This is the podcast adaptation of the first episode of The Break Room! Part of the Living Corporate network, The Break Room is a live web show focused on mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. You can expect real talk from real experts about the real ways Black folks can protect and heal themselves from racialized trauma at work. The Break Room provides dynamic insight, education, and consultation on mental health for Black professionals. Led by four independent mental health clinicians and researchers, each host brings their unique style and perspective to the nuanced and complex visible and invisible forces that impact Black mental health and well-being in the workplace. Tune in every Thursday at 7PM Central!
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Dr. Nikki: Hello, hello, everybody. Welcome to The Break Room. I’m so excited. We need a theme song because otherwise I’m going to sing “Welcome to The Break Room” in a variety of different ways every week, which could be enjoyable for folks, I don’t know. We’re so excited to be here. I am Dr. Nikki Coleman, and I am here with my three other illustrious co-hosts, and what we want to do with our time today is let you know who we are, what The Break Room is all about. We are excited. Hopefully by the end of this show you will be equally excited, because you’re going to get a little taste of who we are, what we bring to the table, and how we will be using this space. We expect fully for this to be a place for us, our joy, our upliftment, our mental wellness as much as yours. So let’s make it a journey together, and this is just our first step. So with that, I’m going to kick it over to Dr. Brian Dixon and he’s going to help us get a little bit of clarity about how we’re going to use our time today. I felt like such a therapist. How are we going to use our time today?
Dr. Brian: You’re giving structure, and strucutre is always so hopeful, I love it. So, hey, y’all, I’m Dr. Brian Dixon. I’m a child and adolescent psychiatrist down in Fort Worth, Texas. I run my own private practice, and I’m all about entrepreneurship, so you’re going to hear a lot about that. We are super stoked to have you all today. I know that sounds like a white person’s word, and it totally is, but that’s okay. I want to make sure that everybody knows what we’re all about. So The Break Room, it’s a podcast by Black mental health professionals for every Black professional to enjoy. Our mission is to remind you that you matter, that you are valuable, you are awesome and made of stars. We want to make sure that we concentrate on your wellness and joy as a priority for Black liberation. And so we’re a diverse group, we want to encourage a diverse group of listeners. Yes, even our white counterparts, we want to make sure that we’re being relatable and accessible and authentic. And so we hope that comes through tonight. We hope that propagates going forward, and with that, I want to introduce you to Dr. Jide. It’s all you, man.
Dr. Jide: Hey, everybody. Thanks so much to Dr. Nikki and Dr. Brian for getting me started. Dr. Hill, you’re up next, so just get ready. So my name is Dr. Olajide Bamishigbin. I know that’s a tongue twister. You can call me Dr. Jide, that works too. I am a health psychologist. I received my PhD from UCLA in health psychology, and I’m currently an assistant professor of psychology at CSU Long Beach, California State University, Long Beach, and my research is mostly focused on African-American fathers and the way their experiences impact themselves and their family’s mental health and physical health. Once again, I’m just so excited to be here with all of you today. So quickly, let me just give you a rundown of what this show is all about and what we’re going to do. So first and foremost, we actually care about each other, we actually want the best for each other, so we’re always going to start off with the check-in. How are you doing? How are you doing? How are you doing? How’s everything going? Is there anything pressing that you want to get off your chest? That’s first. Next, we’re going to talk about current events. So it’s really important for us to be relatable, and there’s no better way to be relatable than to be in the moment. And fortunately, and unfortunately, as Black people, there’s always something we can talk about that’s impacting our mental health and our physical health. I’m sure I could check the news right now and I’ll see a new story. So we’ll always come in with something current, and we’ll discuss it and talk about it and share our thoughts in a real, authentic and honest way, and that’s one thing – we’ll always be honest with you. Next, we’ll do one of two things, and it depends – one we’ll do a listener letter. So we’re thankful for all of our hosts, as well as Living Corporate, for allowing us this opportunity, but also the people who listen to us, we want to hear from you and hear about your experiences in the workplace. So please come in and write letters to us, you can email us at The Break Room, email@example.com. Any experience you have related to being Black related to mental health, related to experiencing something at work, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail, and hopefully we’ll read it out loud and discuss it. And it’s really important, we will always do our best to label things. So we’ll make sure we do that. So if we don’t do a listener letter, we will do an interview. So the world of mental health, focused on Black people, there are lots of researchers and lots of professionals, so we’ll try to do our best to get people in and talk to them and interview them about their knowledge and expertise, and hopefully that can translate onto you. After that, the best thing about this is that we’re a podcast, but we’re also a web show, so this is live, and there are people right here at any time. Feel free to type in a question and we’ll definitely dedicate a few minutes each show to answering questions that our live listeners have. The last thing, and might be the most fun thing, is what we call The Last Nerve, and when I say The Last Nerve, you know what I mean, “You’re getting on my last nerve.”
Dr. Nikki: That energy, that energy.
Dr. Jide: That’s the right energy, right, “You’re getting on my last nerve.” Some of us are parents here, we know that very well. So The Last Nerve is an opportunity for one of us to just vent about anything that we’re experiencing. What’s on your last nerve? Let’s talk about it. Let’s discuss it. It’s an opportunity for us to, once again, be real with you and to be intentional because, just like you, although we’re here hosting, we’re Black professionals. We’re in the workplace, we experience things, we experience our Karen co-workers, so let’s talk about it. And that’s our structure. So now I’m going to kick it over to Dr. Hill to explain some of the topics we’ll be covering.
Dr. Hill: Hey, y’all, I’m Dr. LaWanda Hill, she, her pronouns. I’m a licensed psychologist, I’m a consultant & curator of spaces. I am the owner of Hills Psychological Consultation Services. I specialize with Black women, Black women and their spiritual health, their sexual health, their physical health, their emotional health. So looking at the whole woman, and I’m also a full-time psychologist at Stanford University. So I’m going to cover all the topics that we’re going to dive into. We’re going to dive into a whole bunch of stuff. We’re going to start with the classics. We’re going to start with anxiety, we’re going to start with depression, and we’re going to talk about trauma because Black folks have tons of it. Then we’re going to get into the nuances, impostor syndrome, stereotyping, feeling like you don’t belong, feeling outed, being a part of the impact of it’s a personal communication or lack thereof at the job. So no particular topic is going to be off limits. Anything that could even remotely be related to your mental health and well-being, we’re going to tackle it because, like, we said, we are very much so passionate about Black liberation, Black mental health, Black wellness, and so we’re going to cover the whole gamut. So you all are in for a treat.
Dr. Nikki: I’m so excited. I love that, Dr. LaWanda, and if you haven’t heard across what all of my co-hosts have shared, what we want to recognize is part of a Black cultural worldview is one of sort of holistic being, and often times I think a good part of why Black people experience so much anxiety and stress, disregulation of our systems is because we’re trying to engage in a world that’s not established for us, and part of sort of what white supremacy does is sort of dissect individuals. You’re supposed to come to work as a work being and leave all those other parts of yourself outside, and what we’re really trying to do here is decolonize that space and recognize that there really is no disconnect between those things and the more that we try disconnect us from ourselves to fit into that world, the more we experience all of those sorts of negative outcomes. So when we’re talking about our holistic well-being, we’re going to be looking at all of those things. That also include health and wellness, and we’re going to be talking about just general hacks that we know as psychologists, and mental health professionals, that help us be more healthy, or be more present, be more psychologically stable, because we recognize there is a consequential impact on how we show up at work, sort of the overall satisfaction we can have in our world of work, and I also am a firm believer that you need to be in your best mental health state to have clarity, because some of these spaces that we’re trying to be in are not for us, but you need to have clarity of mind to be able to say “It’s time for me to exit,” rather than scrambling just to keep up. So we’ll be doing this in a very conversational way where we’ll be sharing our professional expertise, insights, but also really sharing from our lived experiences So I thought maybe we could spend a little bit more time letting the people get to know us and what does that mean, and I’m happy to sort of kick that off for us. I am currently a senior training specialist for diversity, equity and inclusion in a major healthcare institution. This is a career change for me that I made mid-life, mid-career. I am a recovering academic, so I am a counseling psychologist by training, and that just means that I am a therapist trained to be able to understand the individual in context and thinking about individuals from optimal states of well-being rather than looking at them from disease and trying to fix the symptoms. My sort of framework and worldview is that everybody comes with inherent strengths and access to wellness. It’s just a matter of trying to figure out how to help you tap into that. And also, look at how the environment and context you’re in may be impacting you negatively. So I’m a counseling psychologist, that really is a predominant sort of worldview for me and thinking about that, and so even though I have been an academic, even though I have been–I’m now a corporate trainer, even though I’m also a licensed psychologist. For me, those titles are less important than sort of my overall worldview. And then, secondarily for me, I recognize that I have a great deal of privilege in a lot of the identities that I hold. Most importantly, I recognize that I have privilege because of my education, because of the prestige that comes along with that education and social class status that comes along with that, and I am deeply and inherently committed to Black liberation. I want my people to be as free and happy and joyful and well as possible. And so I bring that perspective, that energy, that mission to everything that I do, whether it is in the raising of my daughter, and I’ll probably talk about her a lot. I’m a single parent and a single working professional parent, which is a whole thing in this capitalistic system we call the United States, so I’ll definitely be bringing that angle in, but it shows up when I come into work. What are the things that I’m willing to tolerate? What are the things that I’m not? Who are the people that I’m advocating for? Who are the people that I’m going to let drown themselves? All of those things, and I’m hoping to bring that same perspective, worldview, energy to this. I have known Dr. LaWanda Hill for most of her adult life, and I’m proud to say that I’m getting to know Brian and Jide, especially learning how to pronounce Jide’s name. I am going to get it, let me see, Olajide Bamishigbin.
Dr. Jide: Bamishigbin.
Dr. Nikki: Bamishigbin. I’m getting to know them, and I just know how much talent there is in this space, how much positive intention there is in this space, and so I’m in for a treat. You all are in for a treat. So I’m going to say, let’s see, Brian, do you want to talk a little bit more about what you do currently?
Dr. Brian: Sure thing. So thank you, Dr. Nikki. I feel honored to be in this space. So my whole entire life I’ve gone to predominantly white institutions and figuring out who I was as a Black guy, because it was just really, really hard, and so having this space with other Black professionals, especially Black mental health professionals, is just so empowering. So I’m originally from East Texas, a small town called Lufkin, Texas. Grew up there, went to Baylor for undergrad, went to Texas A&M for medical school, and then the University of Kentucky for residency, and as you can imagine, white, white, white, and so I got to be the token spokesperson for all of our people all the time, and that was a blessing and a curse obviously. So I got the opportunity to make some true change for some folks, sometimes to my detriment because your cup can only be so full and you can only pour from your cup for so much before you get burned out. And so yes, I moved back to Texas after residency, and I started working for people, and one of the things that I learned, it’s not them, it’s you. So I would get into these spaces and I would be the most productive physician. I would be outspoken. I’d come up with brand new ideas and I’m [like?] “This is awesome,” and then I would get shot down and sent to HR and written up and chastised. And it finally dawned on me after I was standing in my last boss’s office crying after signing a form that said “You do anything outside of what you’re supposed to do, and this is your first and final [warning?], you will be terminated.” I said, “Nope, I have to leave.” And so I left and I started a private practice. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was just making stuff up as I went along. What I did know is I liked working with patients, and so I built my whole business structure around that and it paid off. And so now I’m going into year six, and we’re doing extremely well, I have lots of doctors who work under me, and I’m going to be expanding my offerings to include more mental health professionals so that they can run successful private practices too, because it is my feeling that instead of trying to ask people in power, especially white people in power for anything, we need to grow it ourselves, and so I teach people how to brand themselves. I connect them with marketing. I teach them different strategies on how to scale a business, because there is literally a way to scale a business, to scale a practice, to scale your consulting. And so yes, I bring that aspect, and then as a physician at the end of the day your body has to be healthy as well. And so I’m always harping on eat right, exercise, [watch] what you’re putting into your body, getting your shots. So I’m sure we’re going to have a whole podcast on nothing but how to deal with all of that, because that’s super complicated right now, and again, I’m just super glad to be here. And with that, I will kick it over to Dr. Jide.
Dr. Jide: Hey, thanks again, and thank you both for taking the time to share your experiences in the workplace. Once again, I’m Dr. Jide. I’m originally from Miami, Florida. You can call it just Miami. I don’t really like saying the Florida part, but that is where I’m from. I’m the child of Nigerian immigrants. I have three older sisters who have taught me everything and have really made me who I am today, and I appreciate my parents and my sisters. I went to the University of Miami for my undergraduate degree in psychology. After that, I went straight to UCLA to get my PhD in psychology. Right after that, I started working at California State University, Los Angeles, where I was for three years, and then now, I’m at Cal State Long Beach where I’ve been for a little less than a year. I’m a father. I have two beautiful boys. So like I’ve told my co-host already, today’s my six year old’s birthday. He just turned six. So one time for little Jide, that’s my son. I love him so much. And my other son turns 3 on the 22nd, so happy future birthday to him too. I’m married as well. I have my beautiful wife, who also got her PhD from UCLA in education. Her name’s Janell, and I’m really here, I care about families. I’m a member of a family, I’m everything because of my family. The family I come from, the family I’ve created, the friends I have, and I’m always thinking about the ways that things that happen out in the world impact us in this little space and all the myriad of ways and how we treat each other, how we talk to each other, how we eat, how we sleep, how everything impacts us, and I hope to bring those experiences here and to share it with you all. So thank you so much, and I’m going to kick it over to LaWanda.
Dr. Hill: Hey, y’all, I’m Black, y’all. I’m Blackity Black. I’m Black, y’all, that’s me. That’s who I am. I am an HBCU alum. I was born and bred at the Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I was taught often to lift as you climb, and we celebrated Black excellence, Black scholarship, Black liberation, Black leadership across the board, Black talent, Black magic. And so I come from a very–I’ve been very blessed and privileged to be reared in my formative years in all Black spaces. My high school, although mostly Black, we may have had five non-Black people in the entire school. Undergrad was the same. I left Southern University, went to University of Houston for my master’s and my doctorate where I met Dr. Nikki, who was an incredible advisor and still is an amazing mentor. And I, again, was rooted in Blackness, in Black scholarship, in Black professionalism, and starting to understand Black sexuality and Black mental health in a different type of way from a Black lens. Then from there I have all of my [?], my internships, my residency, [?] be focused on people to relate. We’re Black supervisors, so I have very little tolerance for anti-Blackness in the spaces that I move in because I can recognize it very quickly. So my lens, what I’m trying to bring is I firmly believe, as Sonya Morrison said, that racism is a distraction. There’s almost always one more thing. There’s always one more way to prove yourself. There’s almost always another thing that we need to do to feel competent, to feel secure, to feel beautiful, all that, and it just distracts you from your purpose and from your passion, and I believe that God has more for me than that to be trying to convince white people that I matter and that I’m human. So I am all about empowering people to take up space, and I think that that’s hard sometimes for people, but I think the more we’re able to take up space, the more we can not be distracted from performing and being preoccupied with the opinions of people who will, who don’t need to humanize us in the first place. So that’s the energy I bring to this space. I lived in Houston. I feel like Houston is my second home. I’m from northern Louisiana, about two hours outside of Shreveport. You’ll hear me talk about my siblings all the time. I’m the last of 10 children. I have seven brothers and two sisters. I love my family very dearly. They were very impactful in my formative years. So even though I grew up in Louisiana, I tell people I was born in Louisiana, I grew up in Houston, and so Houston feels like a second home to me. I stayed there for a while, for about nine years, and then relocated to the Bay Area, and I got tons of the stories for you all about the Bay Area in California and anti-Blackness because it just feels different. So I’m excited about the show. I’m excited to be joining my co-hosts. I think we all have some very unique perspectives, and we have different approaches and different ways of engaging, but the goal is always Black liberation and Black wellness. So I’m excited.
Dr. Jide: Thank you.
Dr. Nikki: Awesome. I appreciate that. And I was just thinking, sometimes I feel a little bit older than I actually am. I didn’t give any of my “Where did I come from,” and all that sort of stuff, but I also am the product of an HBCU. I went to Xavier University in Louisiana. I’m originally an Louisiana girl from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’ve grown to appreciate my Southern roots the older I get and the real deep wisdom tradition that comes out of the South, and I was raised by a lot of amazing, badass, fearless, joyful Black women, and the older I get and the more I have to sort of navigate professional spaces, the more I realize how much wisdom was poured into me that I really draw on. And I think that Dr. LaWanda hosted a Clubhouse conversation a couple of weeks ago around “stop tip-toeing around white folks,” which I love the topic, and there was a conversation in there a bit about code switching, and I don’t want to talk specifically about code switching at this point, though I do think that should be a particular topic that we cover, but what it made me think about was I think by and large most Black people sort of come into the world of work already overprepared because we have the capacity to navigate multiple worlds to begin with in order for us to have gotten to this place where we are in terms of our education, to be in some of the spaces. I remember sitting in faculty meetings, in academic spaces early on in my career, and just having such a surreal experience, like, “These people have no idea who I am or where I come from. I could not see any of them sitting around my grandma’s kitchen table, eating a plate of greens and cornbread.” And that is equally where I’m comfortable as I am sort of navigating this space. So I think we have sort of an inherent capacity to really be excellent because we are navigating those spaces. Not only are we sort of on top of our craft in terms of our area of expertise, not only do we put in the work to sort of master the information, we’re coming at it with a whole host of deep wisdom traditions and these extra cultural experiences that they can’t tap into, and I really think we serve ourselves better when we acknowledge that, ehen we not only acknowledge it but are proud of it and try to find the ways to infuse that into our work as much as possible. I think that’s part of what happened with you, Brian, that day that your mama, grandmama, granddaddy, somebody rose up and said, “Oh, hell no. Not today. We not doing this today.”
Dr. Brian: You’re exactly right, and it was really interesting because my mother always taught me “go to work and work hard,” [but] she never told me that sometimes some spaces are not for you. That never came out. So as a result I was in a toxic place that was not helpful. So I’m super, super stoked. I think this podcast will be one podcast where everybody leaves the podcast each time with a direction. So we’re just not on here to bitch and moan. It’s about being intentional and purposeful, and I think you laid that out beautifully.
Dr. Jide: All our episodes are going to be about 30 minutes. We don’t want to take up too much of your time. So right around 30 minutes we’re going to end it up. Two, as I said, people, feel free to ask questions. Always feel free to ask questions, and we have two questions already. Let’s read them out and we will address them. So “Can you also take a deeper dive into the various ways in which an emotionally intelligent self-regulation framework can help us navigate toxic work or academic spaces?” That is such a well-written question. Thank you, and we absolutely will cover that. So we’re taking notes on it. We absolutely will cover that. Two, “Can you eventually discuss how to manage a healthy relationship with our social media engagement, parentheses, and all the toxic toxicity embedded in those spaces? And thoughts on social media hiatuses?” Absolutely, we can answer these things. Absolutely we’ll take the time to talk about these. Another thing, I want to point this out, all of us won’t necessarily be on every single episode. So there’ll always be at least two of us, sometimes three of us, on a special occasion all four of us, but we’ll all take the time, and this will really allow you to hear different perspectives in depth.
Dr. Nikki: Let me just say, for those particular questions that you asked, I could give you some quick off the top answers, and then what we’ll do is make sure as we are planning show notes in future we can incorporate a more detailed and robust discussion, but particularly with emotional intelligence and self-regulation, I feel like this is either a psychology student or a psychologist that wrote that question. That’s a high-level question. I love it, but for me, what I take away from it is sort of what role does your own sort of mental health, mental well-being and mental health, play into your capacity to navigate spaces that are not set up for you at best and maybe even negative for you at worst? And I think that my short answer is you can never be underserved by your capacity to be fully self-aware and self-reflective, because what that does is give you greater leverage for navigating circumstances, situations at work that allow you to sort of maximize them for your own benefit. But it also, for me–and I will continue to reinforce this piece, knowing what’s for you and what’s not for you.–and I really like the metaphor of battle and war mentality. Not every battle at work is going to be worth your energy, and so having your own sense of emotional intelligence and self-regulation helps you know when you don’t have the energy to deal with that this week or at this point. Let it be somebody else’s, because we have to think. We know so much more now about the impact of mental health and stress on the body and our physiological well-being, and we are growing and growing and understanding how these health disparities for Black folks show up. So my bottom line way of saying that, I think your emotional intelligence will prevent you from letting white folks kill you, because that’s what they’re trying to do over the long-term, is kill us slowly. Let’s do this as we wrap up, one, we are here live every Thursday, 7:00 p.m. CST, 5:00 p.m., PST. This will also be available on livingcorporate.tv. So you can tell your friends. Be a friend, tell a friend is what I always say, and come back to watch. Make sure you are following us on social media. @drnikkiknows, @drdixonftw, @drlawandahill, @jidebam. And once again, I just want to reiterate, if you want to write in to us, please write in a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Brian: Thanks so much, y’all.
Dr. Jide: Thank you so much, everybody. Be well.