Our mentors and page authors are not necessarily psychologists or therapists. Even when they are, these pages are not medical or psychological advice and they are not creating a doctor/therapist-client relationship. You should consult a professional if possible and they can tell you whether this advice applies to your situation. If this is an emergency, you should call your national emergency number, like 911, or a mental health hotline, like 1-800-950-6264.
Facing racism can impact your mental health. Dealing with some of the current events surrounding racism can may be emotionally difficult. A lot of important events and changes are happening, but remember that your mental health matters too. It’s also important as a way of supporting movements: change doesn’t happen overnight, so effective coping is an essential tool to ensure long-term action. This article is about avoiding burnout in the anti-racism movement, but most of it should apply more generally.
Connect with supportive people
These should be people you find understanding, inspiring, and wellness-promoting. This works the same way as working through any other difficult emotions.
- Talk to them people when you are experiencing difficult feelings – this may be by email, direct message, phone, or anything. Be sure to first ask if it’s okay to talk— these discussions can be draining for them too, and you should ensure they’re up to it at the time.
- You may want to talk about your feelings/thoughts and experiences, or you may want to talk about light-hearted, mundane topics to give your mind a break.
- Outline what you feel you may need from them at the time – you may want advice, you may want insights, you may want reassurance or validation, or you may just want a listening ear. It’s also okay to tell someone that you don’t feel like talking but ask them to just talk to you while you quietly listen and take it in.
- Sometimes it can help to just sit with someone, being in each other’s presence, and holding space for one another, without any pressure for either party to say anything.
- Talk to a variety of people who can each offer a different form of support or insight – friends, family members, mentors, therapists/counsellors, spiritual leaders, community members.
Identify and engage with actively anti-racist spaces
- Make a list of places that reassure you there are people and groups out there who are actively trying to make this world a safer, more equitable place. This probably isn’t a website where you can see intense arguments with people arguing strongly for your side. More likely it’s just an organization you find inspiring.
- At times when you are struggling (or whenever you could use some hopefulness) use this list. It will remind you that you aren’t alone and it isn’t all depending on you. There are other people who value the same things you do. It might even motivate you to find effective ways to take action.
- Keep a supply of motivational posts, quotes, insights, messages from these pages/spaces. Refer to them when you are feeling down or hopeless. Add to this over time. You can even write some of your own.
Find moments of mindfulness to promote relaxation
- While important to engage in difficult experiences and process challenging emotions, it is equally important to find time to tune out the noise.
- It can be especially challenging if the “noise” means microaggressions that you unavoidably face in every life experience. But cultivating mindfulness is a powerful coping skill.
- Fatigue or burnout refers to a state of mental exhaustion due to a prolonged state of distress and strain that is not effectively managed. It can impede your ability to meet demands/expectations or maintain wellbeing.
- Activism, advocacy, and engagement are vital components of change-making. But they can’t be effectively or healthily, done if you are burned out.
- Some examples of activities to promote mindfulness and relaxation include visualizations/mental imagery, listening to calming music, mindful colouring pages, body scanning, yoga, mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, gratitude meditation, self-compassion meditation, breathing meditations, focusing on senses and sensory experiences, mindful nature walks, gardening, or using calming scents. Anything you find relaxing can help here.
Never forget to find moments of fun and enjoyment.
- Not everyone has the privilege to take a mental break from what is going on. But it is important for everyone to try and experience moments of fun, laughter, and enjoyment.
- Remember that it is possible for both experiences of joy and experiences of heartache to co-exist. It is important to find time to wholeheartedly experience whatever you are feeling.
- Do activities you love. Get together with friends, play games, watch favorite movies/TV shows, read books/magazines, look at memorable photos, chat with people, do photography, go shopping, play video games, do puzzles, play or listen to favourite music, dance, listen to podcasts, do art/crafts, go swimming, go for a run or bike-ride, go hiking, play sports, bake, cook, eat, be silly, find moments of humour. The list is endless.
- Ensure that this strategy does not become an avoidance tactic. Don’t completely disengage from the movement entirely— you are just taking a break to rejuvenate yourself. If you really do have to check out completely for your own mental health, that’s a very different thing.
Find activities that help you process.
- For some people, forms of creative expression help. This can be journaling, writing poetry, song-writing, painting, drawing, mixed media art, or video-making.
- Speak with those who are close to you (and who are willing to engage about this) who have insight or understanding that may be helpful to you.
- Remember that minority individuals aren’t necessarily responsible for helping you process. If you haven’t yet spoken to a friend about connecting with them as a supportive person when you need it, don’t just call the nearest minority because you remember seeing them argue about it once before. For all you know this is their life.
- Read articles or listen to motivational/inspirational speakers (e.g. videos or podcasts), about how to process current events and the experiences and emotions that come with this.
- Remember that small steps are the most vital steps and any action, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Keep moving forward. And finally, always come back to your values and the ultimate goals of the current movement.
As always, if you need someone to talk to about mental health or anything else, contact the Dweebs Global team. We are offering free individual counseling services to anyone who feels they could benefit from this.