Many people have asked me what they can do to be useful in this surreal moment. I call this a surreal moment because this nation has never seen sustained protests and uprisings in all 50 states and simultaneously across the globe. There is an awakening that is occurring and a reckoning of past institutional practices, the beneficiaries of those generational acts, the current injustices and inequities, and questions surrounding what our future will look like and who will help decide that fate.

First things first, it is of the utmost importance for all of us to take care of our mental, spiritual, and physical health during this time. I always think of the flight attendant’s safety message before takeoff when they say, “In the event of an emergency, please place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.” As a child, I thought that was a selfish way of handling a crisis. As an adult, I see the value in making sure you are safe and secure so that you can best assist and aid others.

We are in an emergency. The future of our democracy in America is in crisis and we must take care of ourselves first so we can best assist others who will truly need us in the upcoming weeks, months, and even years as we literally and figuratively rebuild our communities. In this moment of upheaval, what are you doing to stay present but also protect yourself from the barrage of violent imagery happening all over our country?

It is my hope that we will each find a small moment in each day to sit quietly and check in with ourselves. As you sit in stillness and feel your heart beating and tuning out the sounds around you, it is my hope that you are strengthened knowing that your blood is that of ancestors who have prepared us for this moment. It is my hope that you will see your circumstance, whatever it may be, and find gratitude in some aspect of your life.

The collective loss many of us are experiencing is taxing, traumatic, and exhausting. However, if we do not take care of ourselves first, we may find ourselves with ailments far more serious than they need be. We must find ways to release the stress we are carrying in our bodies on a daily basis as we read and hear news stories of Black bodies under attack in their own land.

Hopefully you will find strength in music, sleep, nature, reading, sitting still, talking to loved ones, or finding an artistic outlet. By no means am I suggesting we ignore what is happening around us. However, we must fortify ourselves in this moment so we can continue to fight for justice and equity.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, political editor at The Grio, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.