Posted in Mental Health

Blacktivate Lesson 007: Only One You. Only One Life. Only One Moment. Show Me YOUR One!

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women……Correction, I’m back to activate the health and wellbeing of everyone!

These last several days have taught me a lot about time, patience, mental health, balance, and the act of being gentle. I participated in three research-focused competitions in the last four weeks; I have a competition and a master’s defense on Monday; I have another competition in mid-April. That’s a lot! It was/is very exciting to share my research about the impact of physical activity and Black women’s health. But, this Black woman needs to take a closer look at her own health.

Yesterday, minutes before my competition, I experienced a nosebleed. Ironically, last week, the night before my competition, I experienced a nosebleed. When I was a little girl, I would experience nosebleeds with a minor degree of regularity and it wasn’t much of a big deal. However, to experience two nosebleeds, as a grown ass woman, in less than a week of each other is worth analyzing.

The conclusion that I reached is that my body was communicating a level of stress that my mind wasn’t aware of. It’s such a beautiful thing to listen to the communication of our bodies. Have you ever heard YOUR body whisper or even scream at you? Pay attention! There is a powerful lesson to be learned.

Lessons on Living (LOL)

A nosebleed isn’t something to laugh at, but the lesson learned certainly is. My personal take away was stop moving. Yep! Not just slow down for awhile. I mean totally stop moving and sit. This morning, I sat, for the first time, on my new zafu meditation pillow and watched the sunrise. I paused the world! I focused on one thing and one thing only; to be present with the sun. When I came out of meditation I immediately wanted to write. I wanted to reach out to all seven followers of Blacktivate to say goodbye.

I’m saying goodbye to Blacktivate because I am still able to share my research on Black women’s health through my work with Kujima (www.kujimahealth.com – http://www.instagram.com/kujimahealth), but I loooooooooooooooooove writing lessons on living. I did it for several years when I launched Window Seat Wednesday on Facebook and it is time to get back to my origins. With that said, I’m signing off from Blacktivate and signing onto Window Seat Wednesday. I hope to see you there.

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope,

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

Posted in Uncategorized

Blacktivate Lesson 006: Green Exercises for Black Women Pt. 2

Summer 2018

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. This week, we are going to continue our conversation about the transformative power of being outdoors. I promise to shy away from the mushy stuff this week because you had plenty of it during lesson 005. So, if you are ready for Lesson 006, throw a fist in the air and say it with me…

“It’s time to… BLACKTIVATE!”

It’s kind of difficult to tell by the opening picture, but this picture was taken just before we started walking on the Shunga Trail in Topeka, Kansas. This walking event was no different than any other walk, but the remarkable aspect of this picture, that most people wouldn’t know, is that each of the eight women were going through eight totally separate life situations.

Some pains, worries, and other life situations are worn on the face while others are hidden in plain sight. But, by the time we completed the 30 minute walk, one thing was pretty obvious-the collective mood was elevated. (Even if just for the 30 minutes during the walk and a few minutes after, I count that as a success!!) Some of you might be asking, what happened? Others of you might be curious about what was so magical about those 1,800 seconds? The answer is simple. They were nurtured by nature.

Research Time

A study conducted by Hartig et al. [1] looked at the relationship between positive emotional and cognitive outcomes and walking in urban settings versus walking in nature. Which one do YOU think was more beneficial? {insert Jeopardy timer}. Based on the title of this article, I hope you answered “nature.” Walking is great; don’t get me wrong. I just wrote an 11,000 word thesis about a walking intervention targeting Black women. I looooooove walking. But, for added mental health benefits, green exercises for Black women is the key! (I’m biased!!)

The topic of mental health is near and dear to me because I have been diagnosed with anxiety and have suffered with depression. These labels are rarely talked about in the Black community for reasons that we don’t have time to address in this article, but I promise to dive deeper into this subject during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. But, as a quick teaser, did you know that African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites [2]? Psychological distress can mean major depression, anxiety, ADHD, and suicidal thoughts to name a few. I digress. Moving on…

While researching articles for this week’s post, I came across a cool concept called Nature Relatedness proposed by Researchers Martin and Brymer. Have you heard of it? It is exactly as it sounds-a connection to nature. Martin and Brymer researched anxiety levels in relation to nature, but they didn’t explore physical activity. Therefore, Lawton, Brymer, Clough, and Denovan expanded upon this work and investigated the role of physical activity in relation to nature and psychological wellbeing. What I found super interesting and telling about this research was the finding about relationships.

Just like interactions with human being, the type of relationship you have with that person dictates the experience(s) you share. Nature is no different. If a person is comfortable with nature and feels connected with nature then the psychological benefits are present [3]. But, the opposite is also true and positive effects become negated if being outdoors causes you to stress out. (All the bugs, heat, and other critters can be a distraction; I get it).

Please remember that I led this week’s article by publicly declaring my bias in favor of physical activity outdoors as a means to improve one’s mental health. But, green exercises for Black women is not the be all end all when it comes to improving mental health; it simply serves as another option to consider. Everyone is different. The most important aspect of any wellness journey is to keep trying on physical activity until you find what fits. (No pun intentend.)

Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday as I continue my mission to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women.

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

PS

Knowledge is key; you can’t do better until you know better!

References

  1. Hartig, T., Evans, G. W., Jamner, I. D., Davis, D. S., and Garling, T. (2003), Tracking restoration in natural and urban field settings. J. Environ. Psychol. 23, 109-123. Doi: 10.1016/S0272-4944(02)00109-3
  2. Mental Health Data/Statistics (2016). US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Retrieved from https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=6471
  3. Lawton, E., Brymer, e., Clough, P., and Denovan, A. (2017). The Relationship between Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers. Front. Psychol. 8:1058. Doi: 10.3389/psyg.2017.01058.
Posted in Anxiety, Built Environment, Environmental Wellness, exercise, fitness, Mental Health, Physical Activity, Uncategorized, wellness

Blacktivate Lesson 005: Green Exercises for Black Women (Part 1 of 2)

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. This week, I am going to talk about a close companion to physical health, Mental Health! This Part 1 post will be a very transparent look into my world and the labels that are now part of my life. If you are ready for Lesson 5, throw a fist in the air and say it with me, “It’s time to… BLACKTIVATE!”

Do you see that Chester Cheetah smile spread all across my face after winning the Kansas State University 3 Minute Thesis Competition? I’m sure you can’t miss it! I love this capture because it is an authentic representation of my genuine feelings of happiness and appreciation for being recognized for my research. But, there was a time in my life when that smile was inauthentic.

Have you ever gone to work knowing that you were dying on the inside? Have you ever come home and made a b-line to your bed so you could go to sleep and escape the concerns of the day? How about this: Have you ever worn a fake smile while lying to someone by saying you were okay? I answered yes to all three of those questions in 2008.

I was swimming in debt; I was popping Benadryl pills to escape my pain; I was telling lies to people-fake smiles and fake “I’m okay.” It was a horrible rollercoaster ride that I don’t remember buying a ticket for. It was time to get off this ride, but I didn’t know how. I was battling depression and wasn’t winning. Eventually, that ride came to an end and life seemed to be back to normal. Well, that was until the fall semester of 2018.

On September 27, 2018, I had an anxiety attack while meeting with my major professor of all people. I didn’t even know it was an attack until I went to the emergency room later that night. I just knew that this uncontrollable itching was totally abnormal. While lying on the emergency room table, with the ER doctor in one chair and my Epidemiology book in the other, I was told that my uncontrollable itching was symptomatic of an anxiety attack. After a few minutes of questions and answers, I was diagnosed with GAD-Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

GAD is yet another label. It was a label that I did not want to wear because it reminded me of the lack of control I had over the label from 10 years prior-Depression. The beautiful thing about this particular time was that age, wisdom, and an amazing network of sister friends were there to help me through it. Additionally, I fell back in love with walking and being in nature! Who knew that there were FREE restorative properties in the great outdoors?

Obviously, researchers knew about this and so did doctors. My ER doctor prescribed exercise and meditation as part of my healing process. (Sounds kinda funny now. I’m a group exercise specialist; I know this stuff!) The timing was great because it was fall and the leaves were changing and signaling to me that it is time to change, too. As to not bore you with too much more of the emotional backstory of depression and anxiety, I’m going to leave you with this research teaser quote that ties into next week’s discussion:

… there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that time spent in the presence of nature improves psychological health and well-being” [1]

Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday as we continue the conversation about Green Exercises for Black Women. This research is super interesting and I can’t wait to share it with you because THIS is how we activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. You can’t do better until you know better!

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

References

  1. Lawton, E., Brymer, E., Clough, P., & Denovan, A. (2017) The Relationship between Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers. Front, Psychol. 8: 1058. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01058