What the month of May represents hit close to home and is my heart and soul. If you didn't know already, May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage month as well as Mental Health Awareness month. In the midst of COVID-19, what May represents seem more important than ever before, at least to me and the communities that I'm a part of.
I have been deeply saddened by what I have heard and read, on the news and in social media, about the mistreatment and abuse of people of Asian descent. I have heard loved ones express increasing concern about their safety as they go about their daily lives (e.g. getting groceries, mailing things at the post office, being at work). Quite a few friends who are in the medical field have shared with me that they are purposely wearing their scrubs to run errands, in the hopes that it serves as a protective factor.
I know they're not alone.
Many people of Asian descent across the country, and the world, are being more cautious of where they go to get their groceries and run their errands. And not just because of concerns about COVID-19. Many have become hypervigilant when they go out, taking into consideration what neighborhoods certain places are located, looking to see who they're surrounded by, trying not to speak in any native tongues to loved ones and family members when others are around, etc.
Blame is a dangerous and deadly game. No matter what the issue at hand is, blaming only leads to division among us, with no "winner" at the end. It only delays solutions from being found, and deprives us of the sense of support and community we all long for.
If you are feeling as though you are more anxious or on-edge, experiencing nightmares, having flashbacks of other traumatic experiences, being more cautious or hypervigilant, feeling scared for the safety of you and your loved ones... Know that you're not alone in having these experiences. You are not "crazy." Our physical environment has a very real and direct impact on our mental well-being.
Take notice and acknowledge these emotions and things you're experiencing. Engage in activities to help you release some of the nervous energy (e.g. meditation, exercise, art, etc). Reach out to loved ones. They may need you just as much as you need them. And of course, therapy is always an option worth exploring during this extremely challenging time. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health if you want to "be okay" through all of this.
"The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you." - Celeste Ng
As most people already know, last Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. But ever since the start of 2020, we can already see on TV, YouTube, news articles, and social media posts, the havoc that COVID-19 has been wrecking half-way across the world.
Over the course of the past few weeks, the impact of COVID-19 has increasingly began to affect us and the communities that we live in, physically and mentally. Everyone is having to constantly adjust to a new "norm," as more news, updates, and mandates roll out across the United States.
Whether you believe it will gravely impact you, your loved ones, and your community, or whether you believe everything has been blown out of proportion, the truth is, everyone is/will be affected. In times of uncertainty, people tend to act on emotion rather than logic. Some people may run out and purchase vast amounts of things (e.g. toilet paper, food, water) as a way to ease their anxiety, while others may feel so overwhelmed that they can't seem to do any essential preparation. As with anything else, people deal with things differently, and there is often never an absolute right or wrong. (Unless of course it's someone who is trying to profit off of others' fears by purchasing large amounts of supplies and up-selling them. That would be a definite no-no.) Some people may prefer to wear masks as a precaution when going out, while others may believe that masks should only be worn by those who are ill or are medical professionals. Before we judge, remember to come from a place of openness to understanding and learning.
Unfortunately, some people have resorted to racial profiling, engaging in verbal, emotional, and physical abuse/harassment of others based on their physical presentation. Many of these victims throughout the country have been of Asian descent. And in the San Gabriel Valley, Asians make up a large part of the community. While it is understandable that people's anxieties and fears are more heightened during a pandemic or crisis situation, it is never acceptable to succumb to displaying racism and inflicting harm onto others.
We are not one, but a community. We are all in this together.
In times of hardship, there can be many opportunities to let human kindness shine through. We can all be a model of what we want to see in the world, passing on hope and joy to others when it seems unlikely and almost impossible. Lending a hand or a ear whenever possible.
And of course, before each of us can care for others, we must be sure that we are cared for ourselves. Self-care is a necessity rather than a luxury, especially at such trying times.
Whether you are trying to engage in "social distancing," being mandated to remain at home, or are quarantined, having some downtime may not be totally terrible. It can be a time to cut out the outside noise, step away from the daily grind, and allow time for introspection and reflection. Being at home doesn't mean you have to stare at a blank wall until COVID-19 is gone. There are many things you can do to keep yourself occupied and even be ready to hit the ground running once COVID-19 is a thing of the past!
What am I talking about?
*Mind in need of stimulation? Read that book you've bought but never read because you "haven't found the time" or "didn't have time" to over the past few years.
*Tired of your current job/career? Search for that new opportunity you've been wanting!
*Feeling lonely? Don't text. Call up a friend, host a group videochat through Google hangout or Facebook Messenger.
*Bored? Catch up on all those movies/shows you've been wanting to start/finish!
*Stressed out from all the constant bombardment and updates about COVID-19? Limit your consumption about it (e.g. reading 2 articles a day and/or watching only 15 minutes of news/online clips a day).
*Family members/roommates getting on your nerves? Have a talk about how you can respect one another's space and privacy a bit more, as you'll be continuing to remain in a confined space for a period of time.
*Feeling lethargic? Open the windows for some fresh air, or better yet, step outside to your back yard and walk around for a few minutes while you aborb some sunlight.
Social distancing is essential in keeping not just you, but also individuals who are at higher risk, safe.
To reiterate... We are not one, but part of a community. We are all in this together.
During this time, of all the things you can be... Be careful. Be well. Be considerate.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" - Aristotle
© Michelle Chan
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a showing of the documentary, "The Chinese Exclusion Act," as a part of the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival in honor of it being AAPI Heritage Month. As a second generation Chinese American, much like most minorities in the U.S., my education in the public school system only allowed me to learn about history in a very linear manner, one that did not adequately reflect the challenges and experiences of minorities.