With the arrival of a new year comes countless declarations around self-care, self-love, and personal growth. From a landslide of memes encouraging folks to drop toxic people from their lives to crowded gyms and articles about how to master Dry January, this month is 31 days of tall promises. Avoiding my inclination to be a Scrooge about the “new year, new me” attitude (shouldn’t we all always be constantly evolving, not just at the turn of each year…?), I reached out to Minaa B. for a chat.
Minaa is a writer, mental health advocate, and psychotherapist. She communicates her thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms through creativity – whether that is through her debut book Rivers Are Coming, the writing she shares on her Instagram, or her art. She is honest, transparent, and vulnerable while providing insight on how to reclaim your time from stress, toxic relationships, and your own mind. Get to know her below and keep up with her musings here.
LF: Hi Minaa! You blend creativity with mental health advocacy seamlessly – can you tell us a bit about how you became a mental health professional?
MB: What’s crazy is that I never planned on becoming a mental health professional. I studied business in undergrad so that I could work as a fashion merchandiser. However, during those years of my life I battled depression heavily and I was always intrigued by the human mind and psychology. So while in undergrad, I took elective classes that pertained to human development like Psych 101 and sociology. I also educated myself at home by reading articles about mental health. It was after graduating, that I realized I wanted to help people who were going through the same struggles that I had gone through and was still going through like suicide ideation, depression, anxiety. Instead of getting my MBA, which was my plan, I started searching and learning about Social Work and it led me to getting my MSW.
LF: How do negotiate what you share on the internet and what you keep private?
MB: I value transparency, for if it wasn’t for honesty and vulnerability, I wouldn’t be free today, nor would I be on this path to healing. I am a very open person because I am not ashamed of the things that I have gone through and that is the lesson that I try to pass on whenever I am sharing the intimate details of my life. However, I am also mindful that everything doesn’t need to be put out into the atmosphere, and that is what helps me with keeping things private. I always ask myself, “How is this information going to better someone else?” That helps me to navigate if what I am sharing is worthwhile, or if it’s something that I should sit with and work with before I give it to the world.
LF: Describe how you balance your creative side with your identity as a mental health advocate.
MB: I truly believe that my creative side is deeply enmeshed in my work as a mental health advocate and psychotherapist. Even in my sessions with clients, I am utilizing creative arts such as reading, writing and journaling as a form of therapy because it is so cathartic and I always want my clients to have the tools they need to have therapy even in their own homes, not just when they see me. I have never treated the two separately because creativity brings forth healing. When I am outside of the office, I am at home writing, painting, listening to music, taking walks on the beach, sitting with nature – truly connecting with my creative side because that side also enhances my mental wellness and is very much wrapped in my identity as a mental health professional.
LF: What does self-care look like for you?
MB: My number one self-care ritual is this simple reminder, “It’s okay to be human.” I no longer beat myself up for my mess-ups or mistakes. I give myself permission to work on myself without shame or judgment, because after all, we are all human and nobody is perfect. That thought process has helped me to shift and grow tremendously. I am no longer wrapped up in feelings of guilt and shame for being who I am and going through what I go through. I also invest in myself by seeing a therapist, reading good books, going to church, and keeping my mind active with positive thoughts. Writing also plays a huge role in my self-care practices, it’s cathartic and personal and it also plays a part in reminding me that I am human.
LF: How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance? What does that entail?
MB: I recently quit a job that I was working part-time because it was stressing me out immensely. A healthy work-life balance to me means knowing when to say no and when it’s time to let go of something. For me, it was time to let go – especially because I was working three jobs in total. What the heck was I thinking!
Work should never cause you stress or make you feel depressed, in my case, that is what was happening and though it wasn’t the easiest decision, I had to remind myself that I matter and so does my happiness. So when it comes to managing work and life, I’ve taught myself to say no and build boundaries. I have learned that knowing what I don’t want is just as equally important as knowing what I do want. Because I am working from home more now, I set clear timeframes on projects because if I don’t, I can work all the way up until 2 a.m. and then complain that I’m sleepy and groggy the next day. It’s about knowing that my mental health can also be affected by work, and it teaches me to be mindful, and to listen to my body, always.
LF: Who are your top five inspirations?
MB: Tracee Ellis Ross
LF: What do you envision for yourself, both professionally and personally, in 2018?
MB: Growth will always be apart of my journey. I am always trying to better myself, learn, unlearn, and navigate through life embracing my seasons. Professionally, I am in the middle of writing my second book (which is psychological fiction) and I hope to land an agent who will be willing to pick up my work. It’s very different from my first book Rivers Are Coming, and this transition into fiction is truly exciting. I am also looking forward to gaining new therapy clients now that I have expanded my hours at the private practice that I am working at. Lastly, I want to do more speaking and workshops on self-care and mental health. I love informing and engaging with others and it’s something that I would be super meaningful for me in this upcoming year.
LF: How fast do you live?
MB: Though I am a New Yorker, I live quite slow. Never in a rush. Just enjoying the journey day-by-day.