During the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. society has encountered many challenges… some from the way the virus has disproportionately affected certain populations; and some from issues apart from the virus itself. We have found ourselves navigating the intensification of several cultural issues. Those that find themselves at the intersection of these issues have often been deeply affected by an array of –isms to process and overcome, all while continuing to manage the life impact of the pandemic itself.
Some of the more prominent –isms are related to racism with the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate movements bringing to light the discrimination and violence that people of color have faced in the U.S. In addition, CDC Covid-19 race and ethnicity data has shown that Black, Native American, and Hispanic communities have been hospitalized and died at rates that are 2-3x higher than their White counterparts (CDC 2021). Other challenges include sexism as highlighted through the Me Too movement and the disproportionate rate the LGBTQ+ community has been affected by Covid-19 due to increased homelessness and unemployment. Unfortunately, people over the age of 65 have been much more vulnerable and at a higher risk of death after contracting Covid-19 according to the CDC (2021). For some, ageism has perpetuated dismissiveness about the death rates in this population and sometimes unwillingness to take precautions to protect the elderly in our society. Seniors have painfully navigated isolation and have sometimes struggled to get access to basic resources. So how might a person affected by these –isms manage their own mental and emotional well-being at an unprecedented time like now?
Here are 4 ways you can begin to cope with the –isms in your life:
1. Recognize and acknowledge the impact of these stressors for you
Different people experience racism, sexism, ageism in many ways at work, in schools, and out in public. In addition, the intersectionality of your identity may put you at a higher risk to experience more prejudice and discrimination in your everyday life. For example, if you identify as a 65-year-old, Chinese woman, you are more likely to experience an increase in your stress due to COVID-19 compared to a younger person in the majority population. It is important to give yourself permission to recognize and acknowledge how these acts of violence and threat to your identity affects you. You may or may not have first-hand experience of discrimination and prejudice, but you may have second-hand experience from family members, friends, and seeing it around your community. This can also affect your mental and emotional well-being negatively, if left unrecognized.
2. Express to others how you truly feel based on what you have experienced and what you are currently experiencing
Emotional expression and regulation has been shown to help alleviate stress and improve mental and emotional well-being (Galderisi et. al., 2015). Emotional expression is being able to talk about your own concerns, thoughts, and feelings without feeling judged and criticized. This can be done by using “I” statements, which could sound like, “I feel hurt when my hair is being touched because I feel my space is being invaded”. It also allows you to connect with people who may be experiencing the same stressors and feelings as you and allows you to build your support system. Emotional expression consists of empathic listening, compassion, and grace.
3. Give yourself permission to unplug and unwind
From social media to television news, there is a continuous 24/7 bombardment of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world. Give yourself permission to turn off your phones, radios, computers, and television to quiet down the noise even for just 30 minutes. Research has shown the effects of the consistent exposure to news and technology increases people’s stress level and the decrease of technology time helps increase emotional and mental well-being especially during the pandemic (Gao et. al.,2020).
4. Engage in self-care
Self-care has shown to have immediate and long-lasting effects in improving our mental and emotional health, especially when done consistently (Cullen et. al., 2020). Self-care does not have to be financially straining and/or time-consuming, it could be as simple as taking a 3-minute break every hour to practice deep breathing or brain breaks. It could be going for a 10-minute walk every day during your lunch break or playing with your pets. Key aspects of self-care are making it manageable, realistic, and integrating it in your daily routine.
Our current time is filled with divisiveness and fear which makes it more important to find ways you can have a safe outlet to express your feelings and to find ways you can also fill your life with love and light.
If you continue to find yourself struggling to cope, reach out to a mental health professional for help. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
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An International Journal of Medicine, 113(5), 311-312.
Gao, J., Zheng, P., Jia, Y., Chen, H., Mao, Y., Chen, S., … & Dai, J. (2020). Mental health
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