As we welcome the new year, many of us feel compelled to set new goals, but this often leads to stress and overwhelm, exactly what we’re trying to avoid by setting these goals. While this stress is common at the start of a new year, it can be particularly pronounced for first-gen Latinas, who often navigate a unique set of challenges. In my role as a therapist working with first-gen individuals, I’ve gained a profound understanding of the unique challenges that first-gen Latinas face. These stressors, such as navigating family expectations and pressures, dealing with the feeling of being caught between two worlds, coping with first-gen guilt, and battling the impostor phenomenon, are typically persistent. Recognizing these ongoing challenges, it’s important to find ways to cope and manage this stress. Recently, I’ve noticed the popular trend of lists categorizing what’s “in” and “out” for 2024. Inspired by this, I’ve compiled my own version focused on managing stress as a first-gen Latina.
What’s In for 2024:
Releasing First-Gen Guilt:
It’s essential to let go of the guilt associated with prioritizing ourselves. We deserve to improve our quality of life and find joy without feeling guilty. When guilt creeps in for having opportunities that our parents didn’t, remember that they likely laid the groundwork for these possibilities. Your happiness is what your ancestors aspired for. Embrace this joy.
A wonderful coping strategy for processing emotions, journaling helps us face uncomfortable feelings and discover paths to feeling better. If you’re new to journaling, don’t worry if it’s just 5 minutes once a week – that’s still progress. The more you engage with it, the more you’ll notice its benefits and feel motivated to continue.
Developing a Mindfulness Practice:
Start your day with intention. This might mean taking a moment for deep breaths in the morning, meditating, or engaging in calming exercises like yoga. You can also find mindful moments throughout your day, such as taking a little cafecito break. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath before your next sip of your cafecito. Find what works for you and embrace it. When overwhelm strikes, lean into a mindfulness exercise to feel grounded and more capable of facing challenges ahead.
Protecting Your Time:
This means setting boundaries, learning to say “no,” and prioritizing self-care. It’s about caring for ourselves so we can better care for others. A useful strategy when starting to set boundaries is using “not now.” This approach allows you to manage your time and energy more effectively while offering help.
Asking for Help:
Remember, you do not need to do everything alone, and reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. When things feel overwhelming, think about who in your circle can lend a hand. In a professional setting, this might mean a candid conversation with your manager or trusted colleague about strategies to balance challenging projects. Even in personal matters, seeking advice or practical help from friends, family, or community resources can make a significant difference. Asking for help can provide fresh perspectives and solutions, easing your burden and fostering a supportive network.
Going to Therapy:
Therapy provides a regular space for ongoing support and learning new coping strategies to handle life’s challenges. It is a judgment-free place where you can explore your thoughts and emotions with a licensed professional who can also offer insights and tools tailored to your specific needs. LatinxTherapy is an excellent directory to help you find a therapist.
What’s Out for 2024:
Feeling like a Fraud:
Although sometimes the feelings may creep in, remember that you are not an impostor and have worked hard for what you have. To help you remember how much of a chingona you are, jot down your “wins” over the year. These “wins” can be a powerful tool against self-doubt or impostor feelings that might creep in, reminding you of your incredible achievements.
Doomscrolling and Perpetual Screen Time:
Being constantly connected to digital can lead to information overload and increased stress. It is important to consciously take breaks from screens and online platforms. Consider setting specific times for a “digital detox,” such as during meals or before bed. Ensure you take breaks and allow yourself time to disconnect from digital spaces. Use your newfound free time to engage in other enriching activities, like going on a walk, reading, trying a new activity, or connecting with a loved one.
While it’s easy to withdraw when feeling down, maintaining connections is crucial for our well-being. Relationships provide support, understanding, and a sense of belonging, which are crucial for emotional well-being. Engaging in social activities, even in small ways, can have a positive impact on our mood and outlook. Whether a quick chat with a friend or volunteering in your comunidad, every little engagement counts toward enhancing our mental health.
Mental Health Stigma:
Therapy no “es cosa de locos.” It’s time to release any beliefs that suggest we’re unworthy of taking care of our mental health. Recognizing its importance makes it easier to prioritize rest and care. By breaking down these stigmas, we create a more supportive and understanding environment for ourselves and others. This shift in perspective is key to breaking generational cycles of trauma and building new foundations for future generations.
This year, let’s embrace these “in” strategies to foster a healthier and less stressful year. Remember, prioritizing mental health is not just a trend; it’s a necessity for a fulfilling life. As always, sí se puede!