As we enter this new month, it can be hard to ignore what July brought, especially for those in the diaspora. Whether the ongoing global COVID pandemic, the economic crisis in Cuba, or the political crisis in Haiti, such events can affect our mental health by triggering a variety of emotions and potentially retraumatizing those who have experienced similar situations. Watching popular news content can only increase feelings of frustration as the media tends to provide a one-dimensional perspective that perpetuates negative stereotypes of our people. Under these conditions, it is normal for nervous systems to get activated and have it impact our daily functioning. It may be more difficult to focus at work or in school, to be fully present with loved ones, or even, to get a good night’s sleep.
These complex attachments to our ancestral homelands can have us physically here, but emotionally there. When uncertainty and instability plague our countries of origin, it can generate symptoms of survivor’s guilt for those who currently reside here, perhaps having had escaped prior crises and traumas. Survivors’ guilt is defined as “strong and persistent feelings of remorse, personal responsibility, and sadness” after surviving a traumatic event (Raypole, 2021). Managing to survive traumas that can range from political persecution to natural disasters can be difficult to celebrate if you had to leave others behind, especially loved ones. Symptoms can include irritability, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, and more. Whether you are feeling survivor’s guilt or the tension from what is happening globally, here are some suggestions.
Tips to stay informed in a way that also preserves your wellbeing
Acknowledge the uncertainty that exists and all the feelings that arise for you. The only way out of these feelings is through them.
Set boundaries and take breaks from news content (including social media). Sometimes the “mindless” scrolling tends to consume more of our minds than we think.
Spend time in nature. Nature triggers our parasympathetic nervous system which reduces stress levels and prioritizes rest (Donahue, 2018).
Create a bedtime routine to improve your sleep. Whether it’s putting on your most comfortable set of PJs or having a warm cup of chamomile tea, help train your body that it is time to unwind and rest.
Engage in a ritual that reminds you of home, whether it is making specific types of food or dancing to music from your rich native culture. Immerse yourself in it. Remember who you are at your core – you are your ancestor’s wildest dreams.
Reach out to your tribe, those who provide distraction and/or support. Don’t have a tribe who gets you? Seek out folks by getting involved in local organizations or joining a support group. Seek a mental health professional if symptoms cause you distress and limit your functionality.
Believe that your homeland and your people are capable of leading towards improving society and seek out positive examples. Here’s a recent one: Chile’s Constituent Assembly, composed of 155 members (women, Indigenous people, feminists, members of LGBTQ+ community, school bus drivers, etc) held its first session 7/4/21 to draft Chile’s new constitution, after over a year of turmoil. (Mohor, 2021)
Donahue, R. (2018, September 3). Your Brain and Nature: Restorative Effects of Exposure to Nature [web log]. https://www.chartingnature.com/blogs/articles/your-brain-and-nature-restorative-effects-of-exposure-to-nature.
Mohor, D. W. (2021, July 4). How to write a new constitution for a divided and unequal Chile. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/04/americas/chile-constitution-assembly-intl-latam/index.html.
Raypole, C. (2021, March 11). How to Cope with Survivor Guilt, Because Survival Is No Reason to Feel Guilty. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/survivors-guilt.