Get out of your comfort zone to care for your mental health

Columbia Health
March 08, 2021
Judge Monique Walker in judicial robes sitting between two flags

In the most recent episode of Invisible and On Stage, Counseling and Psychological Services psychologist Dr. Keoshia Worthy spoke with Judge Monique Walker about her experiences going to college and working at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and strategies Judge Walker used to overcome the challenges she faced in those environments.

During the conversation, Judge Walker expressed how important it is to be mindful of one’s mental health and to actively take care of it. She shared how she regularly sees a counselor in order to do so (although her visits have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions).

“It took me a long time [to seek counseling], but I'm not playing any more games with my mental health.”

In light of the stigma in the Black community regarding mental health treatment, Dr. Worthy noted how significant it is for someone of Judge Walker’s stature to recognize the importance of mental health care.

“We get this life one time. And so, in order to keep the train on the track at this fast pace that we live, sometimes we have to put the brakes on and hop off the train, and get a little help so we can have energy, get back on and keep going towards our destination.”

For Black students in PWIs who feel excluded, unsupported, marginalized, and struggle with impostor syndrome, dealing with intergenerational trauma on top of all of this can lead to further isolation, questioning identity, poor self-esteem, and a poor academic and/or career experience. Altogether, these issues can negatively impact both one’s psychological and physical health. For Blacks in particular, who are already at a high risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc., the stress and heightened emotion of dealing with unresolved traumas can exacerbate what the body experiences under these conditions.

So what is a Black student to do? Dr. Worthy challenges these students to do as Judge Walker did: get out of your comfort zone. Judge Walker navigated her PWI by sharing in community with both Black and non-Black students, staying active on campus, and recognizing her purpose in college, which was to work.

If creating a new community is challenging under the pandemic, strengthen existing ones through Zoom coffee dates or socially distanced walks with a friend or classmate. Starting something new is hard for all of us, says Dr. Worthy, but “feeling more connected definitely outweighs the feeling of isolation.”

Judge Walker acknowledged the significance of therapy in her own life and although therapy may not solve all of one’s problems, it can be helpful in starting to make sense of where to begin and even how to get out of one’s comfort zone. Therapy provides an opportunity to manage stress and heal, and care for one’s body, as well as one’s mind.

These strategies can be effective for any individual, not just Black students. If you are a Columbia University student on Morningside campus, and feel like you could benefit from talking with a mental health provider, please do not hesitate to call CPS at 212-854-2878.