OTP Journalists Dr. Laurie Nadel & Maitefa Angaza
Share Tools At-Hand for Coping At-Home
Observing Kwanzaa Principles During COVID-19
By Maitefa Angaza
As we know all too well, COVID-19 is having a deadly and disproportionate impact on Black people in the U.S. We can use all the help we can get right now to move forward and should consider turning to the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) of Kwanzaa, which have significance beyond just one week of the year. Kwanzaa creator Dr. Maulana Karenga says that based on traditional harvest celebrations, Kwanzaa is one of Africa’s many gifts to the world. We can surely make good use of it now.
What we need now is one another. There’s more than enough coronavirus news; we should ascertain what views we hold in common about this crisis. Then we take action – demanding greater access to relief resources and testing, sharing trusted information sources and organizing around the imperatives to surely follow in the wake of the virus. A Musical Resource:
Saxophonist Andrew Lamb’s Circadian Spheres of Light Project gathers artists for multi-genre performances with music, dance, visual art and spoken word. The inspiring expression of harmony is artistic unity in action.
We can determine how we eat, exercise and otherwise optimize our health. We can use the Black press and other independent media to get our COVID-19 stories out ourselves. We can think for ourselves and rely on our experts when determining the significance of proposed policies affecting our communities. A People Resource:
Celeste Morris of MorrisAllsop Public Affairs trains/assists leaders, political candidates and business owners in strategies for advocacy, campaigning, marketing and strategic planning. http://www.morrisallsop.com/
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
Let’s use this time to plan for the future as well as meeting the needs of others right now. Is someone living alone in need of consistent contact? Can people chip in for an elder’s food delivery and share where to get cleaning supplies, gloves and masks? What important emergency plans can be made collectively? An Organizing Resource:
Diddy’s, “State of Emergency: The State of Black America and Coronavirus,” gathered activists, policymakers and artists on his REVOLT TV channel last week to discuss urgencies and strategies. See at https://bit.ly/34ChXLW
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
If you know someone who’s making masks, buy from them rather than a megacorporation that pays no taxes. If you’re in the fortunate position to hire someone or to give a loan to a business, please do so. And if you have a skill, a product or idea to help support you and yours, by all means let people know and ask for their support. A Mask Resource:
Designer Denise Beckford made and donated masks to hospitals. Now she, mom Pam, and daughter Senmeri sell beautiful African print versions on Instagram. See them @kintecloth and her other work @denisebeckford.
We can move forward by acknowledging our vulnerability as we summon our courage. Pretending we are invincible and need not follow crisis guidelines is disastrous in the face of evidence to the contrary. Instead, we can work along with those whose mission it is to inform and equip the community so that our survival rates rise. A Personal Growth Resource:
Harness the insight and resilience you’ve gained. Personal Development Coach Sahuspete can assist, and also support your health with reflexology treatments after social distancing. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simple things add value during this tragic time. Express yourself through writing. Make art. Design and sew something. See a play online. Put on music and dance it off. Family members might take turns reading remotely to a toddler. This gives the parents a break while helping the little one remember your face and voice during this separation. A Black Lit Resource:
African Voices is a poetry, fiction and essay magazine that produces events, workshops and a women’s film festival, all in support of Black artists. Find founder Carolyn Butts’ brainchild at https://africanvoices.com/avblog/
It must be our foregone conclusion that we’ll survive our losses. We must commit to creating a new normal – one in which our demonstrated strength predicts our future and the example of our essential workers inspires belief in the good and in one another. A Gratitude Resource:
Join your neighbors – and join the world – in honoring the healthcare and other essential workers risking all to save lives and provide critical services during COVID-19. Applauding them outside or at a window at 7pm each evening is beneficial, not just for them, but also for you and for us all.
MAITEFA ANGAZA is an author, journalist, editor, public relations writer and filmmaker. Her nonfiction book, Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day (Dafina Books 2007) was updated and reissued in September 2019. The former executive editor of The City Sun newspaper and former managing editor of African Voices magazine, Maitefa’s news and feature articles appear regularly in Our Time Press newspaper and other print and online publications.
Find Your Calm
By Dr. Laurie Nadel
April is Stress Awareness Month.
We’re not talking regular everyday stress: getting to work on time, taking care of your family and friends, paying bills and taxes, and meeting deadlines.
Since life turned dark in a heartbeat, everyday stress is now in our rear view mirror, making this April COVID-19 Stress Awareness month because we are now going through acute stress.
Acute stress is a very different animal.
Suddenly, we find ourselves living a nightmare: Contagion meets Twilight Zone. The familiar patterns, habits, and routines that guided us through life have been ripped away. Our map of reality feels like London after the Blitz. Unlike the Germans’ bombing during World War Two, we hear no warning sirens nor are there any truly safe places to seek shelter.
We are stumbling through the darkness together, fearful of what lurks around the corner.
Fear, too, is contagious. Like any sudden act of mass violence, we are flooded with horror, helplessness, and acute stress.
Trauma is Not a Bad Day
We tend to say “trauma” whenever we mean “upsetting.”
But trauma is not a bad hair day.
Trauma means you have been exposed to sudden, unexpected death. Directly or indirectly, trauma imprints the soul with awareness that life itself is uncertain, fragile, and beyond human understanding.
And yes, you can be traumatized by the terror you see online and on TV. V.T. — vicarious traumatization — is real and leads to acute stress reactions.
You are a normal person having normal reactions to an abnormal situation
Even first responders and emergency medical personnel who go mano-a-man with life and death on the job suffer from acute stress. It doesn’t mean they are not professional. It means they are human. The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICIS) provides peer support for first responders after disturbing calls where they were unable to save lives. As a member of a critical incident debriefing team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school shooting in which 34 people were shot, I was privileged to work with leaders in the field who provided information about acute stress and how to cope with the unthinkable.. “You may never understand why this happened,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, a former paramedic and founder of ICISF, “but, in time, you can come to terms with it.”
The first step in coming to terms with a mass fatality event like the pandemic is to accept that your reactions are unique to you and that you are a normal person having normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
Some elements of stress, include: shock, feeling flooded with horror and helplessness whenever you think about the pandemic; fear; sense of dread; feeling unsafe in your own skin; and Hypervigilance: expecting another shoe to drop
The good news is that acute stress usually resolves on its own. We wake up and start our day without feeling dread about what happened. Our normal appetites and sleeping patterns resume. (Acute stress that resurfaces or continues months or years after the event itself becomes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/PTSD at which time it is important to seek professional help.)
Stress: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Find your calm. Finding your calm is essential for surviving in a climate of fear. Set aside five minutes a day to go to your place of inner safety. This is a private place within where only you can go. Close your eyes and ask your mind to take you back to a place and time when you remember feeling relaxed and safe Make a fist and as you tighten your fist, allow those warm, good feelings of calm and safety to build until they reach a peak and fade away like a chord of music. Open your eyes and release your fist. To get back to your place of inner safety, make that fist and say, “Take me back.” (Your fist becomes a bioswitch that activates molecules of emotional memories that are the best antidote to COVID-19 stress.)
- Eat regular meals. Choose healthy food and try not to eat alone. Avoid sugar, junk food, alcohol and caffeine. Remember: choosing your food will help you regain some sense of control.
- Meet your three “elephants”. As the pandemic continues our fears can escalate. Embedded in our unconscious, they often show up as three elephants: loss of control, loss of safety, and loss of identity. In facing the first elephant, it’s important to become mindful of patterns, habits and routines that we can control. Calming the second elephant means finding patterns, habits and rituals that help us feel safer. It can be a chair or couch, or garden. Spend time in your place of inner safety. This will reinforce your sense of self. Write or say this affirmation: Despite the chaos around me, I can find calm and safety within myself.
- Start a happiness jar. Take an actual jar, glass, or bowl and label it “HAPPINESS.” Keep it someplace where you will see it throughout the day. Place scrap paper and pens or markers next to the jar. Write down one thing that makes you happy per piece of paper. Put the “happy papers” into the jar. Wait at least a month before you empty the jar and read your “happy papers” aloud.
- Hold on to hope. We are living through a painful, turbulent cycle. But all cycles in nature come to an end and new life begins. This, too, is a law of nature.
“Even the withered branch grows again
And the sunken moon returns.
Wise ones who ponder this
Are not troubled in adversity.”
— Hindu proverb
Looking for hope, healing and strength when disaster strikes?
Need support? www.laurienadel.com