When was the last time you checked in on your black mental health? Yesterday, or maybe last week? That’s good! You will find tools here to help you continue and reinforce your mental health routine. Has it been years or never? If so, I need you to check in on your mental health, my friend, and I’m going to give you three tools to help you do so.
What comes to your mind when you think of meditation? Before I sought to learn more about it and started including it into my wellness routine years ago, I had a minimal and specific view of meditation and who did it. When I thought about meditation, monks in a distant land, in a temple on the top of an isolated mountain chanting OM, came to mind. And as far as that distant land was from me physically, it was equal to how far it was from my mind that meditation was accessible to me or acceptable for me. I use the word acceptable because I had never seen a black person meditating and had never heard a black person talking about meditation. Culturally, it was not a thing. Now, I’m here to tell you it is a powerful tool. It is accessible to you and more than acceptable; it is beneficial to your well-being. If you’ve never heard another black person talk about meditation and its benefits, I’ll volunteer now!
Here are some of the benefits of meditation:
- Decreases Stress
- Improves Sleep
- Decreases Blood Pressure
- Reduces Anxiety
- Reduces Pain Sensations in the Body
When I meditate routinely, I notice all the above. If meditation is new to you, then write this down; consistency is a primary pillar for maximizing the benefits of meditation. Life happens, and during those times, usually, when I need it the most, I sometimes find it hard to meditate daily. However, when I pick it back up again, I immediately notice an emotional and mental difference. I feel more balanced, calm, and better able to accept where I am and what I’m dealing with.
There are different types of meditation. I recommend you experiment with the various methods to discover what works best for you. I do best with guided meditation. Listening to someone else’s voice and following their instructions helps me stay present and prevents my mind from wandering too far into the past or the future.
I use the Calm App. Here are some additional resources to continue or to get started on your meditation practice:
Meditation is accessible to you. Seek it!
Give Yourself Grace
Learn to and then practice extending yourself grace. We can be so harsh with ourselves, often unintentionally and unknowingly so, making it a dangerous habit and hard to break. Negative self-talk can creep up on us before we know it; we hold ourselves to impossible standards; we berate ourselves when we fall short of our expectations.
In the past, I’ve subscribed to the “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype, not allowing myself to take a break. I expected things of myself that I would never expect from anyone else; I still do. It is constant work to be kind to yourself. What helps is the art of positive self-talk: Interacting with yourself the same way you would speak to or interact with a dear friend. Whenever I tell myself to get over something, push through, or toughen up, or it isn’t that hard, or you should do better, I do my best to pause. Sometimes I catch myself quickly, and other times not quick enough; however, I usually get to pause and practice positive self-talk. My words and my tone immediately change. I never would say some of the things I say to myself to a friend.
Self-Grace is hard. For me, it is the hardest on this list. It very well could be something you can do naturally; however, if it is not, don’t give up. Giving yourself grace also applies during the process of giving yourself…grace!
Be easy with yourself, treat yourself with care, be compassionate, be gentle, forgive, and love yourself.
Seek Therapy Services
There’s been a stigma surrounding therapy in society. In the Black community, deeply rooted thoughts and sayings like, what happens in the family stays in the family, and we don’t tell strangers our private business, we don’t believe in depression, and pray about it, creates a restrictive environment. Black people also experience documented mistreatment and inadequate care when seeking medical services. The combination of these two influences doesn’t highlight therapy as the invaluable resource that it is.
- It is for “crazy” people
- It is the same as talking to a friend
- It is for weak people
- It is only for depressed people
Seeking Therapy was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. The worst thing I did to myself was waiting until I was in emotional and mental extremis to do so. I’d put it off for years because I thought it was a weak thing to do. I believed I had things under control when I didn’t. I’d experienced things in my life that I needed help processing. I needed someone with professional tools to show me how to begin the hard work of healing. I needed someone with an unbiased, experienced perspective to guide me through my thoughts and emotions. I found that and more. The first therapist I worked with was what I needed to feel safe as a newcomer, and the act of choosing myself, choosing my healing, choosing to do the hard work carried me to mental and emotional healing.
The cost of therapy may seem not accessible to everyone. There are organizations, Black organizations out there, providing free counseling services for those in need:
- LoveLand Foundation: Financial assistance for Black women and girls seeking therapy
- Boris Lawrence Hensen Foundation: Free youth and young adult virtual groups
- Black Men Heal: Provides free services for Black men who qualify
This article is full of links to resources and information. Please click through them, bookmark them for yourself and for others you may come across who are in need. Remember, you are not alone, and none of us need to go through this life alone. Take care of your Black mental health. We need you!