Heart Talks

Six (6) Recommendations for African Americans to Maintain Sanity, Safety, and Spiritual Wellness in Turbulent Times

These are turbulent times and the “new normal” is contributing to the mounting stressors that are compounding the already substantial, pre-existing ones many Black people were dealing with in “normal” times.  

Many African Americans’ mental health, physical safety and spiritual wellness are at risk. In this “new normal” life of living in the midst of a pandemic, Black people are still the highest impacted group infected and dying from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 3 of those requiring hospitalization from COVID-19 were Black, based on reported hospital data in June 2020. 

Blacks make up about 13% of the U.S. population, but constitute 33% of hospitalized patients, where whites who compose 76% of the population made up 45% of hospitalized patients. Another threat to African-American wellness and safety is institutionalized racism that permeates every level of societal life, including the militarization of police, some of whom bear the belief white supremacy and hatred that for too long has resulted in the senseless murders of innocent Black people. 

These harmful factors of everyday reality in many Black lives call urgent attention to the necessity of maintaining sanity, safety and spiritual wellness, even more so while living in the midst of this pandemic. 

The truth is, If we don’t take care of ourselves, who will do it for us? Self-care is imperative to self-preservation. Our minds, bodies, and souls are ours alone and therefore, we must maintain our sanity, our safety, and our spiritual wellness in these turbulent times. 

The following six (6) recommendations can be useful in helping to maintain our mental health sanity, our physical safety, and our spiritual wellness in these turbulent times: 

  1. Limit how much news you watch/intake daily. 

It’s easier said than done because news is coming from everywhere—the television, the computer, social media, text messages, phone calls, and by osmosis (almost, it seems). Quieting our minds from the constant chatterboxes of information is essential to mental health and maintaining sanity. What you put into your mind feeds your soul. Ingesting too much negativity and sensationalized messaging can weigh heavy on your mind and emotions. It can be tempting to keep multiple information channels constantly streaming so that you are “in the know”, but remember, to balance out negative with positive for sanity purposes. Philippians 4:8 says, “to think on whatsoever things are good”….Proverbs. 4:23 (NIV) tells us these words, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. 

  1. Be aware of emotional shifts that invoke anxiety and anger. 

So many of the atrocities that have happened to Black people in the past and are still happening, and this awareness can start to consume us with increased anxiety, worry, and anger. Righteous indignation is certainly merited and necessary. Expressing one’s feelings is also necessary because holding in our emotions can cause physical unwellness to occur. That’s why it’s critical to talk it out and voice your concerns and feelings with people you trust. Prov 19:20 reads, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” In these turbulent times of social distancing and isolation, having someone to talk to without judging you is extremely important to do. Although some people do this on social media platforms, it’s very important to remember that what’s posted can be reposted and misrepresented, even used to stir up more anxiety and rage. That’s why the recommendation to talk with someone in real time is a safer way to say what you really have in your heart and mind to say, avoiding the potential fallout that can happen when emotionally-charged messages are shared on social media. 

  1. Be open (and willing) to have honest, heart-to-heart talks with others who may not have the same color of skin as you do, but who want to see justice and equity for everyone, just like you. 

The outpouring of solidarity for equality and equity for Black people is being amplified across racial divides throughout the country and the entire world. People of all creeds, ages, and ethnicities are uniting through protests and collective outcries to political powers that “enough is enough” and racist-motivated killings of Blacks will no longer be tolerated by a silent majority. Now is a good time to talk about–and do something about it. This begins with conversation and conversation requires two or more people. Ephesians 4: 2-3 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Being open and willing to have heart-to-heart conversations is one of those efforts to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

  1. Practice self-care. 

Take time to rest, eat healthy, exercise, and drink plenty of water. Be kind and loving to yourself. 1 Corinthians 3:16, says, 

          “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit  

           dwells in you?” The truth is you only get one life to live—and this is it. 

Take time to nurture and refresh yourself. Our bodies and minds require rest from the rigorous demands of doing and being—even more so during uncertain times. God promises to give our souls rest when we are weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28-29). The soul is comprised of our mind and our emotions. Often those who are caring for others, put so much energy into their needs that they run out of energy for themselves. What do you need to do to relax your mind and body? It may be as simple as taking a long bath or a walk in the park. It may be sitting quietly without external distracting noises. It may be listening to your favorite songs. The priority here is to make sure you give yourself some love and care. 

  1. Continue to practice safe, social distancing protocols. 

COVID-19 is still killing mostly Black and brown people. Although there is still no cure for COVID-19, some are choosing to ignore that reality and placing not only themselves, but their loved ones at risk.  If you have an underlying health condition or are vulnerable to Covid-19, it’s essential to practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others, if at all possible. Avoiding large crowds and gatherings is also important to do to reduce the chance of contracting the disease. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces. Although restrictions are being removed in many places and businesses, when in public spaces, wear a mask and gloves. Lastly, stay connected with someone, especially if you live alone and make a contingency plan if no one can reach you after a designated amount of time. And, be sure to make your emergency healthcare decisions known to your doctors and family, just in case you are experience a life-threatening accident or illness. Do all you can to stay safe and to keep others around you safe and healthy, too. Your life matters too. 

  1. Stay in the presence of God’s peace.  

Spiritual wellness has everything to do with continual communion and fellowship with The Creator of All.  Prayer, praise and worship, and reading the Word of God are ways to give God glory and to renew strength in your inner self.  In God’s Presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), and the joy of the LORD is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10). Knowing that we have the assurance of God’s Omniscient Presence, can help us stay the course in difficult life situations and circumstances. I Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 

Take care of yourselves.

Dr. Gloria