Navigating a Pandemic within a Pandemic: Coping and Care for Black Communities

By Shawna Johnson, member of the COVID-19 Community Well-Being Team

Prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, another crisis has been taking place for communities of color, particularly for Black individuals of all genders. We are facing ongoing racial trauma and distress that impact every aspect of daily life – including mental health. Racism is a public health emergency that affects us all. As we experience, educate, and encounter it on a systemic and institutional level, we must commit to taking care of ourselves and our communities as well. Below are several resources and ideas to consider:

Determine what amount of engagement feels healthy for you

Information, distressing stories, and media coverage are being shared more rapidly than ever. For many, these stories are not new but the level of intensity is. Everyone’s level of familiarity, experience, and response to this information will vary. Try to connect and process information in the ways that feel healthy for you. Witnessing and experiencing these scenes can bring an added layer of trauma (or re-traumatization) with it.

Remember to check in yourself and loved ones around basic needs and mental health during this time. For those that are parents or caregivers, processing this with family members can be both healing and challenging, especially as children might struggle to understand ongoing events. For more tips for supporting children, check out this article.

Connect with compassion, connect with community

According to Dr. Vernessa Roberts, “We need to actively and intentionally take care of ourselves. Being on social media for hours is not taking care of yourself.” Whether activating in the streets, online, or somewhere in between, notice as tension stockpiles in the body and when it’s time to take a break. This might appear as sleep disturbances, headaches, tight shoulders, and more.

Consider practicing grounding techniques when elevated, stressed, anxious, and afraid. These techniques regulate the nervous system, reduce stressful hormones, and encourage restoration. Sample grounding techniques include:

Practice deep breathing

Notice and name – Scan the place where you are and what you see, hear, smell, or hear.

Shift the temperature – Rub an ice cube or cold compress on the back of your neck. Alternate between cold and hot water temps when taking a shower.

Release some energy – Get moving any way you can. Practice stretching, dancing, self or partner massage, or taking a walk outside.

More ideas for navigating race-based trauma can be found here.

Process is also progress

Take time to feel, hope, and heal yourself and your support systems. Friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health professionals can all help you process your emotions and experiences. However you choose to grieve, connect, or process – the experience is valid and belongs to you. Below are resources to consider:

  • Liberate Meditation – A free meditation app designed by and for People of Color.
  • The Safe Place – A free app offering mental health resources and self-care tips for the Black community, started by certified peer support specialist Jasmin Pierre.
  • Trauma Processing Resources – This evolving directory of resources has been curated for BIPOC communities.
  • Article via Self -44 Mental Health Resources for Black People Trying to Survive in This Country
  • Family Care, Community Care, and Self-care Toolkit: This free toolkit from the Community Healing Network and the Association of Black Psychologists guides you through healing in the face of cultural trauma.
  • Additional mental health and community resources found here.

Navigating this complex time involves varying waves of hope, grief, fear, and resilience. This has always been a marathon, not a moment. Let’s do what we can to anchor, support, and celebrate ourselves and each other along the way.

Originally published on July 2, 2020.