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Sage Soul Navigator: A Therapist's Journey Through Women's Mental Health and Life Transition

March 25th, 2024

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, women face a myriad of biological, physical, and spiritual stressors and life transitions that can significantly impact our mental health. From hormonal fluctuations to childhood traumas, from societal pressures to feelings of inadequacy, the journey of womanhood can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Unfortunately, these struggles often manifest as symptoms of depression or anxiety, leading to potential misdiagnoses and untreated mental health issues. But amidst these struggles, there is hope. As someone who once immersed herself in studying the portrayal of women in religious texts like the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah ( I have a minor in Women's Studies from FAU) and my personal experience navigating these challenges, I intimately understand the toll they can take on one's well-being. Growing up, I sought solace in familiar escapes like Disney movies and the allure of beautiful women on telenovelas and soap operas. Flipping through magazines filled with perfectly edited models seemed harmless entertainment at the time, but I later realized their detrimental effects on my self-esteem.


The pervasive influence of social media and a society that sexualizes women more than ever can exacerbate these pressures. The relentless bombardment of unrealistic beauty standards, perpetuated by all forms of ads, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. However, it's worth noting that the landscape is shifting. Many models today represent a more diverse range of body types and colors, reflecting the beauty of the average American woman rather than the unattainable ideals of the past. Yet, the pressure to conform persists, and as women, we often find ourselves seeking the village that raises us, searching for validation and understanding in a world predominantly governed by men.


In the Gospel of John, there are profound accounts of Jesus demonstrating compassion, empathy, and empowerment towards women, challenging the societal norms of his time. One such poignant story is found in John 8:1-11 (my favorite story), where a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, seeking to trap him with a moral dilemma. Instead of condemning her, Jesus responds with compassion and wisdom, inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone. As the crowd disperses, Jesus shows mercy to the woman, urging her to go and sin no more. This act of grace and forgiveness exemplifies Jesus' profound understanding of human frailty and his willingness to offer second chances.


Additionally, the story of the woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, found in Mark 5:25-34, highlights Jesus' sensitivity to women's pain and his willingness to engage with them directly. Despite societal taboos surrounding menstrual issues and ritual impurity, Jesus responds with compassion and healing, affirming the woman's faith and restoring her to wholeness. Through these encounters and many others, Jesus not only addressed the physical needs of women but also affirmed their dignity, worth, and spiritual value.


As a therapist and woman who has fought off societal expectations and personal struggles, these stories resonate deeply with me. They remind us that regardless of our circumstances or societal labels, we are seen, valued, and loved by a God who understands our pain and offers us grace and redemption. It is through these teachings of compassion, understanding, and empowerment that I have found liberation and a newfound sense of worth, both personally and in my work with others.


Being a seasoned Christian Integrative Counselor, I encourage women to challenge these societal norms and redefine their worth beyond superficial standards. In a world where women are often judged by unrealistic beauty ideals and societal expectations, it's crucial to recognize our inherent value beyond these narrow confines.


As women, we have the power to challenge societal norms, reject harmful stereotypes, and embrace our true worth as individuals beloved by a God who sees us as we are. Let us draw inspiration from the stories of women in scripture and seek to embody the same compassion, courage, and resilience in our own lives.


So, how can we, as women, protect our mental health in a holistic manner, drawing strength from both within and without?


Checklist for Women's Mental Health:


1. Embrace Self-Compassion: Recognize that it's okay not to be perfect and show yourself the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend.


2. Prioritize Self-Care: Nurture your mind, body, and spirit through practices such as mindfulness, exercise, healthy eating, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.


3. Seek Support: Embrace the strength in seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals during challenging times. Consider finding a mental health counselor who specializes in women's issues, someone who understands the unique struggles and experiences that we face. Websites like Psychology Today offer a convenient platform where you can specify your preferences, including your location, insurance coverage, and specific needs, to find a qualified clinical therapist who can provide the guidance and support you need. As a therapist who is passionate about empowering women, I encourage you to take that first step toward healing and self-discovery.


4. Set Boundaries: Cultivate the ability to confidently say no to commitments or relationships that deplete your energy and compromise your well-being. Prioritize your own needs by establishing healthy boundaries that safeguard your mental and emotional health. Recognize the impact of negative influences, including social media and other sources of toxicity, which can subtly erode your inner peace and vitality. Practice the art of disconnecting from these harmful inputs to preserve the sanctity of your soul and nurture a sense of inner balance and serenity.


5. Challenge Negative Thoughts: Practice cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge negative thought patterns and cultivate a more positive and empowering mindset. Here are some examples of cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge negative thoughts:

  • Identify and Label: Start by identifying the negative thought and labeling it as such. Recognize when you're engaging in self-critical or pessimistic thinking.

  • Question Evidence: Challenge the evidence supporting the negative thought. Ask yourself if there are any facts or evidence that contradict or challenge the validity of the thought.

  • Consider Alternatives: Explore alternative explanations or interpretations of the situation. Is there a different, more balanced way to view the situation that takes into account other perspectives or factors?

  • Reality Testing: Test the accuracy of the negative thought by examining past experiences or seeking feedback from others. Are there instances where the thought has been disproven or situations where it doesn't hold true?

  • Reframe and Refocus: Reframe the negative thought into a more realistic or positive statement. Replace self-defeating thoughts with affirmations or statements that promote self-confidence and empowerment.

By practicing these cognitive-behavioral techniques, you can challenge negative thought patterns and cultivate a more positive and empowering mindset.


6. Connect with Community: Surround yourself with supportive and uplifting communities of women who genuinely understand and validate your experiences. Seek out connections that nurture your growth and well-being, steering clear of toxic influences such as self-help books or social media content that promotes selfishness and unhealthy habits. I recall encountering advice from sources that advocated for rash decisions, like leaving a spouse or prioritizing personal desires without considering the broader implications. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a circle of friends who share my faith and offer unconditional love and support. These individuals have been instrumental in speaking truth into my life in a holistic manner, providing accountability and guidance. It's crucial to recognize the importance of accountability in navigating life's challenges, as our hearts can often deceive us, leading to hurtful decisions stemming from unresolved wounds or unhealthy coping mechanisms learned from our upbringing. By surrounding ourselves with a community that fosters growth, empathy, and wisdom, we can embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery with confidence and resilience.


7. Spiritual Nourishment: Find solace in your spiritual beliefs and practices, whether it's through prayer, meditation, or connecting with the natural world around you. Embrace the understanding that as natural-born women, our biology mirrors the cycles of nature, akin to experiencing four seasons in a month through our monthly cycle. Let go of any shame associated with these natural processes, recognizing that menopause is our second puberty, marking a transformative phase of life. Our wrinkles and grays are not signs of decline but symbols of wisdom, resilience, and strength. In a world where charm and beauty are often fleeting, it's important to remember that true beauty lies in the depth of our character and the richness of our experiences. For centuries, the wise gray-haired woman was revered across cultures, embodying a profound sense of knowledge and insight. Together, let us reclaim this reverence and celebrate the beauty of aging with grace and dignity.


8. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about mental health issues, recognize the signs and symptoms, and advocate for your own well-being. Here are some steps:

  • Research: Take the initiative to research various mental health conditions, their symptoms, and their impacts on individuals' lives. Use reputable sources such as books, academic articles, and credible websites.

  • Attend Workshops and Seminars: Attend workshops, seminars, or webinars on mental health topics to deepen your understanding and gain insights from experts in the field.

  • Online Courses: Enroll in online courses related to mental health, psychology, or self-care. Many platforms offer courses taught by professionals that cover a wide range of topics.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consider consulting with mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, to gain personalized insights and guidance on specific mental health concerns.

  • Join Support Groups: Joining support groups for individuals with similar mental health experiences can provide valuable information, shared experiences, and emotional support.

  • Read Personal Accounts: Read memoirs or personal accounts written by individuals who have struggled with mental health issues. These narratives can offer unique perspectives and insights into the lived experience of mental illness.

  • Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date on current events, research findings, and advancements in the mental health field through reputable sources such as scientific journals, news articles, and online platforms.

  • Advocate for Yourself: Be proactive in advocating for your own well-being by communicating your needs and concerns to healthcare providers, seeking appropriate treatment and support, and actively participating in your own mental health care.


9. Prioritize Physical Health: Here's a concise list on how to prioritize physical health:

  • Schedule Regular Check-ups: Make it a priority to schedule routine check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your physical well-being and address any health concerns proactively.

  • Consider Comprehensive Bloodwork: Consider getting comprehensive bloodwork done to assess for any deficiencies or imbalances in nutrients, which can have a significant impact on your overall health and well-being.

  • Mind Environmental Factors: Be mindful of the impact of environmental factors such as microplastics and harmful skincare ingredients on your health. Take steps to minimize exposure and opt for natural, non-toxic alternatives whenever possible.

  • Seek Second Opinions: If you receive a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment, always consider seeking a second opinion from another healthcare provider to ensure a thorough evaluation and explore all available options for your care.


10. Question Cultural Expectations: Dare to challenge societal norms and cultural pressures that enforce unrealistic standards, including the expectation to embody the flawless image of the "perfect Christian woman" depicted in Proverbs 31. Understand that the pursuit of perfection is a fruitless endeavor and does not define your true worth. It's crucial to acknowledge that being a superwoman, with an immaculate home, thriving career, and picture-perfect family, is an unattainable standard that often leads to feelings of inadequacy and burnout. As someone who once fought with these expectations upon embracing Christianity, particularly the notion of submission to my husband as a marker of virtue, I understand the internal conflict and pressure to prioritize others' needs above my own. It's vital to recognize that practicing self-care is not selfish but essential for maintaining your well-being and vitality. Let us challenge these outdated beliefs and embrace a more balanced and compassionate approach to living our lives authentically and unapologetically.


Taking care of your mental health is a journey, and it's essential to prioritize yourself and seek the support you need along the way. You are worthy of love, care, and understanding.


Remember, dear sisters, you are not alone in your struggles. By embracing a holistic approach to mental health and drawing inspiration from the teachings of Jesus and other empowering figures, we can navigate through life's challenges with grace, resilience, and a renewed sense of purpose.


May we all find the courage to prioritize our mental health and walk confidently, knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.



Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.


In closing, I'd like to share a poem that I penned back in September 2022, shortly after I made the decision to shave my head. Suppose you're curious about the motivation behind this bold move. In that case, you can delve deeper into the subject in my forthcoming poetry collection, "Anima Resuscitation," which I hope will be released later this year.


Femininity Cocoon

 

A second puberty of the feminine.

Punished by a society of gentlemen. 

Staying skinny as a skeleton.

As we continue losing estrogen.


Westernization of the womanizer. 

Believing the lying advertiser.

In the palm of the colonizer.

While we become the equalizer.


Urging! Purging!


Fighting to be securely respected.

While our parts are being dissected. 

Little girls are disgustingly subjected. 

Pornography and trafficking infected.


Five decades of the feminine road.

Trying to figure out the Biblical code.

Cocooned in Jesus’s episode.

As we deal with the overload.


Surging!Emerging!


On a road of soulful dreams.

Where menopause is esteemed.

Where periods are not unclean.

Not our body, but brains are seen.


Chrysalis becoming deeper.

Transform us into new creatures.

Silencing the oppressive preachers.

Wings drying to fly as radiant teachers.


Daughters of the King!


Merging!Disturbing!


The status quo.

 

Our Father who art in heaven, Source of Harmony and Grace,

As we come before you in prayer, we seek your guidance and wisdom to see ourselves as you intended. You crafted women with exquisite beauty, grace, and an inner strength that knows no bounds. Yet, in a world tainted by distortion and inequality, help us to align with your vision for us. Grant us the clarity to discern your pure and righteous ways amidst the noise of the world. May we embrace the truth that we are made in your image, a reflection of your divine love and purpose. Let this truth resonate deeply within our minds, bodies, and spirits, empowering us to walk confidently in the path you have set before us.

In the name of Jesus, our guiding light and example, we surrender our hearts to your will. May your presence fill us with peace, courage, and unwavering faith as we navigate life's journey. Amen.


In Service, Faith, Hope and Love,

Diana


PS Please listen to my new podcast, The Holistic Counselor, to learn more about mental wellness.


And now for the disclaimer to make sure you understand that YOU are responsible for YOU:

Disclaimer: The content provided on "Liberation Lunes" is for entertainment and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. The views expressed on this blog are my personal opinions and do not represent the views of any professional organizations I am affiliated with. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, 911, or 988 immediately. "Liberation Lunes" does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the blog. Reliance on any information provided by "Liberation Lunes," others appearing on the blog at the invitation of "Liberation Lunes," or other visitors to the blog is solely at your own risk.

Confidentiality Notice: If you choose to engage with "Liberation Lunes" by commenting or posting and you are a client, please be aware that you may be revealing information that could compromise your confidentiality. Remember that disclosure of your identity or personal details can potentially be linked back to your clinical material. As a therapist, I am bound by confidentiality and will not respond to any disclosures of this nature on this blog. I am committed to upholding the ethics and confidentiality of the therapeutic relationship, which extends to all forms of communication in accordance with the laws and professional guidelines that govern mental health professionals. Your privacy is of utmost importance, and it is your responsibility to protect it when interacting on this platform or any other public forum.




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