Managing your mental health is just as important as managing the health of the rest of your body. We are only half-way into the year 2020 and many are having difficulties coping with stress. We’ve witnessed a pandemic (which is still active), and while taking shelter in our homes and slowly getting back to “normal”, the black community has endured deep pain at the hands of law enforcement and racist citizens. The recent tragedy with George Floyd has left many in a state of disbelief. Are we STILL battling racism and the right to LIVE?
So how do we make sure that our mental health stays in tact while we fight for equality and justice? How do we make sure that the stresses of what’s going on in our current situation, don’t have a long term negative effect on our mental health? Here are the top 10 ways to help cope with stress and manage your mental health.
Unplug from Social Media
It’s ok to take a step back from social media every now and then. Especially if it’s one of the root causes of your stress. Right now, any and everyone are posting exactly how they feel about the state of the black community and this country. Unfortunately, not all of those feelings are geared towards making positive change or even in support of the community. Reading negative posts or even arguing with small minded individuals over and over can be draining. What’s more draining, is when you know you’re correct, supporting your claim with factual information but they refuse to change their stance.
Put the smart phone down. Close your laptop. If you feel like you’ll still be tempted to log onto your social media accounts, deactivate them until you’re ready to return. During this time, try some other methods to help you cope.
Start a workout routine
Exercise has been shown to be a proven method to combat stress and anxiety. The benefits of exercising are astounding, and here’s why:
Feel good hormones: When you exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins. Endorphins act as sedatives and also as analgesics. What is that? That means that they help to reduce the feeling of having pain. Have you ever heard someone say they had a “runners high”? That’s because the endorphins that are released give a similar feeling to that of morphine.
Sexual Health: Did you know that exercise can reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED)? Shut the front door! Strap on those running shoes fellas! Ladies, is can also help to increase your sexual arousal!
Sleep: Exercise helps you to fall asleep faster. Not only that, but it can also help you stay asleep for longer periods of time. If you’re like me, you’re probably up late at night, tossing and turning. There’s usually a million thoughts going through my mind. So get on the treadmill, go walk around the block, and try a Zumba class for a better night’s sleep.
Practice Meditation or Mindfulness
Coping with, and relieving stress are one of the main reasons individuals practice meditation. Mental and physical stress can increase the hormone, cortisol, that is released into your body. This is known as the stress hormone. When cortisol is increased in your body, it can release chemicals call cytokines. These bad boys are the cause of inflammation (notice those pounds packing on?). Not sure where to start? Check your smart phone! There’s tons of apps to get you started on your road to meditation.
Cut back on the caffeine
Coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sodas contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant. A stimulant is a class of drugs that can make a person feel more awake, energized, and alert (Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2020). In large doses, caffeine can cause increased anxiety, panic, headaches, and other issues that can add to your stress levels.
Have you ever felt jittery after an energy drink or really good cup of coffee? That’s caffeine doing it “thang”. While coffee can be ok in moderation, it’s important to know that too much of a good thing can be bad for anyone. So continue to enjoy that morning cup to get your day started, but maybe not go for your second or third just yet.
Start a journal
What better way to to get your emotions out in a healthy way, then to write it all down. Have you ever had so many emotions that you didn’t know what to say or even where to start? Maybe you have a lot of anger and frustration that you need to get out but you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Writing down how you’re feeling in a journal or diary is a great for coping with stress a. It allows us to “get it all out”, relieving all the pressure being felt from whatever is bothering us. Using this coping mechanism give you the chance to say everything you need, and even go back if you left something out that you forgot to say.
Just like writing all your problems down can help you cope, writing what you’re grateful for can help as well. Try this. Instead of writing about everything bad that’s happening around you, try writing about what you’re grateful for. How are you being blessed? What good do you see in yourself? In other people?
Pick up a new hobby
Nothing relieves stress better than doing something you love. Do you enjoy cooking? Maybe you’re super creative. Can you paint? Whatever it is, do it. It’s only natural that by doing something that you enjoy can help you cope and improve your mental health. Who knows, maybe this hobby can turn into a profitable business!
Consider homeopathic methods
There are many herbs and scents that can help to cope with and improve stress. Things like herbal supplements and essential oils have helped to reduce stress and anxiety in many. Make sure to talk with your doctor before using any supplements, especially is you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or have any underlying medical conditions.
Here’s a few popular ones
Lavender oil: Lavender has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Try a nice relaxing bath with a few drops of lavender oil. Or you can try your baby’s bath wash if it has lavender in it😂
Bergamot oil: This citrusy scent comes from bergamot oranges. It has been shown to improve mood as well and reduce anxiety.
Frankincense: Known to help with anxiety. Try mixing Bergamot and Lavender with this oil in a hand massage. This mixture has helped cancer patients with depression, anxiety, and pain. You can also add this to a diffuser.
Geranium: This oil has been shown to reduce anxiety for women in the first stages of labor. Another benefit- It can also help to reduce your diastolic blood pressure (Rashidi Fakari et al., 2015).
Spend time with people that love you
Mama’s warm hugs, the smell of grandma’s cooking in the kitchen, and the sweet squeals coming from your babies from the living. Nothing beats spending time with those that love you. Now, a little sidebar here. Notice I say, “with people that love you” and not just “family and friends”. Let’s face it, some family and friends can be super toxic and can damage our mental health even more. Many times, it’s the individuals who aren’t related by blood that make you feel more at peace. Remember, love shouldn’t hurt, so pack those bags and take a roadtrip to those that will uplift you.
It’s ok to say “No”
There’s so many things in our lives that can stress us out. Some of them we can’t control, but not all. For the ones we can control, you have full autonomy. A way to do that is by saying “No” more often. It’s ok if you’re not Superwoman. You can’t expect to handle everything on your own. So, don’t take on more than you you need to. And do NOT feel bad for it either. Stop putting other people’s want’s and demands over your mental health. They will manage.
Seek professional help
Sis, it’s ok to get help. Sometimes our problems are far beyond what we can handle ourselves. This is why there are trained professionals here to help us combat any demons we may not be able to fight on our own. Why are we so afraid to seek help?
Even though African Americans experience mental illness just like other populations, but they are less likely to seek professional help like their counterparts. They’re also more likely to experience phsychological distress by 10% This is based off of many barriers and stigmas in the black community, one of which is, not wanting to be labeled (“African Americans | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness,” 2020).
It’s time we make sure that our mental health is as up to par as our physical health. Do not be afraid to seek help from a therapist, or other mental health professional. If you would see a cardiologist for something that is wrong with the health of your heart, why not see a Psychiatrist for something that is wrong with your mental health?
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Resources and References
African Americans | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020). NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/Diverse-Communities/African-American-Mental-Health
Ashley Ormond, Randy Barbour, Rhonda K. Lewis, Annie Montgomery & Andrea Ponds (2019) Results from a community mental health assessment in a historically black church: A call for action, Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, DOI: 10.1080/10852352.2019.1654257
Rashidi Fakari, F., Tabatabaeichehr, M., Kamali, H., Rashidi Fakari, F., & Naseri, M. (2015). Effect of inhalation of aroma of geranium essence on anxiety and physiological parameters during first stage of labor in nulliparous women: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Caring Sciences, 4(2), 135-141. https://doi.org/10.15171/jcs.2015.014
“Stimulants.” Stimulants – Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 28 Jan. 2020, adf.org.au/drug-facts/stimulants/.