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COPING WITH COVID-19: Racial Trauma

Ryan McMillian shares tools for recognizing and coping with racial trauma
Wanda Sevey

The COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the Princeton Theological Seminary community. To help us navigate this season, experienced counselors in the Seminary community are providing guidance on simple methods you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. We hope you find comfort and hope as you read about tips, techniques, and testimonies from members of our campus and alumni community.

This week’s reflection is offered by Ryan McMillian, counselor.


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For the seminarian, the coronavirus pandemic altered field education assignments, upended summer ventures, and introduced anxiety as many wonder with uncertainty what will happen next. Perhaps, the greatest impact included a transition from noticing God in community to finding God in virtual assembly. With disruption at an all-time high and innovative connection providing hope, a lethal and systemic issue related to the continued oppression of Black neighbors, colleagues, and friends sparked a relentless pursuit for change. Since racial trauma appears to be underestimated at times, here are three tools to cope with racial trauma, as well as recognition of its existence.

  1. Find your calling or lane. Many clients have wondered what they can do to help conquer systemic oppression, particularly if they feel reasonably fearful of contracting the virus as a foot soldier or protestor. Moreover, scarcity can become a factor, as some wonder if their efforts are good enough. Often, when we feel we are not good enough, there is no picture of what good enough looks like. Write a weekly list of actions that capture what good enough looks like for you this week. Please note that “good enough” only means that you did what you could do during that period of time.
  2. Utilize community creatively. Virtual meetings have enabled people from various geographic locations to connect more frequently. During those meetings, contemplate and dialogue about a particular scripture passage and how it speaks to you during this time. On the platform of your choosing, talk about the impact the racial climate and the pandemic have had on you. Emotional support through community is essential.
  3. Choose solitude over isolation. Isolation, here, refers to feeling separated or detached. Solitude speaks to being alone. I read a post that indicated “mindfulness meditation won’t end systemic racism.” This is true. In addition to finding your calling, mindfulness meditation while in solitude can be really useful. Also, consider the Tapping solutions app, which is derived from the evidenced-based Emotion Freedom Technique. The focus here is what you do with the time alone and listed above are tools to help process worry and fear.

If you want to process further, please contact the Office of Student Counseling to access services with culturally sensitive therapists.


Ryan McMillian holds a Master of Divinity from Brite Divinity School and a Post Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. For the past four years, he has worked for a group practice in Philadelphia, the Council For Relationships, as a Marriage and Family Therapist. The Huffington Post recognized Ryan in an article entitled “15 Black Male Therapist You Should Know.” Ryan brings together hospice chaplaincy experience coupled with a therapy background to train clergy and therapists on grief counseling techniques. He also has served as a guest lecturer and workshop presenter on issues concerning men, shame, and anxiety. As a licensed minister in the Baptist church, Ryan explores spiritual concerns in a way that honors the clients’ spirituality and embraces their theological outlook. He is also trained in Emotionally Focused Couples therapy, which is used to offer wholeness to couples.

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Chaplain at the Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Khristi Adams, Class of 2008

“At Princeton, we had precept groups—we’d engage text and debate. That gave me confidence to have those conversations anywhere.”