By Ameera Steward
For the Birmingham Times
2020: New Year, New You
The new year signals a new start, making resolutions popular for many. The goals people set range from learning new skills to giving up bad habits, but the most common ones usually involve health and wellness, whether through exercise or diet. Here are some words of wisdom from a Birmingham metro area wellness expert to help you improve your physical and mental health in 2020 and beyond.
De’Angela Pippen knew best how to deal with her mental health issues—she wrote about it in her book, “7 Days to Mental and Spiritual Fast,” which promotes mental wellness.
At the age of 5, Pippen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety. What made it worse, she said, was she didn’t feel anyone understood what she was going through.
“Like, there wasn’t any help out there,” she said. “As I got older and understood more of it, that’s what pushed me to go ahead and be an advocate. I’m … a warrior, but I’m an advocate, as well.”
Pippen—an ordained minister, instructor, mentor, plus-size model, and a mental-tech and youth-care worker at Birmingham’s Hill Crest Behavioral Health Services—got the inspiration for her book in 2018, when she was depressed due to a miscarriage and dealing with relationship issues.
“It was a self-help book for myself, to get me to get the ball rolling within my mental and spiritual journey,” she said.
People who can’t live in their truth often find themselves depressed, which is what happened to Pippen. Addressing the mental health part of the book, published in 2019, she said we have to take accountability for the things we go through and past traumas by saying, “This did happen to me, but what can I do to help the situation and move forward with it?”
“I’m giving you the tools to help jump-start your life in a more peaceful way and find ways to let go and be free,” she said, adding that it’s a guidebook.
Writing the book offered Pippen freedom, both spiritually and mentally.
“It gave me a gateway to be able to help other people, knowing that it’s not about you purchasing the book [but] what can you get out the book,” she said. “I want to be able to help and save as many people as I can because … suicide is the number-one silent killer.”
“7 Days to Mental and Spiritual Fast” gives readers a chance to learn how to create balance in their lives and incorporate self-care, which is important “because it’s time out for you and yourself and not having a care in the world,” said Pippen, who would like to start a reading club with her book.
“Self-care doesn’t always mean going to get your nails done, going to get your toes done, getting your hair done,” she said. “I’m talking about just getting yourself in the mental mindset of ‘Let me meditate and refresh my mind about the things I went through throughout the day.’
“Learn to put [yourself] first and then take care of everything else. Stop putting yourself last because you won’t have anything else to put into you.”
As a community, people need to be more empathetic and be more caring, said Pippen, 32, who also oversees a mentoring program called Embracing You Empowering Self (EYES).
“We have to be mindful of being able to accept people and how they’re feeling at the time,” she said. “If they’re telling you they’re not feeling well today, don’t brush it off. … [Don’t] just put people down because we live in a society that tells you to be yourself, and then when you do, they judge you.”
There are ways to deal with those problems or issues, ways to come out of a dark place or stop yourself from getting to that point.
Pippen said, “Stay around people that can feed you and not starve you. Find outlets to help you. When you get in a dark place, you need to at least reach out to somebody [and let them know what’s going on] or go out and get fresh air. Just don’t stay closed in that mindset, don’t brush off your feelings or suppress them because … that’s how you get to that dark place. If you start being honest with yourself and getting the help you need, that will lead to a lot more [bright] days for you.”
Most mental illnesses lead to physical illnesses. For instance, Pippen said anxiety can cause chest pain, body shakes, uncontrollable crying, sweating, and brain cloudiness.
Signs To Look For
From the outside looking in, you can recognize the signs of mental illness. Some indicators, according to Pippen: People start shutting off or acting different; their routine changes; they don’t want to be bothered; they don’t post on social media as much; they don’t go out as much; you may not hear from them; the tone of their voice may change; their appearance can change—they can look sad, not well kept; some people gain weight and some lose a lot of weight.
“It depends on people and how they deal with their anxiety or depression,” she said. “I’m the type of person that when I’m going through something, I like to shut people [out]; when I’m better, I’ll come back around. It’s not always healthy to do that, so at least let somebody know, ‘I’m not having a good day.’”
To come out of her own episodes, Pippen said she writes, colors, or travels; listens to music or inspirational people; and goes to the beach or the park. She also vents to people.
Pippen encourages those who suffer from mental illness to seek help.
“Know that it is OK to not be OK,” she said. “Be honest with yourself [about the fact] that you have a problem. Don’t push anything under the rug because, if you do, it’s just going to pile up and you’ll eventually have to clean it up or you’re going to explode.
“We hold [things] in because we feel like we’re being judged. Don’t worry about being judged; just go to somebody you trust or somebody you have to pay because … you know you’re getting the honest truth from them.”
For those who want to start the new year by focusing on their mental health, Pippen suggests writing down goals.
“If you see it and you write it down and make it plain, it’ll come to fruition,” she said. “Find outlets that … can help you cope with [your mental illness]. … Step outside the box on things that you want to do to heal yourself.”
De’Angela Pippen’s “7 Days to Mental and Spiritual Fast” is available at Amazon.com or Golden Temple Natural Grocery and Cafe (1901 11th Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35205).
How to take care of mental health
De’Angela Pippen, author of “7 Days to Mental and Spiritual Fast,” suggests that you:
- Give yourself a time and day—no matter how many times or what time—to stop, pray, meditate, and breathe
- Practice square breathing: four counts of inhaling slowly and four counts of exhaling slowly
- When you get home, take a bath or lie down
- Burn candles
- Listen to music
- Use crystals for certain types of energy
- Drink herbal tea
- Exercise: walk outside (nature is a good cure for a lot of anxiety), go to the gym, do yoga, run, box, etc.
- Stretch; sometimes that’s all you need
- Get a massage
For more tips from experts on health and wellness going into the new year, click one of the links below.
This post was updated on January 2, 2020 at 7:32 p.m. to correct that Pippen had a miscarriage in 2018.