Mental Check In

Protecting Mental Health During National Unrest: A Look at the George Floyd Protests

The death of George Floyd has sparked protest movements throughout the country. People are angry, sad and distressed. And as such, mental health seems to be taking a collective turn downward for nearly everyone in the United States and abroad.

We were already in the midst of an isolating pandemic and a frightening economic crash. Political fights were worsening as leaders on opposite sides of the aisle lobbed attacks at each other. Social media posts between friends and Zoom chats with family were getting contentious. And now, another tragic incident of a police officer murdering a black citizen has everyone at their limit.

These aren’t easy nor simple times to live through, especially if you are a person of color, and especially if you have mental illness. An already fragile mental state doesn’t set you up well for processing all these overwhelming events.

How can we deal with reality without damaging our mental health? Is it possible to take care of our individual minds and souls while still contributing to the cause in a meaningful way? As it turns out, yes.

Take a deep breath and read these tips for how you can make a difference while still protecting your mental health.

Listen First

Are you feeling like you don’t know what to do or how to help? Are you worried that you’re not doing enough? What about the feeling that everything’s hopeless?

It’s not easy to stop, but overthinking into oblivion is not going to help. You have to recognize these feelings as anxiety and depression and cope with them responsibly. That means taking action to not fall into a rut by reaching out to your mental health support systems. You can also take action by simply listening.

Listening requires thoughtfulness and attention. Instead of focusing on your worries about taking action, focus on listening to those asking to be heard. Bonus: you’ll get a little respite from your spinning thoughts.

Need some ideas for established resources that offer information you can count on? These are some good places to start. Through these sites you can learn, donate to the cause, and find helpful resources to share:

People of color and other minorities needing therapy, community support and mental wellness resources (no matter your income) can begin here:

Be Careful About Your Social Media Intake

If social media did not exist, I imagine that we wouldn’t actively seek out spaces in which we could hear literally everyone we know declare their opinions at once. Isn’t that kind of what online social networks are?

Yes, every individual uses social media differently. It’s true that some people really do find benefit in sharing ideas and engaging others across the world. It can be cathartic.

In fact, leaders of #BlackLivesMatter have even recently called for protestors to stay on social media so as not to miss updates nor to turn away from the issue at hand.

But that’s not healthy for everyone. Anxiety and depression do not mix well with the Wild West of the internet. That means you have to pay attention to your feelings and practice mindfulness as much as possible. If reading a heated argument on your timeline exacerbates your mental illness, then you need to log off for a bit. If you want important updates and news stories without all the hubbub that comes with them on sites like Twitter and Instagram, try to limit yourself. Maybe even follow a few more accounts with calming quotes, words of affirmation and helpful tips to balance your timeline.

These provide a great place to start:

If anxious or depressive feelings start to arise while you scroll, that’s okay. Just think about the point during which the feeling arose, and notice what you read or thought about that triggered the feeling. This can be scary, but it will help you process some emotions you might be pushing away. Instead, let them in.

Catie Housman

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