Self-Care for Black People 101: Options Outside of Church and Therapy

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Photo Credit: The Odyssey Project

Living while Black. This is a term that is used to describe the reason why vast numbers of Black people face injustices and prejudices at an alarming rate. The tragic results of these continual situations in the lives of Black people have led to increased amounts of depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). The two solutions that continue to be presented as ways to cope are seeking solace in a higher power or going to therapy. But, what if those two options don’t work for you. What else can Black people do to battle depression?

When we hear the terms “depression” or “therapy,” the phrase “white people problems” pops into the heads of many in the Black community. Depression is an issue that continues to either get swept under the rug, ignored or treated as a momentary emotion that will eventually pass. These notions have led to more Black people hiding their mental illness instead of dealing with their issues head on. According to Mental Health America, adult are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than whites. We have already seen too many situations in the Black community that led to suicide because someone was depressed but never expressed it to a single soul. The fact of the matter is, not everyone believes in a high power, practices a religion or can afford therapy. These people still deserve options that will help them deal with depression in a constructive way, a way that they can turn into a lifestyle practice. Below are suggested solutions to dealing with depression:

  • Meditation — It has been proven to reduce stress, increase happiness, acceptance and self-awareness.
  • Daily Journaling — Journaling assists in clarifying your thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and solving problems more effectively.
  • Exercise — Regular exercise improves your mood by triggering endorphins in your brain and helps to boost energy.
  • Finding group activities to partake in — Sites such as Meet-up, Living Social and Groupon have a plethora of engaging group activities to partake in to lift your mood. You also can find groups of people who either suffer from the same issues as you or are just as passionate about particular topics as you are. Being around people like this will help you to feel less alone in your struggles. It can expose you to a community that you didn’t know existed.
  • Picking up a new hobby such as playing an instrument or painting — Making music has been proven to be a powerful antidepressant.
  • Join a grassroots organization dedicated to uplifting the Black community and combatting systematic racism — If one of the reasons — or the main reason — for your depression is racism or the socio-economic status of Black people, then join a local grassroots organization or nonprofit whose mission is to improve conditions for Black people. Being proactive about solving issues that threaten your mental stability can assist with the loneliness your depression may cause. It also can give you a sense of purpose and meaning for your life.
  • Unplug from the news and social media — Black people are bombarded with images and news of dead Black bodies, discrimination and injustices towards the Black community on a daily basis. Studies have shown that ingesting all of this negative media can lead to severe depression. It is crucial to unplug from it all and focus on the things that bring you joy.
  • Go outside and get some sunlightStudies have shown a link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression. The natural way to get this crucial vitamin is going outside and basking in the sun.
  • Adult coloring books — I know this may seem funny at first, but experts have said that adult coloring books help to alleviate anxiety and depression. I can personally attest to the calming effects of coloring books. Whenever I feel my depression or any kind of stress creeping up, coloring is one of the things I do to deal with it. Adult coloring books have become a new trend and are easy to find. Some even have positive affirmations that go along with every image. There are many Black-owned businesses that sell them at affordable prices.

Depression continues to carry a stigma in the Black community, but that stigma is killing Black people. Experts state that the majority of African-Americans still look at depression as a personal weakness instead of a mental illness. In all actuality, it shouldn’t be referred to as “white people problems” because Black people have been dealing with major depression dating back to slavery. During those times, spirituality and community were how we stayed strong. Depression was considered just another part of Black existence and that notion carried on to future generations. In the current political and social climate, living while Black has become more and more difficult. A study showed that more Black people are suffering from PTSD simply from watching media coverage of Black men, women, boys and girls being unjustly killed.

It is essential to our well-being as a community to address mental illness head on and provide various solutions to combat it. When we say “Black lives matter,” it should mean every aspect of Black life. Prayer isn’t always the answer and there have to be alternatives when therapy isn’t accessible. Ignoring an epidemic never made it go away.

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