More than most years, it feels like Blackness has been especially under attack this year. The collective feeling of trauma feels palpable in my office, on my campus, and throughout my social networks. It feels like every time there is another major verdict to be delivered, a new viral video dropped, and with each breaking news headline, there is a collective holding of our breaths. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a diagnosis used to describe a collection of symptoms in an individual, it sure does feel like as a community we are suffering from this right now. A shared sense of paranoia, anxiety, angst, and hopelessness are all completely valid and understandable right now. During a time when there is so much pain and suffering in our face, and when so many of us are dedicated to fighting injustices, it is especially important to pay attention to taking care of and sharpening our tool, which is our selves. We cannot continue to shut down the highways and transit stations or march against these evils if we do not remember to engage in restorative self care. Here are some things to consider:
- Step away from social media. On one hand it feels like we wouldn’t even know about some of these injustices if we weren’t paying attention to our twitter timelines, but on the other hand, the rate at which we can now get information can also be incredibly fatiguing and traumatic. It is very easy to find yourself scrolling through the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and completely losing track of time and digesting some very painful and triggering information. Try to set a time limit for your social media and know when enough is enough.
- Pay attention to sleep and diet. When we’re running on adrenaline and feeling as though our very lives depend on protesting, speaking out and organizing, it is very easy to forget about eating healthy and getting enough rest. Even if you are on the go a lot, try to bring healthier snacks with you so you are not depending on fast food and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Stay connected to loved ones. Trauma and repeated acts of racial violence can make you feel very isolated and disillusioned. It’s important to be grounded by your support system and to be connected to others around issues separate from everything else that’s going on. Spend time recharging your core with people who affirm you.
- Get involved. In whatever way feels most authentic to you, get involved in the movement. For some that may be protesting, for others it may be fundraising, and for yet others this may be volunteering at a local school. There is no right or wrong way to make a difference. Feeling as though you are a part of something bigger than you can be incredibly healing and restorative.
- Be gentle with yourself. Your feelings are valid. It’s ok to be angry, disappointed and downright disgusted with today’s state of affairs. And it is also ok to step away from it when necessary. With all of the action going on around us, there may be a tendency to feel guilty if you do not feel like you are “doing enough” for the movement. Everyone needs a day or some days off especially in the face of trauma. It’s ok to still watch your guilty pleasure TV shows. It’s ok to still laugh at funny jokes. It’s ok to keep on moving. Pay attention to issues that may be particularly triggering and give yourself permission to do what you need to do to protect yourself and your mental health.