….and suddenly, it was May.

This has to be one of the craziest, most extreme years that will go down in the history of the world. There are days where I watch the news and think to myself, is this seriously real life?

But after two months of being in lock down, the shock and fear stages of this global pandemic have finally subsided for me. It’s been two months since the stay at home order was mandated, and this new normal finally feels normal.

While working from home is not new for me, being at home 24/7 is. Right before our world shut down, I had spent the last 9 months traveling around the country for work and had just gotten back from a trip to Hawaii. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I took 26 flights in 2019, spent almost every week in a hotel room, and lived that “jet set life.” It was the literal opposite of quarantine life. I was tired.

At the end of 2019, I remember praying and hoping that my life would slow down and that I’d get time to rest. And well, apparently God was listening because He delivered.  In a way, I’m not mad about this pandemic. It’s forced me to slow down, given me the space to focus on my mental health, and allowed me to truly breathe.

But with this, also comes the challenge of actually working on your mental health. Before COVID-19 hit, I realized that my pattern for coping with anxiety was to simply keep working. To always be busy. To always be on the go. Because if I was busy, I didn’t have time to think about the things that weighed me down. I didn’t have to confront my personal demons.

And so with this lockdown, I made a personal commitment to use this time to really prioritize myself. For the first time in my life, I started seeing a therapist–virtually that is–and it has been the best investment I’ve made during this quarantine.

For a long time, I believed that admitting I was not okay was a sign of weakness. So I hid from my emotions, put my smile on my face, and went through my days faking it. 2018 was the hardest year of my life–I secretly struggled with chronic illness and carried the burden of anxiety and depression alone. Getting up every day and facing the world was hard. Each day that I survived was another day down, and a countdown in my mind to that magical place of healing.

2018 was the year I realized that I could not heal the in the place that made me sick. So I packed up my bags, moved across the country from NYC back to CA and really started my healing journey.  It is now 2020, and I finally made the commitment to seek professional help with anxiety and depression. Because I know that the journey to healing means I’ve got to do the work. Because I know that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Because investing in myself is the best thing I could ever do.

One thing that I’ve done with my therapist that has already radically transformed me was an activity where I visualized my most happy, healed self.  My therapist advised me to envision who I want to be in 5 years: who does Alyssa look like? What does she feel like? What does it mean to be happy and healed for me?

And when I picture myself as my highest self, I picture a woman who no longer holds toxic mindsets about herself, a woman who speaks to herself in a kind a compassionate way, a woman who loves herself just as much as she loves others. I envision a life where I am living my truth unapologetically, no longer living to please others, and living and doing the things that bring me the most joy. And so every day, I hold this vision of myself close to my heart. And remind myself that this version of Alyssa is close. That I am working on becoming her and blossoming into my best self.

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And so I share with you a part of my healing journey to let you know that: you are not alone. That healing is possible. That it’s okay if you are struggling.  I also completely empathize if access to professional help is a barrier right now, so here are 3 things I am working on with my therapist that can be helpful for you too:

  1. Positive mantras: One of the first things I’ve learned is that I have to unlearn my old ways of thinking and coping.  Instead of going down the rabbit hole of worrying, my first step is to recognize that my thought is just a thought. That my fear of “x, y, z” happening is just a fear and the remind myself that: “I am happy. I am safe. I am loved. I am healing.”  I practice these mantras when I feel anxious and repeat them while as often as I can remember. Training your brain is a real thing!
  2. Grounding techniques: If I feel the onset of anxiety or panic, I start focusing on my breath and calling out things around me. “I see a picture in front of me. My shirt is red. The wind is blowing through the window.” Essentially, I am using my physical senses to move through feelings of distress. You can read more about other techniques here.
  3. Gratitude journal: When I was in the thick of anxiety and depression, I started journaling and would write down the things I was grateful for. It helped me shift my focus on the good that was coming out of my struggles and grounded me in the present moment. It’s something I started doing each week on my Instagram too. My Thankful Thursday series encourages others to practice gratitude and be intentional in the way we use social media. It is a short 3 question gratitude template that takes a few minutes to reflect!  If you’d like to join, download the template here! Don’t forget to tag me in your stories as well so that I can repost you and see what you are thankful for!

And finally, May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Month and I am grateful to have this platform to share more of my story. As an Asian American, I know firsthand how sharing stories of mental illness can be scary and how some of the ways we were raised culturally can impact our mental health.  If you’d like to learn more and hear more on my journey, listen to our Tea Talk Podcast episode here!

If you’re reading this–know that you are worthy. That healing is possible. That you are not alone. And that you are loved. I hope my story brought you some comfort in knowing that we are in this together. Keep blooming, sis.

Walking with you,

Alyssa

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These beautiful photos were taken by the talented Crystal! Check her out here and book her for your next photo shoot!