Maintaining emotional health in this climate is more than a notion. Self-care when coping with the terror Black people deal with daily, especially with the recent shootings of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on video, is beyond necessary. Remembering the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare,” is key.
Being socially, politically aware and active is essential; ensuring our emotional health is critical. To inhabit a body with genes coded with the trauma of our ancestors, coupled with the constant barrage of video witnessing cold-blooded murder in real time, deposits knots in our stomachs and a tightening in our chests.
How do we remain vigilant in our pursuit of justice and keep our spirits intact? The souls of Black folk are precious and sacred. Traditionally we draw from a place of love and light to triumph over terror. Our souls are equipped to the healing that is required for our survival. Healing and action are interdependent — both are required and needed.
It's OK to give ourselves permission to protect our spirits, to protect your humanity — to unplug, turn off the TV and social media, shielding ourselves from further “in your face” trauma. It doesn't make us less incensed, enraged, frustrated or less able to mobilize, strategize and take real action to confront, combat and disarm White supremacy (racism is too small of a word) and all its murderous effects. Self-care is critical and essential. Preservation of our souls is paramount.
Dr. Karinn Glover, MD MPH, New York based Consulting Psychiatrist at ThriveNYC’s Mental Health Service Corps, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and immediate past VP of the Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York, suggests monitoring your trauma by paying attention to your body.
“Take a moment to notice your breathing. Is it shallow? Is your heart racing? Are you having trouble sleeping? It’s important to notice signs of stress and anxiety.” She advises us to “talk about what’s happening. Research shows that those who witness or experience unfair treatment and keep silent and do nothing about it tend to have high blood pressure. Taking positive action or at least talking through it can save your own life."
Here are a few self-care practices to help alleviate some of the pain:
1. Turn off the TV and log off social media. “Stay away from people and situations that only leave you depleted and hopeless,” advises Dr. Glover.
2. Be silent. Go within. Meditate. Pray. Speak and listen to ancestors. Journal. Sit with you spirit.
3. Sleep. Sleep repairs and renews our bodies and minds, giving strength to thrive and clarity to make good decisions.
4. Create healthy ways to process stress by moving your body, listening to music, talking baths, laughing, talking to and spending time with friends and loved ones, and/or seek therapy.
5. Eat healthy and nutritious food.
6. Start a cleanse, as it aids in clearing the brain fog, fatigue and wariness of trauma. You’ll need the ability to focus as you strategize.
7. Curb your cocktails. “Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may blunt the anxiety and the trauma temporarily but usually lead to further hopelessness, sadness and desperation,” advises Dr. Glover.
8. Love yourself fiercely and unconditionally.