Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to struggle with a mental health issue. Meanwhile, anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States. What does this mean for people of color (POC)? For starters, it highlights the profound impact of racism and race-related abuse.
Anxiety can happen to anyone due to early trauma, stressful life, etc. POC face all the same risk factors as white Americans. However, they must also deal with discrimination, fewer opportunities, increased exposure to violence, and lack of representation (to name but a few). Therefore, it is essential for POC to take active steps to deal with this intersection of factors.
4 Tips On How To Deal With Anxiety as a POC
1. Recognize the Symptoms
Everyone gets nervous or feels shy at times. This is normal. Anxiety exists to protect, and depending on the context, it can be very useful. Disordered anxiety is more an ongoing, free-floating experience. You worry constantly but you can’t always identify a cause. It impacts your daily life, and it’s wearing you out. Thus, as step one, learn to recognize chronic symptoms like:
Relentless worry, fear, and edginess
Racing heart, shaking hands, heavy sweating, and chest pain
Loss of concentration
Specific phobias or fears
Compulsive but ineffective coping mechanisms
Muscle aches and tension, headaches
Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts
Obviously, this is a small and general sampling. It can be helpful to use a journal to keep track of possible symptoms and triggers.
2. Resist the Stigma
For POC — particularly in the Black community — there are long-standing stigmas connected to seeking mental health care. It might be seen as weakness or a lack of faith. In addition, there might be valid reasons to distrust the medical system. Studies show that POC — particularly Black women — are often not believed when they describe symptoms of any kind.
But you must strike a balance between protecting yourself with getting the help you need. See Tip #4 for more about accomplishing this task.
3. Practice Self-Care
Your mental health benefits when you practice daily self-care, e.g. healthy eating, exercise, good sleep patterns, and more. Some complementary steps to consider:
Practice whatever spirituality you connect with
Create a support system of trusted friends and family members
Learn more and embrace your cultural identity
Reframe outdated perceptions of mental health, your culture, and your own needs
Getting into the habit of caring for yourself builds resilience. It also serves as a daily reminder that you are worthy of such an effort.
4. Find the Right Therapist
We have a long way to go but progress is happening. You can find mental health providers who are aware of the diverse cultural needs of their clients. With some digging, you will discover networks dedicated to connecting POC with therapists who understand and appreciate how different each of their clients is.
Try some free consultations and keep a long list of questions nearby. Find out exactly how any potential counselor factors in the cultural realities of their clients when suggesting any kind of treatment approach.
Once you’ve found the mental health practitioner you feel comfortable with, therapy can be a powerful tool for addressing anxiety. Together, you’ll work to:
Recognize and monitor triggers
Regulate your emotions and thoughts
Develop coping skills
I have worked with countless POC who had previously lost faith in the mental health field. They wondered if they would ever be understood and if any therapist would “get” it. I am happy to report much success with these clients. Hence, I invite you to reach out today so we can discuss how anxiety therapy could be right for you. Let’s connect and talk and get you started on a path toward validation and healing.
Jamal Jones is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Fresno, CA.
This content was originally published here.