A Year on from 'Blackout Tuesday,' Here Is How to Protect Your Mental Health

·4-min read
Photo credit: Justin Lambert - Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Lambert - Getty Images

This week marks the anniversary of the 2020 'Blackout Tuesday' action. Here, therapist and founder of Cultureminds Therapy, Sharnade George, reflects on how, when thoughts might turn to emotionally triggering events and themes, you, as a Black woman, can navigate this time.

It has been a full year since 'Blackout Tuesday', a global action designed to protest racial inequality, racism and police brutality enacted against the Black community. The idea began life as an initiative founded by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang – two US-based music industry executives – following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black citizens in the country they live in.

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They planned a day away from their jobs and coined #TheShowMustBePaused, with a mission of disrupting 'business as usual' with the music industry, a machine that profits from the efforts, struggles, and successes of Black people. They demanded that these entities must 'protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.'

What was 'Blackout Tuesday'?

'The music industry is a multibillion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people, accountable,' the two women wrote in a statement, at the time.

This digital protest took on a life of its own. Quickly, spanning out from music into all creative industries, and then racial justice, broadly, #BlackoutTuesday became the dominant hashtag. As you know, droves of people started to post a blank, black square to their Instagram grids, leading Thomas and Agyemang to clarify their original intent.

Soon, it was stressed that shows of support for the Black community needed to use the hashtags #blackouttuesday or #theshowmustbepaused, and not #blacklivesmatter, as many individuals were, to prevent important information about ways to support the BLM cause being lost in a sea of black squares.

On this anniversary, naturally, you might be taking time to reflect on and remember why the day was created. It's also true that, if you are a Black person, certain traumatic topics which might be dominating social media discourse could trigger emotional, uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings.

As such, it’s important to know how to navigate the internet, and this time, with your mental health in mind. Below are my key tips on handling this heavy period.

1. Check in with yourself and your loved ones

You might want to use this anniversary for remembrance and empowerment for the Black community, which is why it’s crucial to check in on yourself and the people who are close to you. Take some time out for yourself, and also see how your loved ones are feeling and try to engage in healthy conversation, which is not centered around the pain and trauma that will most likely be circulated online.

2. Set boundaries

Implementing safe boundaries will prevent you from being exposed to any emotionally triggering content which is being shared around this anniversary, if you do not feel like you are in a place to engage with it. This might look like taking a day away from social media, if you are concerned that scrolling will cause you to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

3. Engage with uplifting, empowering content

You can use this time to refocus your mind by engaging with empowering and uplifting content, which will help counterbalance any unwanted, triggering thoughts or feelings and help to shift your mindset to a happier place. This can be achieved by consuming work from Black creatives, such as books, films, art, music or media.

4. Monitor your social media intake

If you do want to go on social media, know how to protect yourself when online and prevent possible trauma triggers. Unfollow, mute, or block accounts who you think may share content you don't want to see, turn off your notifications to prevent them from popping up on your phone screen and take 'time out' breaks.

5. Seek support

If you are finding yourself feeling triggered around this time, you can seek professional help, including counseling, which can be a helpful way to learn coping mechanisms and protect your mental health when on and offline. I founded Cultureminds Therapy, an online directory platform for people within the Black and Asian community, to help you to find a culturally competent therapist.

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