In less than a year, we have experienced a global health crisis, historically high rates of unemployment and, most recently, civil unrest over systemic racism, Confederate monuments and the killing of Black people by police and armed vigilantes. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, we conducted a national survey of young adults to find out how they have been impacted. We found that 73% of young adults were concerned about their quality of life and 60% worried about their mental well-being. With a seemingly new obstacle to tackle each month, it is no wonder why the term “self care” is trending on social media.
So what does self care look like for young people of color during times of crisis? To better understand how Generation Stress, a term we use to describe Gen Z and Millennials who are coping with COVID-19, is responding to recent events and how they can cope healthily (and affordably), we spoke with Gary Frazier, founder and CEO of OM Healthcare, Inc.
Right off the bat, Frazier said,
“People of color aren’t historically the ones reaching out for help for a variety of reasons.” Those reasons include inherited distrust of the healthcare system, weak relationships with primary care doctors, limited access to medical professionals, and a hesitancy to ask for assistance. Without the resources or the willingness to reach out during periods of compounding stress, what are young people doing to cope? Frazier suspects they are “pushing it down and powering through.”
While being resilient enough to handle life’s challenges is a strong trait to possess, real power lies in vulnerability and knowing when to seek help, Frazier said. If this rollercoaster of a year is having a profound effect on your day-to-day life, we encourage you to speak with a professional. If you can’t afford one and do not have insurance, here are some ways you can reduce stress without going into debt.
If social distancing is getting you down, get some exercise. According to Frazier, physical activity releases endorphins and natural mood-boosting chemicals that can give you a feeling of euphoria. You don’t have to be an athlete or fitness junkie. To start gaining the benefits, Frazier advises devoting 30 minutes a day, three times a week to doing something that you love, or grew up doing, like playing basketball, tennis, walking or jogging.
According to Frazier, “improving your diet will improve your mood.” Strengthening your immune system starts with taking care of your digestive tract. If you put the right nutrients into your body, then you’ll increase your ability to fight off diseases. Knowing your immune system is intact can help ease some of the nervousness you may feel about being infected with the coronavirus. So make sure that in addition to exercising regularly, you eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.
Use Free Mental Health Apps
There are hundreds of mental health apps on the market, but they’re not created equal, and some of the more popular ones can cost up to $99 per week. Frazier shared a trusted website that lists the top 25 mental health apps. From there, we tested them out to see which ones offered quality services for free.
The “What’s Up?” app is great for managing your general mental health. The majority of the app’s features are free; however, some premium features require a donation. The best part about What’s Up? is that when you first download it, the app creator has a few messages for you that add a personal touch.
“Happify” is another great app that has both free and premium features. After answering a few questions, the app will assess your needs and recommend a “track” that you can take to start feeling better. The app uses an artificial intelligence chatbot to guide you through the tracks and also has other features such as a strength of character assessment and uplifting games.
If you’re feeling nervous or anxious, “MindShift” is a great resource to help you cope. Not only does this app have tools to manage anxiety from general worry to panic, it also has resources to help up identify these feelings. The best part is that all of these capabilities are completely free.
Although Frazier is very knowledgeable about healthcare, he emphasized that his recommendations are no substitute for professional medical advice. “It is important not to self-diagnose, self-treat or self-medicate,” he said. We concur. If what’s happening in the world becomes too much for you to handle on your own, ask your primary care physician to help connect you with someone you can talk to.