My Sister's Keeper

February/March 2019- Volume 2 Issue 1

Table of Contents 

Self Care For Black Girls

It's Ok To Be Angry Sometimes

Black Women and Anxiety

Racism and PTSD

Ask A Sister Therapist 

Self Care For Black Girls

We get so busy sometimes that we forget to take care of ourselves.   This happens to everyone but if you don't take care of yourself you won't be able to live your best life.  Sometimes when we hear the word “self-care,” we think of going  away for a weekend getaway or having an entire day of pampering  with massages, facials, and beauty treatments. All these things are amazing but they are also very expensive.   I've listed some simple and best of all free ways of pampering yourself and practicing good self care.

It's  important to remember that self-care also means  taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.   Here  are five free ways you can practice self-care daily or at least a few days a week because you deserve  to take time for yourself.

1. Meditation and yoga.

This doesn’t have to be long; even 10 or 15 minutes will help.  This  will  bring you more calm and inner peace and it also helps you live in the moment and brings your mind, body, and spirit in harmony.

 

2. Exercise.We all know  there are the physical benefits, but other benefits of working out include improving your mood and reducing stress, promoting better sleep, and making you feel happier.  You can work out at home or take a nice walk.

 

 3. Read

Reading is one of my favorite self-care practices.  I enjoy reading  fiction, inspirational memoirs and autobiographies/biographies. Reading often  reduces stress and puts you in a better mood,  and can improve your focus, and  also can help to develop your creativity.

 

4. Spend some time in nature

 Taking a walk in nature can often  improve your mood, and boost your overall well-being.   Walking  outside can also helps you sleep better and gives you a break from technology.

 

5. Do something that makes you laugh and brings you joy.

In the middle  of our  busy day, it's  easy to forget to make time for things that make us happy.  Think about  what brings you joy, then make time to do at least one of those things daily.

Sometimes  the best way to make daily self-care a habit is to schedule it. When you’re planning your day or week, write down the activity — or activities — you’ll do;  writing them down will make you more likely to follow thru with them.  Remember to always make time for you.

 

 

It's Ok To Be Angry Sometimes

Why does it seem like everyone gets to be angry, and be angry publicly, but Black women?  Black women are expected be restrained and many of us are made to believe we  have to be  mindful of our tone and mannerisms because as soon as we speak up, we're seen as a threat.  In order to pacify people, we often become hyper vigilant with our behavior so we won't be perceived as "The Angry Black Woman."  I'm here to tell you it's ok to be angry and as Black women there's plenty for us to be angry about, remember we have to deal with racism, sexism and many other problems, no one should blame us for being angry sometimes.

I'm not suggesting we should walk around in  state of perpetual anger and misery, that is very unhealthy for anyone.   However if something is upsetting you, express your feelings because holding it in will only make you feel worse and eventually you will let it out and maybe lash out at the person who wasn't making you angry in the first place.

Holding in your angry can  also cause lots of emotional stress and also physical health difficulties.  Holding in anger can increase anxiety, depression, your blood pressure and cause you to develop ulcers.

It's best to express your anger after you've had a little time to cool down.  Expressing anger when you're still very upset can cause you to be rageful and that often won't get your point across.  Sometimes it helps to write down why you're angry or maybe take a step back and count to ten to calm yourself down.  Once you're calmer speak  directly to the person you're upset with,  explain why you are angry, explore the  ways to fix the problem and suggest a way to prevent a similar thing  from happening again.

Remember not holding in your anger can actually help you to live a happier and healthier life.

 

Black Women and Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common reasons for women to seek therapy.  For Black women, anxiety is  often more chronic and the symptoms more intense than white women.

To understand anxiety and Black women,  you need to understand how Black women are viewed.    There are three basic images which we see of Black women, the Strong Black Womanthe Angry Black Woman, and the Overly Sexual Black woman.. These images affect how other people see Black women and how we see ourselves. They also play a role in the development of anxiety.

Strong Black Women -There are some  positive aspects about being a Strong Black Woman, but there are  also many negatives.   A Strong Black Woman  will keep going even when she knows she should stop, this places her mental and physical health at risk.

An Angry Black Woman  is perceived as a woman who is always ready to  “cuss” you out. I have found that many women who are perceived this way are actually very anxious.  The anger is often an outward expression of their discomfort with the negativity associated with anxiety.

The Overly Sexual Black Woman  used to be referred to as a Jezebel, which comes from the Biblical Queen who  was said to have turned her husband against God.  Since slavery, Black women have been sexualized in derogatory ways  Today  this is often seen  in rap and hip-hop videos.

Social Anxiety 

In workplaces, college and professional  settings around the country, Black women often find themselves to be  the only one.   In these situations, we  have  often been taught that we have to be twice as good, that we are representing the race and that we are being watched more closely than our white counterparts.  These beliefs along with the Strong Black Woman image often increases the risk for social anxiety.

PTSD

The rate of sexual assault among Black women is  reported to be 3.5 times higher than that of any other group in this country. Black women are also less likely to report their assault. Many never share with anyone what has happened to them. The trauma  will remain untreated and the symptoms  will worsen.

Racism is another   form of trauma that  affects Black women.  Trauma in the form of racism can be directly or indirectly experienced. Driving while Black, shopping while Black, and racial micoraggressions are direct examples of racial trauma.  Indirect examples are videos of unarmed Black women and men being killed.

Thankfully, the stigma associated with seeking help for anxiety  and other mental health issues is disappearing.  Remember that with the help of a good therapist you can reclaim your life from anxiety.  I was able to reclaim my life and so can you.

 

Racism and PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder usually makes us think of  combat veterans or terrified rape victims, but new research indicates that racism can also be a cause of PTSD.   I'm focusing this on the Black community since that is the community I know most about since I'm  a Black woman in the United States however other people of color may also suffer from PTSD and racism.

Racism-related experiences can range from frequent “microaggressions” to blatant hate crimes and physical assault. Racial microaggressions are subtle acts of racism,  these can be brief remarks such as "You're not like other Black people", vague insults, or non-verbal exchanges, such as a refusal to sit next to a Black person on the subway. When experiencing microaggressions, the person  loses  mental resources trying figure out the intention of  the one committing the act. These events may happen frequently, making it difficult to mentally manage the volume of racial stressors. The unpredictable and  often anxiety-provoking nature of the events, which are often  dismissed by others, can lead to victims feeling as if they are “going crazy.” Chronic fear of these experiences may lead to constant vigilance  which can result in traumatization or contribute to PTSD when a more stressful event occurs later.

While most people can understand why a violent hate crime could be traumatizing, the traumatizing role of microaggressions can be difficult to understand, especially among those who do not experience them.   Many African Americans also often wonder if what they're experiencing is a microaggression and often worry that they will be perceived as being overly sensitive.

Studies also show that African Americans with PTSD experience significant impairment due to trauma, indicating greater difficulty carrying out daily activities and increased barriers to receiving effective treatment.  Racism  has also been linked to other problems, including serious psychological distress, physical health problems, depression and  anxiety.   A strong, positive Black  identity can be a potential protective factor against symptoms of anxiety and depression, but this not adequate protection when the discriminatory events are severe.

Trauma can also  alter one’s perceptions of overall safety in society.  Black people with PTSD have been found to have lower expectations about the positivity of the world than Whites.  This adds to the suspicion many Black people have of the motives of Whites.

Once sensitized through ongoing racism, routine slights may take an increasingly greater toll.  Microaggressions, such as being followed by security guards in a department store, or seeing a White woman clutching her purse in an elevator when a Black man enters, is  another trigger for racial stress.     I’ve experienced microaggressions myself on many occasions.  For example,  once when I was a social work intern making home visits, I had to visit a White family in a predominantly White area in New York City,  and one day the family had a visitor and asked me to hide in another room because they couldn't explain to their friend why a Black woman would be in their home.  I remember feeling helpless, angry, and confused.  I  felt that I had a good relationship with this family and couldn't believe they wanted me to hide, when I visited other families, if anyone came over they would introduce me as a friend or a social worker for their children.

Sometimes I wonder how people continue to remain resilient in the face of ongoing, undeserved discrimination. Within the Black community, positive coping with racism may involve faith, humor or optimism.  These cultural values have allowed African Americans to persevere for centuries even under the most oppressive conditions. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that we can “fix” people to enable them to manage constant, ongoing acts of prejudice with a smile, and ask them to be perpetually polite, productive, and forgiving.  I believe we  need a shift in our social consciousness to understand the toll this takes on the psyche of victims so that even small acts of racism become unacceptable. We  also need people who witnesses racism to speak out and victims to be believed.

Ask a Sister Therapist

Dear Racquel

I'e been married to a white man for 14 years.  his family has always been nice to me even though most of them are conservative republicans who voted for Trump.  Recently however they've been acting much different towards me.  II'm a immigrant and they keep saying how immigrants have ruined this country and at criminals.  I don't feel comfortable around them anymore and don't want them around our children.  My husband thinks I'm overreacting and says they're just old fashioned.  I don't know what to do.

Mya H

Hi Mya,

Thank you for reaching out to me.  I'm sure this is a difficult situation for you and it's unfortunate that the current political climate has brought about  this behavior in your husband's family.  I think it probably would be best to limit your children's contact with that side of your family.  Your husband should hopefully understand that by insulting immigrants they are insulting you.  My best to you and your family. 

Best

Racquel

 

Dear Racquel,

  I'm a lawyer an one of the few Black women at the firm where I work.  almost everyday someone says something that's either outright racist or .borderline racist.  I'm so frustrated here but this is a great job and I make a lot of money.  How do I handle all of these microaggressions?

Samantha K

Hi Samantha,

Thank you for reaching out to me.  Unfortunately for most of us s Black women we have to deal with this behavior when we are in majority white environments.  i understand not being able to leave your current position.  Perhaps reach out to other Black women in law for support.  It might also be good to talk to a therapist about how this behavior is affecting you.

Best, Racquel

 

If you have a question for Ask a Sister Therapist, feel free to email me at rjoneslcsw@transforminglivesonline.org .  All identifying information will be kept confidential.

Thank you

Thank you for reading and subscribing to My Sister's Keeper, the newsletter of Transforming Lives Counseling Service.  I founded Transforming Lives in 2016 to provide therapy to women and adolescents especially Black women and girls.  Along with my colleagues  Latifa A. Williams, LMHC and Jennifer Dorsey, MHC- LP  we provide therapy within a  holistic and culturally sensitive framework.  You can visit our website at www.transforminglivesonline.org.  Thanks for reading and the newsletter will be back soon.

Warmly

Racquel

Transforming Lives Counseling Service

19 W 34th Street, New York
United States

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