Black Love and Mental Health: 8 Ways to Celebrate and Strengthen Your Relationship During a Pandemic
Updated: 4 days ago
By Aneesha Perkins & Dr. Charmain Jackman
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the Black community at disproportionate rates. Research shows that the pandemic affects mental health, particularly revealing increased symptoms of anxiety and depression (Gur et al., 2020). Inevitably, mental health challenges can profoundly impact your romantic relationships, which places the health of Black relationships in a vulnerable position. To celebrate Black love while navigating through difficult times, we put together eight activities to practice as a couple. Check them out:
1. Practice Mindfulness Together – Breathe together, literally. As a result of racism, oppression, and discrimination, the Black community faces numerous stressors daily. Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on being present and in the moment with no judgment of the thoughts that may arise. Research has shown that practicing it regularly can reduce anxiety and stress, and help regulate your emotions. Taking 5, 10 or 20 minutes to breathe together can improve the intimacy and health of your relationship. You can listen to a guided meditation on the Liberate app, watc
h a breathing video, or simply sit together in silence with your 5 senses guiding you (e.g., noticing the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and any tastes). Afterward, take a few minutes to discuss both of your personal experiences and reactions. Continue to discover ways to de-stress together.
2. Reconnect – Get reacquainted again. Your partner is continuously evolving with time. The individual you met at the beginning of your relationship is likely a different person in some ways now, especially with life events such as COVID-19, career changes, new personal and professional roles, the loss of loved ones, and so on. Cook a delicious meal, play your favorite jams, and set aside a few hours to sit down and ask each other a few thoughtful questions. Check out the “Finding Your Sweet Spot” card deck, which provides carefully crafted conversation prompts
that you can use to explore and strengthen your relationship. Scheduling re-connecting may seem formal, but it is the best way to make it happen. So get out your planners and schedule your next connection time!
3. Affirm your partner – Speak positivity into your partner regularly. Remind your significant other of what you love, respect, and admire about them. When conflict arises in your relationship, it’s easy to gravitate towards the qualities you find challenging about the other person. Yet, there are many reasons you initially chose to be with each other. To help you remember those reasons, create a list of positive qualities that you love and describe moments in which those attributes were displayed. Being descriptive shows that you see and notice your partner. Create short cards or letters that include the descriptions and share them during stressful times. You can also write short notes and leave them for your partner to find. For example, write a note on the bathroom mirror or put a note in their lunchbox!
4. Practice Your Partner’s Love Language – Make deposits in your partner’s love bank. Do you know your partner’s love language? You might be surprised to find out that your partner’s love language is different than what you thought! Set aside 10 minutes to take Dr. Gary Chapman’s Love Language quiz. Implementing your partner’s love language habitually is similar to taking your car into the shop for routine oil changes. Without regular oil changes, the vehicle can’t operate effectively. Spend a day each week to discuss one of your love languages and develop a list of tangible examples that display your love language in action. Be open and share why your language is important and how it makes you feel seen, affirmed, and valued.
5. Create a Relationship Playlist – Vibe to your favorite songs together. Music can truly set the mood, and it allows you to experience a variety of emotions. Plan to co-create a music playlist with your partner. Think of it as a modern-day mixed tape with a twist! Include music that highlights milestones or special moments in your relationship. For example, the first song you danced to or the song that was playing when you and your partner first kissed. After the playlist has b
een created, plan a date, cook together or order takeout, and listen to the songs together. If you’re feeling ambitious, get up and dance together. This is also the perfect idea if you are dating long-distance or connecting virtually.
6. Move Together – Allow yourselves to enjoy some movement together; whether it entails walking, dancing, or stretching. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that African Americans are twice as likely as White Americans to die of heart disease and
experience more hypertension and diabetes issues. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, physical activity helps reduce chronic diseases, obesity, depression, and morbidity (Ray, 2017). Movement has positive benefits for both our physical and mental health. Dur
ing the pandemic, most people have experienced significant reduction in daily movement. Building movement back into your routine can help to boost your mood, decrease anxiety, and generally help you to feel better. Working out is definitely more fun with a partner. Set aside a few weekly 30-minute workouts together. Grab your water bottle, press play on that playlist, stretch together, and find a workout online that matches your pace, comfort level, and mobility needs.
7. Read Together – One way to foster a sense of closeness is through intellectual intimacy or engaging in stimulating activities together. Staying connected during the pandemic can be difficult, especially for those in long-distance relationships. Grab the book you’ve intended to read and ask your partner to do the same. Set up a virtual date, bring your favorite snacks, a cozy throw, and read your books together. If you like, take a few breaks in between reading, and discuss the highlights of what you’ve read together.
8. Show Love to Yourself – Before anyone can love you, it’s critical to love yourself first. In a relationship or marriage, it can become quite natural to begin prioritizing your partner’s needs over yours, leading to a lack of motivation or energy to give yourself the same tend
er love, care, and attention. Yet, it’s almost impossible to pour into someone else’s cup when your cup is empty. Fill your self-love cup up first! Trust me, it will strengthen the way you love your partner. Get back in touch with who you are as an individual. Treat yourself in the same way that you desire to be treated. Celebrate and shower yourself with daily unconditional love, whether it is through journaling, reciting positive affirmations, or taking 20 minutes daily to engage in an activity that brings you joy and makes you feel loved.
Nikki Giovanni said, “Some say we are responsible for those we love. Others know we are responsible for those who love us.” As we celebrate Black History this month (and a
ll year round), we celebrate love. Black love, to be exact. Black love is beautiful! Black love is royal! Black love is you!
Aneesha Perkins, M.A., is a third-year Clinical Psychology doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP). She obtained her Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Christian College and a Master’s in Clinical Psychology degree from TCSPP in Washington, D.C. She is a writer, speaker, and presenter who enjoys helping women find wholeness and healing. Her clinical interests include mindfulness, self-care, generational patterns, and trauma.
Charmain F. Jackman, Ph.D., is an award winning, Harvard-trained, licensed psychologist with over 23 years in the mental health field. Dr. Jackman is the founder + CEO of InnoPsych, Inc., an organization on a mission to change the face of therapy and to promote wellness &
healing for people of color. Dr. Jackman LOVES talking about mental health and is a national spokesperson for mental health and emotional wellness. She has also been featured in both print and TV media outlets locally and nationally. Learn more: www.InnoPsych.com | www.DrCharmainJackman.com. Follow: @InnoPsych | @AskDrCharmain
Community engagement of African Americans in the era of Covid-19: Considerations, Challenges, Implications, and Recommendations for Public Health. (2020, August 13). Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2020/20_0255.htm
Gur, R., White, L., Waller, R., Barzilay, R., Moore, T., Kornfield, S., . . . Elovitz, M. (2020, November). The disproportionate burden of the covid-19 pandemic among pregnant black women. Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7513921/
Ray, R. (2017). Black people don't exercise in my neighborhood: perceived racial composition
and leisure-time physical activity among middle class blacks and whites. Social Science Research, 66, 42–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2017.03.008