Therapist S. Tia Brown drops gems on protecting your mental health during COVID-19

(Photo: Wokandapix from Pixabay)

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the lives of many Black Americans have been completely upended.

From the troubles of economic insecurity, anxiety, and sickness to having to quarantine and social distance; much of what used to be normal no longer exists. And in the middle of this new fear and frenzy, the Dear Culture podcast would like to take the time to slow things down and think deeply about how coronavirus has been affecting our overall wellbeing.

This week, Dear Culture co-hosts Shana Pinnock and Gerren Keith Gaynor ask the question: how do we take care of our mental and emotional health under times of uncertainty? And to provide an expert voice on the subject, they chatted with licensed therapist S. Tia Brown. 

READ MORE: We’re still living with COVID-19, now what?

“The reality is our new normal is chaos. We have to be able to program ourselves to deal with ongoing stressors in a way that we’ve never anticipated having to do before,” says Brown.

The full effects of COVID-19 are still developing and yet to be determined, particularly in the realm of mental health. Recently, the United Nations reported that although this pandemic is severely life-threatening, it’s also led to “a major mental health crisis.”

There have been upticks in depression, anxiety, and even alcohol consumption, with Canada last reporting a 25% increase in drinking for the ages of 35 to 54 since the pandemic began.

Though a healthy drink is always OK, Brown says, what is most important to remember is that our emotional, mental, and physical health are all connected.

READ MORE: Silence The Shame founder Shanti Das talks trauma, mental health

theGrio’s Social Media Director Shana Pinnock says, “acknowledging that it’s OK to not be OK” is already a large step in of itself. What’s left is just learning the difference between healthy and maladaptive coping mechanisms. 

“We want to figure out things that give us a balance. That makes us feel good, but aren’t crutches that give us a temporary high or fix,” Brown advises on Dear Culture.

Figuring out what’s healthy or not for you is simply a matter of sensing and being honest. theGrio’s Managing Editor Gerren Keith Gaynor says, “incorporating things that give you joy and peace of mind” are sure ways to increase your mood and perception.

Coronavirus has been going down for a minute and might be around for longer than we think. In times like this, Brown reminds us that “sustained and heightened stress actually weaken our immune system,” thus, we have to put a lot of care and attention to de-stressing. 

Here’s some quick healthy coping mechanisms tips and tricks from S. Tia Brown:

  1. Exercising at home. Even if you can’t go to the gym, find a youtube video, take a stroll, anything that allows you to physically workout the stress and buildup.
  2. Talking! Humans are social creatures and expression is integral to our survival. Call your loved ones, friends, and anyone you miss. Don’t be scared to reach out and share your thoughts and emotions. Making connections are important, and people are there for that. 
  3. Meditate. Whether you meditate with affirmations or in the dark, take time out of your day to regroup yourself. Just because the daily 9 to 5 grind changed, doesn’t mean you still don’t deserve a little break to be alone and decompress with yourself.
  4. Write down everything that is stressing you that you cannot change. These things will serve as a reminder that there are things outside of your control and it’s completely okay. Find peace in your ability to change the things you can.
  5. Task-master! When you set your mind out and complete your goal, you always end up feeling great because your actions and intentions went as planned. Find little chores that’ll bring you joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Yes, coronavirus is stressful, but we can still work toward not feeding into the stressors and finding peace in the elements in our reality that make us feel happy, healthy, and great. 

Want to find out more about unlocking your mental health? Tune in to Dear Culture’s tenth episode, “Mental Health Check,” which is now streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.