Ask a Therapist: Holiday Advice for an Anxious Black Woman

Published on: 09 Dec 2020
Ask Reshawna Chapple

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Q: I feel like this has been a particularly difficult time for me as a Black woman. I’m tired and I’m trying to balance self-care with staying involved. It’s been OK. But as the election passes and the holidays are coming up, I’m feeling an almost crippling anxiety. I want to disconnect entirely and just be left alone, but I know that’s not good, right? How can I get through next month?

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for this question. First of all, I want to validate you and your feelings. It’s a very difficult time in the world right now. As a Black woman myself, it’s been difficult to feel optimistic for the future or to even stay grounded. Many of us are struggling to manage everything. On top of dealing with the events of 2020, with COVID-19 pandemic and the racial turmoil in the U.S., there was the presidential election. Even after the conclusion of the election, so many of us still feel unsettled.

I hear you saying you’re doing okay with balancing self-care and staying involved, which is important. That crippling anxiety you’re feeling is a result of so much more stress than usual. This uncertainty and disappointment over current events has left many of us on edge as well as physically and mentally exhausted. Regardless of how many bubble baths we take or virtual meetings we attend, nothing completely allows us to escape from our everyday truth: Black individuals (as well as other folks of color) are experiencing racial trauma.

It makes sense that you want to be left alone. Your instinct is to disconnect, but you’re asking if that’s not “good.” I wonder if what you’re sensing is that it may not be good for you. I’m curious, how has disconnecting worked for you in the past? What’s been helpful for you in overwhelming times before? This is a whole new level of difficulty and it’s scary, but anxiety levels in your life have probably ebbed and flowed before.What got your through then? How can you apply your previous coping mechanisms to this moment? What else do you need to add to your routine this time to feel okay?

I caution against siloing yourself completely. But these are some challenging times, to say the least. You may need some extra time alone for yourself. Explore that. See how you feel being alone. Give yourself permission to decline an invite or committment when you feel like you just don’t have it in you.

Push yourself to make time to connect with people in your inner circle and see how those conversations make you feel. Most importantly, allow yourself to take inventory, change your mind, and tap into what you need in any given moment. You’re being honest about your feelings here. It’s really impressive that you know yourself well enough to recognize this almost crippling anxiety and your inclination to close off. Take this time to do what you need and ask others for what you need, whether that’s space or some time to connect. Above all, don’t judge yourself — or worry if others judge you — as you figure out what’s best for you right now.

Here are a few other quick tips:

  • Keep acknowledging and talking about your feelings.
  • Plan ahead and schedule in time for yourself, whether that’s space in between meetings or just time to reflect or go for a walk.
  • Limit your social media intake.
  • Talk to your inner circle when you need someone you trust.

Reach out, just like you did here. It’s a sign of strength and value of your own well-being. Things won’t change overnight, and it may continue to feel hard for a while. Keep using your own intuition as a guide, and you’ll start to notice that anxiety is more manageable when you incorporate a few of these ideas into your routine.

-Reshawna

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