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Dealing with the Trauma of Racial Events #BlackLivesMatter

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

Feeling triggered, emotionally exhausted, angry, scared or powerless? We have 10 tips to help you manage your well-being.

Artwork by @_manlikemike

If you could describe 2020 so far in one word, what would that word be?

Most of us would probably have plenty of words to describe the year so far, but I’m sure we can all agree that the events of 2020 have caught us off guard. Our communities are currently feeling physically, mentally, socially and spiritually exhausted. We are tired, and this week many of us reached our tipping point.

It started with the footage of Amy Cooper calling the police to tell them she was being threatened by an unarmed African American man, whilst he was birdwatching and not causing any harm, to the murder of George Floyd, an African American man, by a former police officer. Not to forget, the assault of Belly Mujinga, a Black Woman who was spat at by a man who stated he had COVID-19, shortly after which she passed away. The list goes on.

Image by @_manlikemike

“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed” – Will Smith

Only someone with no compassion can see what is going on and not feel angry and disappointed. We are also seeing the impact of these violent incidents inflicting trauma within our communities. People have been triggered, and this has led to a chain reaction of Black people in the UK sharing personal stories of racism and violence on social media to express their frustration and anger. These experiences are parallel with the many research studies which have shown that Black people in the UK feel more negative stereotype threats and more racial profiling than their white counterparts. With this additional baggage on top of the usual stresses and pressures of life, it's not surprising that it is having an impact on our well-being.

Racial trauma is real and it takes a toll on our health, mentally and physically.

The psychological repercussions include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. As well as, physical health effects, such as cardiovascular diseases and additional long-term physical health conditions.

Taking this into account, is it a surprise that Black people living in the UK are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a severe mental health condition than their White British and Asian British counterparts? (McManus et al, 2018).

Image by @_manlikemike

Ultimately, there isn’t a right or wrong way to respond to what’s going on. Everyone responds to traumatic events differently. Some people cry, some people shout, and some people take longer than others to process events. It’s not a one-size-fits all approach, but before you do anything, acknowledge that your feelings matter.

If you are feeling particularly triggered, emotionally exhausted, angry, scared or powerless. This is your reminder to make your well-being your priority.

So, here are 10 tips to help you prioritise your well-being during this difficult time:

1. Remind yourself that you matter

You are valuable. Even on the days you don’t feel like it, your value does not depreciate.

2. Listen to your mind and your body

Take 5 minutes to do nothing but sit still in a place you feel comfortable and notice how you are feeling. Your mind and body will let you know when there is something missing, if you are feeling low on energy it’s probably time for self-care.

3. Focus on what you can control

Take a moment to examine the things you have control over and focus on dealing with those. For example, you can’t control how someone else behaves but you can control how you react.

4. Protect your peace

Do you need to be online all the time? Limit your exposure. It’s not healthy to be exposed to negative information 24/7, if you are feeling overwhelmed it’s ok to log off and take a break.

5. Pause

If you are struggling to find the words to express how you are feeling at the moment, that is ok, pause if you need to and take time to process your emotions.

6. Take out your frustrations

Fuel the energy into something productive. Engage in a personal project such as journalling your thoughts or a social protect such as a protest or a campaign.

7. Express yourself

Talk to people who can relate to how you are feeling. Whether that is people in your community, friends, family or colleagues, most importantly people you trust.

8. Engage in Healthy coping mechanisms

Adjusting to stressful events whilst maintaining emotional well-being is a challenge. Healthy coping mechanisms can give you the energy to manage the difficult emotions. Here’s an easy present moment focus activity you can try:

Name 5 things you can see,

4 things you can feel,

3 things you can hear,

2 things you can smell

And 1 thing you can taste.

9. Pass the baton

A practical way to support the Black British Community is to engage and donate to organisations who are empowering and uplifting the community.

10. Seek professional help if you need it

There are organisations and people available to support you. Do not suffer in silence.

Remember to be compassionate with yourself as we are going through a difficult time right now. Your pain matters, your race matters and your life matters.

These difficult times will not last forever, and we are committed to support you with your well-being during this time and beyond.

-Written by Vanessa Boachie

Psychological Therapist & Founder of Inside Out UK

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