Published on April 17th, 2021 | by Percy Crawford


Dr. Natasha Manning-Gibbs Drops Some Helpful Tips to Assure Mentality Stability During These Difficult Times

Seeking help should not be an embarrassing moment, Dr. Manning-Gibbs explains why it is necessary.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have grown accustomed to hearing the term, “Essential workers,” for certain occupations. With the deadly pandemic seemingly being combated through quarantine and vaccinations, psychologist could possibly be the most essential occupation out there. Even during the height of the virus, psychologist all over the world were as busy as ever. Dr. Natasha Manning-Gibbs feels it’s unfortunate that it took something as serious as the Coronavirus for many individuals to take their mental health seriously, she’s also thankful that they finally are taking it so seriously. Witnessing the closure of businesses, job loss, weight gain and just overall unstable mental stability, the spike in people seeking help to get things back in order is at an all-time high, and Dr. Manning-Gibbs feels it could not have happened at a better time. With the re-opening of several states and essentially the country, it’s important to take the proper steps to assure yourself that you are prepared not only physically but mentally to get back into the swing of things. Dr. Manning-Gibbs, who has a private practice in New Jersey also runs a mental health unit inside of a juvenile prison.

Dr. Manning-Gibbs talks openly to The Hype Magazine  about preventative methods to avoid depression and mental breakdowns, points out the signs to be aware of that leads to mental deterioration and much more.

How are you doing?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: I’m doing well overall. Just looking forward to things getting back to normal. The vaccines are rolling out. So, yeah that’s my main focus to be honest with you. Just looking forward to society getting back to what I’m calling a new normal. I don’t think we will ever get back to normal, but a new normal. I’m doing well overall.

Where did you earn your degrees and where is your practice located?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: I have my PhD in counseling psychology from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. My masters is in clinical psychology from Columbia University. I am a licensed psychologist in New Jersey. I’ve been in private practice since 2012.

How did COVID affect your practice as a psychologist?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: Oh wow, so it significantly impacted my practice. I’ve been sharing with my colleagues and they have been sharing with me, which is that for the first time in our careers, whether they have been in practice for a few years, or I have a couple of colleagues who have been doing it for a few decades, this is one of the first times that we have been really inundated with some many people calling for the first time to try and connect with a psychologist or do therapy for the first time. That’s something that is new. I think this pandemic, COVID-19, especially with it going on for as long as it has, really pushed people. Especially with us reaching the one-year mark, it pushed people to think outside the box about how they take care of themselves.

For the first time, I think people who prior to the pandemic would never have considered therapy. Right now, at this moment, I think they feel like their backs are against the wall. They know something emotionally is going on with them. They know that they have been dealing with these feelings of stress, anxiety, depression for a long time. And for many people that come in to see me or just to make the call to connect, they didn’t know how to label it. I think the news has done a good job, and I applaud you for focusing on this topic. I know people who watched a news program or read an article and they said it helped them identify something emotionally going on with them that prompted them to reach out to a professional.

So, going back to the main point, I’m getting so many calls, for the first time since I’ve been in private practice. From people who have been open to therapy all their lives, but definitely a large number of people that are connecting with me now, who are just saying, “Hey, I need help.” And it’s a beautiful thing to say, but at the same time kind of sad to see that something as significant as a pandemic has made people… somewhat has forced them to start thinking about their mental health. But it’s a good thing overall.

I think the silver lining in all of this is that it made all of us slow down and get out of go-go mode, and that perhaps opened the eyes of some that something was a little off.

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: Unfortunately, there was a small percentage of people who continued to be in go mode. I think a large percentage of people really took the time, especially the first couple of months to say, “Alright, let me reel this in.” Being at work, commuting to work, taking care of kids, are all external things, but in some ways, I like what you said, the silver lining of the pandemic, a large number of people sat down and said, “What’s really going on with me? What can I get out of being home, sheltering in place?” I think a lot of introspection happened. Some of that can be hard at times, but I think it’s a beautiful thing to do because a lot of good can come out of that as well.

I don’t know if mental health checks and examinations were just overlooked in the past, or people self-medicated, but I am happy to see it on the forefront now. We’re seeing professional athletes come out and discuss their mental health struggles and that’s a great start. It shows that what you do is essential.

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: I completely agree. I think people have been looking at… especially the last year, front line workers, medical doctors, supermarket workers, have been justifiably getting labeled as essential workers. But I appreciate you saying that because we’re on the frontline to a certain extent too. I think that not only is COVID-19 a physical condition, but it definitely triggered a lot of emotion on psychological issues as well. We have definitely been on the frontlines being in this practice. I have always had the label of being an essential worker because in addition to private practice work, I also run a mental health unit in a juvenile prison. And they have always categorized that as essential. If there is a snowstorm, we can’t call out. We are essential workers. We gotta go in during state of emergencies, so I have always been used to that label, but outside of the prison, I definitely appreciate the spotlight in some ways being put on our profession. And finally, being recognized as essential and vitally important. A person’s overall well-being, because it’s important to treat COVID’s physical symptoms, but also what’s psychologically going on with people that either contracted the virus, or people who are living through it that don’t contract it. I appreciate you bringing that up and categorizing us in that way.

How important is it for people to pay attention to the potential signs that maybe they aren’t okay because they contracted COVID, maybe they aren’t okay because they lost their job due to the pandemic? If possible, could you give us some things to look for?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: Absolutely! Sometimes people pre-COVID, go into therapy when their back is against the wall. I work closely with several physicians in the New Jersey area who refer me patients who never thought about doing therapy, but their dealing with high blood pressure for years on in and the medication is not working. So, finally the doctor says, “Hey, they may be more psychosomatic, go see, Dr. Manning-Gibbs.” So, I’ll get clients like that over the years.

More recently as far as COVID, people are not just relying on their primary care physicians to say, “Hey, you need to go see somebody.” I think a couple of things that they can really look at is some of those physical symptoms that probably their primary care physician has always been concerned about. Taking a look at how you physically feel. The tension in your body. Sometimes that’s a big indicator. It’s like, “Wow,” something emotionally is going on with me. I’ve been dealing with this tension headache. I’ve been dealing with this migraine; my shoulders are really tight.” So, just in some ways do an internal scan of your body. I think that’s one of the signs that people should be on the lookout for.

On the emotional side, one of the things that has been coming up with a lot of people that has been coming in to see me, is snapping. They are so easily annoyed. They are very irritable with their spouse or children. So, that could be another sign that people could be on the lookout for. Mood swings. One minute you’re feeling okay and the next minute you feel like you’re breaking down emotionally. So, that fluctuating mood is something that I definitely think people should be mindful of and if it’s not what you think it should be, reach out to a mental health professional.

Another thing I would say that is very common that I have been seeing in the past year is, a lot of anger. Especially working in a prison, I tell people in some ways I have developed this expertise on anger and rage. And often times what I see in that population is that anger is often a mask for depression. It’s often a mask for sadness, especially among men. It’s easy for them because they need to show that emotion versus that of showing sadness. So, often times when people are really angry and upset, they don’t make that connection. “Maybe my chronic anger, frustration and rage has more to do with sadness than actual aggression.” If I had to pick the top four things, I would love for people to be on the lookout for and mindful of is, physical tension that they might be experiencing in their body, the snapping and feeling easily annoyed, mood swings and anger, yelling and screaming at loved ones

You use the slogan, “Get your mind right,” before you walk out of your door every morning. I can’t think of a better time than now for this to be useful, a lot of people lost jobs, a lot of people gained weight during the quarantine, now is the time. Could you expand on the meaning of that slogan and what it means to you?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: I’m glad you’re bringing up my morning routine. It sounds like you read my most recent post. It’s really true. I’ve always done that, but I really leaned into it purposefully this last year in particular. I feel like it’s been this armor for me. We are going out into a world where a lot of people are hurting, like the symptoms I just listed off to you. A lot of people are angry and upset. They want to cut you off on the road, engage in arguments and become aggressive.

So, over the past year in particular, I have really been intentional about putting on that armor every morning. My specific routine is, let’s think of something positive. Be it spiritual like a great message from one of the pastors that I follow, sometimes like this morning, instead of listening to something, I just felt the need to read something positive. So, people don’t have to follow exactly what I do in my personal life, but what I suggests to my clients is, come up with your own personal self-care routine. Lean into what you feel will help you get through the day. For some people it might be listening to a message or something positive, not just from a pastor. It can be from a motivational speaker.

But it can also be, I’m going to get up and get my body in motion. I feel like that’s going to help me get through the day. So, ‘Getting Your Mind Right,’ could be pouring into your mind, kind of cognizant in shifting how you walk into the day. Sort of make sure you have positive things that you are thinking about, or it can be doing something that physically gets you through the day. I have one client in particular; she works for a Fortune 500 company. She’s a high-level executive, and for her, what helps her get through the day, she’s come up with a high-intensity routine and that’s her armor and how she gets her mind right in the morning.

In the African American community in particular, the word, psychologist is like a curse word. Why shouldn’t anyone, but especially African Americans not be embarrassed to seek proper help when it’s needed?

Dr. Manning-Gibbs: I love that question. One of the things I say to clients that come in, who has once had that myth, “Oh, I can just handle my problems on my own. I’m just going to lean into the church. I don’t wanna go see a shrink. That’s not for us, that’s for white people.” One of my responses is, we within our community, we will go in to see somebody for a physical ailment usually. If you broke your leg, without hesitation you would go in and see a professional. So, I compare the physical and the way we take care of ourselves physically, we should give the same level of care and focus to our mental health. In order to be a whole being, you gotta take care of your mental health. It’s really important for us to start switching gears in our mind, our well-being just doesn’t have to do with how physically well we’re doing. How physically well we’re doing is also connected to how emotionally and psychologically well we’re doing as well. Another thing I lean on is, it’s grounded in research. The research doesn’t lie. Data indicates that therapy is helpful. Give it a try.

One last thing I would love to say is, one of the things I love about this past year, therapy is becoming more accessible. I think that’s one of the things that made minorities more hesitant about going to see somebody. Anybody that continues to be hesitant about it, feel they just don’t have time to go into somebodies office, or they think it’s too expensive, that another thing that I have been telling people, coming to see me or not, if somebody calls and says that I’m out of network and they can’t afford to see me, I’ll still support them and connect them to either, or Those are platforms where you could speak to your psychologist, therapist virtually. They do payment plans and it’s more accessible.


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