In last week's post (part 1), we talked about the intense and difficult emotions that many of us are feeling as our country grapples with the murder of George Floyd by the police, and the deaths of countless other unarmed black men and women killed because of the color of their skin. Emotions like anger, grief, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, sadness, disappointment, and stress are prevalent right now. It is okay to be experiencing any or all of these feelings; our emotions make us human. We discussed the importance of honoring those emotions, understanding that in light of so much tragedy around us, these feelings may be very valid. However, over time, chronic intense emotion and stress can deplete us both emotionally and physically. It is essential that we learn ways to dial down that stress at times, so that we can preserve our physical and emotional health, even while living in a world where there is a lot to be stressed and angry about.
As promised, this week I'm sharing some of my favorite ways to feel better in stressful times, while still honoring your feelings and pushing for positive change.
1. Deep Breathing. Our breath is a gift, and we can harness the power of breathing deeply to reduce stress at any time, any place. Try this quick deep breathing technique the next time you need to relax. Sit, stand, or lie down comfortably. Place your hand gently on your abdomen. Slowly inhale 3 counts, through your nose. Hold your breath for 2 counts, then exhale through your mouth for 5 counts. Repeat 5 to 10 times, or until you are feeling more relaxed.
2. Mindfulness meditation is a mental health practice that encourages awareness of one's body and the present moment, to reduce feelings of stress. And it's not as intimidating as it sounds! I have listened to many guided mindfulness meditations, and none resonated with me like the ones created by Chianti Lomax of The Happy Pop-Up. She combines a guided meditation with lofi hip-hop and the result is amazing. I've been listening to them on repeat. Check it out here.
3. Express Gratitude. While there is a lot to be upset about, there are always things we can be grateful for. Being grateful focuses our thoughts on what we already have, and the positive emotions that are already available to us right now. I find that it is impossible for grateful thoughts and negative emotions to exist in the same moment. Check out this article I wrote on how to develop a gratitude practice to reduce stress and feel better, no matter what is going on in the world.
4. Prioritize your health. As always, eating foods that are healthy, getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, drinking lots of water, spending time outside, exercising regularly, and avoiding drugs and alcohol are all essential to staying physically AND mentally healthy. Better physical health is essential to optimizing our mental health. And the better you feel the more energy you will have to resist racism, take good care of yourself and others, and create positive change. Don't underestimate the importance of this!
5. Lean into your faith. African Americans have survived centuries of indescribable racial abuse and trauma, from slavery to now, by leaning into our faith and inner strength. Pray, read, connect with others who share your faith, listen to music that soothes your soul, and remember we are never in this fight for justice and equality alone.
6. Recognize that there are many ways we can support the fight for positive change, and they're all valid. I've heard of some people being shamed for not attending protests, or not saying enough on social media about their views on racism. While I do advocate for active involvement in the fight for social justice for those who are uncomfortable with the status quo and desire positive change, please remember that your way of being involved maybe different from others and that's okay. Some people are great at public protesting, others may behind-the-scence organizers. Some may enjoy raising awareness on large platforms, while others are committed to having one-on-one conversations in their communities to bring about change. We all have the power to vote in ways that support improved equality and justice. The bottom line is, if you desire change, then promote that change in your own unique way. We can all do something, so pick a lane and get busy! But don't feel badly if your lane is different from someone else's.
I have many more tips to share, but don't want to make this an overwhelmingly long post. So stay tuned next week for part 3, on even MORE ways we can feel better even in the face of racism. Don't forget to subscribe to the blog to stay up to date, and share with a friend who needs this!
We've got this!