Hello! Take a breath. You are here. You have made it through another day.

We have been exposed to a lot of racial trauma lately—in the news, on social media, in our communities. All of us are affected by it in some way, but some of us—Black people in particular—are feeling it very deeply right now. We feel it in our hearts, in our bones, in our cells, in our spirits. We are oftentimes not only reacting to what we’re seeing today, but also to what our ancestors experienced years or even centuries before now.

As a result, you might be having a whole range of reactions!  Including: 

  • Having a hard time sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
  • Feeling on edge, angry, sad, or holding self-blame.
  • Having intrusive thoughts (unwelcome thoughts or images that pop into your head out of nowhere) or nightmares about racial violence.

During times like these, it is extra important to prioritize taking care of ourselves. Self-care gives us the energy and strength we need to survive in the face of adversity. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Here are some ways to care for yourself during this time.

  • Allow yourself to feel your feelings!  Many of us come from families that have been conditioned to “just keep it moving” as a way of surviving oppression. But healing comes from honoring our emotions.
  • Speaking of feelings, it’s ok to feel happy too! Remember what brings you joy, and do it! Often. In fact, finding joy amidst injustice is a powerful act of resistance.
  • So is rest! Take time to just do “nothing.”  Take breaks from the news and social media, especially when you’re first waking up or about to go to bed.
  • Consider creating a bedtime ritual and commit to getting as much sleep as your body needs.
  • Your body also needs nourishment. Eat full meals and drink water throughout the day.
  • Connect with people who make you feel understood. Spend time (if you can) with loved ones or surround yourself with photos and reminders of them. Think about talking to a therapist or teacher or minister who you feel safe with.
  • Know that not every person is a safe person all the time. It’s ok to set boundaries with people who are not supportive of you or who are asking for more time or energy than you want to give right now.
  • Remember the healing traditions in your family and culture. What’s helped your family through hard times? Prayer? Being in nature? Creating art? Cooking? Just as ancestral trauma is passed down to us, so is ancestral wisdom and resilience. Try to tap into that.

Know that, even if you don’t know of your family’s healing traditions, you can always start your own.  What helps you feel safe, grounded, happy and powerful? 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Embody a positive memory. Think of a time you felt loved/connected and notice what happens in your body. Relish in that memory!
  • Ground yourself in the present moment. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Try a breathing exercise to soothe your nervous system. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat for a few rounds. Notice how you feel.
  • Create affirmations for yourself. Ask yourself: What do I need to hear? What do I need to remind myself of? Write them out and repeat them to yourself often. If you’re not sure where to start, try: I am enough. I am free. I am whole. If your affirmation feels false or reminds you that you’re far away from where you want to be, try adding “I’m learning to…” or “I’m learning that…” to the beginning, like Dr. Soph suggests here.
  • Recognize that there are many ways to protest. If you want to protest, find a way that aligns with you. It may be marching, but it may be petitioning, organizing, donating, fundraising, writing, making music, worshipping, dancing, documenting, storytelling, or so many other possibilities. All of them are needed.
  • You are needed. 

More Resources

  • Black mental health resources compiled by To Write Love on Her Arms
  • Learn how to create a bedtime ritual to help you fall asleep faster and get a good night’s rest.
  • Liberate Meditation is a meditation app designed by and for people of color. In addition to meditations that focus on anxiety, stress, depression, gratitude and joy, they also offer meditations to address microaggressions, internalized racism and more. They offer a 7-day free trial, and paid monthly subscriptions after that. If you are unable to afford the app, apply for relief to access it free or at a reduced price.
  • Black communities have born a disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Find resources for you and your family.
  • Find additional self-care and mental health tips and resources in this COVID-19 mental health guide.
  • Self-compassion can lift your spirits and offer strength while living in a world where white supremacy and other systems of oppression take from your right to experience love and kindness. Learn how to practice self-compassion.
  • The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center provides free, confidential, comprehensive healthcare, including mental health services, to young people 10-26 years old in NYC. Click here to learn more or call 212-423-3000 for an appointment.
  • It is normal to feel strong emotions when you experience or witness racism in any form. However, if you have the urge to hurt yourself, find that you can’t do daily activities, or just need extra support, reach out to a trusted adult. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Remember: You are not alone. You are part of a community who loves and appreciates you. You matter.

Caryn Moore, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker from the Chicago area and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Columbia University. She has been practicing social work for over 10 years, with a particular focus on healing from trauma and oppression. Caryn believes that, as bell hooks wrote, fostering wellness is an act of political resistance. Her interests include liberation theology, bold earrings, cake, and cake-flavored items.