In an article posted on May 29, 2020 on the American Psychological Association’s website, their president Sandra L. Shullman stated that “We are living in a racism pandemic which is taking a heavy psychological toll on our African American citizens”. She goes on to talk about how the stress of the mental consequences are leading to physical consequences such heart and other diseases.
Think about it…We are ingesting things such as the repeated visuals of Black people being murdered by police, the lack of justice and blatant injustice that exists in every city and small town across the country, stories of profiling from the “Karens” of the world to the Starbucks of the world, and the daily microaggressions experienced everywhere from the neighborhood to the workplace. Where does it end? Where are we safe? Shullman mentions in the article that “those who are experiencing trauma in the aftermath of these tragedies [should] practice self-care”.
Self-care is one of those buzz phrases that I feel is thrown out there sooooo much these days! We see IG posts with offerings of ‘5 things that you can do to practice self-care’. Your physician may recommend that you engage in self-care to help with your anxiety. And when I “google it”, the first description that pops up from psychcentral.com notes that “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”. There is even an article on my google search that lists100 self-care activities! ONE HUNDRED! I mean…. I am thinking a toolbox of maybe 25 will more than suffice, no?
But when I think about the feelings that are evoked in me when I am looking at these horrific images, listening to these maddening stories, and engaging in these frustrating conversations, simply picking an activity to engage in off a self-care list is not going to do the trick of bringing me back down to my baseline (or dare I say put me back in a good mood!). Instead, what I think often happens is that we mindlessly engage in walks, bubble baths, glasses of wine, and yoga workouts to “relax”. And while these activities may do the job of relaxation in the moment, these are not the type of self-care activities that are going to necessarily ease the stress of living in this racism pandemic.
My advice to us is to lead with intention. Do not throw these self-care lists to the side because they can indeed be helpful. BUT…. we have to be wayyyyy more mindful and intentional when engaging in them. If you are going for a walk, it is not going to be helpful to listen to the news or scroll IG while doing so. Instead consider just walking with nature, noticing the smells and sounds and sights that surround you. Or, if that is not your twist…listen to some uplifting music (or some trap music, which I feel is also uplifting), a comedy podcast or something to make you laugh, or even one of those urban erotica audiobooks ()! You know what I mean…something far from anything related to our current climate.
To take it a step further, consider some preventive self-care activities that are specific to the protection of your mental wellness as it relates to Black trauma. I’m going to give yall a list of TWO…just TWO…ways to engage in preventive self-care, which I would describe as protecting your space and energy by choosing not to participate in the things that may trigger you.
1. Challenge yourself to disengage from social media for specific periods of time. And when I say disengage, I do not mean just not following certain accounts. I mean take the app off of your phone! If we just put a timer on the app or say we will only check it once a day or even log out… it is too tempting to say “imma just hop on real quick and check something”! Set your own guidelines but be honest with yourself. If what you are taking in via social media is seriously affecting your mood and affect in a negative way (or even not seriously), you may need more than just a day off. Maybe it is one week on and one week off? But take some time to really evaluate the effect that exposure via social media is having on you. Ask yourself, is this serving me?
2. Just say no…I was having a conversation recently with someone who was rehearsing the go to phrase they were coming up with for when people tried to engage in race relation conversations with them. Essentially the idea was “RECLAIMING MY TIME…”. It is okay to NOT engage in these conversations. Not at home, not at work, not in line at the acme, and not even with friends. You have the right to decline engagement. To RSVP NO to the invitation. You are protecting your energy in that moment. Some ways that you can go about this: No thank you. Not today Satan. Nope. I am not interested in having this conversation. Ahh-Ah. Absolutely not. This is not the time, thank you. Thanks, but no thanks. And, of course…Nah.
My challenge to you reading this is two-fold: Firstly, protect your own space by practicing one of these two preventive strategies within 3 days of reading this blog post. And secondly, and JUST AS IMPORTANT…protect the spaces of those around you by asking first before you try to engage them in a conversation about things that are so heavy. Because sometimes, at least for me, I just don’t feel like it.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with finding in a balance in the face of all that is happening in the country, in our cities, in our individual lives…please contact me at email@example.com for a free consultation.