Brooklyn bruja E. Ortiz is taking a holistic approach to spirituality with a focus on mental health. When her father died a few years ago, she took control of her healing process with the brujeria that had been passed throughout her family and used her gifts to cope with grief and depression. “People of color don't address mental health issues as much as we should in terms of speaking about them or healthy coping mechanisms,” Ortiz told me over the phone. “I was like, ‘Why do we have brujeria in our family but none of us use it for this?’"
Now, in addition to holding private readings and sessions, the spiritual advisor connects with her 88,000-plus Instagram community by sharing gems on how to navigate internal hardships with mediums like crystals, transformative foods, and affirmations. From her home in Brooklyn, Ortiz offered these tips for taking care of your mind, body, and spirit in the new year and combating seasonal depression during this brutal winter.
The energy of 2018 is unique, so take your time acclimating.
ORTIZ: A lot of us feel very overwhelmed by the energy, because this January feels mad intense, even if it's all good things. First, 2017 was a whole lot of things coming to light — it was the year of trauma. Everybody's shit got pulled up, all the fucked up things decided to show themselves. We all realized everything was broken. Everybody was feeling like, throw the whole industry away, or just throw the whole president away because we fucked up somewhere. With January, it's a new beginning and new beginnings are not always easy for everybody. It's always, "Start your new year off right," but what about the people who didn't? Get your blessings and start taking action.
And it’s totally fine if you don’t feel renewed and you’re still healing from 2017.
ORTIZ: It's important to remember that your process and your timing is always going to be different than everyone else's because this is your story and not anyone else's. A person might beat themselves up, whether it's about healing, career, or progress as an artist. The best thing to keep in mind is that you don't want somebody else's version. That’s where they are and you are where you need to be and working towards where you want to be.
Blessings are on the way; move with intent so that you don’t feel overwhelmed about taking action.
2018 has been handing people a lot of blessings already that they put in the work for last year or in the past few years, that they've been manifesting. Whether it's your mental health, your career, creative endeavors, or wanting to make social breakthroughs, this year is about taking action.
ORTIZ: In the new year, there's this pressure to be [extra] good. If you find yourself feeling like your back is against the wall, you can decide to take action instead of getting overwhelmed. That can involve grounding yourself and executing what you set out to do. Whatever you take action on is going to happen. If you want to take action on cowering in the corner because you feel backed in by all this shit, that's what's going to happen in your January. It's the moment to capitalize on everything that's going on, all the energies, all the shifts, and the new start. It’s an opportunity for people who have hit rock bottom to now stand on their two feet and climb the fuck out that shit.
And if that sounds too daunting, center yourself by making a plan.
ORTIZ: Sit down, make a plan, draw it out on paper — it helps sometimes because it feels like it's not overwhelming in your head. If you set out to do that this year, it's going to come together. We have to sit with it [our plan] and it's fucking hard, but that's a bit of what 2018 is going to be about. It's that perseverance and pushing through. Set realistic goals that you'll actually stick with and be able to say that you completed. One of the most important things with mental health is setting realistic goals and I don't mean realistic by society's standards. By doing that, we then have the motivation to go out and do bigger things.
“We have to sit with it [our plan] and it’s fucking hard, but that’s a bit of what 2018 is going to be about. It’s that perseverance and pushing through.”
Spirituality can be very helpful in navigating your mental health, but it may not the be the only answer for you.
ORTIZ: Spirituality is not a complete cure-all. It is another tool in your toolbox. The other side of it is you have to do the other half of the work. It's about what works best for you. Some people's spirituality does not work for them, it fucks them up even more because they become aware of all of these other things that they're overwhelmed by. I tell some people, "Don't go into it expecting it to fix everything because I know that people of color, we tend to do that." There's the overselling of Jesus fixing your life, and that's cool but what about the days when I feel like he didn't? What am I going to do then? Those are the days where you gotta have [other] tools.
And some days are harder than others, especially if you struggle with seasonal depression.
ORTIZ: Seasonal Affective Disorder is when people have depression that is triggered by the change in the weather and the seasons. In the wintertime, there's a lack of natural Vitamin D being absorbed from the sun. We spend more hours inside and less hours outside because it's cold as fuck, and it gets darker earlier. We get mad hours of daylight in the summer and then comes winter and everything is dead. For most people, you go into work and it's dark, you come out of work and it's dark. All of this takes an effect on the human body and it's important that when a person feels affected by this, that they do something about it instead of just trying to ride it out until winter passes because sometimes you start feeling like it's not going to pass and it's a never ending winter.
Herbal supplements and cannabidiol oils can ease your symptoms.
ORTIZ: Some people take Vitamin D supplements for it. Some people go on medication for it during the winter. Others take herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort, and SAM-es for this time of year. CBD oil is different from THC because it doesn't get you high. It helps with balancing and uplifting your mood and things like that. A person may feel like they can take a step back so they feel like they can do what they have to do in a day.
Moving your body around helps generate natural positive energy.
ORTIZ: Find a way to get more daylight hours in if they can. Even if it's brick as fuck, try to take a walk around the block of your job really quick. Something where you're spending time outside that isn't just rushing to work. Exercise is helpful because it releases chemicals that help to counteract the negative feelings. Dance at home [if you’re able to do that]. Get that energy moving, literally shake out the blues.
But sitting still may work too.
ORTIZ: Or get into your meditative state if that's what you need to do. Some people need to go within themselves during this time and other people need to be around other people.You have to take the little steps. Do some pampering, eat comfort food, or eat your vitamin D. Eat your sunshine through vegetables, fruits, and natural juices.
Aromatherapeutic baths smell amazing and offer a soothing and sometimes spiritual remedy.
ORTIZ: You can do a spiritual cleansing bath for your seasonal depression. Depending on who you vibe with in terms of God, Goddess, deity, or otherwise, you can ask that being to provide strength or peace. People who are not practitioners of magic per se should be mindful. If you read that this is [a bath] that's specifically for something and that's not what you're cleansing for, don't do it. You're inviting bad juju into your life. Do not culturally appropriate your spirituality.
Throw some salt in your water, it’s a master cleanser.
ORTIZ: It could be sea salt, Himalayan salt, or Epsom salt. Take baths with Epsom salt because you get warmed up, and it's cozy, and therapeutic. Himalayan salt baths are good for the same thing and they help remove the toxins in your body, which can help with depression as well. It's important because it's a cleaning agent and it's going to remove whatever is there energy wise. Putting a shit ton of Himalayan salt is great but you can also use lavender to cleanse as well. Guys can put a little bit of peppermint in the water to help cleanse. I do not advise that women do that because it'll burn your coochie.
You can create a vibe for your bath that’s specific to the type of healing you need.
ORTIZ: Use some drops of rose oil if you want to add some love to your bath. You can do one with lemon or flowers. A lot of it is intention and if you find that other scents and oils are more inviting or warming, use those. Some people use oranges to give them that boost of energy. Any time you put citrus in your bath, it helps with toxins. White flowers represent healing, a lot of self-love. Put in what vibrates with you.
I throw chunks of rose quartz in my bath. It's alright to put rose quartz in water. Sometimes you need to just feel loved and have a loving bath. Throw some rose petals or your favorite flowers. I love to cut an orange or a lemon and put them in the bath with some Florida Water. You can add Florida Water to any bath to make it cleansing and also a cap full to your shampoo to cleanse from the top down.
If you don’t have access to a bathtub or time to soak, you can still cleanse.
ORTIZ: Hang eucalyptus in your shower and get some pink Himalayan salt — either in a soap bar or you can pour the salt on the floor of your shower and stand on it. I say, "This salt is cleansing me." That’s the other part: you have to affirm it and speak it into existence.