RELAX. RELATE. RELEASE.
It’s pretty safe to assume that at some point in recent days, we've each had a, “Let me burn this bitch to the ground,” moment.
Every documented murder by the hands of law enforcement, every senile presidential tweet, every single instance of cultural appropriation and every eye roll toward White Feminism chips away at our well-being.
We have every right to feel jaded, hurt and tired. We have the right to be angry.
Rage Against The Machine’s frontman, Zach de la Rocha, said it best: “Your anger is a gift.” We need your anger because it has the potential to create significant change. But while your anger is a gift, we also have the responsibility to balance that anger with compassion. Specifically, we have the utmost responsibility to be compassionate with ourselves. The GOP goons and Bernie Bros can have ALL the seats available, though. I will re-allocate their allotted compassion to Kanye.
During one of my semi-regular text message kiki sessions with the boss, Lindsey Day, we commiserated over feeling broken by the Philando Castille verdict. We were relating with and consoling one another, and discussing how our creativity and communities get us through some of our toughest days.
“Girl if I didn’t have somewhere to channel this…#helltopay” – Lindsey Day
It was in that moment that I was reminded how important it is to have outlets at a time like this. It is critical we channel our anger into productive and healing channels if we have any intention, any hope of surviving.
There’s an episode of A Different World in which Whitley Gilbert sees a therapist, played by Debbie Allen. Whitley is all bundled up with stress and anxiety and Allen gives her the mantra that I live by to this day: “You’ve got to relax, relate and release into reality!”
So in the spirit of Auntie Deb & Auntie Whit, here are a few ways to relax, relate and release your way through these tumultuous times:
RELAX: SPIRITUAL OUTLETS
We are inundated with relentless posts and tweets with upsetting information and traumatic content.
We have to be conscious of our inputs and just give our spirits a damn break sometimes.
Meditation can be a saving grace. It’s simply a practice that forces you to clear the clutter from your mind, be present, feel all the feels and detach. It’s really easy to get lost in the noise. Stop, Breathe & Think is a great app that lets you check in with how you’re feeling mentally and physically, and also take inventory of your feelings in the moment. It then populates a list of recommended guided meditations that honor how you feel, heal and reset.
If you ever need to check in with how your soul is doing, find your nearest yoga class and get to the mat. Yoga is a great way to get to spiritual and physical balance. Practicing stillness, balance and flexibility with yoga gives you the tools you need to navigate this world “off the mat”. If you aren’t comfortable with a group class, there are thousands of tutorials online. Find the practice that works for you and do that.
Another great way to reset and renew spiritually is by honoring your space at home. Make it a sacred space by adding fresh flowers, diffuse essential oils and place crystals throughout your home.
It also doesn’t hurt to unplug once in a while. The best way to reset is to completely detach from the digital world. It doesn’t have to be forever. Take social media off of your phone for a weekend and just connect. Reconnect your mind to your body. Check in with your friends and family in real life. Get your news from a newspaper. Get lost in a book. Make time to look up from your phone.
RELATE: COMMUNITY OUTLETS
It’s really easy to shut down, keep your head low and close off from the world. Don’t do that. No one has to go through this alone. Your community is there for you. If you don’t have a community, create one. Seek out like-minded people in your workspace, gym or church and just get together once in a while. The healing effects of laughter — and even tears — with someone going through the same thing are overwhelming.
Also, engage your community to mobilize and take action toward change. Whatever that action may be is up to you. Protests and rallies, starting an organization, fundraising for an important cause, voter registration, and water drives are just examples.
RELEASE: PHYSICAL OUTLETS
One of the best ways to burn off stress and keep your mind clear is exercise.
You don’t have to be a hardcore Crossfit person. You can go for a walk around your neighborhood in the morning. Go for a run after work. Grab a friend and go for a hike. Go out dancing on the weekends. Whatever you do, just keep your body moving. The more active you are, the bigger the boost you’ll get from endorphins. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters that give you that relaxed and euphoric vibe you feel after a great workout. Some folks call it “Runner’s High.” Whatever you call it, get moving and go get it.
Don’t forget to treachoself once in a while. Massages are a great to fully let go and release built up stress in your muscles.
RELEASE: CREATIVE OUTLETS
Create. Create. Create.
Then when you think you’ve created enough, create some more.
This is the time when Black creatives have the power to change the world through their expressions. Write, sing, curate or capture. Whatever it is that you do, do that and keep doing. Not only is your creative output a way to heal yourself through expression, your work is healing others. Our community needs something to hold onto. Just look at the continuous salve that is A Seat At The Table. There are people out there who rely on your words, images and ideas to make it through.
If you don’t consider yourself a creator, you’re wrong. While you may not be able to paint, dance or write poetry, what you can do is create an environment that supports and encourages creativity. Subscribe to the magazines. Share the posts. Go to the exhibits. Donate to the crowdfunding campaign. You are just as much a part of the process as the person doing the creative work.
We’re all on this ride together, whether we like it or not. The best we can do is keep moving forward with love, compassion and creativity, no matter how difficult the journey may be.