The Way of the Warrior: Maintaining Yourself and Your Strength During the Unknown

yaneth acosta - May 01, 2020
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This post is written by our contributing writer,

Gina Villarraga, MSW, MPA, LCSW.

“A pandemic has started.” What?

“Your office will be closing, and you and your family will be home for the next few weeks.” What?

“Actually, make that a few months.” What?!

Our minds are not agile enough to process the amount of change in the world today. As women of color and professionals, we are warriors. We fly head-first toward our crisis so that we can understand it and gain control over it. We set up calendars, webcam meetings, virtual workouts, food deliveries, and homework sessions. We strategize our lives around our crisis, as warriors would. However, total control is impossible, and the fear of the unknown can settle into us as a constantly present feeling, even without us knowing it’s there. Many questions and emotions can arise along with the unresolved pain and trauma, and the old ways of coping often leave them unanswered.  

My clients often say: “I know I will be okay; I’m working and doing what I can. But I’m still nervous and anxious and sad… why?”

My answer: "This is normal.”

Not the pandemic or global shutdown, but the feelings that we are experiencing – these are always normal, healthy, and much-needed.  Our feelings are indicators of something within us that needs attention.

Women (and especially women of color) have a history of trauma, pain, and crisis management from being marginalized and discriminated against in society. Many women of color know from experience how to survive during a crisis, and that is why many of us have jumped into action and organized our new lives to create a sense of control – many of us also strive to protect our loved ones in the process.  However, as the crisis settles into a rhythm and this “new norm” begins to take shape, those heavy feelings start coming in and creating self-doubt.  

Again: “This is normal.”

These are natural feelings of your pain. However, you are neither weak nor losing yourself to the crisis for feeling them. Your body is now asking for attention it needs, and it is time to have the discomfort be your catalyst for spiritual, mental, and physical growth. 

Reach out to your clan – often the other women you know dealing with the same feelings – and vent, laugh, and cry (possibly all at the same time). Then, pull yourself together, and remember: you are a warrior. But even a warrior can’t fight all the time.

In many cultures, our ancestors did the following to gain insight and wisdom:

  • Move the body (tire your muscles, work your lungs, and sweat it out)
  • Eat natural foods (cooking can put your mind to a simple task, and calm your nerves)
  • Connect to your spirit self (meditation, quiet time, prayer, and isolation to reflect)
  • Seek out counsel (namely, in today’s world, professional help)

These self-care coping skills are needed because they calm our body’s nervous system and keep us out of the (also natural) fight or flight reflex. In other words: these skills let us feel our emotions. Our bodies need to be in a calm state in order to think logically, and if we are in constant anxiety, our bodies become worn out more quickly. Eventually, it becomes too hard to self-regulate – even with all the self-care we can muster – and this can lead to an emotional breakdown.  

So, breathe. And then, breathe some more. Take that time to yourself when your body tells you that it needs it. And, perhaps most importantly, know that you will get through this.

Because you are a warrior. 


Gina Villarraga, MSW, MPA, LCSW is a bilingual, multicultural cisgender female with a Masters in both Social Work and Public Administration from the University of Southern California. She began her professional career as a social worker in 1999 with her bachelor’s in psychology and Social Behavior.  Ms. Villarraga specializes in trauma work as an EMDR therapist working with women of color in Southern California. Her personal and professional experience has taught her that early and even generational trauma from our cultural background can leave negative impact on an individual.  She has found that addressing these core issues and releasing from that pain can lead to peace and tranquility in the essence of self.
Gina Villarraga is currently married with children, loves to salsa dance, socialize with friends, and has a daily mindfulness practice.  


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Yaneth Acosta

Yaneth has brought over 20+ years in the professional beauty industry by developing new business initiatives in the esthetics and wellness industry.

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