Your Mind Matters: Episode 7 – Whitney Cummings Talks Social Media, Recovery, and Activism

Your Mind Matters: Episode 7 – Whitney Cummings Talks Social Media, Recovery, and Activism

 

This week, the Your Mind Matters podcast welcomes its first guest: actress, writer, and comedian Whitney Cummings. Her new book “I’m Fine…And Other Lies” discusses her own mental health journey, and she’s here to answer caller questions on this week’s podcast episode.We’re also accepting questions for our next themed episode, which is about introversion and extraversion. Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.

Introduction

Dr. Christine and Chris are excited to welcome special guest Whitney Cummings to the podcast to answer caller questions. Aside from being a successful actress, writer, comedian, and more, Whitney is also a mental health advocate. A number of her projects including her new book and movie “The Female Brain” discuss different mental health topics, including some of the ones covered in this week’s podcast episode.

Quotes in italics in the responses below come from Whitney’s answers to the questions our listeners asked.

Question 1a: In terms of self esteem, I recently learned that self esteem is simply an opinion of yourself, and it could be either low self esteem for yourself or high opinion of yourself. How do you have a healthy self esteem when reality is otherwise? For example, someone who has a not so great job, not so great body, and how do you build your self esteem when reality presents otherwise?

  • “First and foremost, get off social media.” Oftentimes, the source of low self esteem is comparison. Everything is relative, and we set a baseline for what we think we should be based on unrealistic expectations constructed by society or the types of things we see on social media.
  • “We really need to take a good hard look at the images that we bombard ourselves with.” You don’t have to eliminate social media completely, but you can be mindful of who you follow, what you look at, and the kinds of things you read, and make more positive choices to help your self esteem.
  • “Realistic expectations about what a normal human can actually achieve based on gravity and physical limitations, that’s also how we build our self esteem.” Don’t overcommit yourself. Instead of doing a bunch of things at 60%, opt for doing fewer things at 100%. Overcommitting and setting yourself up for failure causes low self esteem.
  • “When we’re inauthentic, that also takes a toll on our self esteem, because it disconnects us from ourselves and makes us feel shame, which is an enemy of self esteem.” Being honest and truthful to yourself and others around you is another key component of self esteem. By not pretending to be okay when you’re not okay, and being honest about the way you’re feeling, you won’t set yourself up to feel ashamed of it.

Question 1b: My second question is, I notice that the majority of people in your podcast are asking questions tend to be female, how do you bring more of this to the male counterparts? Because I also feel like the majority of mental health space tends to be more female oriented.

  • “It’s not only socially constructed, there’s also some biological basis.” Everyone is different, but it may not be as simple as pressuring men to talk about their feelings more.
  • “Creating an environment on a daily basis that is safe for men…always leading by example. No one wants to change because someone yelled at them to change.” By talking about your own feelings and making a safe space, you open up the opportunity for others to feel more comfortable sharing.
  • “Reframing vulnerability as being badass and tough and actually super courageous is a great way to rebrand talking about your feelings.” More and more male celebrities and athletes are coming forward and sharing about their mental health struggles and changing the way we see vulnerability.

Question 2: I am on my second day sober of 2018 from self-medicating with marijuana, and I was really just looking for more tips on what I can do during an anxiety attack. I meditate already and try to practice mindfulness, but I just find that I have trouble coming down when I’m actually in an attack without relying on a substance. So I was just looking for advice on that.

  • “When we share what’s going on with us, that actually calms us down.” If you’re coming off of a substance and feeling anxious without it, there may be physical withdrawal symptoms happening. Finding help and sharing your experience in places like 12 Step programs or other support groups can be beneficial.
  • “The way you breathe is the way you think.” Try learning different deep breathing techniques to practice in moments of panic so that you can deactivate the fight or flight response in your brain and redirect the focus from the anxious thoughts to your breathing.
  • “I’m not the first person that’s ever done this, I’m not the last, maybe this problem isn’t as big as I think it is.” It can be helpful to reach out to others in difficult times and ask how they’re doing to take the focus off of yourself. This helps redirect your attention outward instead of letting anxiety draw you inward to ruminate on your own thoughts.
  • Instead of fighting anxiety, it can be helpful to accept it, tell yourself that anxiety is here now but it won’t be there forever, and that it will eventually pass. This way you can get some space from your thoughts and allow them pass by instead of fighting them.
  • “Animals are just the greatest gift in terms of any kind of emotional stress.” While we’re not recommending you run out and get a pet right now, sometimes being around animals can be comforting. If you have pets or if a friend has a pet, it can be helpful to be around animals when you’re feeling anxious.
  • Journaling is another technique you can use in moments of panic. Get all your thoughts out of your head and onto paper by just writing for ten minutes. It doesn’t have to make sense, you don’t have to do anything with it afterwards, but it can help you get your thoughts and feelings in order.

Question 3: I’m pretty sure that I have anxiety, or something around that, but I take care of my grandmother full time, and I don’t have insurance, because I don’t have a job, because I take care of my grandmother full time. What can I do or how can I find resources or some way to see a medical professional?

  • “What I would say is: vote.” To change the state of the American health care system, the most effective thing you can do is choose representatives that support expanding access to mental health care.
  • Look into Affordable Care Act programs in your state to purchase coverage for mental health care.
  • There may be sliding scale clinics available locally, as well as online or in-person support groups for caregivers that you may find helpful.

Special thanks to our guest Whitney Cummings for her time and insights on this week’s episode!