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Black Women In The Mental Health Space Give Tips For Navigating Pandemic Fatigue

We do get weary.

Life & Travel

The "strong black woman" archetype—a perception that Black women are naturally strong, resilient, self-contained, and self-sacrificing—is a burden that has been carried since what feels like the beginning of time. According to a 2014 study done by the Journal of Black Psychology, "evidence suggests that SBW endorsement limits Black women's ability to cope healthily which exacerbates the negative mental health outcomes of stress." Fast forward to 2020-2021, and a pandemic only adds to that burden. Luckily, there's some brilliant Black women making moves in the mental health space by advocating for the demographic that is often overlooked. A year into the spread of COVID-19 across the US, not only is this virus killing Black women at a faster rate than their white counterparts, it's also leaving behind a heavier load.

The professionals, founders, directors and CEOs below have created outlets that are safe spaces for Black women to feel heard while providing resources to cope with the very real stressors only amplified by the pandemic. Find out more about the movements they're spearheading along with advice they shared with xoNecole on how to begin the healing process.

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed psychologist, founder and podcast host, Therapy for Black Girls

Courtesy of Dr. Joy

Photo Credit: Tammy McGarity Photography

Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Below is Dr. Joy's four-point plan to showing yourself grace:

"(1) There's nothing wrong with you and yes many of us feel the same way. (2) Work with your rhythms. On the days you have a little more energy, lean into that and on the days you don't, lean into that as well. (3) Call in the reinforcements. Order in food or use grocery pickup instead of shopping. (4) Give yourself permission to do the bare minimum."

Dr. Karen I. Wilson, Ph.D., Director of ChildNEXUS

Courtesy of Dr. Karen Wilson

Photo Credit: ChildNEXUS

ChildNEXUS is a web-based platform that connects parents whose children struggle with learning or social-emotional issues with professionals who provide psychological and educational support services. Launched during the pandemic, ChildNEXUS is a Caress and IFundWomen of Color COVID-19 grant recipient which contributed to its success with funds, partnerships and more.

"I recommend seeking support and collaborating with others. Getting guidance reduces decision fatigue and presents you with options available to you that you may not have considered on your own, and collaborating with others also gives you an opportunity to discuss pain points and brainstorm how to address challenges. In 2020, I received coaching from IFundWomen and IFundWomen of Color, and their coaches encouraged me to launch a crowdfunding campaign for ChildNEXUS (yes, during a pandemic). I was able to receive a tremendous amount of support and collaborate with like-minded professionals at a critical time."

Naj Austin, Founder & CEO of Ethel’s Club

Courtesy of Naj Austin

Photo Credit: Ethel's Club

Ethel's Club is on a mission to create healing spaces that center and celebrate people of color through conversation, wellness and creativity. Launched during the pandemic, Ethel's Club is a Caress and IFundWomen of Color COVID-19 grant recipient which contributed to its success with funds, partnerships and more.

"My advice for people to thrive is to feel empowered by accomplishing the 'little' things - getting out of bed, going on a walk, making a nice meal, watering your plants. So much has been taken from us this year and we've experienced a profound amount of loss. It's important we reclaim our joy and sense of self wherever and however we can. I encourage people to build new rituals and practices that bring them joy. So much of our identity was tied to 'the before'—what does a healthy, happy version of you look like now?"

Elyse Fox, Founder & CEO of Sad Girls Club

Courtesy of Elyse Fox

Photo Credit: @jockograves

Sad Girls Club is a non-profit organization on a mission to create community and diminish the stigma around mental health, with a special emphasis on supporting women of color and the Millennial and GenZ population.

"My advice for pandemic fatigue is to slow down, listen to your body, and answer your body. Ask yourself what your body needs to get through the day, week and month. There's this unspoken sense of 'rushing' that I've been trying to unsubscribe to. The email can wait, the meeting can be rescheduled. We've been living through this for over a year now, and our mental health must be prioritized to get through this with our whole self intact."

Brianne Patrice, Executive Director of Sad Girls Club & Founder of Twenty Nine Thirty

Courtesy of Brianne Patrice

Photo Credit: Sad Girls Club

Twenty Nine Thirty is a restorative community connecting the dots between sensuality, sexuality, healing and wellness.

"Reclaim your inner child. So many of us are disconnected from our inner joy. Our energy is misaligned, because our inner child has been silenced or we've silenced them in hopes of protecting them. She, He or They, don't need our protection (not in that way). They need our love, fulfillment, exploration and connection. Thus, all of the things that once brought you joy, and all of the things you were told you were 'too grown for'- pick them back up and have fun!"

Cat Lantigua, Founder & CEO of Goddess Council

Courtesy of Cat Lantigua

Photo Credit: D'ana Nuñez (@itcovl)

Goddess Council brings together all women who are looking to make new friendships, participate in meaningful conversations, heal collectively, and exercise their divine right to experience joy.

"The past year has been challenging on so many levels. I think when reflecting on how we've been affected by the pandemic, we should all start off by acknowledging the fortitude we each possess to have made it through such trying times. We were all tested, yet we persevered! My advice for Black women as we still navigate the pandemic and try to find ways to thrive is to be gentle, and extend grace to yourself whenever possible. Of course, each of us have goals and aspirations we look to for motivation, but if the 'game plan' has changed as a result of this post-COVID reality, that is truly OK. I recommend using the past twelve months as a reminder to prioritize your mental health, cherished relationships, and to lean into wellness practices that make your life better."

Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, Founder & CEO of PsychoHairapy, clinical psychologist and hairstylist

Courtesy of Dr. Afiya

Photo Credit: PsychoHairapy

Dr. Afiya innovated the practice and research of, "PsychoHairapy," where she uses hair as an entry point for mental health services in beauty salons and barbershops, as well as through social media. She's partnered with My Black is Beautiful to spread awareness.

"Black women in particular face unique stressors of racism and sexism in American society that negatively impact our mental health, but often we do not have access to or compatibility with the systems of care to fully address our mental health needs. We have convinced ourselves that we have to be strong and stoic throughout this pandemic. We have filled our schedules with taking care of everyone else—our partners, our parents and our children—we don't take care of the most important person—ourselves! However, here is a reminder that taking care of ourselves, whether physical or emotional, makes us better able to care for our loved ones in the long run.

"Enter the haircare and self-care plan. Yes, establish a whole plan that includes the simultaneous process of haircare and mental health care. This plan could entail everything from adding an invigorating scalp scrub to your routine, to going to bed early, or even getting your hair professionally styled. A slight color change, a defined twist out or a new updo can drastically change the way we feel about ourselves. If you are feeling down, find a new addition to your self-care routine, a new wash day routine or some bantu knots may just be calling your name. And of course, rest, move your body, meditate, eat well, reconnect, and know your limits."

Featured image courtesy of @jockograves

Something that I try to mention, as much as possible, especially when it comes to married and long-term couples is, if you want to go the distance, it's not just the "big things" that you've got to stay up on; it's the little things too. Something as simple as you being a morning person while your partner is a night owl can affect everything from quality of sleep to quality time to your sex life. That's why, when it comes to couples who have different sleep patterns who still want to have a fulfilling sexual dynamic, I'm all about encouraging them to do what is at the foundation for all successful relationships — compromise. Sometimes that means that an alarm clock needs to be set or someone needs to initiate some, umm, stuff (more on that in a bit) in order to get the juices flowing (pun intended and not intended).

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