June is Pride Month, and for many in the LGBTQ+ community, it can be a great joy and celebration. However, Pride Month isn't always a happy experience for everyone. It can even be challenging and stir up complicated emotions, especially for those struggling with mental or emotional health or those who have had difficulty coming out experiences. The complexity of this time has also increased with the recent wave of targeted violence and political discourse threatening to undermine bodily and personal autonomy. If you're finding the month of Pride to be challenging, here are four practical tips to help care for your mind and heart during the month (and the rest of the year):


1. Honor and Embrace All Your Emotions: Being LGBTQ+ is a unique experience for everyone, and Pride is not always a safe space for everyone. So, it's okay if you feel joyful and eager to get in on the fun, while it's equally okay if you feel sad or angry or apathetic or have mixed feelings that fluctuate daily. If you're also at a place where you've not fully accepted and embraced your identity, practice self-compassion and remind yourself that getting to the place of "out and proud" can take time, and where you are in your journey is where you need to be.


2. Celebrate in a Way That Feels Safe and Authentic: There are assumptions and expectations that Pride is a roaring good time for every LGBTQ+ person and that everyone wakes up on June 1st ready to hit the streets wearing the colors and waving the flags that represent them. That is not always the case; if you aren't out yet or still feel uneasy about sharing your sexuality or gender identity with everyone, that's completely fine! It is important to remember that you cannot rush this process and that doing so for other people or appearance's sake can often be more distressing in the end. You will be ready when you're ready. Honor where you are, and don't pressure yourself into anything that doesn't feel congruent with who you are.


Attending parades, protests, and parties can be fun, but it can also be exhausting! Especially if you're attending many events while trying to balance work, school, and other commitments. You may also find yourself triggered by being in large crowds or around a lot of noise. Pace yourself; take breaks or consider taking part in smaller (even online) Pride events. Also, if you're at a live event and feel overwhelmed, just take a few moments to step aside and breathe. You can always head home early (there's no shame in doing that) because your mental and physical health comes first. You deserve to be a part of Pride, and there's no 'right way' to get involved. Wherever you are on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, be kind to yourself and find a way to celebrate safely and authentically!


3. Practice Self-Care: No matter how busy you are, it's essential to carve out a little time for self-care. During Pride, self-care might be making sure you're getting enough sleep; staying hydrated (especially if you're drinking alcohol or are out in the sun for long periods); eating well; doing some exercise when you get the chance, and making time to do things you find relaxing. It is also important that your self-care ritual include something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. Start small if you're having difficulty identifying what these things are or feeling unmotivated to care for yourself. Self-care can be as simple as lighting a candle while you're cooking, making hot tea, or taking a ten-minute walk. The most crucial point is not doing it perfectly but creating rituals that support your life situation and the amount of time you have in your day. These rituals are also great tangible reminders to yourself that you are worth caring for, even if you may not feel like that's the case at the moment. And remember, practicing something (even if it's difficult) will often help this become habitual. Getting in the habit of nurturing ourselves is one of the best, most Pride-worthy things we can do.


4. Ask for Help If You Need it: Check in with your loved ones if you feel like you're struggling. Talk to your friends or family members. If you think you may be experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, reach out to a therapist to discuss treatment options. If you have concerns about finding an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist, there are some national directories you may want to begin your search with. Psychology Today is one of the most thorough national listings of mental health professionals and has filters to narrow your search by the therapist's identity, modality, and other classifications. The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network lists LGBTQ+ POC therapists across the country. Organizations like GLMA (previously known as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association), AGLP (The Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists), and others have national listings of queer and queer-affirming mental health professionals, though they may not be fully up to date


If you feel like you may harm yourself or someone else or otherwise feel like you're in immediate danger, don't wait to find an LGBTQ+ or -affirming therapist; go to the emergency room, or call an LGBTQ+ crisis hotline, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), The Trevor Project (866-488-7386, for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24), The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline (888-843-4564), or the Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860).


Pride, in its essence, originated to give the queer community a designated time and space to celebrate the beauty of the LGBTQ+ identities, find a sense of solidarity there, and continue to emphasize the necessity of activism. Going to a parade might be part of continuing this legacy, but I think the truest way of honoring Pride month is being authentic to yourself and embodying who you are, and finding sincere ways to connect with others as a result. This might be a quieter act of resistance, but it is resistance just the same and often one of the strongest forms.


Amy Echstenkamper, LCSW is s an LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist who supports individuals navigating issues of isolation, shame, and trauma to find a stable and a deeper home within themselves. Amy is based in Virginia Beach, serving Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton Roads, and the state of Virginia via online counseling.






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Updated: May 23


It doesn’t take a whole new routine to instill a dose of happiness into your day—but it does take a little self-awareness.


1. Be grateful.

Research shows grateful people are happy people. It’s also important to understand that happiness is not the absence of negative feelings. Gratitude focuses on the present and appreciation for what we have now, rather than wanting more. Embracing gratitude as a state of mind can positively affect all aspects of life, including our happiness and overall satisfaction.


Up your mood by taking a moment daily to think of your world with gratitude. Start a gratitude journal or take a walk in nature, paying attention to all the gifts around us. Think of a person who helps you daily or weekly – a spouse, parent, friend, pet, teacher, cleaner, or babysitter.

Quiz: How grateful are you? Take the Gratitude Quiz published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

2. Flex your creativity muscles.

Do you have a passion or hobby? It doesn’t have to be a formal activity, simply engaging in creative thinking can enhance well-being by enhancing cognitive flexibility and problem-solving abilities. A recent study out of New Zealand, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, explains that creative activities can trigger an “upward spiral” of well-being.

“Practicing an art — no matter how well or badly — is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” – Kurt Vonnegut.

Make some space in your day to create, even if it’s just for its sake. Try exploring unique textures or even natural and recycled materials to make something for your home or a friend and looking for some tips on how to add more creativity into your daily life? Read this list of 101 creative habits to explore.


3. Get connected, Stay connected.

Being a part of something larger than yourself can help bring perspective and a sense of belonging. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that feeling like you belong and are generally close to other people is a core psychological need, essential to feeling satisfied with your life. The pleasures of social life register in our brains much like physical pleasure does.


So take the time to nurture a friendship that is important to you. Make an extra effort to show you care, send a card, make a plan to have lunch, or give them a call and really listen to what they say. Smile and say hello to a stranger. Tell a story when someone asks how your day is going. Notice how you feel when you share something with someone new.


Struggling and need support? Join a support group and talk to others that can relate. Find your tribe: – a free online support community brought to you by TherapyTribe.


Tip: Check out the wellness tracker. It’s a simple but powerful tool designed to help you remember the promises you make to yourself. As you complete wellness activities your tree will blossom, and so will you!
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Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.— Christopher Germer

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate, and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.


What is Self-Compassion?


Self-compassion is how we can relate to the self with kindness, recognizing that personal inadequacy and shortcomings are part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone. But what does it mean to be kind to ourselves? It means being gentle and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flogging ourselves with self-criticism. Why is this important? Because exercising self-compassion helps us recognize our inherent worth and value.


The Psychological studies on self-compassion have also revealed an abundance of mental and physical health benefits to practicing self-compassion, including a significant reduction in feelings of anxiety, depression, and negative self-directed rumination; improvement in overall motivation, self-worth, general satisfaction, and optimism about the future; improved resilience; and deeper connections with others,


Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.


How to Cultivate Self-Compassion


Some people come by self-compassion naturally, but not everyone does. The good news is it is a learnable skill, and training programs are being developed to help people discover and cultivate their own self-compassion. Here are four ways to give your self-compassion skills a quick boost:


  • Treat yourself as you would a small child: You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness, and kindness.


  • Practice Mindfulness - Self-compassion is deeply related to mindfulness, as it allows us to turn to ourselves, recognize our inner world, and observe thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. This allows us to be receptive to the present moment, not “over-identified” with negative or painful emotions, thoughts, or experiences, and be caught up and swept away by negative reactivity. Check out my personal favorite free guided meditation scripts that are available through The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion to deepen your mindful practice.


  • Be your own best friend - the next time you notice a critical thought or reject feeling about yourself, ask yourself how you would respond to a beloved friend who thought or felt that way about themselves? Would you be as critical or kind and compassionate? Apply this to yourself.


  • Forgive yourself for your mistakes- Forgiveness is paramount for self-compassion. Everyone makes mistakes, but learning from these errors, letting go, and forgiving yourself is crucial for overall mental health and well-being. Depending on the mistake, this can be a very daunting task, but keep in mind that forgiveness is not about letting yourself off the hook... It is about accepting what has happened while you are willing to let go and move past it without ruminating over circumstances that cannot be changed.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgment, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how therapy may help.


 

Netsanet Tegegn, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist in Virginia Beach who provides individualized counseling services for those who wish to create long-lasting and positive changes in their lives...

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