Self-Care for June: Tips To Take You From Feeling Overwhelmed To Empowered

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Tips To Take You From Feeling Overwhelmed To Empowered

“The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”
― Lorraine Hansberry

Every June, we gather for virtual and in-person celebrations and demonstrations of LGBTQ Pride. We honor the work done by those before us–like the protesters at Stonewall and countless others–to fight for equal rights. We also recognize that many LGBTQ people are still struggling for their civic freedoms and fair treatment. One common and shared experience by LGBTQ young people is the pressure to meet family expectations, to ‘fit in’ socially, and to be something else–all of which also is manifested in phenomena like bullying and micro-aggressions and can affect mental health negatively. For LGBTQ people of color, societal bias against these intersectional identities can compound the adverse impact on well-being and cause a person to feel overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed in many ways is normal. Whether you feel that the burden of your responsibilities is just too heavy, or you feel overcome by meeting seemingly-impossible expectations from others, these experiences can lead to a general sense that you’ve lost your power over your circumstances. Yet, feeling overwhelmed can also carry physiological and psychological risk of stress.

Feeling empowered, on the other hand, has been tied to greater decisivenessgoal-oriented action, and a general sense of control. So, how can you begin to undo feeling overwhelmed when it shows up? Follow these tips to get started.

Evaluate Your Circle. Are the people around you supporting you? If not, it could be time to say good-bye. Know that you deserve positive and supportive people in your life and nothing less.

Work Your Inner Monologue. First, recognize your feelings, instead of denying or burying them. Then, have a conversation with yourself about turning those feelings around. Research suggests that this kind of work–particularly in the form of journaling–can lead to greater health and happiness.

Build Yourself Up. One way to feel more empowered is to recognize your strengths and reaffirm your individual power. Research shows that using affirmations can help. Try these three to get started: I am who I want to be. I believe in me. I am grateful for today.

From everyone on The Steve Fund’s team, I want to wish you all a wonderful Pride month. As Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple says, “History rarely yields to one person, but think and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.” I hope these tips help you remember that you can be that person!

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care for May 2019: Seeking Work-Life Balance

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“Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.” —Shonda Rhimes

May is the official Mental Health Month, a time when we turn our focus to raising awareness around the mental health needs of every member of our society. Throughout the month, The Steve Fund community will be spreading the word about the importance of mental health so that this critical area becomes something everyone cares about.

To achieve the mental and emotional wellness we all deserve, we must start by tackling a trend in today’s world: the imbalance between personal life and work and school commitments. People who strike better balance between work and life report remarkable benefits. Surveys show that feeling engaged at work improves the likelihood of overall well-being. At the same time, having more control over your hours and schedule correlate to better mental and physical health (2016 study), as well as better job performance and greater satisfaction (2006 study).

At some point or another, most of us run the risk of letting work and school commitments take on too great a role in our lives, and suffer the consequences. Here are three things you can enact today to achieve more balance in your life.

Know your needs. Do an inventory of what you need to feel good both emotionally and physically. Write down what you come up with, and make an effort to prioritize at least one of those each week.

Establish a routine. Routines can change your life, especially your morning and nighttime habits. Start off with a morning meditation on what you want from the day. End it by taking account of where you went right and where you went wrong, appreciating the journey that brought you to the day’s end and forgiving yourself for what didn’t go as planned.

Hack your schedule. You are in control of how you spend your time, and on what, so take a close look at what you are spending your time on and change it. Research shows that people who plan their free time are happier and have an all-around better quality of life. Check out this TED Talk on time management to get inspired.

This month, as we raise the conversation about mental health, let’s not forget how important it is to take care of ourselves. Work-life equilibrium is a worthy goal to pursue to enhance well-being, so try small changes like the ones listed above. And, check out these tips from our partner, Mental Health America, for even more ways you can work toward greater balance.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care for April 2019: Empowering Yourself Out Of Loneliness

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“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
— Alice Walker

April marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. Temperatures begin to rise, and flowers and trees bloom along with refreshed perspectives. Despite the pleasant weather, many young people may be struggling with feelings of loneliness—dissatisfied by social networks and connections, the people we rely on, and even our sense of belonging (or lack thereof).

Young people, in particular, are far more likely to experience feelings of loneliness (BBC Loneliness Experiment). For young people of color, rates may be higher due to racial discrimination and cultural isolation on campuses, and exclusion in the workplace (2016 study). At the same time, loneliness is complex and carries health risks of depression (2017 study) and cardiovascular problems (2015 study).

If you’re feeling like you have no one to turn to at work, no one to talk to on campus, or simply lonely in what you’re experiencing right now, here are some tips to help you find your way:

Build Your Network. Look for groups of people with which you share an experience, for example, or a cultural connection. Professional associations, alumni, school and cultural groups, and networking events are all great options for connecting with others.

Connect Virtually. The virtual space provides a wide array of options to build relationships with individuals who may be going through the same challenges as you. Check out the virtual support system we built with 7cups.

Reach Out to a Mentor. During challenging, alienating, or new situations, mentors are great sources of strength. Be frank with them about any isolation you are experiencing so they can support you.

And, finally, don’t forget that The Steve Fund is here for you. We hope that these tips help you feel empowered to take on the second half of 2019 and achieve your goals.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care for March 2019: Overcoming Fear of Rejection

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“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
―Malala Yousafzai

March is Women’s History Month, a time to both honor the historical contributions of women around the world, as well as to work to increase the standard of living and political rights of women today. While women have ascended to leadership roles throughout society, pervasive trends such as the gender pay gap illustrate how men and women have not yet fully achieved equality. Inequality extends beyond workplace to mental health and emotional well-being, as women experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than their male counterparts.  For women of color, sexism is compounded by racism and xenophobia in everyday life which can further contribute to psychological distress.

The impostor phenomenon which describes an internal experience of feeling like a fraud was first described in high-achieving women, yet affects men and people of all racial groups.  However, the double whammy of being a woman and a person of color grappling with impostor feelings can heighten concerns about not measuring up.  Even former First Lady Michelle Obama has had impostor feelings. Prevailing negative stereotypes about women and people of color can fuel a high level of self-consciousness about how one is being viewed. This, in turn, can trigger a fear of rejection which makes us hesitate to act or express ourselves in anticipation of a negative outcome–be it failure or social rejection. Biologically speaking, rejection feels a lot like physical pain (2011 study), so it’s no wonder that we go out of our way to avoid it.

Fear of rejection holds us back and can lead to people-pleasing such as agreeing with others for fear of confrontation. It can cause you to bite your tongue and stop short of advocating for yourself.  Ultimately, acting on these fears will make you frustrated. In fact, studies have shown  how women develop greater fear of career rejection because of gender stereotyping (The Clayman Institute for Gender Research) and lower their own self-assessment and career aspirations as a result (2014 study).

Here are a few tips to help you deal with your fear of rejection and carve out your own career achievements:

  1. Focus on You. Rather than focusing on what others will think of you when, as a woman, you ask for a raise or take a seat in a male-dominated classroom where you are in the minority as a person of color, look inward. Do you stand by your work? Do you want to be heard? If you can answer affirmatively to these questions, then you can take on whatever challenge comes your way!

  2. Speak Up. Believe in yourself and believe in what you are asking for, and you will project that confidence onto your audience. Once your audience senses your power, they’re more likely to listen. Check out this TedX Talk to get inspired and learn more.

  3. Stay Positive. Instead of thinking about the terrible things that could result, focus instead on the positive possibilities. By thinking optimistically, you not only project more confidence but you navigate your thoughts and actions toward a better outcome.

Regardless of your gender or ancestry, I hope these tips help provide some encouragement and reassurance the next time you are dealing with impostor feelings or fear of failure and rejection.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care for February 2019: The Power of Community

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February is Black History Month, a time dedicated to reflecting on the experience and history of black Americans. Black History Month grew out of the early Civil Rights movement and stands as a testament to the power of community when it is formed around a shared purpose and goal. To this day, citizens come together to ‘celebrate’ black history as a way of achieving greater political equality.

But communities also have a powerful impact on individual well-being. They provide solace to those in distress, and company to those experiencing isolation. Recent research has shown that people are lonelier than ever and young people between the ages of 18 and 22 are suffering from social isolation and loneliness more than any other generation (Cigna Loneliness Index). At the same time, ongoing racial discrimination has been shown to cause emotional distress and mental health issues (2018 study).

Here are a few tips to help you find community in times of need:

Step Outside. Try spending more time in a common area on campus, a local cafe or restaurant, or a friendly and safe park. You’re likely to find others there looking for a sense of community.

Reach Out. Look for groups on campus that share something with you–be it your home city, your cultural background, or a hobby. Coming together over something in common is a great way to feel less alone.

Celebrate. Whether it’s a holiday you’ve been celebrating your whole life or something new that sparks your curiosity, open gatherings and festivities are great places to share a positive experience with community.

Maya Angelou wrote that “Since life is our most precious gift, let us be certain that it is dedicated to the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with our own.” On behalf of everyone at the Steve Fund, I invite you to seek out your own community as a powerful way to connect with others and support your emotional well-being.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care for January 2019: Back to School

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Be brave.
—Lao Tzu

Heading back to school—whether it’s back to campus or back in the classroom—often comes with mixed emotions. You might feel excited—and ready—to see your friends and classmates again; while you might also feel anxious about reopening last semester’s academic and social issues.

No matter what’s on your mind, you deserve a clean slate this January. It’s common for people to experience fears and anxieties, negative feelings and emotions, and to feel overwhelmed and stressed, but don’t fret, you can tackle these feelings head on. Here are three tips to help:

  • Take action. Stressful situations affect all of us from time to time, yet these challenges do not need to hold us back. Choose to start the year by bravely taking action and confronting stressors directly as they arise.
  • Find your unique strengths. Being conscious of who you are, being true to yourself, and acknowledging your assets and abilities takes a lot of the uncertainty out of life. Harness your own personal power to wrestle with whatever stressors are getting in the way of your progress.
  • Give yourself a thumbs-up daily. Deliberately choose to be brave in confronting challenges every day. Give yourself a mental thumbs-up every time you do!

And don’t forget, there are supports out there, ready to help you—the Steve Fund is one of them—if any of the challenges you are confronting seem too big to face alone.

On behalf of everyone at the Steve Fund, I want to wish you a happy new year, and encourage you to get excited about setting some goals that matter to you. And don’t be surprised if you exceed your own expectations in 2019!

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director