Be Still, Yet Open

We live in a world that flits past the present moment while glorifying the future. Today, join me in choosing to buck that trend.

Lean into THIS moment, whether it is wonderful, amazing, challenging, scary or uncertain. Give thanks for it, knowing that if it has come into your existence, it has come for a reason – to teach you, heal you, strengthen you, reward you, prepare you or perhaps protect you.

Don’t be paralyzed by the noise in the world around you; focus inward.

Count it all joy and embrace your present, so that when you reach that place known as the future, you’ll be ready to experience, appreciate and celebrate all that it holds, too.

How to Serve the World? Be True to You

If 2020 hasn’t taught you anything else, I hope it has taught you to thine own self be true – for that has been the greatest lesson for me. 

Not for selfish reasons that lead to a “Me, Myself and I” existence – we’ve seen on a large scale in our daily lives this year how that level of self-focus can be destructive.

Yet, in honoring who you are and where you are

and embracing your life’s work, 

your heart’s dreams, 

your purpose and responsibilities, 

your inner beauty, quirks and flaws, 

your tribe of friends and loved ones to nurture and cherish,

you honor the God who created you. 

Loving yourself as you are, while leaning into the best version of yourself that is to be, is the gateway to your joy.

Your path won’t look like anyone else’s, so focus forward, and prepare to greet 2021 armed with truth, confidence, hope and more love.

Evolve or Repeat

Evolve or Repeat. Is this phrase the mantra of 2020 or what??

Let’s truly take this message to heart the last few weeks of this “year never to be forgotten” and do the basics – wear our masks, drink our water, mind our business.

And then, let’s take it up a notch and do what will manifest our destiny – 

purge what no longer serves you; 

pursue what undoubtedly fills you;

push through procrastination; 

persist in nurturing your dreams (or in discovering them),

and transform into someone more purpose-driven and soul-beautiful than ever.

Even if you stumbled or mis-fired this year, the fact that you’re still here means your music is still playing. 

So take a chance on you. Heal, grow and evolve where necessary, so you can get up and dance, without having to repeat all of the lessons this year gave us – only the ones that fueled your hope, propelled you toward goodness and manifested joy.  

Bitter or Better?

We’re all works in progress, serving as “general contractors” of our very existence.

Managing your “life project” may be daunting or complicated or lead you down some unexpected paths;

But don’t dismiss opportunities to change and grow, love and serve, appreciate others’ gifts, and be good to yourself along the way.

Only you can decide whether your experiences will make you bitter or better.

Choose the latter and you’ll make the world around you better, too.  

Finding Something to Celebrate

As we enter a holiday season like no other, it is my hope and prayer that despite this legendary year of stress, trauma and loss – whether collective, personal or both for you – you’re able to find a few reasons to anchor yourself in gratitude, generosity and love. 


For some of us this may be easier said than done; yet  I invite you to join me in treating ourselves as the gift that keeps on giving, understanding that as long as we practice self-care and takes steps to get whatever rest, support and care we need to shore ourselves up, we’ll be better able to show up strong, healthy, helpful and loving to and for others. 


Consider what positive thoughts and actions most often bring you hope, peace and enjoyment, and allow yourself to revel in those simple and significant pleasures during this season, without guilt or hesitation.

Hold onto something good and know that greater is coming. 

I’m sending you a virtual hug, heartfelt prayers for healing and hope, and a wish that you cling to your dreams, no matter what.

Wishing you a meaningful Thanksgiving, filled with a few things that make your heart smile.

 

Trust Yourself, Treat Yourself

You are the captain of your ship, and therefore of your wellbeing, your purpose and your journey.

Love without condition while still exercising wisdom.

Give generously while setting appropriate boundaries.

Dream big and don’t settle. It may take time, but the time will be just right.

Say no when doing so gives you the space to practice self-care.

Lean into “not now” when this will keep you safer rather than sorry.

Say yes, always, to honoring your heart, character and integrity, even if this means sometimes standing alone.

Be willing to sacrifice short-term rewards in order to experience long-term gains.

Know that you are worthy and embrace that truth with peace, confidence and joy.

Words, Indeed

I had such a thoughtful conversation with my 19-year-old son recently – about really seeing and hearing each other as human beings, worthy of uniquely full lives and flourishing dreams, and deserving of respect.

He is my introverted, yet self-confident “thinker” who uses words sparingly. So, whenever he launches into conversation with me, I listen – to hear what’s on his heart and mind, and to learn more about what he values and how he’s navigating life. It’s amazing to witness the man he is becoming and to learn from him as he grows.

When we, the teachers, are also open to being students, we stretch beyond our comfort zones, lean into unconsidered truths, and perhaps come out on the other side wiser for the journey.

Which do you prefer – flattering words that charm you or insight that informs and refines you?

Which do you believe will make for a better you, and as a result, a better world?

Perhaps this next generation has answers for us to consider. We’re never too old to evolve and appreciate the process.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

The Anatomy of Gratitude

For every opportunity there is to complain, hold a grudge, or judge without knowing the whole story, there is an equal opportunity to let go, adapt and expand.

Embrace experiences that strengthen your wisdom and empathy, and help you grow in grace, joy and hope.

You are the best possible person to be you – no need to imitate or compare yourself to others. Be grateful to be alive and able to try your best another day.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

You’re the Light This World Needs

There has always been a light within you. Now’s the time to really let it shine.

Shine where you are.

Shine as you are.

Shine because you are.

Whatever mistakes or flaws you’ve obsessed over, today let them be. Celebrate them for helping shape you into you. Allow them to help you grow stronger, wiser, more resilient, more insightful.

Choose to truly see yourself and love yourself, so that you can authentically lavish the gift of that grace on others.

Where to start and how to start?

By looking within and acknowledging the flicker that is your passion and your purpose. By embracing it and not looking back. So that as your light grows stronger and more vibrant, everyone you encounter will have a chance to slowly, and surely, react in kind, in their own unique ways.

Regardless of whether you get to see or experience the impact of your steady light, trust that its existence is not for naught, and that every place and every person touched by your words, actions and being have caught and carried some of that shine. – Stacy Hawkins Adams

Mental Illness Doesn’t Know Color

By Guest Blogger Glenn Proctor

Before you read my blog post, a bit of mental health literacy from the National Council for Behavioral Health and Mental Health America: Just know the first sentence of this piece is written for the sake of history. Never say ‘commit’ suicide; instead say someone took their life by suicide or died by suicide. Commit implies a sin or a crime. Suicide is neither a sin nor a crime. It is a mental or emotional disorder, sometimes undetected or untreated, and sometimes temporary, with depression, anxiety and isolation being the most common feelings for suicide victims or attempters.   – Glenn

Growing up, I remember hearing, “Black folks don’t commit suicide.”

I also heard disparaging remarks about adults and children suffering from mental illness. I’m certain I made insults as well.   

“You know she ain’t right.“ “Something’s wrong with him.” “He’s touched.” “That boy’s crazy in the head.”

The language about mental illness and suicide has changed over the years, but society still has a long way to go. We must continue to learn the truth about mental illness and the right words to describe and talk about suicide. Most importantly, we must learn how to help those in distress, especially during this pandemic.

“Just get over it and move on” is not a suitable response. And, having a macho attitude, as many men do, about mental illness or suicide only buries the situation. Transparency means acceptance.

In the Black community, there remains a deep-seated stigma about suicide and mental illness. Neither discriminate. One in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year. One in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness. Black Americans are a major part of those numbers.

“World Mental Health Day Observance” by United Nations. Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As a suicide prevention and mental health first aid instructor and grief counselor, my mission is to help others, specifically Black Americans and military veterans, and to encourage more people to take suicide prevention and mental health first aid courses. In most areas, the courses are short duration and free.   

I am a suicide survivor, having heard the shot as my grandfather took his life in an adjacent room, had military “brothers” lose their lives to suicide, had suicide ideations during my worst drinking binges and have written about suicide for decades as a journalist, poet and instructor.  

Glenn Proctor

As a Vietnam veteran, I have survivors’ remorse, knowing my name is not on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Coping with those thoughts remain a struggle, even to this day. And, there’s a reason the term is “recovery alcoholic.”

Truth is Black people take their own lives. Black people attempt suicide and have suicide ideations. The secret is out. We are not immune to suicide and mental health issues.

With the pandemic, racial unrest, unequal justice, and continued economic stress, suicide rates among African-Americans have climbed, created by fear, uncertainty and increased anxiety levels, especially for those with depression, anxiety, other untreated mental health issues or isolation.  

Especially concerning in the recent decade is the rise in suicide deaths among Black youth, nearly doubling from 2007 to 2017. Recent numbers show that Black children under age 13 are twice as likely to die as their white counterparts.  

As of 2018, suicide became the second leading cause of death in Black children, ages 10-14, and the third leading cause among Black adolescents, ages 15-19.

Paramount among the risk factors for youth suicide are bullying, bullying others, trauma, LBGTQ and racial discrimination and access to firearms. Another factor is health care disparities since Black youth often do not receive treatment for depression or receive treatment after a suicide attempt.    

Suicide numbers among Black adults are also climbing. In Cook County, where Chicago is located, Black men accounted for 80 percent of the suicides this year.

Research by the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry says Black adults are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health issues, including depressive disorder or anxiety disorder. Facing the prospect of being a victim of the justice system – or the fear of being stopped by police or accused of something by a “Karen” – is a common fear of most black men, including those who are famous, considered middle class or well-to-do.

Despite being 13 percent of the U.S. population, the Black community is 40 percent of the homeless population, 50 percent of the prison population and 45 percent of the children in foster care. Because of that exposure, the chances of developing a mental illness is increased.

With Black veterans, the numbers are just as alarming. About 45 percent of homeless veterans are Black or Hispanic, with Black veterans compromising most of those situations.

On any given night in America, more than 40,000 veterans are homeless and another 1.4 million are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, untreated mental illness or substance abuse issues. Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of homeless veterans.

For me, working with the veterans’ community is a focal point.

I admit there have been unfortunate and fatal situations involving Black men and police in Charlotte, yet I applaud the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police for having a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained to de-escalate hostile situations involving possible mental issues situations. Mental Health America has trained a good number of police and firefighters in mental health first aid and suicide prevention.

Twice I have been called to assist CIT officers with situations involving veterans.   

In the first instance – the only time I had to respond to a crisis scene – I helped negotiate the peaceful apprehension of a Black veteran who served in Afghanistan and was suffering from PTSD. He was loud and threatening inside his apartment and the situation had become unstable. After more than 40 minutes, the situation ended peacefully without any injuries.

Twice since, I accompanied CIT officers to visit the veteran who is back on medication and keeping up with his VA visits. I am proud that I was able to help, but the episode was mentally draining beyond belief. Which is why self-care for all of us, especially during this pandemic, is absolutely essential.

For those of us who are peer support professionals, the work is never done. None of us can – or should – turn our backs on conversations about suicide, mental health or grief. And in the Black community, it is a priority because mental health issues and suicide are continuing to take an increasing toll.

So, what can any of us do as Black Americans to improve our mental health and lessen our trauma and grief? I added grief to the equation since all us, by admission or not, are currently grieving, especially the loss of connection.

Because of Black America’s history and the issues that plague our communities, socialization is, experts contend, our most important coping mechanism:

  • Communication. By email, text, social media and phone. As difficult as it is to gather during this pandemic, an outside gathering with social distancing and masking protocols might help ease stress, especially to help with isolation and having engaging conversations with people we trust.
  • Get clinical help if an extreme condition develops.  
  • Talk about experiences of racism with those you trust. One study of African-American women said those who experienced racism and kept it to themselves created shorter telomeres, an indicator of chronic stress and aging.
  • Self-care. Engage in activities that you enjoy. As much as possible, avoid substances and excessive alcohol use. Be aware and recognize symptoms of racial trauma (fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep depravation).
  • Understand that racism is serious and it deeply affects emotions. In addition to communication and self-care, focus on developing coping strategies; including distractions that help lower negative emotion.

Life Coach Glenn Proctor is certified as a Grief Support Counselor, QPR Suicide Prevention Instructor, Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Adult Mental Health First Aid Gatekeeper and NC Peer Support Specialist (with Veterans’ Designation). He retired as executive editor and vice president of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  The 40-year journalist and media professor shared in the Pulitzer Prize at the Akron Beacon Journal. He is a former Marine gunnery sergeant, author of five books and founder of WRITING BOOTCAMP Charlotte. Proctor coaches from lived experience – alcoholism, foster care, single parent, multiple marriages and cancer.  He has mentored hundreds of students, veterans, career professionals and entrepreneurs.    

Special Event Notice:

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 from 7-8:30 p.m. EST, Stacy and Robert L. Dortch will host a Zoom conversation on mental wellness and practicing self-care during the looming holiday season. Special guests will be licensed psychologist and seminar leader Dr. Micah L. McCreary and social and mental health advocate Princess Blanding. Join this session of The Living Room Talks on Zoom by registering here by Noon EST on Wednesday (Oct. 28).