Mental Health (Self-)Awareness: 6 Tools and Insights to Support You with Yours!

Are you Aware that…ASKING FOR HELP IS COURAGEOUS? It is.

Here’s what you will get in this blog in a nutshell: Mental Health defined, questions and journal prompts that will help you identify the current state of your mental health, lots of affirmations, validation, some information regarding how self-judgment can lead to anxiety and depression, a list of 6 things you can begin TODAY to support you with your mental wellness and links below if you are interested in learning more!

When it comes to being consistent around mental health, many are still struggling. There are more people than ever, reaching out for therapy, wanting to learn coping skills to deal with life transitions and world events, explore past trauma, connect with their inner child, understand self-care, and acquire tools to support their relationship. The recent world events from the global pandemic of Covid-19, racial tensions, and escalating violence worldwide has led to an increase in the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. People who never experienced anxiety are having full blown panic attacks and experiencing depressive episodes without realizing what they are. Information on mental health is all over social media, which as a licensed psychotherapist and lover of all humans makes me very appreciative of the movement towards increased self-awareness. Our mental health impacts everything in our lives. It plays a part in all the dimensions of our health. Our mental health impacts every relationship, every interaction, and our overall state of wellness. What have you done to support your mental health lately?

Mental Health Defined: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Now that you know the definition, grab a pen and get ready to write. I am about to ask you some questions about your own mental health:

  1. Do you realize your own abilities? If yes, what are they?
  2. Do you have and use coping skills to support you with the normal stresses of life? If so, what are they?
  3. Are you productive and making gains at work? If yes, what is the evidence/what are the gains?
  4. Are you making a positive contribution to your community? If so, what is your contribution?
  5. How are your relationships with others (close, distant, conflictual, etc.)?
  6. Would you say that you are currently experiencing a state of well-being? Please elaborate on your answer.

How do you feel about your answers?

The reality is, most people struggle with writing down concrete answers in regards to their mental health. Some believe that if they do not have a prior diagnosis, they do not have to do a wellness check in with themselves. The thought of needing additional support or not having control of our emotions can be scary and avoidance can seem like the best way to cope. The truth is we get to check in with ourselves daily around our mood, our emotions, and why we are feeling the way we do. When was the last time you checked in with yourself, asked yourself these questions, and actually gave yourself the time to think about them? If any of your answers concerned you, I am hopeful that you will continue to read and get information that may support you.

Balance looks different for everyone, have you found your balance? All dimensions of health matter: emotional/mental, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. They all impact one another, perhaps it’s time to check in with yourself around what your balance looks like. You can always move things around and create something different.

While I believe that being aware of ourselves and our state of wellness gets to happen every single day, it is great to have an entire month dedicated to creating mental health awareness (thank you Mental Health America for starting this tradition in 1949). We are currently reinforcing and amplifying the need for more support around maintaining mental wellness and understanding mental illness as a collective.

Are you Aware that…MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE? It effects all cultures, all ages, all genders, and all races.

Every person deserves to lead a fulfilling life. We all have a mind, we all have been hurt, we all have felt grief, we all have faced change, no matter the age group, socioeconomic group, culture, race, political and/or religious belief, we all have life experiences. If we are alive, we are experiencing. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we do not feel okay, sometimes we get mentally exhausted and frustrated, and that gets to be acknowledged. Not feeling okay gets to be validated. We get to not judge ourselves, our struggles, and/or our reactions. Unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding of self are required to be able to show up that way for others. How wonderful it would be to live in a world where we are able to accept ourselves in all ways, on all days, and be able to hold that space of love and acceptance for others! Even if you are not interested in the collective, you can learn a lot about yourself by observing how you think and talk about others.

Are you Aware that… WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS, YOU ARE REALLY JUDGING YOURSELF? Self-love and compassion are vital to your happiness and outlook towards yourself and others. Your pain, hurt, trauma, and mental illness do not need judgment, they need you, in the form of love and compassion.

Are you aware of the judgments you have of yourself and others? It is challenging to catch ourselves each time we are judging other humans, it is even harder for us to catch ourselves engaging in self-judgment/negative self-talk. When we judge ourselves, we limit ourselves and get in the way of our own happiness and state of well-being. Judgment shames, blames, and criticizes. What you can do instead is observe your thoughts and behaviors and if there is something you do not like, change it. If you can not change it, work on changing your perspective. Judgment towards ourselves and others creates a divide/separation at a time when we get to focus on love and acceptance. Self-judgment can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. It can separate us from our authentic selves because we are not allowing ourselves to be free flowing. Judgment confines. Judgment restricts. How can you be in an organic flow while practicing judgment? The answer is, you can not. Working towards quieting the negative chatter in your mind, can support you having a greater sense of connectivity to self and therefore increased mental wellness. Replace judgment with observation. You do not have to judge something about yourself to make a decision to do it differently!

Are you Aware that…..There are Things you can do RIGHT NOW? Here are 6 Tools that May Help: Pick at least one and do it today!

  1. Go Out in Nature and Get grounded through Earthing and/or Breathwork: Go out in nature, take off your shoes and walk barefoot or simply sit in the grass. There have been many studies that have shown grounding/earthing therapy to be beneficial. Thousands of people have claimed to experience elevated mood/decreased stress by connecting to the Earth’s natural electric charge. You can also get grounded by walking on the sand at the beach, walking in the grass at a local park, or swimming in a lake. Face the sun and get some natural Vitamin D. Studies have shown a link between a deficiency in Vitamin D and depression. While growing and keeping potted plants in your space is not considered earthing, there are many benefits to keeping plants/nature in your home. If you have an appreciation for nature and are not able to get out as much as you would like, consider keeping plants in your home.
  2. Start Drinking Plenty of Water: Dehydration May be Contributing to Your Anxiety and/or Depression: According to Medical News Today, as well as the Dent Neurologic Institute, our brain is comprised of at least 75% water. Serotonin is known as “the happy chemical,” in the brain is literally blocked when we are dehydrated. Serotonin is considered the most important or “key” hormone in our body, it impacts our mood, happiness, digestion, and sleep, along with other pretty important components to our health and well-being. Dehydration is one of the least talked about and/or known contributing factors to low mood and anxiety. When we do not drink enough water, our brain does not make enough energy or get enough oxygen which leads to less productivity and struggle with focusing. When we do not drink enough water our body sends signals to the brain that heighten emotions by making us feel anxious.
  3. Validate your Inner Child: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Inner Child is defined as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” Many of us have wounds that stem from childhood and adolescence. We also have dreams, hopes, and a sense of self that sometimes gets forgotten when we have become so influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others that we struggle to access our authenticity. Be good to yourself today, talk to yourself with compassion and give yourself the validation, warmth, and even the physical touch you wish you would have received as a child. Take care of your inner child and they will support you feeling better now. Inner child work is growing in popularity, I have done it personally, and use it in my practice. It may feel uncomfortable at first, I encourage you to stick with it as it supports healing the wounds of origin therefore decreasing the likelihood of operating out of your wounds present day.
  4. Start Writing, Visualizing and saying Affirmations out Loud: What do you want? How do you want to feel? What makes you smile? What makes you want to laugh? Write those things down and then visualize yourself getting what you want, envision your beautiful smile, perhaps even laugh out loud, just to hear your own laughter. Sometimes we need a reminder that no matter how drained or overwhelmed we may feel in a given moment, we still have the power to dream, strive, and hope. Below I have shared some affirmations, you can begin with one of them or create your own. Write it down and post it someplace you can see it, visualize yourself being courageous, exuding love, radiating joy, etc. and then speak your affirmation out loud every day to reinforce it!
  5. Be Present: Sit quietly and/or meditate and breathe deeply. After a few minutes of sitting in silence, ask yourself this one question: What do I need in this moment? (A glass of water? Are you hungry? Is your body tight and would a stretch help? Would you like to listen to your favorite song? Do you need a nap? Would you like to go for a walk? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself? Do you simply want to continue to sit quietly and breathe?) Only you can answer that question. In this moment, what is something that you appreciate. Start teaching yourself to listen to the needs and desires you have in any given moment, then give yourself permission to do/get/experience it (I love to paint, so after I write this blog, I will create art). Now you try it…what do you need in this moment?
  6. Get Support and/or Start Supporting Others: Call a friend or family member and have an open, honest conversation around mental health. You can share ideas around self-care and how to experience a better sense of well-being. Let your friends be there for you, do not cheat the people who care about you out of the opportunity to be there for you. If you are in a relationship, talk with your partner and let the topic of mental wellness be something that you support one another with just like an annual physical check-up. Partnering around your mental health may support you as individuals as well as support your couple relationship. Support can also come in the form of a Podcast on mental health, picking up a self-help book, and/or scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional. If you have tried all of the above tools and are still struggling, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional.

Are you Aware that…DAILY POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS CAN CREATE A MORE RESILIENT BRAIN BY GOING INTO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND CREATING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS? Start affirming yourself today!

AFFIRMATIONS:

My diagnosis does not define me.

I am love, and deserving of love.

Today I will hold space for myself and all of my emotions without judgment.

I am healing my inner child, I am loving my inner child and therefore I am healing and loving myself.

Today, I choose to have a positive attitude.

I have made it this far, and I will continue to carry on.

Each time I fall, I have the courage to get back up.

Today, I will observe myself without judgment and grant myself love, compassion, and acceptance.

Asking for help is courageous, and I embrace the courage within.

I believe in myself and my ability to heal.

I am not my mental illness, I am ( ______ ), and I am living with and managing my mental illness.

My mental health and well-being matter because I matter!

I accept myself completely and I love myself unconditionally.

Where there is love, there is no place for judgment, they simply can not co-exist and I chose love.

I am strong, I am courageous, and I will persevere.

Are you Aware that…YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE? You are absolutely worthy of love. Say it out loud… “I am worthy of love and offer love to myself fully and without conditions.

There has been an increase in people seeking therapy and many are having a difficult time connecting with a mental health professional. Many therapists are filled to capacity as more and more people are reaching out. If you, or someone you know has been trying to connect with a therapist, I encourage you to keep trying. I know it is not an easy road and I am hopeful that you will be able to connect with a therapist soon. Keep being courageous, please do not give up. If you need support, please consider talking to a friend or family member who may be able to support you by lending an ear or doing some of the outreach around finding a therapist with availability. You can also reach out to your insurance provider and they may be able to support you with connecting with a therapist. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 immediately. Please see the following links for additional support and information:

For the latest information, support, and statistics on Mental Health conditions and Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/mhstats

https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

How much water should you drink a day?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water

https://idontmind.com/journal/youre-probably-dehydrated-and-it-can-affect-your-mental-health

https://www.drinkoptimum.com/the-connection-between-dehydration-and-depression/

Everything you need to know about serotonin (the happy hormone):

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

If you are interested in getting grounded through Earthing, you may be interested in the following article and The Earthing Movie Documentary (free on youtube):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

https://www.earthingmovie.com/

Are you Aware that…YOUR LIFE MATTERS? YOUR LIFE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS.

With love always, Tamara

Mixed Race in 2020: The Conversations Among Us! Perspectives of Six…

When you look in my eyes, when you stare at my face, when you hear me speak, can you tell I’m mixed race? Alone in a crowd, treated like I don’t fit in. Aren’t we in this together? Since we are all human.

Being mixed race/bi-racial/dual heritage and having one black parent at a time when people are more openly discussing diversity and inclusion, microaggressions in the workplace, unfair treatment in the justice system, systemic inequality, and an overall imbalance due to the color of one’s skin can be complicated. People of all races are coming together in society via peaceful protests, marches, and workplace town halls to fight back against current day injustice towards Black people from the Government, the police, the school systems, and places of employment. Yes, although being mixed raced in this climate can be complicated, it has also presented an opportunity for conversations to take place within the mixed race family unit that can shed years of ignorance, subtle/covert racism, and feelings of otherness.

If you are a mixed race human (I apologize if you find the term “mixed” to be offensive) with one Black parent and have a parent that presents as non-Black or White and has a different ethnicity, there are unique challenges that you may be facing at this time.

Currently, many who are mixed race with one Black parent are not getting as much support from their non-Black family (and sometimes their Black family) members who may not necessarily see them as “Black.”

In many mixed families conversations around race were avoided. Usually because parents did not realize it was a conversation that needed to happen. Family members will say that they do not “see race,” while others struggled with how to talk to their children about how having one Black parent might impact them. This is a time where more Black people and POC are speaking out and actively using their voices to create tangible and concrete change. Our history provides evidence that since the mid 1800’s, Black people have been fighting for freedom, just treatment, and equality. Although slavery ended in the 1800’s, the battle for just treatment and equality exists today. It has been a very long journey. Acknowledgment of the history and current day challenges via open and honest conversation with family members can be validating, affirming, and connecting.

Challenges of being mixed race: Some of the challenges clients share most often are, having family members who are racist (especially the ones that think they aren’t). The feeling of not being enough of either race to feel as though they belong. Rejection by one and sometimes both of their races. Feeling confused around how to show up in the world and/or feeling forced to pick a side. There are times when filling out a demographic questionnaire can be consumed with guilt ridden thoughts around having to check one box. One box? So which one do I chose today? Which parent do I side with today? Oftentimes people will alternate between races to keep themselves balanced internally and not experience the guilt of having sided with one part of themselves, which in turn feels as if you are rejecting the other part(s) of who you are.

Advantages of being mixed race: Where there are challenges, you can usually find some advantages. Some of the advantages (that may be considered privileges) of being mixed race that my clients share most often are; Being accepted in more places and spaces. Being considered neutral and safe. There is also the exposure to different races, the window in to different worlds and a comfort level that is not always available to non-mixed race individuals. One of the biggest advantages is being able to know from an early age that people can look different, speak different languages, and have entirely different cultural backgrounds and still get along and actually love one another.

Many children of mixed race parents grow up never feeling enough of one race to fully fit in. There can be what feels like a constant tug of war between what feels like two parts of who you are and for some, it can be easier to pick a side. What happens when the side you “pick” does not accept you? and does picking a side mean that you deny a part of who you are? What are the consequences? How do you reconcile this and find a way to embrace all of who you are, especially when there are people in the world and maybe in your home (maybe even you) that reject a part of who you are.

Growing up with a born and raised Puerto Rican mother, who presents white and a Black American father from Virginia seemed normal as a child. I did notice that my mother and I did not look alike. Why was my skin so much darker? Why was my hair so different? As a child you think your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world, but if you don’t look like her, what does that mean about you? Are you not as beautiful? Not to mention all of the people who made comments in ignorance that I did not understand as a child.

My parents met in NYC, have been married for 51 years, and have been incredibly supportive throughout my life. Growing up they told stories casually about how they experienced discrimination and racism while dating and made jokes about how people thought my mother was my nanny. My mother made comments about how we did not look alike and how my cousin looked like she should be her daughter because she had lighter skin (colorism absolutely exists in the Puerto Rican community) and long, straight hair. All things said in innocence, and all things that impacted the way I felt about myself and my place within my family unit. My mother also called me beautiful and smart however, the mixed messages led to inner conflict. Luckily, the constant has always been my father, who thought (and still believes) that I am absolutely creative, intelligent, and beautiful from head to toe. It is my father who taught me and my brother to embrace and love all parts of who we are every moment of every day.

During this current time of increased racial tension, there seems to continue to be a disconnect around the fact that I am intimately impacted by how the world sees humans with darker skin. Although there is not an expectation on my end that my mother will ever completely understand (how could she possibly), there is a responsibility I have to myself that compels me to share with her what my experience has been and continues to be. In sharing with both my parents I learned that they are eager to show up, they just did not know how to start the conversation and needed to be given the opportunity. So many of my clients are living similar experiences, able to discuss injustices in the world yet are struggling to discuss with family members how current events are impacting their sense of self and overall mental health.

Conversations are needed. Getting to know one another on a deeper level is the answer. Blame, anger, hurt and disappointment are feelings that deserve validation, however, in order to heal the wounds, accepting who you are and sharing how you feel by using your voice is the most empowering tool you have. Lead with your heart and the words will flow. The gift of your voice is a way to honor yourself and your unique experience.

THE INTIMATE PERSPECTIVES OF FIVE

Recently, my clients have been sharing how they are experiencing the current state of the world in regards to racism. I asked current and past clients who are mixed race with one Black parent to feel free to contribute to this article in hopes it might shed some light for others and five of them shared their perspectives. Each person, ranging in age from 22 years old to 45 years old used their voice vulnerably and courageously in support of themselves, mixed race individuals, and humanity as a whole. The intimate perspectives of five:

“Being with my white mother right now in the middle of a pandemic and now with the Black Lives Matter protests has been such a discombobulating experience for me. I have never been with my mom during a time of racial unrest (at least not that I can remember in my adult years), and I am finding it really hard to figure out how to talk to her about it. Reminding your white family members that you are black in this world, even as a mixed-race human, is hard at any time, but right now I am realizing that I don’t have the energy to educate. Between the pandemic and everything else happening in my life, I am having to prioritize self-care in order to stay sane, and self-care at this moment means not having hard, uncomfortable discussions with my white mom. I plan to talk about this time with her when I’m feeling more whole, but for now, I’m focusing on my mental health. When I need to talk about it, I reach out to my black community.” – NC

I was always unsure of how to identify growing up. I was unsure if I was black. How could I tell? Did my skin need to be darker? Did my Puerto Rican family mean that I wasn’t. But look at my cousins, they are “negro”. I was questioned often if I was really Puerto Rican. “Por que no hablas Español si eres puertorriqueña?” Somehow I felt like a fraud on both sides. Having these conversations today, in the midst of this movement, I’ve finally realized that I am 100% both, and so damn proud to be. My heritage, from every branch of my family tree is who I am, and my empathetic heart beats for each part. Right now, it’s beating in full support of all black lives. – KNV

I am Black and Japanese. I was born Brooklyn and I have spent the majority of my life here. My relationship with my Japanese culture is not as strong as I would like. From a young age I was very embarrassed of my Japanese mother because I looked nothing like her. I remember questioning her often about why we looked nothing alike. My mother was the type to just say things like “it doesn’t matter you are my daughter”. In hindsight I wish she was more supportive and put more effort into talking about our differences. Right now things are difficult because my mother has been turned a blind eye to the racial issues, and hasn’t been able to show up for me when there are racist acts against Black people in America. We recently had a talk and it was very difficult because of the language barrier. I know my mother truly believes in peace for all people, but it was important that she understood that it’s about Black people right now, and I am your Black daughter. But because of this language barrier it is difficult for me to say that without me catching all of the wrong and inappropriate things she might be saying in between. I often find myself reading between the lines with her, constantly filtering her words so that I don’t get attached to any words she may not even fully understand. I know that I have to keep trying with her because it is important that she is aware of the things her children are going through, and how she can show up for us in times like this. I do not expect her to know all the answers or be able to delete these feelings. But it is important for me to make sure that she knows about these things so that she can educate others too. Recently I have found a bunch of videos of people speaking on racial injustice and they have been translated in Japanese. This has been really helpful and my mother has been better at checking in on me when these things happenAB

Being a mixed-race (African American and Mexican American) man, makes me feel like I live in two different worlds. I was raised in a dual parent household, but only felt and experienced a connection to my mother’s side (African American). Due to pressures of social conformities, some individuals have felt overwhelmed by having to choose a particular side, however, such has not been the case for me. Growing up, I didn’t really feel accepted by my Mexican side therefore, I wholeheartedly and unapologetically connected and lived life through the lens of an African American. What has been difficult, is the awareness/knowledge of the plethora of  political, economical and social challenges that are faced by both African-Americans and Mexicans in this country.  As I grew older (which I feel is typical for some mixed race persons) I came to recognize and proudly felt the strength and honor of both my African and Mexican heritage. During these times of social unrest, I go through all of the emotional feels, voice my indignation, pause for moments of reflection but then I get back in the race because that’s what those before me have done...The work continues! Anthony G.

“I’m multiracial. My father is Black. My mother is mixed Indian and British, she was raised in India. The lineage of the oppressed and oppressor flow within my veins. At times it feels heavy, I am conflicted and feel lost. At other times, I feel so blessed to be part of such rich cultures and traditions. 
These last few weeks I have gone from heartbreak, to rage, back to
deep sadness & grief, returning to a rage that feels numb to feeling hopeful, for a moment. America and the whole world is reckoning with the legacy of systematic racism and murder of Black bodies and lives. 
What has given me hope and solace is my conversations with my mother. She is learning, understanding and finding ways to participate in this historical moment. She attended a vigil for Black lives, donated to many organizations; we’ve had conversations about racism within the South Asian community. Most importantly she has shown up for me as my mother, while also holding that she is limited in her experience of understanding, that she is not a Black woman and her daughter is. This has been healing. I feel my mother seeing me in my fullness and also protecting and supporting her daughter.
I am grateful.” – SE

I am hopeful that the contributions above are able to provide deeper insight, validation around a similar experience, and/or additional support. Each person alive has their own uniqueness based on their experiences. You get to embrace and honor yours!

TOOLS: JOURNAL PROMPTS, ACTION STEPS, RESOURCES AND AN AFFIRMATION

MIXED RACE INDIVIDUALS: Start with identifying what has come up for you around race throughout your life. Identify the messages you received from family, friends, and your community about who you are. If you ever felt like you had to pick a side, did you? Do you feel more connected to one race and if so, how come? Have you felt accepted and/or rejected by others? Have you accepted and embraced all parts of who you are? Have you identified the challenges you have encountered throughout your life because of being mixed race? Can you identify what privileges have been afforded to you? Are there still remnants of wounds that show up for you today and if so, what are they? what are you doing to heal? How are you impacted by the racial tension that currently exists and who do you turn to for support? Are there people in your family unit who have inadvertently or blatantly put down your other race? (which is putting down a part of you) and if so, are you ready for the conversation?

Some of the most hurtful and harmful comments come from family members and people who identify themselves as allies, understanding this and having an awareness that it happens can support you taking action by way of conversations to spread that awareness. The way you honor yourself most is by getting to know yourself and accepting all parts of who you are. Using your voice differently with family members can be scary and uncomfortable. You may be bought into the thought that it will not matter or make a difference or your fear may be that you will hurt a family members feelings. You get to validate family members AND show up for yourself. An unhealthy dynamic will not change if you reinforce it by continuing to show up as you always have. If you want it to change, use your voice, honor yourself, and make the decision to change it!

AFFIRMATION: I am enough because, I am. I am whole because I exist. I belong because I am living this human experience. I am a part of you, whether you accept me or not. I accept myself as whole, as beautiful, as enough, and in that acceptance, I am free.

INTERRACIAL COUPLES WITH CHILDREN: Begin the conversation early. Start discussion with your partner about your different cultures, traditions, and how race and racial tensions have impacted you. Share with one another your concerns as well as the challenges you believe your child may face. Get on the same page around how you are going to expose your child to all parts of their culture. Teach your child to see their own beauty and appreciate the beauty in both of their races, as well as other races and people. I have attached two children’s books to this post, which I am not personally affiliated with, that may support beginning the conversation. There are also quite a few other books on the market that you may feel would be a better fit for your family:

Remember that although you may not see race and color, the world around you often does, and having those conversations with your children early can make all the difference.

Who are your people? Where is your home? We are all part of the Universe, it is impossible to truly be alone. Always searching for belonging, we should not have to fight to fit in, because true belonging is inherent in being human.

YES, IT’S TRAUMA: 5 Tools for Coping with the Trauma of Covid-19, Police Brutality, and Racism

Breathe…I know it’s hard and I know you’re tired. The world is different and the same; all at the same, damn, time.

All the lives. All the loss. People were coming together fighting their fears of an external force of nature that does not discriminate. A disease that takes lives and livelihoods, uproots families, and shut the world down. Covid-19 has taken and it has given. The impact of Covid-19 has illuminated what is outside of us, and even more importantly, it has illuminated what lies within, forcing us to take a look at our lives, the relationships we have created, our world, and our selves.

The last few months have been filled with uncertainty, one transition after another. No more office settings, no more gyms, no more school, and no more human contact! Change. Distance. Isolation. Finances impacted, relationships strained, reevaluation and adjustment of what needs to be prioritized, all while trying to get to know this “new world” we are existing in. It is no wonder why people are experiencing anxiety and depression. Take another breath.

Some were beginning to feel like we are all in this together. While others experienced a disparity around resources available and not available to them mainly based on socioeconomic status. Enter in the next, not new, but highly visible demonstration of racism, police brutality, and continued ignorance around the one simple fact that color of skin does not make one person more human than another and what do we have? Uncertainty, anger, hopelessness, exhaustion…So what do we do next?

What happened to what seemed to be the simple world we lived in just 6 months ago when we all made our New Year’s resolutions?

What happened?

What has been happening externally and internally has been illuminated. Our humanity. Yes, OUR HUMANITY has been impacted (yet again) by hate and division. We have experienced a trauma with the impact of Covid-19, an external force of nature which we all feared and still fear. We have also experienced a trauma from within. Within humanity and within ourselves. The trauma around how one person could have a complete disregard for the life of another person. Have you ever had complete disregard for the life of another person? (something to think about).

How can we possibly measure the depth of that wound?

The events around the arrest, treatment, and death of George Floyd have triggered many around both racism and police brutality. The image, video, and discussions have led many Black American’s to experience retraumatization of what they themselves or those closest to them have experienced. Black America has been traumatized AND HUMANITY IS TRAUMATIZED…

IS IT TRAUMA?

  • Acute trauma results from a single incident. (can be an abrupt change due to Covid-19, job loss, riots, dropping a loved one at the hospital when they were overcrowded due to the pandemic, etc…)
  • Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged (examples: Covid-19 and its resurgence and racial trauma (information on racial trauma – https://www.thecut.com/2017/06/the-little-understood-mental-health-effects-of-racial-trauma.html)
  • Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events. Such as a pandemic, police brutality, overt racism, civil unrest, etc…

Now that we have named what is happening for many people. What’s next? Dealing with the emotional impact.

Which one is it? ANGER, FEAR, SADNESS, ANXIETY

Are you angry? Furious? Enraged? Please check in with yourself around which of the following primary emotions you may be feeling…

Fear (anxiety and worry) are you angry that you are afraid? Angry that you are experiencing anxiety? Do you fear for the world your child is growing up in? Are you worried about getting Covid-19? Are you afraid to visit a loved one? Do you have concerns around how you will make ends meet?

Sadness (disappointment, loss, discouragement, mental exhaustion) – are you angry because you are experiencing disappointment in others? yourself? Discouraged with society? Humanity? Are you exhausted from listening to one tragedy after another? Did you loss your job?

What does this all mean? Anger can be a primary emotion, however it usually masks another emotion. It means that usually beneath that anger there is deep hurt. As you watch people who are angry, as you check in with yourself around your own anger I encourage you to dig deeper and get to the emotion that makes you uncomfortable enough to experience anger. If anger is the primary emotion, you can validate it as well, ask yourself specific questions so you are aware of exactly what you are angry about. Having the self awareness around the primary emotions you are experiencing will support you with finding ways to cope.

HOW TO COPE:

  1. Validate your emotions, whatever they are. If you are experiencing anger, ask yourself how come? What are you angry about? Are you experiencing any other feelings? If so, what are they? Are you nervous? Are you having trouble sleeping due to racing thought/feelings of anxiety? Write them down. When we write things down, they become more manageable. Getting it out of your head and onto paper/note app, can empower you to do something about it.
  2. Nurture and Nourish yourself aka self-care. Hold space for the feelings that you do have. Once acknowledged, gently walk yourself through the emotions. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to get off of social media for a while, get off. If you need to stop talking to a negative friend, start creating boundaries. Handle yourself tenderly as you learn what your needs are and meet them. Your form of self-care gets to be tailored to meet your needs, it is different for everyone. Take care of you.
  3. Find support. Reach out to like minded friends, family, and support groups. Talking to others reminds us that we are not alone. If you are in a quiet space and rather not engage with others directly, you can join on online support group, or read stories of other people who are feeling the way you feel and discover what steps they took to feel better.
  4. Get Grounded by focusing on the things you can control. There is a ton of uncertainty in our external and internal world right now. Many have lost their grounding. Get grounded. You can do this by creating rituals/practices that are in your control. Examples would be exercising, writing, meditating, tending to plants, cooking, praying. Do something everyday that supports your growth in some way. Sometimes, just having something you can count on such as 15 minutes of yoga, meditation, listening to music, sipping tea, or sitting in silence and setting an intention can make all the difference.
  5. Lastly, BE EMPOWERED as you SHINE YOUR LIGHT. Your light, which is authentic to who you are and how you choose to show up in life. What does that mean? It means do something! We all have unique gifts and passions. How can you use your gift, passion, position, and/or platform to contribute in a positive way. You already have that power. Be empowered by the uniqueness of you! Everyone does not have to contribute in the same way. Figure out what your way looks like and then do it!

The world has seen darkness. Many of the events of the last 3 months have been traumatizing. Division among us is being reinforced at a time where we should be coming together. This is all true.

Another truth; nature is thriving, the air is cleaner, families are growing closer, parents are supporting their children, individuals are getting to know who they really are, and although it may not look like it, people are coming together. People are using their voices and their eyes differently.

If you are tired of talking about it and ready to be about it, here are just some of the things my clients of ALL RACES are doing:

  • Peaceful protests – NE, SE, HT
  • Using their art to capture images of what current day U.S./N.Y looks like as well as supporting groups and organizations that uplift others through their art. – AB
  • Speaking to their HR departments around training for racial sensitivity, inclusion, and diversity which can support both black and non-black employees and decrease tension/anxiety – MPA
  • Through their music and radio platform- MR
  • Mixed race clients (one black parent), talking to their siblings, parents, and friends around how this in impacting them. KT, AB, MA, NC
  • Through their media presence and open-mindedness around seeing people as people and being appreciative of the genuine gestures of others- BJ
  • Asking questions regarding inclusion during a company Town Hall and holding upper management accountable for creating change – SB
  • Educating themselves and speaking to friends and family members and providing resources to support educating them around racism – BP, BK, JW
  • Using their Linkedin platform to share information with organizations around how to begin diversity programs, as well as extend support and grace to their black employees at this time. NE
  • Putting out self-care content on social media emphasizing the value of taking care of plants and creating a safe haven in your home – RD
  • Speaking to their children about what they can do and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves – MI, JW
  • Donating money (nearly every client)
  • Instilling hope and inspiring a group of High School students by having a public figure they admire drop in to their virtual classroom, telling them to stay focused and keep working hard. – SN
  • New York based client using his own money and social media presence to create awareness and support raising money for businesses damaged during the riots in Minnesota, as well as providing food to families in neighborhoods where local supermarkets were destroyed. – MT
  • Lastly, many of my clients are trying to navigate this from a place of peace and love and doing their inner work to fight past their own negative emotions and fears. If nothing else, be a kind human.

Thank you all for your courage, for spreading love, and working towards supporting all of humanity during this time.

Bury the fear, the hate, and the violence. If I keep not trusting you and you keep not trusting me, how will we ever change Humanity?

Sit up straight and breathe…

Remember, you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please reach out to a mental healthcare professional.

Here are some resources to either call or text for immediate support:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.crisistextline.org/

With love, Tamara