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Hello. Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Like National Get Funky Day (October 5) or National Nothing Day (January 16) the holiday isn't federally recognized but we have some ideas on how you can celebrate regardless:

1. Take a random day (or two, maybe four) off for some well-deserved self-care time.

2. Consider donating to our friends at Open Path Collective who provide affordable and, most importantly, *real* therapy to clients.

3. Encourage your friends, colleagues, family, or maybe even your colleague's family to join us here at MentallyWhere 🤙 Since the holiday is in May, if you refer 5 people we'll send you brand new MentallyWhere stickers. Shoot us an email with the five names and your address to get them! All are welcome.


MentallyWhere will see you now 🧠

"In the pit from Parks and Recreation."
@kelsnicoleleverett

Where are you mentally? Reply to this email or to be featured.ASA

Inspired by conversations with therapists, informed by research

The Bad Business Of Toxic Positivity 

 

With ~Good Vibes Only~ and *No Bad Days* mantras splashed across the feeds of Instagram influencers, repped on Urban Outfitters’ home decor, slapped on Etsy-sold shirts, and even assumed by the uniform shoe of frat boys across the country—suppressing our feelings has never been so trendy. Or profitable. 

The messaging to look on the bright side or stay strong no matter how bleak the situation is, “has been in our culture forever as a means to avoid difficult emotions,” explains licensed social worker Jaime Castillo. More recently, however, this problematic mindset has animorphed into new-age wellness culture that takes positive thinking to an overgeneralized extreme.

Freshly identified as “Toxic Positivity” Castillo categorizes the mentality as one that demands that we live in a constant state of gratitude despite the very real and—to use a clinical term—shitty (ˈSHidē) experiences and feelings we’ll all go through as humans residing on this planet. 

“There’s real research on the impact of optimism and engaging in gratitude,” says Castillo, “but brushing over the reality of painful experiences and forcing yourself or someone else to just ‘choose happiness’ in these moments denies our humanness.”

If we or someone we know experiences a loss, whether it be losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a breakup, or re-cracking your phone screen mere days after getting it fixed, insisting that ‘happiness is choice,’ and to ‘just stay positive’ adds a layer of guilt and shame to an already tough ordeal.

It suggests that if you aren't finding a way to ✨ look on the bright side ✨, even in the face of calamity, that you’re doing something wrong, not trying hard enough to be positive, and that your authentic feelings aren’t valid.

Reframe

Castillo suggests some anecdotes to toxic positivity:

1. Accept reality for what it is.

If you’re dealing with a stressful, scary, or heartbreaking situation, remember that *plot twist* it is normal to feel stressed, scared, or heartbroken. Really check in with where you are, and remind yourself it is okay to feel this way instead of hiding behind Live Laugh Love-esque quotes. Often people who assert inflated positivity do so because they’re uncomfortable with their own emotions. However, embracing reality, being okay with not being okay and sitting with uneasy emotions is what will actually help you move forward and be able to start to problem-solve.

2. Remember that emotions ebb and flow.

“Emotions are fleeting,” stresses Castillo. “They don’t last forever. They’re meant to come up to the surface then go on their way.” Keeping in mind that you won’t “get stuck” on a so-called negative emotion will make it less tempting to cling to positivity like Real Housewives to their Bravo contracts. Know that it is also okay to feel more than one feeling at once. It’s possible to feel anxious or sad but still optimistic for the future.

3. Question the messaging.

The ~Good Vibes Only~ ethos (it’s potentially impossible to write this without the help of the eñe symbol) puts a disproportionate emphasis on personal responsibility that doesn’t quite track. “Toxic positivity suggests that if you just work harder, pull yourself up by your bootstraps—you’ll unlock the key to happiness,” says Castillo. “It implies that if you can’t there is an error in your thinking, you’re not really trying, or simply standing in your own way all without addressing the chemical or systematic forces at play that create real barriers for people’s mental health.”

Positive thinking touted via workshops, masterclasses and Instagram accounts as a quick fix to your mindset, “is something that sells, is extremely enticing but doesn’t tell the full story,” surmises Castillo.

Flip The Script

Interpersonally, toxic positivity can occur when a well-intentioned person has no idea what to say in response to someone’s struggles. If this sounds familiar we got you covered:

Chart Note

What We'd Rather Hear: This Vs That

  • Instead of  "things could be worse" say "that sounds really hard."
     
  • Instead of "everything happens for a reason" say "how can I help?"
     
  • Instead of "just be grateful" say "I'm here for you no matter what."
     
  • Instead of "stay positive" say "your feelings are valid."
     
Or simply listen, validate, repeat. The official new live, laugh, love. You heard it here first.

How Do I Not Feel So Completely Lost In My Career?





Dr. Danielle Hairston, President of the American Psychiatric Association’s Black Caucus, answers questions, large and small, from MentallyWhere’s community members. Want to have your question answered? Drop Dr. Dani a message.

Dear Doctor Dani,

I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to my career. Currently, I’m at a job where I make good money but have no ambition to rise to the top of the company and have a hard time imagining that this is what I’ll be doing for almost the rest of my life to support myself. I don’t know, however, if another type of job that would make me feel fulfilled even exists so I feel completely lost. What can I do to move forward?

Lost and Insecure (You Found Me 🎶), 28
Los Angeles 

Dear Lost and Insecure,

It’s time to have a conversation with yourself: What motivates you? More importantly, ask yourself what are you passionate about? You'll have to be honest with yourself before anything else. Why don’t you want to move up? Why are you feeling stuck? This will help you to understand where you are and how to strategize moving forward. 

I always think of people who change careers mid-life, take “non-traditional” routes, and start their own businesses as incredibly courageous and inspirational. If your current job fulfills your financial needs but doesn’t feed your motivation, is there something that you can explore on the side? Maybe pick up something during your free time that you haven’t had time to or been scared to try. You might find that you’re interested and can be successful in something else. 

Alternatively, start looking at job listings. See what else is out there. There is no rule that you have to stay in one job, position, or even one sector. Search for roles and apply with confidence for what looks intriguing. You may find something better or you may be able to bring this offer back to your current job for leverage. This helps you to know your value. That said, you can’t figure all this out without thinking about what really drives you. You can apply for a job that you think you're qualified for and if you get the interview, you can at least see what it’s about. Explore. You owe it to yourself. Life is too short to be stuck in an unfilling job. 

Let me add that there is an element of privilege, here. This is assuming that you have the financial security to try something else or walk away from a job. This is not the situation for everyone who may be reading.

The algorithm gets us

@mentallywhere (we got originals nows 😏)

Mental health in the news

Mental Health Is Health: A recently published report reveals that (we hope you're sitting down) Americans are not getting the mental health treatment they need. "Rates of anxiety and depression reported by patients went up and yet the ability to access mental health services actually went down," says Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, the chief health officer of Anthem, the company that released the report. 

Trans Rights: A new study adds to a growing body of evidence that gender-affirming surgery for trans and gender-diverse people is linked to better mental health. “Policies that limit access to care can put lives at risk," says the study's lead author Anthony Almazan. "Our evidence shows we should be expanding gender-affirming care, not limiting it.”
 
The (Not Always) Good Place: Stars — They Have Crippling Mental Health Moments Just Like Us! In a recent interview, actress Kristen Bell opens up about how she has struggled with anxiety and depression during the pandemic. She gets candid about how antidepressants are part of her self-care routine, fighting her knee-jerk desire to present perfection and why #relationshipgoals is never what it seems. 

Products We (Actually) Love

Making our homes (which can include almost ironically small studio apartments) as comfortable and cozy as possible can aid our mental health. Here are some ways to listen to *science* and make your place less Roseanne and more Sex and the City. 

1. Candles by Stone Candles. From scented pillar candles, crystal bowls, and liquid tea candles, Stone offers some of the chicest and most unique candles out there. Hand-made in Santa Monica by a second-generation candlemaker, the ethically designed pieces are 10 percent off with the code MentallyWhere10.* (Because self-care is also saving a bit of money.)

2. Plants from Bloomscape. 🎶 Greens green and nothing but green! If you're an aspiring plant mom or want to add to your already questionably large collection Bloomscape is a cool company that offers all types of greenery and even delivers to your door. 

3. Home decor by The Citizenry. The Citizenry has some of the most beautiful and interesting pieces out there from rugs, pillows, blankets and bedding. All of their pieces are hand-made and sourced from local artisans. They're also not insanely expensive! We love to see it. 

Things To Know Before You Go

Quick Tip: Remember that your feelings aren't the problem but how you judge them may create problems.

Quote: "I do not believe that we were put onto this earth to relieve others of their own discomfort when it requires us to move into our own." Vienna Pharon, LMFT. 

Listen: To Ben Platt sing "Vienna" if you want to feel some type of way about growing up (':

Look: At this picture of our founder's dog as a puppy. 

Play: Three of the choices below are types of SSRIs (aka antidepressants) and one is an ingredient found in Mountain Dew. Dew (lol) you know which is which?

                    A. Escitalopram

                    B. Fluoxetine 

                    C. Sertraline

                    D. Benzoate

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Answer: D. 
Otherwise known as Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft, respectively. 

*Though MentallyWhere’s content is guided and reviewed by licensed professionals, it is strictly informational and should not serve as a substitution for medical treatment. We openly acknowledge the limitations that come from sharing therapeutic content as it may not always apply or speak to your unique situation in a comprehensive way. You should always seek the counsel of medical, mental health, and other clinical professionals if you are treating a condition. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.

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