I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve found myself either taking really deep breaths or holding my breath for no apparent reason. Upon further introspection, I realize that I’m bracing myself for impact; the impact of the next Black woman to be violently and senselessly murdered. First, there was Sandra Bland, and then there was Korryn Gaines, and most recently Joyce Quaweay. It feels like a never-ending litany of sisters taken from this world for reasons that just don’t seem to add up. It’s exhausting, infuriating, devastating, and at times just altogether too much. I try to limit the amount of media I’m consuming and engage in some selfcare, but I find that I continue surfing the net and following hashtags in an effort to try and make sense of something that just seems so nonsensical. I imagine that many of you are feeling similarly sad, mad, and maybe a little hopeless about this world we live in. If so, I’d invite you to consider a few things that may help you feel a little more balanced.
Find Your Joy.
Lately, I’ve been finding my joy in the wonder that is Simone Biles and all of the other Black girls who are showing out at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Seeing such incredible athletes competing at the top of their games has brought me so much pride and provided a nice reprieve from all the other headlines that have dominated the summer. If not the Olympics, then what is your thing? The newest release from your favorite author? Listening to Lemonade for the 700th time? Find what makes you smile and throw yourself into for a while.
Taking a break from the endless commentary provided to us by social media is probably the best thing you can do to protect your peace, but also the hardest! The sense of community that is created as we all gather around our timelines and feeds to keep up with the news can be very powerful, but also very damaging because it can become consuming. Particularly, when incredibly graphic and violent images and videos are everywhere you look. Set limits for yourself regarding how much time you will spend engaging with social media everyday. Even if you have to set a timer to get you in the habit. You will be surprised at how much less tense and anxious you feel by giving yourself a break from the constant stimuli.
Get Back to Center.
Engaging in mindfulness exercises can be incredibly helpful in assisting you with managing any anxiety you may feel. Mindfulness exercises help you to stay connected to the present moment, making it more difficult for you to get caught up in worry about the past or future. Because we are often running from place to place and usually take very little time to gather our thoughts, mindfulness can be difficult to get into. You may have to try a few different exercises until you find the ones that are right for you. My favorite exercise is this one (Soothing gif). You may also want to download the Breathe app to work on purposeful deep breathing.
Often times it seems that marching in a protest is the only way to get involved after one of these heinous acts of violence, but there are also tons of other ways you can do your part. For example, you can be a part of a letterwriting campaign to government officials. You can donate money or items to the families of the victims, or you can educate friends and family about social injustices. Whatever you choose, trust that it is making an impact and try not to compare your level of involvement to someone else’s. There is plenty of work to be done and each of us is uniquely suited for specific tasks.
Pay Attention to Your Health.
It can be very easy to let things like healthy eating and exercise fall to the side when it feels like there is so much going on around us, but we cannot endure if we are not taking care of our bodies. Small things like sitting down to eat a homecooked meal vs. grabbing something on the go can make a world of difference. You may also find it helpful to amp up the intensity in your workouts. If you are typically someone who does something like jogging to work out, try a kickboxing class. This may help you to discharge more of the anger and anxiety you were feeling and will also likely result in better sleep.
Which of these suggestions do you plan to start trying this week? Are there other strategies you would suggest to help us protect our peace in these difficult times? Share with us in the comments!
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a licensed Psychologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA and runs the mental health blog, Therapy For Black Girls. Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. So often the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy prevent Black women from taking the step of seeing a therapist. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford developed the blog to present mental health topics in a way that feels more accessible and relevant.
You can follow her on Twitter @therapy4bgirls and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therapyforblackgirls