Tracy Cooper: “Mental health is a part of your overall health and is just as important as eating better, exercising and sleeping well”

Society can also help support mental health through education and understanding that mental health is a part of your overall health and is just as important as eating better, exercising and sleeping well. Society should be made aware of resources within the community that are readily available to improve one’s mental health and that it […]

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Society can also help support mental health through education and understanding that mental health is a part of your overall health and is just as important as eating better, exercising and sleeping well. Society should be made aware of resources within the community that are readily available to improve one’s mental health and that it is important for everyone.

I had the pleasure to interview Tracy Cooper. Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has her Bachelor of Art in Psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and Master’s in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling from St. Mary’s University. She is also the co-owner of Fit Therapy of Texas, where she helps individuals and couples reach their goals and improve their mental health.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was emotional as a child. My emotions were intense. I felt like I didn’t belong and thought of myself as different. I was anxious and depressed and dealt with my emotions alone. This form of isolation was brutal — it took a toll on my physical health and my relationships.

In high school, I developed an eating disorder. It made me feel in control of my situation, life, and emotions. My eating disorder began to consume my every action and control my life. It got to a point to where it was negatively affecting my health both physically and mentally. I was restricting my body of food and basically starving myself. This went on for years.

One day while driving on no food, I blacked out and hit another car. It was after this event that I went to seek the help of a professional. I was prescribed an anti-depressant. Medication was only a band-aid to my problems. I was not treating the root of my problem. Therefore, I had more episodes of intense emotions. The medication wasn’t helping so I stopped taking my medication all together.

My life was a roller coaster of emotions. I did my best to manage. It wasn’t until college that I saw my first counselor. The experience was uncomfortable. I was asked to talk about my feelings and thoughts. I was able to feel my emotions but was unaware of the ‘why’ and ‘what’ that caused my intense emotions. I didn’t connect with my counselor and did not find our session helpful; therefore, I abandoned this process too.

Now not on medication or seeing someone to help with my emotions, I was left to figure things out on my own. My solution was to engage in negative behaviors — staying out all night, drinking, skipping class and binge eating. This went on for months until I returned home. I returned home from an out of state college to be closer to my family. Being closer to family, gave me the support needed to work on myself.

I learned that the only way things would improve is if I started to take responsibility for myself. It was my responsibility to show up for myself and work on me. I uncovered a pattern of self-loathing. Once I was able to embrace self-compassion, I was able to relinquish negative behaviors, patterns and improve my self-worth. The help of a counselor that was right for me (this is important), helped me to remove barriers, break down my wall and take the steps needed to be happy with myself.

My personal experience, hardships, and work on myself has brought me to my profession as a Licensed Professional Counselor. In my practice, I work to ensure each client feels comfortable — normalizing their feelings, thoughts and the counseling process. I provide them with the space needed to work on the issues most important to them as well as help them understand that counseling is common and a useful means of self-growth.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

There are still beliefs within our society that symptoms of mental illness are threating and uncomfortable. These beliefs are a result of fear and a lack of understanding. This fear is often misguided causing people with mental illness to be treated differently.

Most people do not understand mental illness. They know what they are told, experience or see in the media. A lot of the times media portrays mental illness with violent psychopathic killers and patients that are tied down in a padded mental health hospital. This portrayal of mental illness in the media magnifies inaccuracies and perpetuates a false narrative.

A lack of understanding of mental illness can lead to isolation and shame for people with mental illness. Thus, preventing people with mental illness to seek help or get treatment. When we rely less on the media to depict mental illness as unstable and threatening, hope exists for a new narrative. One of normalcy — that it is okay to seek help for mental illness.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

I am working to de-stigmatize the negative correlation to mental health via my business, Fit Therapy of Texas, that encompasses overall health to include fitness, nutrition, and mental health. The layout at Fit Therapy of Texas includes counseling and nutrition offices inside a gym. People are more familiar with fitness; therefore, this environment makes it more comfortable for people to come in and address their mental health. This allows our clients to feel more comfortable, open to the counseling process all while minimizing the shame that people may have when going to a mental health professional.

Some people associate seeing a mental health professional as if there is something wrong with them, when in fact they are just addressing one component of their overall well-being. Our objective with Fit Therapy of Texas is to provide preventative health care thus by doing so we can help remove the stigma associated with mental health because like any health condition we should be proactive and not reactive.

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

My husband and I created Fit Therapy of Texas to address the gap in the health field to integrate the foundation of health and to quit segregating each component to their own specialized services. There is a strong correlation between physical health and mental health, and we wanted to integrate them both into one center. A one-stop shop for health was imperative within our community. The individuals we met were only receiving one or the other and not all services together. We wanted a holistic approach to health without just putting a band-aid on the issues with medication. We believe we have accomplished this.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals can support people with a mental health diagnosis by understanding that there is nothing wrong with the person and they just need support in improving their health. The same way they would if it were physically related.

Society can also help support mental health through education and understanding that mental health is a part of your overall health and is just as important as eating better, exercising and sleeping well. Society should be made aware of resources within the community that are readily available to improve one’s mental health and that it is important for everyone.

The government spends billions of dollars to fix a problem that’s from a reactive nature. The government instead of throwing money at a problem can help decrease a big portion of its debt by being proactive and investing its money into incentivizing people to seek preventative health care. The government should provide funding for businesses who work in preventative health to help lower the financial burden on people seeking help.

What are the 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. Each morning, I start my day with my gratitude journal. I list three to five things I am grateful for. This simple exercise begins my day with love and positivity, which I have found to be most important for my mental wellness.

2. I have also found it important to my wellbeing to eat good food. Therefore, I prep my meals daily to avoid the purchase of processed foods. Eating clean and unprocessed foods helps me feel good all day long.

3. Taking breaks throughout my day is imperative for my mental wellness. I have discovered a pattern of overworking myself. Therefore, a quick thirty-minute break is a must to avoid burnout. I use this time for my self-care (i.e. read a book, journal, go for a walk, listen to music, watch a funny youtube video, etc.).

4. I set boundaries. When I first started in business, I said yes to everything. I was taught that a “no” could lead to the well drying up. This was so wrong and harmful. I found myself becoming frustrated trying to keep up and do it all. Having boundaries in place has allowed me to regain control of my work and personal life.

5. I am mindful. When I notice myself becoming anxious about something, I have no control over, I ground myself. I do this by connecting with my senses-what do I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel (touch). This skill allows me to redirect my thoughts and focus on the here and now. This is helpful to my well being as it allows me to clear my mind of clutter and keep moving forward.

6. Sleep is a priority in my life. I make sure to get 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is a game changer — it’s a boost to my mood and what gets me through each day to help others and make sound business decisions. Don’t skip sleep. It’s necessary for optimal wellness.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Honestly, my husband has inspired me to be a mental health champion. His belief in my abilities has encouraged me to pursue my passion to help people and was the reason we opened Fit Therapy of Texas. His risk-taker, can-do attitude made the idea to create a facility that focused on the whole person, mind and body, a reality.

This interview was conducted with entrepreneur Kristin Marquet. She is the founder and publisher of leading media company,

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