These are extraordinary times, filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. For the past few months, media reporting has been constant, often interrupting regular programming with updates from politicians and medical experts. After weeks of closings, economic turmoil, historic unemployment, and extreme food insecurity, the country seemed on the verge of breathing out a collective sigh of relief that life could slowly and carefully begin to resume in what is being touted as our “new normal”.
However, in our rush to find a “new normal” that will ease the discomfort and insecurity brought on by this pandemic, this country is once again reminded that for people of color, racism is their normal. As news of the pandemic is edged out by images of the protests that have come alive across this country, we are reminded that for too many, the fight to breathe is an unacceptable, ongoing part of life as “normal”.
It should come as no surprise that these extraordinary times have brought an increased demand for mental health services and medications. Just yesterday, it was reported that the makers of Zoloft, a drug used to treat depression, are experiencing a supply shortage. This shortage is due not only to the stress that has been put on the supply chain due to the pandemic, but more important to my point, due to the increased demand brought on by the stress of what is happening in the world today.
The struggle to find a “normal”, one that eases the pain and mental anguish that has so many roots in a society that fails to provide economic and health security to its own members, predates the current pandemic. The struggle to find a “normal” in which black bodies can breathe free of the violence perpetrated by racist societal constructs, predates the current protests. Yet these struggles have come alive over the past few months as all forms of media bombard us with pictures, videos and commentary.
It is important to learn to navigate in these times in ways that allow for remaining informed and taking appropriate action, while at the same time being in tune to our individual limits. While it is important to stay engaged, it is just as important to care for oneself and know when to step away for a break. One of the most important recommendations that I have heard for engaging in self- care is learning to disconnect from all forms of media when the news becomes overwhelming. However, there are many other positive steps that can be taken to bolster mental health, including exercise, eating right, meditation, prayer, trying to get sufficient sleep, and seeking support from friends and family.
These extraordinary times are bringing extraordinary challenges to our sense of security and wellbeing. Stay engaged, take action, and take steps to take care of you.