What We Can Do to Maintain Wellness in the Time of Social Distancing

Positive social habits can help you build support systems and stay healthier mentally and physically. Despite social distancing rules right now, connections with others can still have a powerful effect on our health. Family, friends, neighbors, romantic partners or other social connections can influence our biology and well being. Remain open and look for new and innovative ways to get involved with others, even if we have to think outside the box.

couple lying on ground while holding their hands

FIND NEW SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

  • Join a group focused on your hobbies and interests, like painting, reading or gardening. There are many choices via social media platforms like Facebook and others.
  • Learn something new. Take an online cooking class, art, music or computer programming course. Many are free or available at low cost.
  • Volunteer or participate in community events like a park clean-up through your neighborhood recreation center or community association. Get involved and stay safe.
  • Join a choral or music lovers group. Participation is possible online. Use your voice for good and make connections. Zoom is an online platform that lends itself to group harmonizing.
  • Start your own group. You’ll be surprised how many people share your interests, no matter how ‘niche’ they may be. Put it out there and eventually people will come. If anonymity is important to you, you can always create a personalized screen name or pseudonym. As long as you are authentic in all other areas, connections can still be made. It’s not necessarily about political correctness; the key is respect and politeness. Should any new member post obscene or counterproductive and harmful content, you can always censor their participation without discouraging freedom of expression of  ideas.

At some point in our lives, many of us will become a caregiver. The stress of it all can take a toll on your health. Depending on your circumstances, some self-care strategies may be more difficult to carry out than others. Choose ones that work for you.park pc

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF WHILE CARING FOR OTHERS

  • Ask for help. List some ways others can help.
  • Get organized. Make to-do lists, and set a daily routine, carving out time for yourself somewhere in there.
  • Try to take breaks every day. Finding respite for yourself can help you create time for yourself or to spend with friends.
  • Don’t forget to continue cultivating your own personal interests and hobbies.
  • Eat healthy foods as often as you can, and exercise regularly. Establish a routine to fit into your schedule.
  • Build your skills. Keep learning by looking for classes to help you care for someone with an injury or illness. Contact your local agency on Aging or other resources for supports, tips and strategies for caring for others, including yourself. It can be awfully difficult to care for others if you aren’t also caring for yourself.

GET ACTIVE TOGETHER

Where you live, work, or go to school can have a big impact on how much you move and also how much you weigh. Being active in the community can have a positive effect on your health habits and creates opportunities to connect with others, virtually or in-person while still practicing social distancing. To help make a more active community does not have to be very complicated. You can:

  • Start a walking group with friends, neighbors or co-workers.
  • Participate in local planning efforts to develop walking paths, bike lanes, or sidewalks to accommodate those who choose to be active: walking, riding bikes, skateboarding or rollerblading.
  • Create opportunities for virtual group activitiesman in blue polo shirt

BUILDING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Strong and healthy relationships are important throughout life. They can impact your mental and physical well-being. As a child, you learn the social skills needed to form and maintain relationships with others. At any age, you can learn ways to improve your relationships. Therefore, it is important to know what a healthy relationship looks like and how to keep your connections supportive. During times of social distancing, remote work and virtual learning, relationships, professional and interpersonal, are extremely critical to socialization needs fulfillment. The ability to adapt and re-imagine how connections can still be made requires a more creative outlook and approach. Even in virtual environments, you can still:

  • Share your feelings honestly. Tact and discretion surrounding your disclosures will be a priority, while honesty remains central.
  • Ask for what you need from others. As always, the worse that can happen is that you will hear ‘no’ or not receive what you ask for. Ask anyway.
  • Listen to others respectfully. Conflicts should not turn into personal attacks.
  • Avoid being overly critical, angry outbursts and violent behaviors or threatening violence.
  • Expect others to treat you with respect and honesty always.
  • Compromise. Try to come to agreements or just agree to disagree and keep moving forward into a healthy space.
  • Protect yourself from violent and abusive people. Set boundaries with others. It is always okay to say ‘no’.

COVID-19 and social distancing rules don’t have to stop you from engaging the world or satisfying your social needs. It is our nature to be relationship-oriented, and maintaining physical safety does not prevent us from making social connections. Right now, creativity is needed to discover and take advantage of new opportunities to stay connected with others. Re-imagine what it means to have fun, too. The key message here is that, despite this pandemic’s newly defined social distancing rules, we will almost certainly have to step outside of our previously established ‘comfort zones’. The overarching goal is to support our social, mental and physical health and achieve comprehensive wellness.

Practice Healing-Centered Engagement Via Affirming Interactions

In response to recent protests and uprisings by young people in this country, it is imperative that social justice defines the ways we interact with one another.  Deeply tied to ensuring social justice is that we share a healthy respect for diversity and individuality everywhere we go.  What is urgently needed is more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist frameworks in child and family-serving programs and systems, especially community-based organizations  and public education institutions.

The most avoided acknowledgement of this country is the centuries long harm done to the groups of people whose central plea represents a strong and unwavering demand for justice. What has been a continued reality for these folks, is characterized by  persistent culturally and racially-based structures and systems commitment to inflict harm upon their daily lives.

Awords and  sincerity with which There are concrete actions to take both at the organizational and individual levels, that will build supportive service-oriented, people-focused and healing-centered work  and learning spaces.

  For Organizations:

  • Make inclusion, equity and anti-racism a priority, in policy and practice
  • Require accountability from everyone in the organization, at all levels
  • Recognize exemplary staff and departmental units, to reinforce positive actions
  • Provide resources to support these efforts[ like training, time, budgets]
  • Identify and implement best practices, such as racial equity frameworks
  • Utilize SMART[specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound] goals to strategically align with objectives

For individuals:

  • Take personal responsibility for your actions and failure to take actions
  • Educate yourself about equity issues, which includes listening out to the voices who “
  • Practice the platinum rule: treat others the way they want to be treated
  • Become more mindful about equity issues in your daily life
  • Work within your areas of influence to be a positive force for change
  • Discover and disclose the uniqueness of others around you
  • Engage in affirming interactions every day.

What are ‘Affirming Interactions’?

Affirming interactions are positive micro-message or micro-affirmations that show others that you value and respect them. Central to these messages is the language used when they are expressed or demonstrated to others. Words are important and actions support and align with the words. Whether in policy, practices, or perspectives, the words we use will be reflected in our actions and will define our approach to engaging and empowering others.

Examples include:

Advise       Advocate     Apologize     Acknowledge     Assist

Believe      Commend    Compensate     Consult           Credit

Educate      Empower     Empathize      Entrust           Guide

Inform       Listen            Mentor              Notice          Recognize

Reward       Sponsor       Support             Train              Trust

Understand      Value       Yield, etc… 

In creating equity, and inclusion in anti-racist frameworks, it is critical that there is a shared understanding of key concepts and terminologies.  Thus, there must be common definitions of each by which we are informed, beginning with the concept of ‘race’.

Race is “a social and political construction—with no inherent genetic or biological basis—used by social institutions to arbitrarily categorize and divide groups of individuals based on physical appearance(particularly skin color), ancestry, cultural history, and ethnic classification.” (CSSP, 2019)

OTHER CORE CONCEPTS

Inclusion is when everyone feels valued and respected.
Equity is “the effort to provide different levels of support based on an individual’s or group’s needs in order to achieve fairness in outcomes. Working to achieve equity acknowledges unequal starting places and the need to correct the imbalance.” (CSSP, 2019)
Racial Equity is “the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.”
(https://www.racialequitytools.org/glossary#racial-equity)
Anti-Racism is an “active process of identifying and challenging racism, by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes, to redistribute power in an equitable     manner.” (CSSP, 2019)
Anti-Black Racism is “any attitude, behavior, practice, or policy that explicitly or implicitly reflects the belief that Black people are inferior to another racial group. Anti-Black racism is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels of racism and is a function of White supremacy.” (CSSP, 2019)

What Modern Black Fathers Need to Change the Narrative

I just read a report called: “The Blueprint: Re-imagining the Black Father”. It called attention to the current issues affecting black families and sought to unpack the narrow stereotypical images and stories attributed to black men. These are phenomena I term,‘immaculate perceptions’.

The problem with immaculate perceptions, fabricated imagery and stereotypes, is that not only are they difficult to counter or erase from either the semi-or full conscious awareness, no one can pinpoint the origins of these narratives. Most folks do not know how or why these tropes dominated their worldviews. However, yes, here I go again, these answers are found steeped in our national history. These stories emerged only but as a result of freedom after enslavement. It was out of the refusal to accept blacks in freedom, as equally entitled citizens, who happened to have displayed so much strength, talent, skill, courage and resilience while in bondage. They were rapidly becoming upwardly mobile and building their own familial wealth.

The argument that the black man is a lazy person emerged both during enslavement, when they were made, frequently beaten, to toil from sun to sun in the treacherous heat of the south, and fatigue was an intolerable condition. There were no lunch breaks, as characterizes the work environment today, even with 4 or 8-hour shifts. After the abolition of slavery, at a time when blacks were now able to work for themselves, for their own good, a work law was enacted whereby blacks were expected to work for the same people who once held them in bondage.

Many black people refused to work for former masters, if for no other reason but that they remember, and reminded by bodily scars, of the torture they had endured. Would you? This refusal to return to the site of trauma, family separation, being bought and sold, their women and children violated at the whim of white men, any white man, whether he or she was married or an adult, created an opportunity for white men to begin to fashion a new narrative of laziness. For many blacks, men and women, this new mandate represented a new form of enslavement.

The view of the black man, and we see too frequently today, young under-age youth, as having a threatening presence, and criminal-like nature is another immaculate perception borne out of slavery-directly out of that era. First, with the knowledge of history, as it should be taught in our national school system, these conversations would not be had. Nor would the need to re-hash this awful reality exist. When black people were slaves, the strategy of whites were to choose the biggest, strongest men to own. They were seen as the best workers and were worth a lot of money to white people.

We are aware that almost everyone has a conscience, and when wrongs are committed, we can be bothered by our conscience. When black people, men in particular, tried to escape, or showed some resistance to the ‘assumed authority’ of whites, the strengths they displayed was indeed threatening. As white men beat and maimed and degraded them, although the anger of blacks was as hidden as possible, white men could still feel it. It was truly frightening. When black men were made to watch as their women, sisters, children were raped and violated by white men, there was true anger.

The way they were beaten, starved and treated as though inhuman and animalistic, there was legitimate anger. Deep inside of themselves, white men had to feel afraid. They were afraid that these black people would rise up and revolt, kill them in their sleep, and ravage their women, as well. They had to devise more ways to control what they thought were their anger, urges and desire for their white women. If you knew your country’s full history, as the facts prove true and indisputable, you would be able to recount it in story-like form as here. It becomes easy to understand when the picture is full-from all sides as they and how they occurred.

So, here we are with this new report that aims to positively impact the trajectory of the lives of black families. The blueprint aims to promote responsible fatherhood and improve and eliminate stereotypes associated with fathers, low-income black fathers.

It addresses family structure, the media, legacy and wealth, economic opportunity and entrepreneurship, technology, and hope. The Blueprint ends with recommendations- personal and structural recommendations and policy-oriented changes. Rather than focusing on policies that impact only one aspect of inequality, it is suggested that policies must reduce black-white gaps in youth outcomes that are impacted by parental income. Reducing this inequality gap would potentially lift black fathers and families out of poverty.

Unemployment directly impacts black fathers’ ability to provide for themselves and their families. The U.S. Department of Labor unemployment statistics show that 14.7% of all Americans are currently out of work, increasing 10.3 percent for April 2020. 14.2% of whites  are unemployed, while black and Hispanic unemployment is 16.7 and 18.9%. Prior to COVID 19, black unemployment was at least twice as high as whites, nationally and across 12 states plus D.C.

Communities of color have been areas in cities and towns across the country where white businesses have divested and left little to no employment opportunities for economic growth for residents. This has been a problem for generations and has created an ‘opportunity gap’. The existing ‘wealth gap’ places white families with 10 times the wealth of the average black family and 7 times that of Hispanics.

Policymakers should create targeted opportunities for economic investment in black communities that will translate into jobs. Additionally, banks and private lenders should abandon the tradition of denying business ownership opportunities to black entrepreneurs. An important pathway towards reducing and potentially eliminating the wealth and opportunity gaps are through business ventures-black owned businesses. With an existing wealth gap, black entrepreneurs typically don’t have access to friends or family for capital[money] to help them launch their business. Minority ownership opportunities should be increased and decision-makers should seek to capture the entrepreneurial spirit of black men(women, too).

That entrepreneurial spirit has been evidenced and unfortunately channeled into micro businesses such as illicit drug sales, and selling ‘loosies'[loose cigarettes] in and about their community. That spirit is seen on street corners, where many sell goods from tables and booths, even trunks of cars. That is the entrepreneurial spirit-without an outlet or opportunity for a legitimate tax-paying storefront business.

Even as the legalization of marijuana has created legitimate business opportunities, ownership in a legalized marijuana dispensary is denied to black and brown men. Among the most obvious reasons, this is also because many have criminal records. [A substantial percentage of those with arrest records were low-level and non-violent offenses, like marijuana possession-a sad irony] Once again, the very businesses that gave them a bad name in the eyes of the law, and for which they have criminal records, are also denied to them legally and legitimately. 

The Blueprint supports this recommendation for increasing opportunities for black entrepreneurs by highlighting the ‘Black Wall Street’ area of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the 1920’s, the community was thriving, rich in both culture and wealth. There were banks, movie theaters, and homes with indoor plumbing, a luxury at that time. That  community was certainly evidence of the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and economic growth potential for all black people.

Business ownership is  extremely important to uplift black fathers and raise black families out of poverty, particularly the returning citizens who are denied full rights, employment and often experience discrimination.