There have been quite a few articles written about the negative emotional and physical effects of post-election trauma. Many people have reported an increase in high blood pressure, migraines, heart issues (palpitations, etc.), generalized anxiety and stress, and symptoms that mimic depression. It seems like the nation is experiencing a crisis similar to that of being engaged in a war. It also seems as if for many people, this is the first time they have ever experienced such deep confusing maddening distress.
As a woman of color who was born and is living in the U.S., raising children of color, and married to an immigrant I can fully relate. My distress is as high as anyone else’s. The difference is maybe that I straddle privilege and oppression with coping skills that I have had a lifetime to develop, such that my blood pressure or heart or overall health have yet to be affected. While I feel enraged or sad at times, fearful and confused at others, I am not steeping in any of those emotions. I do not have that luxury. I do not want to speak for all people of color or other vulnerable and oppressed identities living in the U.S., but I (we) cannot afford to be distressed to the point of being sick, hospitalized, and/or immobilized. Further, and quite plainly – we are accustomed to this type of distress – for some of us, it is part of our daily living. And still, we rise and press on towards the goal.
I know the distress is real. I want to honor that there is pain, confusion, anger, sadness, fear. I also want to say that many of us who have been vulnerable and oppressed for some time know that “this too shall pass.” My great-grandparents and grandparents and parents did not survive racial and gender discrimination in the deep south by lying down and moaning. They did not have the luxury of sick time or mental health days. From them, I (and other people like me), learned how to press on and cope; how to find joy in the morning. So until “joy comes in the morning,” from my humble social work self, here are some tips for my friends who are experiencing pain, sadness, anger, confusion, discomfort, uncertainty for the first time:
- Keep breathing and engage in some self-care (and care for those around you). No social justice activist is any good if you are sick and weak and down-and-out. Stay well, healthy, and focused.
- Surround yourself with like-minded, caring, productive people. Together you can find comfort, vent, and strategize for the future.
- Call on a higher power. We are only human and can only do so much – meditate, pray, find a way to connect yourself spiritually or religiously to something outside of your human earthly self.
- Get a soundtrack. Music, art, poetry are all useful forms of protest as well as useful forms of uplift, care, and relief. My current soundtrack is a mix of Destiny Child’s “I’m a Survivor” and Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution.” I gotta keep a mix of hip-hop/rap and gospel to stay sane and focused.
- Find inspiration in those who came before us and did this work in the face of extreme obstacles. Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to name a few.
- Act locally. The national and global picture is important AND overwhelming. Take action in your city/town, your state, your local schools. Get connected with what is happening in your area. Small bits may be more manageable and help to ease some of the distress of looking at the larger situation.
- Limit your social media and hard news intake. Really. Even as a professor who needs to keep up with the current events, I am limiting how much I log on and turn on. I still know what is happening and I am still able to act and I am less stressed about the daily changing landscape and environment.
- Don’t engage in identity politics that divides who you are from others. We are an intersectional people and our battles are all important. Combine efforts, work together, move forward.
- Remember that there have been many eras of social injustice. Many eras of social movements. And many victories for people who are distressed, oppressed, and vulnerable.
- Finally, remember joy does come in the morning. It may be the morning of next week or next month. But joy is counted in each small victory, and waking up with the ability to help make change is a victory for today!
This is my 10 cents on riding the storms of today.
What’s your self-care and care for others plan? Who is inspiring you to stay focused and fight the good fight? What’s on your soundtrack during these trying times? How are you coping and pushing up and forward?