When Separate Equals Hungry

A 2-part feature exploring food insecurity.

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Living Chicago: Being Outside

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Twenty-nine people were shot with six fatalities this weekend. This week Living Chicago leans into the challenges of being Black outside and opens up to practicing for peace to be a possibility. Reading reports of gun violence, “on the sidewalk” leaps off the pages as a reminder of the sinister side of Summertime Chi. Nature's healing properties seem untrue. The nuances of being Black outside can no longer be glossed over. On the one hand Black teens are being shot walking and standing on sidewalks. On the other hand, Black teens are showing destructive behaviors outside. The former elicits our activism, the latter often our aggravation. Reports of increased anger and frustration during higher temperatures are backed by research. A review on violence and temperature published in Environment International reported a correlation with mental health related hospitalizations like anxiety and depressive disorders to hotter days…and hotter days are coming.

How can we teach our youth to enjoy the outdoors? How can we teach our teens to manage their energy and tensions? The real question is do WE practice enough ourselves? Do we share those lessons in ways that teens connect with? Learning to manage stress using nature has its benefits. Giving your time to serve can be calming. Living with low stress on purpose takes planning. Take the time to reflect on your own relationship with tension. Acknowledge how the weather shifts your mood. Be aware of the energy it takes to learn, give, and live when outside is heating you up.

Plants can teach you how to calm your terrible temper.

If outside isn’t accessible, how could you use it for stress relief? Black Grandmothers often had some houseplant they nursed. Black families pass down pieces of plants like heirlooms and care for plants of those that have transitioned with love. Our community isn’t unfamiliar with caring for plants, but the benefits are more needed than ever before in our living generations. Bonsai trees are the epitome of calm. The tiny trees invite quite a meditative state. Its care requires patience, being present and intentional. Indoor plants overall have been shown to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Model the vibes you wish to welcome outside your home. Mood boosting indoor spaces are reminders of the importance of our surroundings both built and natural. How plants look, feel and smell has different impacts on our mood and well-being. Some also can be harvested for self-care such as aloe vera. Unsure where to begin? Visit Haji Healing Salons apothecary at 4448 S. Cottage Grove. Not only do they have plants and potting soil but also provide yoga, meditation and more for calming the heart and mind.

Giving back to get better health “voluntouring”

Volunteering and giving back can be really good for your mental health. Voluntourism is a way to double down on being of service while touring a community or destination. In a nutshell it is traveling for charity. Most people don’t think about volunteering and vacationing together. But for those who are into trying new things this may be right up your alley. This summer if you find yourself oceanside in California, Florida, New York or inland coastal like Benton Harbor, MI, or Gary, IN check out local beach clean ups during your trip. First identify the body of water you will be closest to or that is accessible. Visit the web pages of the local park district or state park for details on volunteer opportunities. Look for project partners from the environmental justice community or other environmental nonprofits. Beach clean ups are perfect for a day’s experience without committing your entire trip. If you are doing a local Great Lakes getaway, check out Alliance for the Great Lakes at www.greatlakes.org and explore their Adopt-a-Beach program. Help nature heal and get all of the calming feels.

Make dusk a date.

Chicago is filled with light pollution making it hard to connect with the night sky. While more lights are safer the calming dark is inaccessible. Lucky for us the Adler Planetarium calls the lakefront of Chicago home. Every Wednesday the planetarium is open late from 4pm to 10pm and FREE for Illinois residents. Embrace the dark and tap into your imagination and escape the everyday world. Change your perspectives of problems and solutions and connect with the limitless possibilities that a calm clear mind can bring. Reading the night sky is also ancestral. Across Africa constellations have different meanings. Of them the Karanga, from Great Zimbabwe’s legend is that the stars are the eyes of those that have died. The Tswana legend however says the stars are the souls of those unwilling to be born. Connect with the constellations. Look up and live in full awareness of how you can be a source of calm in your home and community. For more information on the Adler Planetarium visit their website at www.adlerplanetarium.org.

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About Author:

Dr. Mila Marshall is an environmental professional and journalist with a passion for advancing sustainability in all sectors. Her passion is directed towards urban food systems in segregated cities.



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