2020 has been one hell of a year, and we’re only halfway through. We’ve gone from Happy New Year to a worldwide pandemic to what’s been called a racism pandemic by the American Psychological Association. At this point, most of us are ready to rewind to 2019 or skip ahead to 2021. But unfortunately, there’s no time machine to transport us out of this painful period. We’re in the thick of it, and we have to find ways to cope with the grief.
Crises like the ones we’re experiencing bring to the forefront the fragility of the human psyche. We often think we are capable of handling anything life brings our way. But that was before we had to isolate ourselves under stay-at-home orders and face unexpected financial, social, and health-related issues. That was also before incidences of racial violence against Black people started springing up at a dizzying pace, testing our faith and our fortitude. Not only does racism affect us in every aspect of life, exacting an economic, psychological, social, and physical toll that is damaging, but it is also a major contributor to the prevalence of chronic diseases and mental illness within our community.
So, what can we do to honor our well-being when the world seems to be burning all around us? First, make yourself a priority because you’re not useful to your family or the cause if you have nothing to give. Then, follow these tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle even during crises.
Healthy Eating Tips
In times of high stress and anxiety, most of us tend to look to food for comfort, and this is arguably the most stressful period in modern times. Boredom, worry, sadness, and inactivity have us making multiple trips to the kitchen, and the foods we turn to most often are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Not only are these foods damaging to our physical health, they also take a toll on our mental health. Diets lacking in proper nutrition are linked to increases in depression and anxiety.
To combat the adverse effects of stress and emotional eating, we need to increase our intake of nutritious foods. Healthy diets rich in nutrients can boost your mood, keep you energized, and help to maintain a healthy immune system. So instead of reaching for chips or treats, try these ways to combat unhealthy eating habits and reduce stress and anxiety.
- Avoid added sugar in your diet and, instead, opt for fresh fruits and veggies.
- Eat meals at regular intervals; don’t skip meals or overcompensate.
- Practice portion control.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid processed or fast foods.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake and opt for decaffeinated beverages.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Be mindful of whether you’re really hungry or eating from stress. If you find that you are constantly looking for a snack without feeling hungry, try to zone in on the reasons why so you can curtail this behavior.
- Don’t forget your omega-3’s. Eat foods rich in these healthy fats to help protect your heart and brain.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Emotions are high right now, and you may be feeling fearful, sad, angry, overwhelmed, or helpless. Your emotions may be preventing you from actively participating in life, which leads to further anxiety and depression. It’s times like these when adhering to a healthy lifestyle is most important. Try these tips to break you out of your emotional paralysis and keep your mind and body active, ready, and functioning at peak performance.
- Exercise regularly. Reduce stress, increase mood-boosting hormones, and improve overall well-being by exercising for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Anything goes, from gentle exercises like yoga and walking to more intense sessions like running and weight lifting.
- Get enough sleep. During sleep, our bodies repair, rejuvenate, and re-energize. Go to bed at a regular time and set the mood to help induce sleep.
- Avoid stressors. If you find the news or social media to be triggering, turn them off or, at a minimum, reduce your exposure.
- Seek help. Stigma, whether it’s our own or others, often stops people within our community from seeking professional advice. But there is no shame in admitting that you need help to cope with psychological burdens, whether they are unexpected life changes due to COVID-19, racism, or any other issues. Give yourself permission to seek advice from clinical professionals who can show you how to manage stress and cope with debilitating trauma. To search for Black therapists in your area, check out these resources.
- Therapy for Black Men
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Take a break. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a step back. Instead, read a book or enjoy time with family. Take up other self-care practices to help you manage stress.
- Find support. Connect with friends and positive influences in your life who are encouraging and supportive. Avoid people with negative or apocalyptic mindsets.
Recognize that crises will impact your “normal” life and throw everything off balance, especially in the initial stages. Learning to adapt and cope through turbulent times is key to protecting your mental and physical health. Changes usually don’t happen overnight, especially the types of social and systemic reforms needed now. But, waiting for change can be stressful too. Enduring long-term upheaval demands that you put your health first, so you can keep fighting the good fight.