In honor of World Mental Health Day, We spoke to Simone Saunders, BSW, MSW, RSW of The Cognitive Corner. She is a trauma therapist and educator with over 548k followers on Instagram and TikTok combined. On her Instagram, Simone shares her perspective on mental health, bodily awareness, cycle syncing, and more. During our conversation, she shared insights on what wellness truly means, ways to make wellness more accessible, and other professional tips on caring for your mental health.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
I have a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) and have been doing this work for the last 6 to 7 years. After I did my bachelor’s, I started working in community mental health, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do private practice and therapy. During that time I completed my master’s, and I started social media with psychoeducation In 2021 I started a private practice, The Cognitive Corner. We do individual therapy, group therapy, and workshops. What made you start posting content on social media Initially, it started with the purposes of psychoeducation content, infographics, and things like that. I saw that there isn’t a lot of mental health representation. I had seen a few mental health pages [on social media] but what I noticed was there was a lack of black representation in the mental health space, and so I wanted to be a part of that voice to give the diversity needed in the field.
Where did your passion for mental health come from?
I knew I wanted to go into some sort of “people-helping” career. Initially, I thought I would go into family law, but after learning more about law I decided that wasn’t my avenue. I think the passion came from seeing family members and friends struggle with mental health and my own personal struggle with mental health. I think that especially in the black community we don’t talk about [mental health] very much, it’s sort of a ‘that exists, but it’s them and not us’ and I think that was a big part of it. When I was looking for a therapist myself. I had a hard time finding someone who looked like me, and that kind of solidified that I wanted to be in this field.
What are some key things you would recommend when looking for a therapist?
I would say important things to consider are: what you are looking to work on? I always recommend doing a consultation, that consultation [with a therapist] can be a really great way to get more information about the therapist, and the way that they practice. Especially if you’re a person of color, ask them the tough questions like:
- What does cultural responsiveness mean to you?
- How have you helped people who have the same or similar identities as me?
- Do they have experience with whatever it is you are looking to work through?
- Do they have experience with your population, and the willingness to have those tough conversations?
The title of this blog post is, “What is Wellness Truly?” What does wellness truly mean to you?
To put it simply, wellness is taking care of yourself even when you don’t feel like it. Wellness can be journaling and candles, but wellness is also budgeting, making food, going grocery shopping, cleaning your house, and having tough conversations with people. There is a perception of wellness like wearing your matching set and lighting a candle. But wellness is also the times you don’t feel like cleaning your house, or checking your bank account [and doing it anyway] that is also wellness. What we’re trying to do is cultivate a life where you primarily feel well, and acknowledge when you don’t feel well. How can you manage the things that are in your control, so that you’re on a trend of generally feeling good about your life and how you live it. Wellness is when you are primarily feeling well and how you manage the things that are in your control.
On social media, you talk a lot about body awareness, what are some ways we can bring awareness into our bodies?I think it starts with taking a look at things you are already doing. For example, when you are in the shower, what does the water feel like on your body? A lot of times we’re on autopilot and we’re doing things like eating, watching TV, etc without the actual awareness that we are constantly getting physical sensations from our environment but when we are able to slow down and ask “What does this actually feel like?” then that allows us to start being more in-touch and intentional and gauge if it feels positive, negative, or neutral.
How can we begin to destigmatize caring for your mental health? Especially in communities of color.
I think it comes down to openly talking about it [with each other]. There isn’t really any action if there is no talking. So I think once we get talking about the fact that we all have mental health, sometimes it’s poor, sometimes it’s great, and what contributes to that. [Once we have those conversations] the easier it becomes to actually do something about it.
And how can we get those conversations going?
I would start with safe people, talking openly with people who have your safety in mind. I think another part of wellness is if you are going to be vulnerable and share your experiences, are you sharing with people who have your safety in mind? The grieving process of not being able to go to certain people for support is really important as well.
What are some common misconceptions you see about wellness?
That you’re always supposed to feel good. I think that there is this expectation that even when you have bad days you have to you manage them a certain way, and sometimes that is just not the case. Sometimes you’re sad and in bed all day watching Netflix and that’s okay too.
Nowadays we are bombarded with different ways to practice wellness. How can we make wellness more accessible?
Monitoring how much information you’re taking in. If you want to implement some self-help or wellness, start small. Take a few aspects of [what you’re learning] and experiment with them. Start implementing one or two things and see if it works for you, if it goes that’s great, but if not, then you know you can leave it.
How can we maintain a wellness practice?
I think it comes down to not being so rigid with yourself. When it comes to a wellness practice or routine, sometimes we make this assumption that we are going to feel the same every day, but a big part is being flexible enough with your routine. Wellness one day might look like “Today I won’t leave anything behind on the floor”, and then wellness the next day can look like vacuuming or mopping. I think it’s about how can I be flexible enough so that on the days when what I actually need is some rest or I need to do a bit more, there is flexibility for those things.
If you were to meet someone who was completely new to the world of mental wellness, where would you point them first?
I would say before adopting a new practice take inventory of what is working and what is not working in their lives currently. What typically makes you feel positive/negative? Then you can gain an understanding of how things in your life are currently impacting you and what are some things I might want to change to be different.
What can we do at home to take better care of ourselves?
The first thing that comes to mind is how you can create an environment that works for you, that works with you, and not against you. When I say works for you, I am referring to what is, what is functional for you. [Because of social media], we are very aware of the pressure of aesthetics and the perfect-looking home, and that works for some, but really getting down to what works for you as an individual.
What is the importance of journaling in caring for your mental health?This form of processing allows you to get thoughts and emotions out from the day, put them on the page and leave it there. It can serve as a containment for your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can also be a tool to reflect. When we reflect just with our memory, we can romanticize or catastrophize things.