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Stress Management Techniques for People of Colour Experiencing Microaggressions

by | Nov 2, 2020

Most human beings do not get through life without dealing with stress. However, some communities deal with more stress than others.

According to a recent report by the American Psychological Association (APA), both low-income populations and racial minorities have a much higher risk of developing mental and physical health issues due to everyday stress in the form of racist microaggressions.

The APA report focused on the immediate need for raising awareness around the stress-inducing implications of persistent exposure to microaggressions.

Microaggressions may look like commonplace daily verbal or behavioural slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile or negative attitudes toward stigmatised or culturally marginalised individuals.

Below are some suggested stress management techniques to cope with the effects of microaggressions.

Reframe

Reframing allows us to see strength and intelligence in our coping mechanisms. Often, when we experience a negative situation, we can become emotionally overwhelmed in the negative. Maybe it is possible to see the reframe and focus on the strength you have shown in the way you have managed the difficult situation. Perhaps it’s possible to focus on how loved ones gave support to help you move through.

Relax

Stress causes tensions in the body, and this tension can result in chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. It is important to learn healthy ways to integrate relaxation and find time for self-care. Tools to try could include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation.

Practise Of Mindfulness Meditation

Research on mindfulness highlights that it is highly effective in managing toxic stress. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment. Through this practice, there is a slowing down, focusing on the here and now. As you watch your attention and sensations ebb and flow, you can develop acceptance of your thoughts and feelings without judging them. This process helps to cultivate self-compassion. There are a variety of online resources. Headspace is a great place to start: https://www.headspace.com.

Move Your Body

When we are stressed, our body experiences the fight, flight or freeze response. Stress hormones are released into our bloodstream. These stress-induced hormones can make the heart beat faster, direct blood flow away from our brain, into our arms and legs so we can be ready to remove ourselves from perceived danger.

But for many dealing with microaggressions, the danger is not physical; it is mental and emotional. Therefore, our nervous system gets confused; there seems to be nothing to run from or fight. So we don’t burn through these hormones, allowing the body to release. They can then linger in our body, causing damage.

One of the hormones released during a stressful incident is cortisol. If our nervous system gets exposed to cortisol too often without release, it can cause high blood pressure. Exercise is, therefore, one of the best ways to burn through these fight or flight chemicals. Regular exercise can also help with the production of feel-good endorphins which help us to relax and rest.

If you have to deal with microaggressions and this is effecting your relationship, please contact me.

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