Like everyone who went to school to be a therapist, I am enamored with the idea of “yes, and ___.”  What it means is that there can be two conflicting truths that exist at the same time. For example, this pandemic is hard and grief-filled for everyone, and is infinitely harder and more traumatizing for folks of color: As public health folks, we are well aware of COVID disproportionately affecting people of color.

This note is intended to address the complexity of emotions right now, specifically focusing on supporting the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) in our community.

Everyone is seeing and feeling the pain and trauma of police brutality, violence, and systematic oppression that have been present for our entire lifetimes—some of us for the first time, while for many people of color it feels even more present than usual.

So yes, white folks, we’re allowed to feel sad and mad and horrified right now, and these feelings of discomfort and stress are nowhere near the feelings of trauma and terror of our community members of color, who live these feelings day in and day out.

A really simple-yet-complex idea is that of our window of tolerance. Our window of tolerance is the optimal window our body and mind has that allows us to handle and manage day-to-day tasks, communicate effectively, understand ourselves and the world around us, and thrive. All of us have different windows of tolerance depending on our wiring, past experiences, mental health conditions, and intersecting identities. I might get really triggered, stressed, and overwhelmed by a certain YouTube video, while someone else may be able to handle that just fine—or their response might be to numb and emotionally shut down.

Here are some accessible ways to bring yourself into, or keep yourself in, your window of tolerance:

  • Place your hands on your belly (if that feels comfortable). Pretending your stomach is a balloon, inhale and feel the belly expand. As you exhale, allow the stomach to deflate. See if you can lengthen your exhales, breathing out for longer than you breathe in. This helps to calm the nervous system.
  • Play the five senses game: Name five things you can see, four things you can touch (then actually touch them), three things you can hear (listen carefully), two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
  • If being in the present moment is too hard for any reason, distraction is our friend. Make a list of healthy distractions for you, whether it’s a favorite YouTube video, a song you can dance to, a snack you can eat, a friend you can call, or an easy task like organizing your desk.
  • Get to know your triggers, and make a plan for if and when you have to encounter them.
  • Social media and the news can be quite hard right now. Can you allow yourself a break if that is leading you down too many stressful rabbit holes?
  • Make deep breathing fun (who says we have to be little kids to breathe like a bumblebee?).
  • Set boundaries. One of the hardest things to do, especially in this time of feeling increased pressure to do more and more to prove our worth. (PSA: You are worthy as you are.) Yet, when we are overwhelmed and burnt out, there is no way of showing up properly for anyone else, much less for yourself. Use your vacation days. Use any free time you may have doing things that nourish you.
  • Check in with your self talk, the internal narrative we’re all constantly having with ourselves. Be gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself in a way you would talk to a friend—with compassion, love, empathy.

And yet, what do you do if being in your body is unsafe, because the world condemns you for the color of your skin? Eric Garner and George Floyd died saying they couldn’t breathe, yet I am giving you instructions on how to breathe?

As a privileged white cis woman, here’s where I phone my friend Rachael Junard, co-founder of You Good Sis, “a collective for the black/brown individuals looking for a mental/spiritual/physical check in.”  They are sharing fantastic resources, and holding yoga classes and meditations.

Here are some additional trauma-informed and inclusive resources for coping:

Hive Soul Yoga: a community-based wellness space.

Four Corners Yoga: a yoga and wellness center in Dorchester, currently virtually streaming classes.

Brenna Matthews: a trauma-informed yoga teacher offering sliding scale virtual classes.

Therapists Who Are POC: so folks can feel safe with therapists who can fully empathize.

Psychology Today: site to find a therapist based on your insurance, topics you wish to cover, and locations for when you can meet in person. Please reach out to me if you want support navigating this site.

Black Women in Wellness: take a break from hearing from me, and check out these amazing Black women in wellness.

The Dinner Party: get-togethers for young adults struggling with a loss; currently offering virtual services for all.

Distress Tolerance Skills: for getting through the moment without making things worse for yourself or anyone else.

Yoga Nidra for Sleep: a supportive meditation to help guide you to sleep.

Know that as the SPH Wellness Coordinator, I will do everything in my power to make folks in our community feel seen, safe and cared for. We also know that we will not always get it right, and when we don’t, let us know and we will make it right, educating ourselves and hopefully others in the process. At SPH, we strive to create a culture that is inclusive, equitable, and accessible to all.

Thank you to each member of our community for showing up, being present, and bringing yourself to SPH. We are grateful to have you and be together in this moment. Though it is a hard time, incredibly hard, know you are not alone.

Take good care.



Ilana Schlesinger
Wellness Program Coordinator and Advisor

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