Capturing The Culture

8 Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety From Racial Trauma

A lit candle, a bottle of lotion, a cactus, a vase of white flowers, and an elephant statue on a windowsill in the writer's home.

Self-care and wellness in the Black community depend on how much time we spend nurturing our minds, bodies and spirits throughout our daily routines. The implication of personal self-care time and time dedicated to our immediate and larger communities ultimately contribute to the overall wellness of the Black community.

Approximately 13.4 percent of America’s population is Black, and over 16 percent of this population have reported having a mental illness in the last year. One large factor of mental illness in the Black community stems from the experience of racialized trauma, race based trauma stressor post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) characterized by the violent experience of living in America, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 27 percent of African Americans live below the poverty line, contributing to mental health disparities throughout the community.

Symptoms of racial trauma are components of PTSD, they consist of the following: memory of distressing racist events, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance and avoidance. Racial-based trauma is present in adults and children as young as 12 years old, according to the University of Georgia Department of Psychology. The negative evolution of trauma can lead to physical health outcomes. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, indigestion and respiratory complications are all symptoms. Self care strategies practiced daily can help you cope with racial trauma and is an essential part of healing.

1. Recognize the racial trauma in your life.

Recognizing the racial trauma in your life means taking into account every instance you’ve felt uncomfortable, threatened or offended at the expense of a non-Black individual’s actions or comments related to race. Once taken into account, you must begin the process of coping with it.

2. Engage in mediation, prayer or spiritual practices.

Meditation, prayer and spiritual care are essential to the progression of Black people all around the world. Spiritual care acts as an aid to physical and mental discrepancies based on the intersectionality of race, life and society.

3. Give yourself at least an hour of self-care time a day.

Self-care is essential to day-to-day living and purpose, and when coping with racial trauma, self-care is important in the journey of healing and progression. This may include picking up hobbies that make you happy like journaling, reading, listening to music, creating art and physically tending to your body through exercise, body care and getting an adequate amount of rest.

4. Keep to a daily routine.

Discipline is a huge key to success. Get in the habit of setting a daily routine that makes time for your everyday responsibilities, self-care, and time for your community. This means every day designate a time for you to get your work done while also scheduling at least an hour of self-care. Incorporate hours doing things that serve the community or your immediate family and friends. Designating time to talk to people who care about you and support you is a helpful aid in coping with the racial trauma we experience every day.

5. Realize that you are not alone.

The fight against racism in America has been a long and weary one, but what it hasn’t been is lonely. For the last 400 years, Black people have gone into the world and faced racism every day. Look among the individuals in your community who can attest to similar experiences you’ve had and you recognize that the struggle against racial trauma is bigger than one individual or concept. The struggle against racial trauma is shared among a nation of people who have been subjected to systematic, economic, physical and mental oppression.

6. Turn to your community.

In hard times, communities often come together to hold space and support each other, so lean into your community and its resources to feel security in uncomfortable circumstances. Consciously knowing of a larger support system aids in your ability to show up confidently and resilient in any region.

7. Engage in recreational or outdoor activities.

Physical activity plays a major role in healing and addressing trauma throughout multiple areas of our lives. Recreational or outdoor activities often act as a way to relieve stress and anxiety because it is a physical outlet. A physical outlet is an action we do to relieve stress and anxiety where we can physically see progression in our everyday life. Oftentimes people find it comforting to have something to physically focus on within your everyday routine.

8. Seek out mental health resources.

Racial trauma, even in its most simple form, is not easy to cope with. While Black people have had to cope with racial trauma since adolescence, there are mental health resources available like therapy, support groups or hotlines.

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