Written by: Pamela Huley, MSN, RN
Healthcare Business Consultant
AABLI Alumna, Class #11
This much we know: COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease.
This much we are finding out: COVID-19 does not affect everyone equally. As the reported cases of COVID-19 increase world-wide, evidence has emerged that this pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color, especially African Americans. As the number of cases in the U.S. rises, inequities within the country’s health system are dramatically exposed.
Healthcare is complicated for us. Historically, this has been due to the problematic relationship between the healthcare system and African Americans. Look at the 1932 Tuskegee Experiment. The 1950 Henrietta Lacks genetic discovery. The limited or delayed access to basic healthcare that occurs today. These examples and many, many others point to a problem that’s existed for a very long time. The presence of COVID-19 is shining a harsh spotlight on it.
So why us? Why is COVID-19 disproportionately affecting our population? Three factors influence the risk of infection for people of color: 1) we are likely to work in jobs that are deemed ‘essential’, 2) we use public transportation, and 3) we tend to reside in high density populated areas amid extended family. Inadequate access to testing and a high rate of underlying chronic diseases continue to impact us disproportionately. Add to these factors the limitations of physical distancing, living in quarantined isolation and the restricting of social interactions, and the result is unprecedented, even for us.
When our lives are disrupted so profoundly, we can easily fall into the trap of dysfunction. But remember: It’s okay to ask for help and seek counseling because there is always room for growth and increase of knowledge.
Our mental health cannot be overlooked. The mind and body are connected, interdependent.
Don’t confuse mental health with mental illness. We all have mental health, just like physical health, yet the term is often erroneously conflated with mental illness. Mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. It is key to one’s relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributions to community. Mental illness, just like heart disease or diabetes, is a medical condition and is nothing to be ashamed of!
Awareness of your own feelings and emotions will help you think clearly as you protect your health and the health of your loved ones. It is a natural response to feel stress, anxiety, grief and worry during and after a disaster. Everyone reacts differently and your feelings may change over time.
If your world falls off balance, other issues will arise and cause you to struggle with emotional and physical issues that can interfere with your daily life. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. To strengthen yourself, the people you care about and your local community, it’s important to find ways to cope with stress. Let’s look at a few.
Your outlook is the lens through which you view your life and any challenges that may come your way. Ongoing self-care and maintaining a daily routine are two ways to develop a positive perspective, to “adjust your lens,” so to speak. Reaching out to friends and family and maintaining spiritual connections also are powerful long term supports.
Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news reports, including constantly accessing the various platforms of social media.
Make every effort to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Drink enough water and don’t neglect exercise, which is a game changer. Look for ways to increase your physical movement every day and throughout the day. Adequate rest and sleep are important, along with avoiding excessive alcohol and drug use. Be intentional about setting aside time to unwind, relax, meditate and do other activities you enjoy.
People with preexisting medical conditions are advised to continue with their treatment plans during and after the COVID-19 crisis. Always monitor overall health for any new symptoms to prevent worsening of chronic conditions.
Board service is no different from other parts of our lives. Often we serve as the lone persons of color on many executive boards, and we can feel isolated in our experiences. Having to defend the trauma of our reality can feel like a burden, exacerbated when we encounter people whose privileged experience betrays a lack of sensitivity to divergent points of view.
The African American Board Leadership Institute (AABLI) prepares you for these scenarios with expansive leadership and organizational skills training that will be necessary to thrive beyond COVID-19. Our focus will be to survive and thrive despite the systems in our society that create institutional racism and racial privilege.
Welcome to the new normal. It’s nothing like the old normal. COVID-19 has changed, disrupted or eliminated the very concept of “normal.” So these days, we must be intentional about 1) taking care of our mental health and our physical health, 2) connecting with others to maintain healthy relationships and 3) building strong support systems.
Pamela Huley, MSN, RN, AABLI Class #11 is a healthcare business consultant, real estate advisor, and university faculty member. She earned bachelors and master’s degrees from Howard University and University of Phoenix along with a professional certification from University of Southern California
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.