Staying Apart, Together: Doing service on MLK Day is more important than ever

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Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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Martin Luther King III accompanied by his wife Andrea Waters King and his daughter Yolanda places a wreath at the base of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during the 9th Annual Wreath Laying and Day of Reflection and Reconciliation, in Washington, Jan. 20, 2020.
Martin Luther King III accompanied by his wife Andrea Waters King and his daughter Yolanda places a wreath at the base of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during the 9th Annual Wreath Laying and Day of Reflection and Reconciliation, in Washington, Jan. 20, 2020.

There is a lot going on in the world that is scary right now. I hope everyone has a moment this weekend to take a deep breath, get some extra sleep and spend time with their families.

Today I want to focus on what Monday will bring. Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and there is heightened awareness of the holiday this year. Many celebrate by spending time giving back with service. But volunteering and spending time out in the community is one more thing made difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there are still things we can do to help our neighbors on Monday. Many communities and local organizations have taken events online, or created outdoor, distanced and masked events. If you can't give your time, you can also donate to causes, support Black-owned businesses, spend time reading and learning about King's legacy or the issues of systemic racism against which he fought. You can drop extra food off at a local food bank. You can clean up litter you see on your street.

With the inauguration and the accompanying heightened security concerns next Wednesday, we are bound to be a bit more stressed than usual. Giving back is one of the best ways we can help each other, and ourselves, heal.

Today's mental health check

I ask you guys how you're doing all the time, but it's also important to remember that's a question we sometimes have to ask ourselves.

People are often told to check in with others when they notice someone struggling. "Just reach out" we say. But what about reaching in? Mental health experts say everyone should perform regular mental health checks to assess their own well-being. There's a process for determining if you are OK, and it's not unlike what you would do if you were concerned about someone you love.

"The way in which we see a physical doctor even when we're feeling OK, just to make sure that everything's still going right, is kind of how we need to be approaching our emotional wellbeing as well," Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association, said. Here are a few helpful, concrete steps to take.

  1. Find someplace quiet.

  2. Ask the big picture question. Are you able to function in your daily life?

  3. Look at your feelings and behaviors. Ask yourself questions like: How have my behaviors changed? How have my feelings changed? Do I still find joy in the things that once brought me joy?

  4. Check in with your physical body. How is your sleep, appetite, activity level?

Read more about doing a personal mental health check here.

Pensive woman looking herself in the mirror in bathroom.
Pensive woman looking herself in the mirror in bathroom.

Today's reads

During a presentation at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, GM's Michael Simcoe, head of global design, showed the world the Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) concept. It is a personal flying car. GM gave no timeline for its launch.
During a presentation at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, GM's Michael Simcoe, head of global design, showed the world the Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) concept. It is a personal flying car. GM gave no timeline for its launch.

Today's pet

I am obsessed with this kitten who found her way into a light fixture. Talk about flexibility.

Luna you are a queen of kittens.
Luna you are a queen of kittens.

"My daughters River, Joely and I recently adopted 2 kittens: Luna, now 10 months, from a local shelter, and Autumn, now 5 months, born by a friend’s backyard pool," says Laura Scherwitz from Fort Mill, South Carolina. "Luna loves to climb and here enjoys our dining room chandelier. Luna loves being held & carried like a baby around our home. Autumn enjoyed the sunflowers and prefers cuddling on our laps."

Beautiful flowers for an adorable Autumn.
Beautiful flowers for an adorable Autumn.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLK Day: A day of service seems more important than ever