Discrimination has been in the news as of late and we felt it would be beneficial for those reading this newsletter to learn how to cope when you are feeling discriminated against. The formal definition of discrimination is “the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics such as race, gender, or sexual orientation.” Today, we’ll focus less on the “why” discrimination happens but on how it can impact the life of someone who has been a victim of discriminatory behavior.
The first thing is to recognize the intense emotional reactions that one may feel when it happens to them. Discrimination-related stress can lead to severe levels of anger, anxiety, fear, resentment, sadness, self-blame, and self-doubt (the list goes even further!). If you allow this stress to build up, it can lead to a wide variety of physical and mental health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, and even substance abuse. Additionally, it can have an impact on your day-to-day behaviors that may hurt your ability to take advantage of educational and career opportunities because you are avoiding situations that may increase your level of stress. Now, these are all reasonable responses to what can be a VERY difficult situation. If you are suffering from discriminatory treatment, then the first thing you should do is report it if you can. Also, do not hesitate to seek out professional help. However, here are some simple tips for the moment that can help you manage your stress:
Take deep breaths. This may seem simple but taking a deep breath has shown to lower cortisol levels. This will reduce your stress and anxiety.
Disconnect. Turn off your phone or take a break from social media. These things may be triggers for your stress and anxiety so practicing mindful isolation can help you cope.
Seek physical connection. Receiving a hug from someone close to you releases chemicals that will reduce your stress and anxiety.
Write it down. This can have meditative and reflective effects which will help reduce your stress.
Nap. This also helps reduce your cortisol levels which, you guessed it, can reduce your stress and anxiety.
Work it off. Exercising has shown to be a safe and controlled way to release your anger that may be building up causing your nervous system to be more stressed.
Remember God’s Love. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, so that we may have eternal life. His work on the cross and being raised to life conquers the curse of discrimination brought on by the original sin. You are valued beyond human measure – no one can take that from you.
Stress and anxiety stemming from being discriminated against can create significant mental health fallout. Practice these simple tips but most importantly, seek out those in your personal support system and don’t be ashamed if you need professional help to cope with the trauma of discriminant behavior.