We all entered 2016 with high hopes of positivity and peace, justice and jubilation, understanding and unification. By some counts, 582 deaths were caused by police officers in the United States – by the end of June. By July 6th, after the unlawful and public deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the mental and emotional strength of many people here and abroad had taken a detrimental blow. Thousands, if not millions, of activists, supporters, and sympathizers of all races are openly expressing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and grief. Thousands, if not millions, of human beings are trying to survive daily doses of trauma, chaos, and political rhetoric.
So how do we cope as a nation while continuing to work together towards positivity and peace, justice and jubilation, understanding and unification? While it’s a daunting task, it is better achieved by effective coping at the individual level first. To assist you in caring for yourself first, here are a few ways to self-care.
While this may seem counterproductive, watching the unjustified and violent deaths of innocent people repeatedly is and will be more damaging to your mental health. Take some time to gather yourself, your thoughts, your emotions. In order to effectively gather yourself and create a space for productivity, you may need to disconnect from all news outlets, social media platforms, and radio for some time.
If disconnecting is difficult, it’s okay. However, you should still be aware of the amount of content and conversations with strong negative sentiment you are subjecting yourself to. Limit the amount of time spent on news coverage. Limit the time spent conversing with others about the specifics, the political rhetoric, the possible repercussions, etc. Limit and monitor the amount of content you absorb. Although most content is well-meaning and informational, some people are only here to hurt and we’ve been hurt enough.
Distractions can serve as mental breaks and come in all types. Movies, Netflix binging, Pokemon Go, gossip blogs, and reality television all serve as great, jovial distractions. Remind yourself through distractions that #carefreeblackkids still exists and #blackgirlmagic is real. Its okay, you’re entitled to a slice of happiness, if only for a moment.
Take Care Physically
Your mental health can affect your physical health and your physical health can affect your mental health, so remember to take care of yourself physically, too. Take a walk, visit the gym, take a nice long hot bath with essential oils and candles. Relax your body and your mind will follow.
Express Your Emotions
Do not internalize. You are pissed the f*** off? Rant to a friend, family member, or therapist. You need a good cry? You’re human and tears are pain escaping the body. Disgusted and confused? Have healthy conversations with others, even those who don’t look like you or even think like you. Tell people you’re upset. Tell them you’re afraid for your significant other, friends, and young children. Shed light to the very real emotion behind the calls and fight for justice. Express yourself.
Avoid Self-Medication and Self-Harm
Please avoid misusing prescription medication, alcohol, illicit drug use, and self-harm. This is never the answer to completely dealing with issues in a healthy and holistic way. If you feel you need prescription medication or that you may hurt yourself or others, seek medical attention immediately. Our cry and fight for justice is louder and stronger with you by our side.
So….how are you?