Honest(ly) Advice with Katie is Gotham Magazine’s new limited-time advice series with Katie Sands, founder of @honestlykate and On-Air Style Host.
Frequently sought after for her expert tips, including outfit inspiration while on a budget, must-have product recommendations, daily routines for overall well-being, and advice for personal success, Katie will be answering your burning questions here weekly, throughout the month of January.
As the series comes to a close, we are going to discuss all things mental health: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Always remember, you’re not alone!
As Covid picks up again, I find that my mental health is deteriorating. What are some strategies to help myself cope?
For me, it always helps to schedule bi-weekly therapy sessions in times of high stress or anxiety. I have never left a therapy session feeling worse. I also recently discovered how to channel my anxiety into positive, healthy actions that make me feel better – like weight training twice a week and going on long walks with friends. It also helps me to remember the whole world is going through this together. And that it’s okay to sit with your discomfort for a bit, recognize it, and then do something that makes you happy and relieves stress.
The fear of the unknown has always taken a toll on me but is magnified throughout the pandemic. How do I manage this feeling of a lack of control?
We can only control how we act toward situations that are out of control. It always helps me to think about things logically and ask, “Is there realistically anything I can do about this situation?” Once I understand that there’s not, I try to control how I react to it, take a few deep breaths, and focus on the things that I do have control over, such as my mindset and prioritizing my health and well-being.
Working from home and now being more cautious on the weekends given the Covid surge, makes me feel extremely isolated. How do I maintain relationships while still being safe?
We have to live our life but also be responsible and think about other people who may be more at risk. I have continuously tested myself before seeing friends, and am always super careful if I find out I have been exposed (which definitely is happening more and more lately). It’s important to be careful and cautious while also maintaining our social life and doing the things we love to do and that bring joy into our lives. So get tested regularly, stay home if you don’t feel well, quarantine if you’ve been exposed, but also make time for the people you love and the life you want to be living.
Antidepressants have always been seen as taboo in my family, but I know that I would really benefit from them. How do I start this difficult dialogue with my parents?
We need to stop the stigma on depression and anxiety. Antidepressants have helped so many people, they have saved lives. If a doctor is encouraging you to go on them, it is for a good reason. Trust our health professionals. My grandmother suffered from severe depression and bipolarism and refused to take anti-depression medication which has made her live a sad and lonely life. If only she had just listened to her family and her doctors and taken the pills, I believe things would have been very different for her. Do what’s best for you and what’s recommended by your doctor. Your family will understand eventually because they love you and want you to be happy and safe.
With my busy schedule, it’s been increasingly hard to find time for myself. How do I prioritize self-care?
The busy will never end. It’s part of modern society. You have to think about your priorities, and if self-care is something that helps fill your cup and re-fuel your system, making time for it is essential. I would recommend dedicating one night each week to self-care. Whether it’s taking a long bubble bath with a facemask on, signing up for a slow-flow yoga class, or reading for an hour with a glass of wine. Take the time you need for yourself and make it a habit. You won’t be your best self if you don’t.
I always viewed going to therapy as a weakness, rather than a strength. How do I view talking to somebody as empowering?
Going to therapy is a superpower. For me, the fact that I am putting my money towards my brain and not another pair of shoes is something I should be incredibly proud of. If you are lucky enough to afford to go, it should be seen as an investment in you. You have to take care of your mental health the same way you take care of your physical health. If you have a brain you have mental health, and like all muscles, it needs to be exercised and taken care of in order to function at its best.
I just moved to New York City and am feeling lost in the crowd. What can I do to make this huge city feel smaller?
I definitely recommend you join organizations and clubs. When I moved to NYC I immediately got myself involved in organizations I was passionate about. I also joined a philanthropy, which helped me not only make new friends, but really feel gratification in my life, and purpose. It’s in these niches you start to feel that beautiful sense of community.
I was finally adjusting to living in Manhattan, and now everything is shutting down. How do I remind myself that this doesn’t revert my progress?
New York will always come back and it doesn't seem to me that anything is shutting down, it’s just adapting. The restaurants I know that have closed temporarily only closed because the staff had covid, they’re either back open or will be opening again soon. New York is the most resilient city in the world, and the fact that you can go outside and walk around and experience almost anything is what makes New York so special. There’s beauty everywhere here, especially in its people. There’s no place like it.
How do I use social media in a way that lifts me up rather than tears me down?
Of course, there are days where nasty messages pop up, or maybe you get stuck comparing yourself to others, but we’re all human. What I remind myself is how much good has resulted from social media. Personally, I’ve connected with people all over the world on almost every topic under the sun. I’ve built a career that didn't even exist 15 years ago, and have been able to gain insights I could have never imagined. I really think that for all the bad, there’s triple the good in the digital space. You just have to choose to focus on the aspects of social media that serve you.
I recently removed myself from a toxic social situation that was affecting my mental health. How do I avoid putting myself in the same situation in the future and how do I remind myself that I made the right decision?
I am a firm believer that removing relationships and friendships that do not serve you is the best thing you can do for yourself and your mental health. This has been a topic among my friends for the last year or so, and I think it’s a natural component of maturing and figuring out what and who is right for you. If someone doesn't bring you joy they do not need to be in your life. This is different from someone just being down. I always take a mental note of how I feel when I leave someone after a dinner or a brunch. Do I feel good about how I acted or behaved in their presence, or do I feel bad and not like myself? The uneasy feeling can occur with more than just romantic relationships, it can happen in friendships as well. I have no problem muting people on social media or blocking them via phone if they do not wish me, my family, or my friends, well. Don’t waste your energy on people or situations that don’t bring you joy. Life is too short!
Photography by: Margaret Sullivan