Mental Health for Aspiring Antiracists After the Election

Yes, Biden was elected as president. The refreshing of CNN every five minutes, the insomnia and the anxiety of it all may be over for some people. But for many of us, that anxiety and insomnia isn’t a visitor. They are residents in our home.

One in five Americans has mental health issues. Whether it be depression or anxiety, the beasts under each of our beds may look different, but they keep us up at night nonetheless. This election was… a lot. Struggling to feel OK again is normal. And not knowing how to define the word OK is normal, too.

2020 has been about learning and showing compassion. It takes compassion to wear a mask every single day to protect those around you. It takes learning to realize what role you play in the United States and the injustices that occur here.

But we still have so much work to do. This may feel overwhelming for people who were recently awakened from society’s trance. I often wonder how on Earth Black people have dealt with these truths from such young ages.

As someone who constantly strives to be an antiracist while also struggling with mental health issues, I find myself thinking, “people have it worse, Grace. Stiffen up and keep fighting.” And although people do have it worse, I won’t be much help to others if I let myself drown.

So, here’s what I do when the going gets tough.

  1. 1. Classical music

    When I’m overwhelmed by my anxiety, I turn on my Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify. Classical music helps foster mental health and can be “enormously comforting.” I turn it on, I stare at the ceiling and I just let myself breathe for a little bit. And then I think about how lucky I am to be breathing. It has never failed me.

  2. 2. Yoga

    Anyone with anxiety knows that you live in two places when you’re anxious: regretting the past and fearing the future. But yoga is all about being present. It forces you to focus on the breath, the trees and the position you’re currently in. Every day I dedicate at least 10 minutes to yoga with this amazing app for beginners. I consistently recommend it to people, and my friends all love it.

  3. 3. Serotonin and dopamine hacks

    Me: Why am I so tired all the time? Also me: *hasn’t had B12, probiotics or more than five hours of sleep in three weeks*

    Use these links to find out how to make serotonin, the mood booster, and dopamine, the motivation neurotransmitter! Take care of your body-- It’s the only one you have.

  4. 4. Knowing when you need a social media break

    When I see violence against Black trans folk, police brutality or any other form of heartbreak via social media, I share the post, I sign the petition, I donate if I can and then I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs. So many innocent lives, so little justice. Most days, the actions I take make me feel better than if I just did nothing. But somedays, doing nothing is all there is to do. You need to know when to take a break. You need to know when you’ve reached your limit. It isn’t because you don’t want to help people. It is because your inability to help everyone is all-consuming. Delete Instagram and Twitter for 48 hours and read a book by a Black author instead. (PS: Don’t buy it from Amazon. That’s a bit counterproductive. If you need something ethical but affordable, try Thriftbooks instead!) 

  5. 5. Reach out

    Depression is like a deep dark hole. You fall in and you don’t wake up in Neverland. You wake up in a reality warped by negativity and isolation. When I feel myself getting close to that hole, I reach out for help so I don’t fall in. And you should, too. Reach out to your mom or your best friend. Reach out to your professor and tell them why it’s been hard these last two weeks. A hole is easy to fall into if you dive headfirst into it.

  6. 6. We owe it to Black communities

    We have a lot of work to do. Of course, it can feel daunting at times, but if Black people have survived a racist America for the last 400 years, we owe it to them to keep fighting. It has been six months of protests. 0.00125% of the time Black people have fought. I remind myself of that every time I think it’s too much. When I was telling a group of antiracists how I feel when people don’t support Black Lives Matter, an older Black woman named Linda told me, “Feel the feeling and then let it go. Letting someone weigh you down won’t get any work done. Working will.” I keep her words close to my heart. Please do not take this as a disregard for your problems or thoughts. I am not trying to tell you that your daily struggles don’t matter. I am telling you that if a group of people who have been marginalized and oppressed throughout history can succeed in being activists, you can, too. We were taught that heroes wore capes, but I think heroes hold posters and march to city halls.

If you need a pair of ears to hear you rant about our systemically racist society or a hand to hold while you march down University Avenue, I am here for you. Take care of your mind, take care of your body and remember why we need to keep going.