4 Ways to Manage Race-Related Stress

If you are a Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC) in this country, you might not have to think very hard to identify instances of racism that have happened in your life, or the lives of your loved ones. You may have been passed up for a promotion at work that you are qualified for because the other candidate was “a better fit.” You might have been pulled over and extensively questioned by a police officer who made clear their suspicion of your presence in a particular neighborhood. Someone may have even yelled a racial slur right to your face. These experiences will likely stand out in your memory whenever you think of racism and race-related stress, but there is another feeling of distress that can occur even if you are not being directly persecuted. Watching social or mainstream media depictions of racial injustice, police brutality, profiling, hateful demonstrations, and countless examples of racial violence and cruelty that are happening outside your community can still leave you with feelings of fear, anger, discomfort, anxiety, and emotional damage, although the events did not happen directly to you. 

You may not have a name for this draining, uncomfortable feeling, but it can be referred to as race-related stress or race-based traumatic stress. This sort of stress is a product of racism that is experienced through institutions, micro-aggressions from other people, and even from the racial stereotypes that permeate our culture.

We can work towards a less hate-filled world while caring for our own mental health. Until our culture, institutions, and even individuals acknowledge and learn to address discrimination openly and honestly, we might always feel a chronic burden hovering over us. Even so, there are things that are in our power to reduce race-related stress:

1.  Remember you are not alone, and there is no shame in asking for help. The causes of racial stress, such as systemic racism, are built to be very robust. One person can’t tear them down alone, and they can feel overwhelming to an individual. Instead, remember the supportive people who are in your life, and reach out to them when you are struggling. And let them know they can reach back out to you. You’d be amazed at how empowering it can be to know you have a strong community around you.

2. Find what gives you strength. Sometimes, people are taught to find ways of “coping” with a problem. However, building your sense of confidence helps you challenge those very problems we face. Sources of strength can come from unlikely places. Educating yourself; committing acts of kindness, faith, and spirituality; connecting with your family; or creatively visualizing a better life for yourself can all be sources of strength. Whatever your sources of strength are, write them down and remind yourself of them when you are feeling low.

3. Learn what self-care means to you. Do you feel less anxious after a guided meditation? Do you crave a little escape into a good book? Do you feel surprisingly energized when you exercise regularly? Is life just a little bit better after a long soak in the tub? Whatever it is, when you start to treat your own self-care as a priority, the same way you would your job, you’ll start to feel better and think with greater clarity.

4. There is no shame in asking for help. Self-reliance is a big component in many cultures, but sometimes we need a helping hand to get ourselves unstuck. When you know you need help, remember that there is no shame in reaching out to a counselor. It doesn’t make you weak or less of anything. It takes courage to ask for help for your own mental health, and even more courage to be willing to accept it. Counseling isn’t just talking about your feelings. It’s a safe place to explore your thoughts, fears, hopes, and above all, yourself. Nothing is off-topic when you are in a counseling session, including any race-related stress you are experiencing in your life.

People of color face challenges that can sometimes only be understood by another person of color. Lifeologie Counseling has therapists who are ready and prepared to address your needs involving race-related stress, trauma, and systemic oppression. Click here to learn more and to meet an experienced, empathetic counselor in your area.

About Lifeologie

Lifeologie Counseling was founded in 2000 with one goal in mind — to bring a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Creative solutions to stuck problems®. With our unique multi-specialty, collaborative approach, Lifeologie Counseling helps individuals and families heal their wounds and break out of old, unhealthy patterns.