“Still, We Rise”
These past few weeks have definitely been difficult for me, as the racial tension in America has taken a toll on my mental health. We as a nation have been witnesses to the recent events of community unrest with the unceasing injustices of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless people of color. The climate towards race in the United States is intense and extremely disheartening, and it has been for too long. As a young African-American female, it’s terrifying to wake up every day and know that at any given moment myself, a friend or family member can be discriminated against, denied certain opportunities, be incarcerated or even killed simply because of the color of our skin. This type of injustice and unfair treatment has been an occurring problem for over 400 years, and it has yet to be resolved.
In addition, society has pressured us to believe we’ve done something wrong. We’re filthy, unintelligent, inferior, broken, animals, and we’re disgusting. These outlandish notions couldn’t be further from the truth. The color of our skin, our culture, heritage, and history generates a beautiful canvas of colors, pain, change, endurance and so much more!
When it comes to our experiences, it can feel like an unfair battleground not designed for us to win. Our self-esteem can falter, and being constantly reminded of our trauma, with pessimism and deception leading to life changing decisions, because of the fact that we are not and never have been equipped with the tools and resources needed to properly manage our mental health.
What Can We Do to Dismantle the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Amongst People of Color?
If we desire to witness transformation in ourselves, our mindset, our self-esteem, and more, it is vital that we take action and identify a strategy to calm the mind and provide stability in ways that work best for us. These actions won’t always be easy or comfortable, but in order to maintain and obtain a peace of mind, they’re needed.
Below are some ways we as people of color can support not only our mental health, but our lives in general. We can’t wait to be bestowed with information. It’s time we take a stand and pledge to ourselves that improvements and reforms commence within us and by us. Because despite the obstacles we face, we can stand together, rise above, and fight against any and all adversity. We must not allow what’s happening around the world to discourage us. In fact, we should feel emboldened and empowered, believing that change is coming.
- Write out your thoughts and feelings in a journal: Journaling is a great tool that can be used to let out your emotions. Sometimes it’s easier to write out what you’re feeling rather than talking to someone about them.
Talk (if you feel comfortable)
- Express your feelings to someone who may understand what you’re going through to someone who will listen to you and guide you. Although there are many coping mechanisms, expressing your feelings out loud varies from person to person. This way of coping usually happens when one is ready to talk.
- Write a positive note to yourself everyday. At times it’s easy to feel discouraged but writing a positive and encouraging note to yourself can simply brighten up your day. Channeling positivity in my life has definitely been a work in progress. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to believe that I can make change or I’m beautiful or I can achieve anything I want in life. I’ve been learning that the change starts from within and how you think and see yourself matters.
Just Take a Second and Pause
- Take a break from social media, news, etc. In these times, it’s undeniably easy to get caught up with what’s posted on social media and shared from the news. However,consuming the news constantly isn’t always ideal for our mental health, in fact it can be quite overwhelming. Social Media is very powerful and it’s important that every now and then you take a much needed break and work on yourself.
- Create and magnify your art (paint, draw, dance). Creating beauty, whether it’s drawing, dancing or something else, has been one of the most beneficial things for me. If you allow yourself some quiet time and let what’s inside you color inside the lines, or flow with the music not only brings a sense of peace but confidence! You can also check out this article from NPR, which has a section about how to use your creative talents during these times.
Get Up and Move!
- Exercise, go on a walk, or enjoy nature taking in all its vibrancies! Working out relieves stress and sends an abundance of endorphins (the physical happy chemical) to the brain. Even though it can take a lot of motivation to exercise, the feeling you’ll acquire is amazing! Moreover, going out on nature walks has always been so much fun for me. Observing all the beautiful colors and land features the earth possesses is a feeling I can’t describe.
Surround Yourself with Good Help
- Spend time with family and friends. As a result of the pandemic I’m sure a lot of you are spending quality time with your family. I know through my journey of healing and coping I’ve grown to love and acknowledge those who are always helping, motivating, and pushing me to be my best, build resilience, and use my voice each and every day.
Hone in on Spirituality
- If you find comfort in being spiritual, look to your faith. Honing in on your faith may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. As a Christian, my faith has been vital not just for my mental health but my life. I found my voice, and took refuge in accessing my spirituality.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
- List the things you’re grateful for out loud. An attitude of gratitude can change one’s whole viewpoint. When you reflect on the good the old saying comes to mind…“the good outweighs the bad”. Sometimes this act can be difficult but it’s important to learn a way to counteract the negative things in life.
While it may seem that there is a lack of resources available to enhance our mental health, know you are never alone. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7. You can also check out the Lifeline’s “Coping During Community Unrest” page for helpful resources during this time.
You are beautiful! You are unique! You are phenomenal! You are important! Be proud of your glowing skin! Be proud of your gifts and talents! Never be ashamed of yourself! Never doubt the power that lies within you!