As a Black woman, I can tell you, dealing with racism has serious effects on our mental health.
It happened suddenly. I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car when I started to feel trapped. At first, I tried to ignore the feeling but then I became increasingly aware that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. As I looked around at the closed car windows, the bags and jackets on the floor and my brothers sitting in front of me time seemed to slow down.
I didn’t know what to say or do and although I wanted someone to stop the car so I could jump out and gulp in the fresh air I decided against it. I moved in my seat, joked around with my brothers, and kept repeating in my head that I needed to calm down.
It was a bit later when we all returned home and I went to my mom to ask for prayer and guidance that she told me the weight of what is going on in the world had probably manifested in me feeling this way. I realized that she was right. I have been vocal on social media, watching news stories, and donating to bail funds.
During all of this, I never stopped to think about how it was affecting my mental health. Now, as the murder of George Floyd continues to be at the forefront of my mind I’m making sure taking care of myself is as well.
Here are some things I’ve been doing to look after myself:
Take time off social media
No matter what is going on in the world I often find myself having to take breaks from social media. It can be as little as putting limits on my phone to keep my social media usage to one hour or as big as deleting an app altogether and never re-downloading it. Right now, I have to be especially careful with how much I interact online.
It becomes draining to continually see police officers abusing their power via protest videos or to go on Twitter and read comments from those trying to belittle the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though I don’t have a large number of followers online I feel an obligation to use my voice to spread awareness. Through all this, I have been making sure to log in and out of my personal accounts or take breaks for large amounts of time in order to find my bearings.
Talk to people who understand and support you
Being surrounded by my family has been incredibly helpful during this time. We can have candid conversations about what is going on and also be there to lift each other up. Outside of talking to my family, texting and calling my friends has also helped me through. Each day you get a reminder that there are people in this country who hate you for something you can’t change. This is why turning to people who understand and support you is vital.
Find moments of joy with television
When the news and posts on social media become too much I find myself turning to television. Luckily, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ are there to get me through. Recently I have found comfort in re-watching comedies like “New Girl” or teen dramas like “Legacies”. Anything that’s lighthearted or allows me to escape is the perfect television show at the moment.
Listen to music
Music is the ultimate form of self-care. When things in life become hard or overwhelming I can put in my headphones and dance around my room until things seem brighter. Right now listening to music has been a lifesaver. When my thoughts become too loud I can drown them out with some of my favorite tunes.
Help how you can
In the midst of what’s happening in the world, I have found it nearly impossible to stay silent even when it becomes increasingly tiring to be engaged. If you are someone who gets restless being still or not feeling as though you’re making a change then do what you can to help. Donate to organizations, talk about what’s going on with your friends, and use the platforms available to you to spread awareness.
For Black people, dealing with racism is nothing new.
This is why it has become easier to compartmentalize and let things roll off our backs. In order for us to continue the fight for equality, we also need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves first.