The Live Talk with Ken Black: Tangible Tools and Strategies Ken Learned Along the Way
A few weeks back, we spoke with Ken Black JD, MBA, a Madison native who now resides on the east coast as a Mergers and Acquisitions associate, about his mental health journey.
Why Ken Decided to go to Therapy
While Ken felt he was relatively fine, the death of a family member, coupled with encouragement from trusted relatives who had sought therapy led him to his first session. In doing some self-reflection, he noticed in addition to grief, he was working extremely hard, neglecting self care, felt uncomfortable sharing things about himself and was just constantly “feeling some type of way”. He wanted to better articulate his feelings and work through the grief in a safe space.
How Ken Found the Right Therapist
To begin, Ken googled “Local Therapists” with three criteria in mind:
- passionate about therapy
- well educated in mental health
- a background that would support the areas in life he was struggling with
He conducted interviews with two therapists before finding a match. Ken notes that it is not always a “perfect fit right away-it could take 3-5 sessions before opening up.” He suggests giving yourself time and grace when finding a therapist.
Some Tangible Tools and Strategies Ken Learned in Therapy
Therapy provided a safe space for Ken to understand various experiences and emotions. He worked through childhood events, situations that happened while playing sports, and experiences that occurred at work, and school. With his therapist, he developed tools and strategies to help him along his journey. Here are a few he highlighted during our conversation:
Self Reflection Techniques
When you find yourself feeling “some type of way,” recognize the emotion and where it’s coming from. If you can verbalize and articulate it, from past events, you can handle it accordingly since you have come up with a strategy and dealt with it through therapy.
For situations that are new, ones that you are not sure how to deal with, take a pause. Wrap your head around it and come back to the person – that’s Okay. You may want to resolve the situation right away, but sometimes pausing and coming back is better than wading through the situation, dealing with the anxiety, and not communicating well.
Ken suggests avoiding words such as “I should have done this”, or “I could have done this”. Telling yourself these polarising phrases excuses all the things you did to get where you are. For example, you may wake up late and beat yourself up saying, “I should have woke up earlier”. This negates that you stayed up late studying or working and your body needed the extra rest.
Talk to yourself like a friend. For example, don’t call yourself stupid. Rather, take the time to understand why. Perhaps you did something silly but was it stupid? Everyone forgets their keys once in a while, that could mean you are busy…sit with it and understand why and where it comes from. He articulates that, “feelings are not fact…but they are indicators…if you feel a certain type of way, it’s that something is going on…check in with yourself”
Avoid Absolute Language
Try staying away from absolute words such as – “always”, “never”, “no one”, “every time”. Things are rarely black and white, there are often some grey areas. If and when you find yourself using absolute language, pause and reflect – where is this coming from? What story are you telling yourself? Is this story seeing all perspectives? How can you reframe your narrative?
Some feelings have been associated with shame. Society, the media, our family and friends sometimes do not allow us to feel “bad emotions”. But there are no absolute bad or good emotions, “there are situationally appropriate emotions”. If you are sad, cry and don’t feel shame in taking the time you need!
Control What you can Control
It’s easy to blame ourselves, compare ourselves, and have high anxiety. But, often much of what we worry about is out of our control. Rather than worry about things we can’t control, control what you can. Here are 3 ways to do that.
- Step back, develop an action plan on what you can control, remind yourself that you can handle it, you have been here before, and put that plan into action.
- Instead of comparing, write out what is important to you, what does success look like for you? This activity helps you avoid comparing yourself to others.
- Exercise/ body movement can help with anxiety as it helps you focus on one thing. Exercise also allows our bodies to release endorphins. These endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body that reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Reframe the stories you are telling yourself.
Why Someone Should try Therapy
Trauma can be big incidents and small regular experiences that build up. Having someone who listens, and provides tools and resources to understand, contextualize and navigate these challenges can be helpful. People need different tools at different stages of their lives and a therapist can help identify those needs.
“Therapy is a personal journey. Go at your own time and pace. I am on the path to achieving some of the things I dream of achieving and therapy has been crucial to me in getting there”Ken Black