It’s not exactly surprising that watching countless race-fueled, unjust murders is bad for your mental health. “The murders of black people at the hands of police—and the constant cycling of imagery that shows these deaths—amplifies our anxiety and distress,” says Yolo Akili Robinson, executive director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective).
It affects us psychologically and physically by increasing stress, raising our heart rates and blood pressure, cause muscle tension, migraines, sleeplessness, and induce feelings of sadness, anger, fear, numbness, fatigue, and hopelessness, says Candice Hargons, PhD, director of the Center for Healing Racial Trauma.
And let’s be honest: It’s not just witnessing atrocious acts of racism or systemic racism that’s stressful. Being anti-racist is also work—and that can be anxiety-provoking in and of itself, especially considering that not doing it, at least for the majority of black Americans, is not an option.
“Incorporating daily activities and practices that help us create a little bit of peace, rootedness, and centeredness are critical,” Robinson says. Otherwise, you can find yourself burned out and unable to be helpful to the causes you truly care about. It’s important when we talk about our mental health right now that we find ways to manage and ease our distress, because for the vast majority of us, we can not escape the circumstances, Robinson says.
Hargons and Robinson have a few recommendations on how to maintain and preserve your mental health while combating systemic racism and social injustice, especially for black Americans:
- Connect with a mental health professional who has been trained in racial trauma.
- Practice meditation and other mind/body interventions to prevent your nervous system from being on high-alert all the time.
- Engage in joy-based practices.
- Hug people more often.
- Give yourself permission to engage in resistance and activism work at your own capacity.
- Make time for exercise.
Read more on WomensHealthMag.com.