The mind is a powerful thing and if you don’t conquer it, it will surely conquer you. This is something I often tell myself when a wave of stressful thoughts comes crashing into my mind.
Being Black in America and coping with stress seems so trivial when you think about it. America was built on the premise of stressing out Black folks. Slavery only ended 158 years ago, then systemic racism was baked into the crust of America. Black people in America have been dealing with unseen levels of stress since the founding of this nation, so it’s very easy for us to overlook it. But I’m here to tell you not to overlook it anymore because it’s killing us. Although stress isn’t something just Black folks deal with, our lives can be inundated with it.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Adult blacks are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites. Blacks are also more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than adult whites. Things are even more stressful if you’re Black and poor. Adult blacks living below poverty are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty. This is why it’s very important to understand what stress is and ways you can combat it.
What is Stress?
According to the American Psychological Association, Stress is the physiological demand placed on the body when one must adapt, cope or adjust. Stress isn’t completely bad and it does have its uses. It can be essential in keeping one alert and aware of problems you need to address, but intense or prolonged stress be terrible for your mind and body.
The most common form of stress is acute stress. It is short-term and usually stems from pressures from the immediate past, present or future. Chronic stress is a long-term form of stress that derives from unending feelings of despair/hopelessness. This could be caused by a number of factors including health disparities, poverty, family dysfunction, feelings of helplessness and/or traumatic early childhood experience. Many of these issues stem from some form of systemic racism. Education, geography and neighborhood, environment, lower-quality care, inadequate access to care, all play a factor in chronic stress among the Black community.
Some things stress can lead to:
- Low energy
- Frequent colds and infections
- Aches, pains, tense muscles
- Loss of sex drive
- skin and hair problems
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and strokes
How can I start to overcome it?
Fighting the battle with stress is not an overnight process. To be honest, it’s a life-long inner fight that you’ll be squabbling with yourself about forever. But one thing you can do to get your mind in the right place is to surround yourself with people who also have a plan to combat stress. Be intentional about what you are trying to do, that includes who you hang around. Also, feed your soul positive content. In an age where content is king, the right content can be godly. Manipulate those algorithms to feed you the type of content that will serve you best; mind, body and soul. And finally get some exercise. Poor health can lead to chronic stress and regular physical activity can boost confidence and overall healthy living.
It’s time Black people start looking at stress differently. Let’s start to be intentional about how we conquer it.
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