The Race to Good Health

A tour of minority mental health and behavioral pediatrics

4 Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

Understanding stress and how racial status influences quality of life.

Stress has been characterized as a physiological demand placed on the body when one must adapt, cope or adjust with situations (Nevid & Rathus, 2003). Longstanding research has noted that stress has an impact on both physical and mental health (APA, 2012). Recent statistics from the American Psychological Association’s 2012 Stress in America survey indicate that 39% of Americans reported that their stress had increased over the past year. More alarming, only 29% reported that they were doing an “excellent” or “very good” job at managing their stress. According to the Stress in America survey, sources of stress include money (75%), work (70%), economy (67%), relationships (58%), family responsibilities (57%), family’s health (53%), personal health (53%), job stability (49%), housing (49%), and personal safety (32%).

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When examining stress among ethnic minority groups, additional burdens may exacerbate stress. It has been noted that racial and ethnic minorities have more chronic stress due to factors such as perceived discrimination, racisim, socioeconomic status, acculturation, and family stress (APA, 2012). Signs of stress include: being tired or fatigued, having difficulties concentrating, irritability or short temper, and poor appetite. This may also be combined with unhealthy coping habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and over or under eating. If you notice any of the above behaviors you may consider talking to a professional.

Simple ways to cope with stress:

  1. Understand how you stress.  Stress is experienced and managed differently by each individual. Some things that may be stressful for some may serve as a trigger for others to become productive. It is important for you to know what types of situations make you feel different than you do most of the time. For example, stress may be related to your children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else.
  2. Find healthy ways to manage stress. The ways in which you cope with stress are unique to your personality. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities that work best for you such as exercising or talking things out with friends or family, listening to music, writing, or spending time with a friend or relative. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don't take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
  3. Take care of yourself. We generally do a good job of attending to our own needs. However, at times we can take on more than we can manage. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it's just simple things like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Take regular vacations or other breaks from work.
  4. Reach out for support. Although it can be difficult to open up to others about your life and problems, sometimes not holding things inside can help with decreasing your stress. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

 

Copyright 2012 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.

You can follow Dr. Turner on Twitter @DrEarlTurner for daily post on psychology, mental health, and parenting. Feel free to join his Facebook group, “Get Psych’d with Dr. T” to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.

 

 

References:

Fact Sheet: Health Disparities and Stress http://www.apa.org/topics/health-disparities/fact-sheet-stress.aspx

American Psychological Association (2012). Stress in America survey. Retrieved December 2012 from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf

Stress Tip Sheet by the American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/10/stress-tips.aspx

Erlanger Turner, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown in the Department of Social Sciences and a Clinical Psychologist.

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