Beliefs aren’t set in stone. You have the power to choose, change, or reject them. Beliefs become our reality.

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You’ve heard time and time again that nice girls finish last in society.

Society normalizes a plethora of habits that don’t make any sense: debt, foods that make you sick, and only two weeks vacation- ugh.

It becomes discouraging to stand your ground when everyone seems to hold some contempt toward how you show up.

People say nice girls finish last because they think you’re weak, that you live in a place of naivety, and victimhood. I mean, not saying you haven’t been there, but now you’re over it.

You don’t have to stop being a nice girl. You need to clarify your beliefs.

Step away from the chaos, the noise of life. Take time to sit in silence, to really think about what’s important to you.

Being a nice girl is censoring yourself to make sure you come across perfectly lovely, without offending anyone. You want to be liked. You don’t do drama. No arguments, speaking your mind, or clashes. Your signature meme is, positive vibes onlyConflict causes extreme anxiety.

Being nice is based on the thought that if you please others, behave, keep quiet, smile, and nod, then people will accept you.

A belief is having trust, dependence, and confidence in someone or something. Beliefs stem from what you’ve heard about yourself and your world since childhood. This may have come from your environment, learned knowledge, behaviors, past experiences, and imagination.

Beliefs aren’t set in stone. You have the power to choose, change, or reject them. Beliefs become our reality.

When you clarify your beliefs you start to live your life, not other people’s. You start to heal from past trauma. You start to take responsibility for your emotions not everyone else’s. You start to create boundaries.

As a child, you didn’t have much choice about what to believe. Your thought patterns have unconsciously shaped your whole life, until now.

Nice girls have been internally wired to think:

I’m not good enough just the way I am, without doing and giving or being someone else.

Disagreements are unsafe. If I engage in conflict I will get physically, or emotionally hurt.

If I voice my opinions I might get yelled at, shut down, talked-over, shamed, rejected, or have love withdrawn.

I’m responsible for other people’s emotions and making them feel comfortable.

Choosing myself, jealousy, anger, sexual expression, and other emotions I think are negative makes me a lousy person.

The opposite of nice is nasty- someone who is unkind, and unpleasant. You don’t have to become these things to set boundaries.

I guarantee someone’s going through a similar experience, with similar thoughts as you. You’re not alone in your aspirations, fears, and struggles.

Instead of having confidence in what others say and believe, find the courage to create new beliefs about yourself. You’re the best person to decide what you want.

How do you do this? By working on creating new thoughts about yourself.

Take a pause from everyone who has a direct influence on you. Your family, religion, friends, and traditions. Differentiate your beliefs from theirs. You will either strengthen old beliefs or explore new ones.

Get comfortable with feeling dread, shame, or mortified about your bad thoughts. They’re normal. What matters is if you keep them or not.

You were groomed to act perfect but that’s a lie. We are imperfect humans, we are complex, yet still deserving of love. Feeling uncomfortable challenges you and clarifies your values.

I believe I can fly.

Here’s how to create new thoughts:

1. Ask, “What types of beliefs do I want to have?”

Do you like having thoughts that emphasize not being good enough and shame? What ideas would you like to have instead and why? Maybe you want to support concepts about self-love because that’s when you feel your most relaxed and creative.

Sometimes self-affirmations don’t work because at the core you haven’t changed your beliefs.

Affirmations can feel forced. Your beliefs should feel authentic, like a sense of knowing.

Here are some prompts to get to the core of new beliefs.

What ideas did I grow up believing to be true?

Do I still agree with them? Why or why not?

What are some new ideas I want to create about myself? Why is it important?

What happens to my mental and physical health if I keep holding on to negative thoughts about myself?

How has holding on to these concepts kept me safe?

What am I thankful for about being a nice girl?

What happens if I don’t have beliefs that I feel aligned with?

What’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t agree with the beliefs of my childhood? Am I alright with that? What support do I need?

These questions are the stepping stones to understanding your values.

2. Download your emotions, check for viruses

Trying to sort through emotions can be overwhelming. There’s no rush.

You’re processing other people’s feelings and have a hard time sorting through your own. Download an emotions list to explore exactly how you feel. Expanding your emotional range can give more insight into behavioral patterns and triggers. Journaling is a practical exercise to work through this.

You may need to practice expressing how you feel because for so long your emotions have been shut down and invalidated. People pooh-pooh you for speaking too soft or being too emotional. Understanding your emotions gives you better identification about who or what pushes you over the edge.

3. Well this is uncomfortable… and I love it.

Expose yourself to small doses of being uncomfortable. Expect this to happen, you haven’t built up a resilience to emotional pain. Processing emotion is about:

Allowing yourself to feel all emotions, not just the good ones.

Creating compassion by saying phrases like, “I’m still learning, silly me!” or “I overreacted,” creating a lighter attitude about relapses instead of beating yourself up.

Not taking it personally. Emotions are like your period. They’re expected. Sometimes they come easy, other times they’re a pain in your side; they’re messy.

Acknowledge that you have a nice side and a dark side, you need both.

Exposing yourself to discomfort allows you to differentiate between unease about things you don’t value versus unease about things you value but aren’t used to, like expressing thoughts, opinions, or boundaries.

Project your voice, hold your head up, speak your piece.

Another new normal.

Once you gain clarity about your beliefs set boundaries around them.

The old nice girl believed that she wasn’t good enough. She let her partners call her rude names, speak down to her, even hit her because she thought it was her fault. She thought she couldn’t do better. She didn’t have enough examples of what safe people looked like.

The new nice girl vocalizes her stance. She says, “If this doesn’t stop I’m leaving.” More importantly, she believes that she can find love in a million other places.She makes it her priority to love herself first then surrounds herself with people who treat her with respect.

The nice girl with clarified beliefs thinks:

I can accept or reject the thoughts that come my way. I choose to believe positive thoughts about myself.

I make decisions that support my best mental, physical and emotional health.

I don’t have to hold on to my childhood beliefs. I may be met with resistance, especially from my family, but I’m able to stand it.

She treats others with respect and kindness but she doesn’t allow herself to be belittled or used until she is burnt out.

She sorts through and manages her emotions effectively. This helps her reduce stress, empathize with others, communicate better, and resolve conflicts.

She is self-aware.

She uses the tools at her disposal such as journaling, healing through creative dance, writing, drawing, and music. She listens to her body and takes rest when necessary.

Final Thoughts.

You don’t have to stop being a nice girl you need to clarify your beliefs so you can live your life, not someone else’s. This means you can share your gifts, talent, and authenticity with others. This means you are no longer taking on the emotions of others but managing your own.

You can design the life you want.

Arlene

Originally published on Medium

Stressful events inspire you to change your appearance

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Leave Britney alone.


In 2007, Britney Spears walked into a salon and shaved her head. It’s said that she suffered a mental breakdown after being denied access to her children.


This was her outcry.


Rebecca Newman, a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist says, “When we’re going through a period of transition that is particularly painful we tend to make decisions that provide immediate relief”. We want to free ourselves from intense emotions. Newman says that changing our physical appearance can feel like shedding a layer of skin which makes us feel better.
It’s normal to go through physical change after stressful experiences. It’s “an effort to construct a particular kind of self,” explains researcher Kiecolt. This may include changing your image to match who you’d like- or need- to be.


Hair is often seen as a symbol of beauty for women. Deciding whether or not to cut your hair, therefore, is an act of vulnerability. It’s the risk of being exposed.


I cut my hair in quarantine, in the summer of 2020. I’d been thinking about it for months. A roller coaster of changes was happening. I’d decided to mentally undo childhood programming. I’d lost relationships with friends and family.
Almost everyone told me not to.

My brother said, “Don’t do it. Guys like girls with long hair.”


A close friend said, “Don’t do it. Black people’s hair doesn’t grow like that.” She was battling with her own hair growth at the time.


My parents were over it at this point.


Despite all of the concerned comments, those dead ends needed to go. So often we hang on them out of fear. They keep us broken and stunt growth. I needed to reclaim my self-worth and create a more powerful version of myself.


Cutting your hair requires confidence. It’s knowing that, even if you absolutely hate it, you’ll be okay. It doesn’t change your worth.



Before cutting my hair, I researched my Kibbie style. Kibbie uses the natural lines and angles of your body along with balancing your masculine and feminine features to pinpoint the hairstyle, clothing, and makeup that suits you best- not what the next trend says you should wear.


After finding my Kibbie style (which referenced Halle Berry, heyyyy!), I showed my hairdresser the hairstyles I liked. She cut my tresses into a short, sultry ‘do.
Guess what? Everybody loved it. My brother, my friend, strangers, and most importantly me.
I had faced my fears and it had given me a renewed sense of bravery, confidence, and attitude.

If you feel the urge to cut your hair but are still absolutely terrified, test it out. There can be so much taboo around natural vs. fake hair, but we forget that hair is also a form of expression. Don’t be afraid to rock a wig or get a weave to see how you’ll look.

You can also release this emotional weight in other ways, such as:

  • Changing your wardrobe
  • Getting rid of clutter
  • Changing your makeup style
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Going skinny dipping

Whatever you decide, change is coming.

Final thoughts

You’re at a turbulent emotional and mental period of your life. Surround yourself with the support you need. Whether it’s therapy, friends, prayer or writing, recognize the signs of emotional overwhelm and change your environment. Reach out to someone who is responsive and compassionate to your needs and rock that hair!

Thanks for reading,

Originally published on Medium

~Arlene~

Creative therapies have been linked to decreased anxiety, depression, stress levels, increased immunity, self-worth, and social identity.
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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

Find more of me here


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

Thirties are the new twenties as it’s commonly stated. Ambitious women are stressed out in their careers, delaying family planning, or even opting out all together.These women appear to have it all under control in the face of being influencers, travellers, entrepreneurs, and health gurus. In reality they may be dealing with secret mental health dilemmas. Let’s elaborate.



1. Job Stress and Dissatisfaction

It’s not necessarily that you don’t want to work. On the contrary you see work as a crucial part of your identity. The aspect that brings dissatisfaction, is not being able impact people in a meaningful way.

It’s the everyday coordination, politics, and need to actually make a living from your profession that create feelings of frustration. Inwardly you want to provide services to your client in a way that improves their quality of life. This causes distress because most of your time is spent at work, if you can’t make a difference in your job, then besides the money, why are you really working?

2. Loss of Close Friends

You start to evaluate your relationships, even with your closest friends and family. Your earlier years were about discovering who you are and creating new experiences. Friends and family may still see you in this state. Which makes it difficult for them to accept your new ideals and opinions about life. Childhood friendships may have organically run their course leaving you feeling hurt and perplexed, wondering “what just happened?”.

Don’t be alarmed, these things happen. Reasons include needing to distance yourself from anyone who consistently stunts your personal growth, leaves you feeling emotionally drained, or fuels negative thoughts. Anxiety arises with thought of having to develop close connections as an adult. We often tend to be untrusting, fearful, defensive, and skeptical about people, thus limiting our experience.

3. Toxic and Unfulfilling Relationships

You’ve been in your relationship for years, too embarrassed to quit now after all the time you’ve put in, to be honest you’re not even sure you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. Is this it? You know your partner is low-key or high-key verbally and emotionally abusive, neglectful, selfish, and also don’t know what they want.

Why does being in your thirties make it any different? The difference is, you feel that you should have it figure out by now. In your twenties you would just drop them like it’s hot (even though it’s not) and move on. In your 40’s and 50’s you may do the same thing but for a different reason; you’re more accepting of yourself and have already made it this far, so why not?

The thought of having to discarding what’s already so familiar while not knowing what’s ahead is annoying and unbearable. You may also have a case of Stockholm syndrome, making it increasingly difficult to leave.

4. Realizing Your Family Doesn’t Know Everything

To a certain extent you are patterned and conditioned  by your programming. You may do certain things not knowing why. Your parents may have done things not knowing why. Attempting to shift this paradigm may cause some tension.

It’s the moment you realize your anxiety was triggered by Aunt Sofie’s offhanded comment. Perhaps your sister is selfish, or your grandmother is a narcissist. This can lead to mind racing questions like “what does this mean about me?”

Your identity and beliefs can come into question. Realize that your parents and siblings are also dealing with feelings of hurt and trauma, so their opinions are not unbiased. It’s important to maintain an accurate view of yourself by continued work on emotional intelligence.

5. Pressure to Reach Developmental Milestones

You may be single being pressured into getting married, you may be common-law being pressured into getting married, you may be married being pressured into having children, or you may be married and unable to conceive children .

Whatever stage you are in, according to Ericksons developmental theory, the developmental milestone for this age range is  Intimacy vs Isolation. Although the theory doesn’t specify a romantic relationship. It does refer to creating meaningful relationships with someone other than a family member. The inability to achieve this, coupled with infertility and pregnancy.may increase the risk of depression.

Successful completion of this stage can result in happy relationships and a sense of commitment, safety, and care within a relationship. Avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes depression. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of love.

6. Body Changes

This is the time where you may notice your first grey hair, frequent backaches, a decrease in healing time, or difficulty with weight loss. These violations to your body can cause feelings of frustration if they are tied to your self-worth. Do you associate gaining weight with being less desirable? Or a decrease in strength and flexibility with the inability to participate in social activities?

The reassuring news is that although there are changes to your body, there is also an increase of wisdom and growth to your mind. You can be in optimum health and wellness. It first starts with choice.

Are there any additional  dilemmas you have dealt with or heard of? Let me know in the comments below.


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xox,  A