Health

Reminder: This Is Still Not Normal

If you’re reading this, life probably doesn’t feel effortless right now. It’s impossible for me, an internet stranger, to know exactly what feels “off” for you. There are countless public tragedies and personal heartaches you might be processing, so let’s start with what’s obvious: None of what we’re experiencing right now is normal. If you’re moving through each week distracted, sad, angry, and lethargic—trust me, you have valid reasons.

There was a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes from 2019 to 2020, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The tragic shooting spree in Atlanta where a man killed eight people—six of them Asian women—in Korean- and Chinese-owned massage businesses made national headlines, but it wasn’t the beginning of the problem. As Lori Keong wrote in a poignant essay for SELF, “None of the violence we’ve seen is bred in a vacuum, and to be clear, it dates as far back as the 1800s, when as many as 20 Asian Americans were killed in one of the largest lynchings in U.S. history.”

Meanwhile, police violence against Black and brown people persists. On April 20, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Though this might be seen as accountability for one murder, police killed six people within 24 hours of the verdict, including Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl in Columbus, the Associated Press reports.

Even though we can trace violence against Black and brown people back hundreds of years, this is the first time in recent history that we’re grappling with it alongside a global pandemic. As SELF previously reported, there’s evidence that one COVID-19 death impacts at least nine people. Beyond that, the pandemic has exacerbated job loss, food insecurity, and mental health issues. Watching an inequitable vaccine rollout might not be the mood boost you envisioned, for example. So if something feels “off,” and you keep telling yourself you should be used to this, please remind yourself that nothing is normal right now.

Our bodies don’t refresh like Twitter feeds. Just because new headlines about the pandemic and violence against people of color are baked into our everyday lives doesn’t mean your body adjusts to the stress in stride. Maybe you’re not sleeping well, or you’re dealing with brain fog. Maybe your motivation is MIA. But if you aren’t personally dealing with any direct tragedy or hardship yourself, you might tell yourself things are fine. Not exactly.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try a therapy technique called RAIN. As SELF previously reported, RAIN is a mindfulness tool that therapists have adapted to help people bring compassionate awareness to their thoughts and feelings. It stands for: recognize, allow, investigate, and non-identification.

If, for example, you notice you’ve been staring off into space for 45 minutes, instead of lecturing yourself on being lazy, recognize that something feels “off” and it’s making you unproductive or scattered. Maybe you take a deep breath and allow that to sink in without abusing yourself. Now you’re in a headspace to investigate the feeling by asking yourself why you might be sluggish. Maybe this unlocks a bunch of emotions, and it’s immediately apparent why you’re not yourself (if it’s not immediately apparent, that’s okay). Then, to practice non-identification, remind yourself that these thoughts and feelings don’t mean something terrible about you. Instead, you might realize you’re having a reasonable reaction to various stimuli, and you don’t have to mistreat yourself. You might say out loud, “None of this shit is normal.” Then, maybe, you’ll slowly get back to your waiting obligation.

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