Haydée Souffrant is the author of Sixty Inches From Center’s newest column, A Brown Girl’s Guide to Thriving in the Struggle, where artists can reach out for advice about keeping centered and healthy. So when Kid Cudi surprised his fans by declaring his struggles with anxiety and depression and the actions he was taking to address them, she was inspired to write this brief piece on the importance of putting your wellness first and how easy it is to forget that, even if—especially if—you seem to be living your dream.
So please read, enjoy, and take care of yourself.
I was working at my standing desk recently (let’s be real, I spend more time sitting at my standing desk), and was click-click-clicking away having just finished rushing through my lunch trying to “multitask” to get work done. And then that feeling happened. My stomach got tight—the kind of tight that happens when you stop really breathing into your diaphragm. But you may not even know how you breathe. Soon after, there was that rush of intense worrying and fretting about EVERYTHING. And everyone. Both people I knew and people I don’t. This can happen at any the time, energy healer or not. This happens especially when you aren’t in your self care routine because you got too busy doing this project at work, that project for school, that project for your freelance clients, or all of them at once. Which was when I finally realized I was having anxiety attack.
And here I was thinking it was just indigestion.
I love the work that I do, and most people in the arts world do (or else why would we do this creative work?). From interning at arts non-profits, to getting my first freelance gigs (i.e. giving away my services for free.99 cause that’s an all-too-real experience), to paid opportunities in theater and different visual/performance fields, to working full time as an arts administrator, I was constantly doing some project on top of my work. I never gave myself to the opportunity to realize the idea that, more times than not, working in the arts administrative field can lead to more than just a busy schedule, but a busy mind—in other words, anxiety. And if you’re interested to learn about types of anxiety, check out The Mighty’s beautiful archive on anxiety.
If you hadn’t heard, Kidi Cudi made a very public statement about his struggles with #MentalWellness, and even more so, BLACK Mental Wellness. As an artist or arts worker of color in this field, it’s sometimes easy to lose touch of when you’re losing touch with your center, your home place. And sometimes you’ll be knee-deep in recognizing that you’ve been living in your anxiety before figuring out how to get [re]grounded. Or recognizing that tender fear that if you slow down, you’ll lose everything you’ve worked your ass off to get. Or as Kid Cudi wrote: “Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I’ve been living a lie.”
So what do you? When as a POC in the arts, you’re looking anxiety—whether from your workload, projects, personal life, all the above—full on in the mouth, not wanting to “fail” at your work or existence. Especially coping with the videos and news feeds of police brutality, prison industrial complex and wanting, needing to discuss it?
Go outside. Check in with someone. Take care of yourself.
I’m quite serious about it. I had to physically leave my office to remember what the sun felt like radiating in my back. Between grad school, work and projects, I forgot how in some ways, feeding my growing arts career can lead me to forget to just enjoy the moments I’m in. But there are reminders. Family, your crew, pets, family, Netflix, bubble baths you name it. Hopefully, some of these quick and dirty self care practices help bring you back to center (whether you have only 10 minutes before your next meeting or a whole night to yourself):
- Hug yourself or someone else. I mean someone that you like, I mean come on now. Studies are proving that hugging not only builds compassion (and we can all use more self compassion), but touch is key in bringing down stress levels, heart rate, and decrease anger and anxiety.
- Go Outside. Going outside to at least BREATHE in new air helps bring the mind to focus. Go for a walk, or just look up at the clouds rolling by.
- Hydrate. You will be surprised at what water can do to change your brain. When we get anxious, it’s sometimes due to our brain being dehydrated, so regulating balanced thoughts gets rough.
- Don’t do anything. For ten minutes. Don’t open your email, check your phone, hop onto Facebook, think about where you need to be. Just sit, and just be with yourself.
- Write a letter to yourself. Take five to ten minutes (or however long you want) to write a letter to love and care to yourself. Write about how well you did on that presentation, or appreciate the compliment someone gave you. Or write about how awesome you are. Because that’s truth.
It wasn’t until I was outside of my office for more than 10 minutes that I was hit with something powerful. Just because you love your career and are passionate as hell to see it thrive, doesn’t mean that you need to forgot to chill too, b. Take care of yourself. Acknowledge when you’re carrying anxiety. Learn how to accept it to work with it and slowly build your toolkit for staying grounded. It’ll take time so take YOUR time. And witnessing Kid Cudi, whose songs make more sense now than ever about seeking out a place to rest and recoup was just was every one of us needed.
Stay on that pursuit of happiness ya’ll.
Grandmama Dee out.
Got a question? Write in to GrandmamaWillow@gmail.com to be featured in the next Brown Girl’s Guide to Thriving in the Struggle.
Featured image: Kid Cudi performing at Kent State M.A.C. Center. Via Creative Commons.
Haydée Souffrant is a Chicago-based multimedia artist crafting work through storytelling, lyrical text, movement and visual/performance art to document the legacies of trauma one inherits throughout cultural, familial, and societal generations. Bridging together narratives of mental health + wellness within black and brown communities, Haydée’s work seeks to stimulate conversations on how do communities maintain survival in sharing stories of struggle and resistance alongside alternative healing practices. Studying West African dance forms with the Dance Diaspora Dance Theater Ensemble of Oberlin College, Haydée’s literary and visual work has been featured in numerous online literary publications, Oberlin College, The Whitney Museum, Links Hall and other venues in and around Chicagoland. Haydée is a graduate of Oberlin College, and a MFA candidate in the Interdisciplinary Arts + Media program at Columbia College Chicago with her work focusing on the intersections of storytelling, mental health, legacies of trauma + healing across communities of color. Also a Reiki practitioner and founder of The Rooted Turtle Healing, as you can tell, she loves turtles and writing things.