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A Black Woman’s Guide to Mental Health While Coping With Racism

Hey sis, how are you doing? If you are like me, you may be overwhelmed with this intense overlay of blatant racism on top of this pandemic. So I truly hope you are staying connected to those who value you and slowing down to practice self-care. The blatant disregard for Black bodies can just be so overwhelming, and talking with people who don’t see a problem can be draining! So in this blog, I will help you build skills for coping with racism.

1. Feel all your feelings.

Coping with racism has me feeling a mix of emotions right now. I feel so overwhelmed by sadness and anger about the loss of life of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, in addition to countless Black lives lost at the hands of police. My anxiety is on high, knowing it could easily have been me or my family in those same shoes. I am also grateful to be alive as I think back on the negative encounters I have had with the police as early as age 14.

Most of all, I am in awe that only three generations ago, Black Americans were forced to cope with slavery, yet made it out with strength and faith. I am saddened that 186 years later, we are forced to be happy with systemic racism. My mind races with adrenaline to share the truth, history and data about the systemic devaluing of Black bodies in America. Then I come tumbling down to an ultimate low of feeling drained, hopeless and obsessed as I aspire for the hope of equality and unity.

2. Stay rooted in Christ.

Trying to manage life’s unpredictability and heaviness on my own is what leads me to be obsessed with controlling the situation, drained and hopeless! To combat this, I have to stay connected to my faith. To be honest, I had gotten into the cycle of neglecting my quality time with God during the months leading up to George Floyd’s death. So I took in the heaviness of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s back-to-back deaths without leaning on God as my strength. This triggered memories of being irresponsibly detained by police at age 14 for “fitting the description” while at the movies. My sadness and motivation deepened as I thought of how easily it could have been me, my cousin, my family or my friend. I had so much anger, and this heaviness brought me where I needed to be, on my knees in prayer.

Essential to me coping with racism was diving deeper into God’s word to be comforted and to have the wisdom to respond biblically. It’s so important that we let life’s chaos and pain nudge us into God’s arms to be strengthened and comforted, not away from it.

3. Do what’s in your control.

Establishing boundaries between what is in your control and out of your control is one of the foundational skills for coping with racism. Once I turned to God and trusted him to be in control, that freed me to do what was in my control.  This is important because we all have a role to play in this Black Lives Matter movement. The first step is to know your passions, your skills and how you feel most comfortable getting involved. My passions are studying the Bible and African diaspora history, and I am skilled in public health so I am getting involved through those avenues. I know that I want to be actively involved in change-making and that I am willing to send texts, share on social media and occasionally protest.

I started out by using social media to share American history from the African American perspective and share my personal experiences. I branched out to a day of protesting side-by-side with friends and family. My peers and I reached out to my church leaders to discuss how to Biblically address racism. I have also been blessed with a job that is leading the way in highlighting racial inequities in my county. As a personal commitment, I am also “Buying Black” and “Banking Black” to invest in my Black brothers and sisters. There are even opportunities to be a change-maker from home; it can be as easy as contacting your local representatives to support policy change by texting “Resist” to 504-09, signing a petition, sending prewritten emails to Police Departments or donating to memorial and justice funds. Take any step, big or small that is within your control.

4. Prioritize your self-care.

An essential key to coping with racism is self-care. Traumatic incidents of racism can be triggering and cause self-care neglect or the use of negative (self-care harming) coping skills. It can also make you feel isolated, overwhelmed and hopeless. To avoid negative coping skills, set time aside for things that bring you joy. Also, have a routine for basic self-care to ensure that your mood does not control your self-care. When creating your routine, consider your daily minimums, as well as the most stressful/challenging parts of your day. Getting up in the morning to get to work is difficult for me. It is also helpful to establish a consistent time to go to bed. Even if you can’t fall asleep, try to lay in bed around the same time each night, or read. Most importantly, determine the things that are most pressing and essential to your well-being and life balance. Prioritize those things first and foremost. If you want more self-care tips, I have a comprehensive blog post of essential self-care tips.

5. Disconnect from negativity.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am an advocate for taking a social media detox. There is so much unedited devaluing of Black bodies circulating online and so much false divisive white supremacist rhetoric circulating as well. Do not subject yourself to any avoidable triggers or microaggressions. It is not worth the emotional toll. It is important to know your signs of social media burnout and prioritize taking a break. If you frequently need a social media detox, you may need exposure to different people and content on social media. The beauty of social media is being able to curate the content you receive. If you are being exposed to excessive negativity or blatant racism, unfriend and unfollow. You can also try setting time frame or time limit boundaries around your social media usage. This will help you to decrease the excessive or mindless use of social media throughout the day.

6. Tap in mental health resources.

I hope this blog focused on developing the skills for coping with racism has helped you. Racism is real, and it’s OK to feel angry, overwhelmed, and sad about it. The key to coping with racism is drawing near to God, doing what’s in your control and aligned with your talents, disconnecting from the negativity and practicing essential self-care. As always, these coping skills are based on my unique experiences and perspective. However, I truly believe there is hope for your unique situation. If you struggle with severe mental illness or thoughts of suicide, I want to encourage you to seek help today. Find a local therapist or contact the National Suicide Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255, or texting “START” to 741741. A trained therapist can provide you with a diagnosis and help you develop an appropriate treatment plan.

For more on the Black Lives Matter movement, check out The Mighty’s topic page.

Photo by Morgan Vander Hart on Unsplash