We believe taking care of your mental health is a forever kind of love, filled with soft reminders to treat yourself with kindness, patience and compassion through all the seasons of life. In celebration of those little day-to-day moments, we’re bringing our good friend and mental health expert Michelle Pow to the Dream Space to share some pro tips on how to give your mental health the TLC it deserves today and every day.
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about mental health with us! Let’s start by having you tell us about yourself and what inspired you to become a mental health professional?
Thank you for having me! I’m truly honored. I’m a second-generation Taiwanese-American mental health therapist and, most importantly, human residing in Los Angeles. I’ve always found myself most comfortable and impactful in the listening role with friends since I was young and stumbled upon this field in graduate school for social welfare. I’ve had trouble finding culturally responsive therapists for myself and knew I wanted to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker so I could serve the Asian American/greater BIPOC community and help destigmatize mental health. I believe representation matters and the various identities we have impact the spaces we occupy, even the therapy room.
As an expert and mental health advocate, why is mental health care and education important to you?
Mental health care and education is so vital because it’s essentially part of everything we do in our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not! I believe mental health exists on a spectrum and where we are at on that continuum can vary greatly day to day. When we neglect our mental health, our relationships with ourselves and others can suffer. Similar to physical health, maintenance is required for optimal results. Too often, we find ourselves in crisis when seeking out help (Disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with that!), though I’m a fan of ongoing prioritization of mental health so we can prevent greater suffering down the line and prevent mental illness.
Living in a pandemic has brought all the anxieties to the yard. How do we navigate hard moments and remain soft on ourselves?
I think first and foremost, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. This pandemic has been brutal and left no one unscathed. As humans, we tend to resist change, especially change we have no control over. COVID-19 has been the biggest disruption of our lifetime, so we have to give ourselves some grace in this moment. It’s in our DNA to worry about this exact thing, for our survival’s sake. It’s also completely understandable to be scared and feel isolated, disconnected and uncertain of the future. What we can do is try our best to focus on what we can control, stay connected to others as best as we can, seek out support when we need it and cut ourselves some slack!
At Good Side, we’re big fans of rest and relaxation. We also know how everyone’s lives can get super busy with all the stuff we do every day. How do you recommend setting boundaries so we can create the time and space for rest and relaxation?
Like anything else, we have to schedule in time for rest and relaxation. Left to our own devices, relaxation probably won’t happen because the world has programmed us to be hyper busy and “productive” at all costs. Boundary work is a practice, the same way you do yoga or learn meditation. Learning to say no is a great place to start when setting boundaries, so you can free up some time for yourself.
We’re also meditation lovers. Do you have any other mental health exercises we can do from the comfort of our beds?
I love a good body scan and deep belly breaths for a quick reset.
We know sleep is important in helping one’s mental health. How do you get a good night’s sleep?
As a new mom to a 3 month old, sleep has been hard to come by! However, prior to mommyhood, I tried to keep my sleep regular (meaning going to bed and waking up approximately the same time daily), have a soothing bedtime routine and avoid too much screen time right before bed.
How do you create your own sleep sanctuary?
I invest in quality bedding and keep my room nice and cool for optimal comfort.
What are your bedroom essentials?
Definitely AC, my comforter and now a sound machine!
What are your self-care rituals?
I love going for mindful walks, making myself oat milk lattes in the mornings, taking baths, lighting candles, spending time with my friends, tending to my plants, having quality conversations with loved ones, pouring love on my dogs and going to heated barre classes.
Lastly, we are so inspired by your own journey in learning to treat yourself with love and compassion. Can you share that story?
Growing up as a child of immigrants, I didn’t have a blueprint for emotional health and well-being. In my Taiwanese-American family, we simply didn’t have a language for feelings and self-compassion was hard to find when you were constantly compared to others and told to make good on the sacrifices made to live in this country. Unlearning perfectionism and achievement as the sole indicator of success/value has been and will continue to be a lifelong journey. I’ve also had my share of failed relationships and, through heartbreaks and endings, found there’s only so much others can give to me. I realized only I can make myself whole, and I found my freedom through choosing to pour love on myself and remain curious about my deepest desires and what I was worthy of receiving. It also helps being surrounded by close friends who showed me a different way of relating to myself and remind me of what I deserve on the days I forget. I’ve found I’m much harder on myself than anyone else is and I’m grateful for those who’ve accepted me for who I am on my best and worst days. I now do my best to show myself the same compassion I give others!
Thank you so much Michelle for sharing your Good Side story! We love all your words of wisdom and helpful advice when it comes to mental health.
For more gentle reminders to be compassionate and patient with yourself as you navigate your own mental health journey, follow @michellepowtherapy on Instagram and check out her own blog here.