or air boxing while listening to Sia-The Greatest.

Expressive Writing

Last, but not least, my baby, writing. 

Pennebaker, a leading researcher on the healing aspects of journaling and expressive writing, has seen countless results in people who have improved their illness by writing. 

People who write about their traumatic experiences have significant improvements in physical health, immune system function, and their ability to socialize.

In HIV positive, chronic, and fibromyalgia patients the positive effects of writing have shown improvement in CD4 lymphocyte counts. Low lymphocyte counts can indicate infection or illness. Writing has also shown improvements in feelings of anger, pain, lethargy, and depression.

I’ve used journaling most of my life to work through my emotions. I also use it to write my prayers when I feel too distracted to say them out loud. I think it’s kind of neat to have documentation of my life. 

I’ve also had positive experiences in poetry therapy, where I’ve met with other like-minded individuals to analyze, create, read, and express emotions through poetry.

Considerations

Creative expression is beneficial for emotional, and physical health. If you’re feeling discouraged, if you’re out of ideas if you want to feel grounded again, start with creative expression that feels right for you. You’ve had an emotional year, you’re allowed to give yourself a break. 

Given the benefits of healing through creativity, I wonder…

Why isn’t creative therapy a bigger part of health care? 

In the hospital, I’ve noticed creative therapy being used frequently with children. 

What about adults? I have an inkling that we’re not as open with our creative minds. We want a pill for everything. Hey, I get it. If there was an eat-healthy-pill, I’d be interested. 

Many patients come into the hospital for stress-related cardiac or anxiety events. Yes, we treat them with medication, but that doesn’t fix the underlying problem we all have. We’re stressed. 

We need more than a pill, we need a lifestyle change. While we might not be able to change the circumstances looming in the world, perhaps we can incorporate more play in our lives. More healing through creativity.

It’s not easy, especially in the climate of politics, illnesses, and economic strain.

Now, is the best time to heal yourself, as history has shown, we’re going to be faced with different versions of the same events. There’s not always going to be a perfect opportunity.

While creative arts therapy has come a long way, it’s up to us, to not wait, but recognize the importance of these practices in healing.

We can start healing by bringing creating backinto creativity. We can sit in our stillness and start healing ourselves through creative expression. 

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium

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Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):254–263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

We’ve lost the power of healing through mournful songs, dance, and crying out our pain. 
Photo by Lucxama Sylvain on Pexels.com

Crying garners unique yet universal responses from individuals. It can make us uncomfortable. We either want it to stop or to provide comfort. Unlike any other emotion, genuine tears can be quite difficult to control, and almost impossible to fake, it basically says, hey, I need you right now


There we were, at my grandmother’s funeral, 13 of her kids, and several dozen of us grandchildren. 

The priest was trying to complete the reading of his passage- but my one aunt had a moment. I’m not gonna lie it was a little nerve-wracking she poured out her pain through crying and weeping. It kept interrupting the service.

The priest said a few words-she’d cry out.

He’d say some more-she’d wail until she was comforted and gently ushered out by one of her brothers.

I realized that I was holding my breath the entire time, only exhaling a sigh of relief when she sat down, but why?

We were in a safe, comfortable place. I was back home in St.Vincent and this form of expression was more normal than not. People were expressive, you knew if they liked you, you knew if they didn’t, they sang when they were happy, they cried when they were sad without fault.

After the funeral, there was the traditional wake, the celebration of life, filled with singing, dancing, crying, and exorbitant amounts of drinking.

I was uncomfortable because subconsciously I’d told myself that crying- no wailing out loud wasn’t socially acceptable. It made people uncomfortable. It was a feeling I didn’t know how to handle so I thought it should be subdued, that other people should filter their crying.

We’ve lost the art of sharing to our pain, longings, and disappointment through unrestrained expression.

We hold back tears when we want to cry uncontrollably. 

We pretend we’re fine when we want to run into the streets and scream our heads off.

We get angry when we really want to be held and comforted.

We’re all trying to practice socially acceptable behaviour, but we’re killing our natural human instincts.

Crying out is therapeutic, it’s a kind of Primal Therapy, which suggests that some raw behaviours, like screaming, can help us reach repressed emotions, actually releasing and processing them.

Go ahead, find a quiet place in nature, maybe in your car, and scream out the mixed emotions of the year, the frustration of losing a job, having your wedding canceled, not being able to see your friends, that relationship that didn’t work out, the passing of your loved one, and everything in between.

The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.-Arthur Janov

Crying, weeping, and mournful song are the acts that bind us together, that keep us resilient through otherwise unbearable times. 

When we don’t express our pain we create room for mental and physical illness within ourselves.


What’s The Purpose Of Crying?

Crying Soothes Your Pain

Crying is a natural pain killer that we’ve turned into an act of shame. We’ve made it acceptable for women to cry yet an area of emasculation for men.

Crying doesn’t discriminate. It has a self-soothing effect. It helps decrease stress levels, calm distress, and balance our emotions. 

Sometimes our tears seem to shed down without our approval because our bodies know that we need to shed dead ends, that we need to heal.

Allowing ourselves to cry is an act of self-care. It shows our compassion, vulnerability, and strength. It’s our deepest self saying, hey, I know you’re overwhelmed right now but I’m going to take care of you.

Crying Let’s You Know That Something Has To Change

Sometimes you need to breakdown to get your life back.

I was on the tail end of a relationship that ate away at my self-esteem when a big dutty cry came out of nowhere. I prided myself on keeping my shit together for the outside world, especially when it came to work. This day was different, I went to work, as usual, but the moment I stepped into the department it was like the world was in slow motion, the weight of my pain and suppressed emotions buried me. I had to go back home.

I ended taking some personal days to process what was happening. I wasn’t the type of person who let those emotions get to me at work. That was the day I knew something was seriously wrong, that something had to change.

Crying, weeping, wailing out, and uncontrolled tears, let’s you know that something has to change.

Crying Brings Community and Support

Sometimes our tears come down in front of other people unexpectedly because too many of us are crying behind closed doors. Crying is meant to bring support from our community. 

We’ve been crying since birth. It was our primary way of communicating our needs to our parents, as adults, crying is still a behaviour about connection. It’s a survival tool to let others know that we need social support. 

A 2016 study suggests that crying is a survival skill especially for those of us who have a high avoidance attachment style. It’s the style where we suppress our emotions, our need to be seen, heard, and validated. It’s when we are experts at taking care of others but refuse to let others get too close to us for fear of abandonment or getting hurt.

Crying is a defense mechanism against attempts to withdraw ourselves. It physically draws people near to us, to alert them that something is wrong, to garner support, or share in our joy.

Let it Out. Cry. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Hallelujah for the joy, Hallelujah for the joy. Hallelujah for the joy, joy comes in the morning!” 

I grew up hearing, especially the women in my Caribbean community joining hands, clapping, and singing this upbeat song until their collective pain was a little less. Each verse louder, each conviction stronger.

Crying out our pain, weeping, mournful song, and dance, especially in front of others can be uncomfortable but it’s a primal behaviour that helps us release, even process repressed emotions. When we don’t release our pain we create room for mental and physical breakdowns.

Crying helps us to heal, it soothes our pain, it helps us know that something has to change, and it brings community support.

The next time you feel overcome with sad or happy emotion don’t be afraid to pour out your soul for healing through your tears.

xox Thanks for reading, Arlene

Originally published in Carefree Magazine

Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? You may find that the life you’re living isn’t even yours.
Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

You’re struggling with not feeling good enough. Someone told you through their words, actions, or lack thereof that you weren’t enough for them just the way you are, without doing or being anything else- and you believed it.

Feelings of inadequacy are fueled by shame. Shame is uncomfortable. It’s a self-conscious emotion that comes from looking at yourself poorly. It makes you feel anxious, exposed, deceived, and powerless.

Unaddressed feelings of inadequacy create people-pleasing behaviour. This comes at the cost of destroying your core being, who you really are, not the person hidden behind your spouse, gender, or religion.

You were not meant to be invisible. You were meant to enjoy life, add value to it by being yourself, and express your unique personality, talents, and skills.

Women are multidimensional, we are not easily compartmentalized as the world would like to have us seem. We are vines shaped every day by our experiences. We twist, turn, adapt, grow, and continually bloom through different seasons of life. The song lyrics that come to mind when I think of this is Alanis Morissette’s, “ I’m a bitch, I’m a mother, I’m a child, I’m a lover, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.”

Shame is a thief that robs you of power. To disarm shame you have to get to its root, which is almost always the thought of, I’m not good enough.

You must have a defiant spirit that is able to take an ego bruise, yet be your unwavering motivator.

It’s that kick, scream, claw blood, and skin, until you break nails, type of determination.

There are two key concepts in taking your power back when you feel like you’re not good enough.

1. Reject the cycle of shame, and feelings of low self-worth by relentlessly choosing yourself.

Reduce people-pleasing.

Make small choices about what you want to do. Take time, scan your body to figure out what feels right, safe, and authentic. At first, it will go against every fiber of your being. It may bring up feelings of guilt, pain, and loneliness. People in your life might get upset but stick to it.

Exercise the discomfort of repeatedly choosing yourself, knowing you will get through. Choosing yourself is not going to tip you over into some self-absorbed world of no return where you don’t care about other people. Caring is too ingrained in your psyche for that.

Continue to people-please and see how you feel. Hey, why not? Take note of the pain, self-loathing, and resentment you feel afterward. I would convince myself to do just one more favour for someone, even when I was tired or just didn’t feel like it. To be fair, I felt that they were for completely valid reasons- it was for my friends, it was for church, it was for someone uber nice, it was for someone who had nobody else, it was for someone who was sick, and the list goes on.

If continually extending yourself to other people turns you into a bitter, unrecognizable person then you’re living in inauthenticity.

A wise quote says that God loves a cheerful giver, being a cheerful giver comes from being happy with yourself and your life.

2. Stop the spread of shame by having grace, empathy, and self-compassion. You must choose to believe more of the good stories about yourself over the negative ones.

I don’t know about you but when I mess up, my default is to beat myself up. I say you should have known better, how could you let this happen? and the negative self-talk continues. I wouldn’t say these things to my friends, so why do I say it to myself?

It’s hard to have self-compassion when you’re a perfectionist, when you see mistakes as a weakness or when you hold yourself to a high bar.

Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? Most of the time the things we’re doing, the life we’re living have nothing to do with us.

No wonder you’re hard on yourself and unhappy. This isn’t even your life.

Cultivate self-compassion by having grace, by saying more kind words about yourself. Below are some of my favourites, when I’m present enough to remember (eek face), if not you can always remind yourself after the moment.

I’m still learning

I’m in recovery.

This is something I still need to work on, good to know.

This is still a trigger for me so I need extra support.

When thinking you’ve done something “stupid” you don’t even want to hear about compassion. It’s challenging to talk yourself out of negativity, but no one else can do it for you. Each new experience helps you learn triggers and is a reminder that healing work is continual.

We can summarize grace by a quote from Brené Brown, a researcher in shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy, that says,

Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.

Takeaway

We struggle with never feeling good enough when people tell us through their words, actions, or lack thereof that we aren’t enough for them- just the way we are.

These feelings of inadequacy are rooted in shame. If we don’t reject shame it will destroy our core being, robbing the world of our talents, values, and unique personality.

We can take our power back by rejecting shame through…

-relentlessly choosing ourselves,

-having grace, empathy, and self-compassion by believing more of the good stories about ourselves. We also do this through the words we tell ourselves like, I’m still learning.

Lastly, I want us to remember that shame is all around us, it can be overwhelming, daunting, and discouraging, but the most powerful thing we can do is to decide, decide that we are moving forward no matter how slow or how long we take, continue to reject shame.

Originally published on Medium

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