For 31 years July was my favorite month. My birthday month. But ever since my mother’s passing, July is one the hardest months to endure. My birthday is July 15th, and she unexpectedly passed on July 25, 2013. This year marks three years, but I would be lying if I said that grief still didn’t have it’s way with me. In fact, the truth is while days may get easier, grief will probably forever linger. And I am okay with this. However this year, a year when I have been “feeling” significantly better, has also been a year when we as a nation have all been confronted with grief.
From the Stanford rape, to the hate massacre in Orlando, to last week’s police brutality that took the lives of two innocent black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, then, immediately the police killings in Dallas, I can honestly say that maintaining my mental health has become incredibly hard.
I know grief is something we can all relate to, so when tragedy hits our nation in the way it has over the last few months it is crucial that we let our sadness and anger inspire us to take better care of ourselves. For I believe this is what will leave us all better equipped to take care of this world.
We don’t have to be overwhelmed by these feelings of sadness, anger, disgust and numbness. Instead we can transform this pain into an inspiration for change. I refuse to go crazy in this crazy world, so may these tips help you stay sane too.
Honor Your Feelings
Cry, scream, lay out on your bathroom floor, but by all means don’t be silent. We have to talk about it. So do whatever, whenever and wherever – without judgement. To be angry is legit. To cry and be afraid is understandable. But to discredit these feelings and become numb is detrimental. Feelings are what remind us that we are alive. So to negate this does more harm to our health than we think. I truly believe we can take our anger and channel it in a way that can be productive. But until you feel it, you can’t change it.
Disconnect So You Can Reconnect
I did not watch the videos that circulated the internet after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. They were tragic and horrific, and I knew I would not be able to recover. PTSD is a major source of the overall anxiety I have developed since my mother’s passing. So prior to the recent tragedies I have been very aware of my triggers. I don’t go anywhere near them. I avoid them at all cost. In social media terms, I turn off autoplay to videos, I block people who share messages that dismantle my wellbeing, I log off completely when I feel overwhelmed. Because as Jodi Aman, author of You 1, Anxiety 0: Win Your Freedom Back From Fear and Panic To Keep Calm in a Crazy World puts it, “It is far easier to trigger a fear [anxious] response than it is to turn one off.”
So if constant media coverage, social and otherwise, is making you feel crazy, then it is totally fine to disconnect. Sign off and take this time to sign back in to your real life. As in your real life friends and family. Write a letter to a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. Just to tell them how much you appreciate them. Go visit someone in the hospital or a nursing home. Volunteer. All the above will make you feel like you are contributing to someone else’s happiness, and in turn, you will be contributing to your own.
Get Out And Live
Mornings and nights are the hardest times of the day for those who are grieving. At least that is the case for me. Waking up is a reminder that my reality isn’t in fact a dream and going to bed represents the dread that I may wake up to something else unsettling in the morning. I know this sentiment is the same for many of us since witnessing the horrific tragedies in our nation recently. However no matter how hard it may be, we have to get out and live. I mean, you don’t have to flounce around acting as if nothing has happened. But to give yourself a couple hours or days away from it all is definitely healthy.
For me it is working out, hanging out with friends or sewing. So this weekend I disconnected from the internet, read books, prepared and ate healthy food with friends, ran long gadget free miles along the Hudson River and sketched future sewing projects. Not only do I feel better, I feel better equipped to focus on what I can do in order to be a part of the solution. Rest is good, don’t get me wrong. But don’t sleep through the pain and miss out on opportunities to live.
Don’t Discredit The Little Things
The healing of the world depends on us all. Black, white, or as the media recently coined, blue (for the police). Honestly who cares what color your flesh is, or what uniform you wear. The one thing that uniforms us all is one color. The color of our blood – red. We are facing a human problem. Not just a race problem. So while I know that the greatest feeling many of us are facing during this time is helplessness, we have to push through.
For instance, Aman beautifully states in her book, “Your anxieties are usually about things you feel helpless about…this sense of helplessness feeds and defines anxiety.”
So fight this feeling with all your might. Anxious and all. I believe that we are not helpless.
Do something. Anything.
You don’t have to influence change on the level of raising over $460,000 for the future educations of Alton Sterling’s children like Issa Rae did in order to be influential. You can start right where you are, with who you are. With the talents you already have.
Are you a writer? Write letters to the victims family and friends. Or just write in your journal prayers for their wellbeing. Are you a socialite? Throw a fundraiser in honor of one of the many victims (even the ones who didn’t receive media coverage). Are you an artist? Use your pain to create. Your gift may be the next Pulitzer or Tony Award winning transformational piece of art.
These things may feel small to you, but they certainly have the power to create a large ripple effect. Causing others to feel inspired to share their gifts. And the more of us who have the courage to share love, the less room there will be for hate. So do anything.
Overall may your fear, anger and sadness inspire action. “Because action counters the helplessness that fuels the anxiety…it also helps you emotionally recover from anxious thoughts,” says Aman.
I refuse to let this crazy world drive me crazy. I’m determined to be a force for change, so in the midst of tragedy, I too must be changed.
Fitness fashion courtesy of Onzie.
Sneakers courtesy of Six:02: Nike Free TR 5 Flyknit
Photo cred: Katie Henry Photography