Blackperspective: Coping well with COVID this winter and Christmas (Part 2)
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
In November I was approached by ADIRA, a service user-led organisation for Black mental health based in Sheffield, to do a short piece for people with ideas on how we can cope with Covid-19 during winter and the Christmas period (Part 2 of 2).
In the previous post, we discussed the importance of preparing for the long winter ahead. This next post focuses more on what we can do with all this extra time indoors to help promote a healthy mind and body to cope well.
Keep on moving…
As well as eating regularly, sleeping regularly and keeping our minds active, it is important to move regularly. Another thing that the winter months do, is encourage us to hide indoors, which makes sense. However, do take the opportunity to get outside for walking, or if you can, go for a run or do any other exercise that is permitted under the lockdown restrictions. If that isn’t possible but you are lucky enough to have some floor space at home or even a garden, pick up a skipping rope or turn on a YouTube video and hit the floor. Just half an hour of exercise has immediate benefits for your mind and body.
Going out for a walk will give you exposure to the sun and helps your body produce Vitamin D (yes even through the clouds, you just have to walk for longer!) which is important for good health. Due to melanin in the skin of Black people, which blocks ultraviolet rays which stimulate the production of vitamin D, it is really important to maximise exposure to the sun during the daylight and especially at this time of the year, taking a Vitamin D supplement is a good idea. Investing in a UV lamp can also help with this. In sum, being outdoors and taking part in exercise or other physical should be part of your routine/schedule.
Nourish your soul…
Black people are often deeply spiritual, whether that be by practising a particular faith or simply spending time to meditate and reflect on life, our past, present and future or tapping into the shared sense of community – being able to connect with that which is greater than I, is important to help keep us grounded in times like these. Whether you ascribe to a faith or not, spending time in meditation, prayer or contemplation is a way to nourish your mind.
Keep a journal if it helps, be in nature, read scripture or listen to guided practices on apps or the internet. 5 – 10 minutes a day like this can, from a biopsychological point of view, affect the nervous system by dampening stress responses and promoting resilience – so don’t take it lightly!
Apps like: https://insighttimer.com/insighttimer or https://liberatemeditation.com/ are free and have plenty of practices by People of Colour. This is another great thing to include as part of your routine.
Social distancing is not social disconnecting…
I know many of us have grown tired of the video calls and telephone calls, or the frequent scrolling on social media. It is okay to take a break from these too (in fact I’d encourage you to!). It can also feel like we are having the same conversations all the time with little change between the last zoom call and the next. Again, that is okay because there might not be a lot going on right now.. (and you’ve probably seen it on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat already anyways). That being said, if your schedule does start to fill with interesting things (reading, online courses, exercise, meditation, cooking etc) I’m sure you will have things to share and talk about.
One of the benefits of more of us being familiar with new technologies and remote ways of connecting is that we can now reach people who we might have struggled to speak to regularly before, because of distance. You may decide to join or set up a Zoom evening with family and friends across the country, or maybe the cousins who you haven’t seen for a while. There are all kinds of things you can do together remotely now. One of my favourites during the first lockdown was a music quiz hosted by one of my cousins – a bit of friendly competition along with nostalgic tunes from our childhood with video chats with people I rarely see because of work and other commitments. It was a great way to spend Sunday afternoons. Since then, games like scattergories, which can be played online, has brought hours of laughter and fond memories. You can even do remote movie nights. Remember back in the day, before streaming services, when we all had to wait to watch the next episode of Lost? Or gathering around the TV for the evening film? Alternatively, maybe you have online gaming – why not set up a tournament? Or a regular evening in the week to log on with friends/family? So, while we are not together physically, we can still do things together.
If all else fails…
If you find that you are struggling emotionally and psychologically, and don’t feel you can talk to your family or friends, then consider contacting a national charity. The list here has details of various organisations you can contact if you want to speak to someone. There is also the Sheffield here to help website with details of how you can access the various local resources that the city can offer.
If you want to make contact with someone more specifically who is Black or from a minority ethnic background then I would suggest searching the BAATN list of therapists for someone near you or who offers online/telephone appointments.
Finally, for any Black fathers who might be reading this, it might be worth reaching out to Dope Black Dads. Parenting at the best of times can be a challenge and even more so in the current climate. They have a website where you can join their fraternity, and they offer blogs and a podcast which might be worth tuning into. Rotimi Akinsete put together a great book for supporting Men’s mental health. If you want an accessible introduction to attending to your mental health as a man, this is a good place to start.
To pull it all together, the most important piece of advice I could give anyone at this time is to be kind. Kind to others as well as yourself. Kindness is not weakness, but it is strength. Being able to attend to our hurt, stress and pain as well as others’ and then respond with kindness requires deep strength. However, strength is something that must be developed – and believe it or not mental strength is developed by doing at least in part the above.
So please stay safe and stay blessed.
Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-500X.95506
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This blog post is part 2 of 2 based on a talk for ADIRA which you can listen to below.