The current coronavirus pandemic has taken a fatal toll on millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the total number of cases are over 12 million with over 500,000 deaths. As global health care systems work tirelessly to save lives and prevent countless more infections, another crisis underlies -- a mental health crisis.
As the coronavirus continues to ensue, mental health issues are on the rise. In April, a federal government distress hotline received a 1,000 percent increase in calls. The Black community is experiencing an even greater mental health crisis. Disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, Black people have many more stressors to consider, such as less resources, less disposable income, and lower communal support. This lack of proper resources heavily contributes to anxiety and depression plaguing the Black community.
This is where mindfulness can have a positive affect!
Mindfulness is a positive state of awareness achieved through focused intention and 'present-ness'. Plainly put, being mindful can help you to remain calm and centered throughout stressful times, such as the current pandemic. Cultivating mindfulness is a great way to reduce anxiety and depression. In fact, researchers found that mindfulness may change the brains of patients suffering from depression.
If you’ve never practiced mindfulness before, here are a few tips to get you started:
If the idea of meditating seems intimidating, think about sitting in quiet stillness for a few minutes a day. You don’t have to start with a 30 minute practice. Just make it a point to take time throughout your day to breathe and be still. When that begins to feel comfortable, you can add time as you’d like. Apps such as Calm and Headspace are helpful and can support you in feeling anxiety free.
Become aware of your thoughts.
Not every thought you think is true or requires action. If you find your mind racing with negative thoughts about the pandemic or otherwise, recognize that these thoughts are just the product of an overactive mind. Many times, we ‘snowball’ our fears into 'seemingly realistic' situations that only play out in our thoughts! It’s the equivalent of seeing a drawing of a monster and forgetting that it’s just a drawing...and you drew it!
Know that these thoughts are not the truth of the situation. Take a deep breath and allow them to pass along. After all, all thoughts are temporary. And if you do not hold on to them they will pass, and what remains will only be the truth!
There is power in being present. This means that the only concern you have is what is happening right now, not the thoughts and worries of yesterday or tomorrow. This moment is the only moment that matters. Allowing your focus to shift to the Now will alleviate the concerns of a time that doesn’t exist currently.
You can get present simply by breathing deep and focusing on your breath. Yes! It is that simple. The best thing is that you can do it anytime and anywhere you need to come back to center.
Ask for help.
This is one that many people struggle with, especially in the Black community. It is also one of the most important keys to mindfulness. Knowing when you are in need of support and actively seeking it is powerful! Mental health counselors exist to help people when things feel too much or too heavy. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of or avoided. In fact, not seeking help when you need it can increase anxiety and depression because you’re trying to go it alone. Know that there is help available and you are worthy of being free of stress and worry!
Lastly, reach out to loved ones and community members. Many people suffer in silence. Extended concern and supporting another through this time can be therapeutic and help you to become aware of where you could use some support as well. Remember, we are all in this together!
To read more about mental health in the Black community, get your copy of 'The Divine Fiat: Black Excellence in Herbalism'.