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Dealing with Stress and the Impacts of Racial Trauma

Stress is quite complexed and it categorised in 4 ways:

-Eustress is a type of short-term stress that provides immediate strength. It is a positive stress that gives you the impetus to complete a task. (This is our motivation and inspiration)

-Distress, on the other hand, is a negative stress brought about by constant readjustments in a routine, witnessing or experiencing traumatic events. Distress creates feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity.

-Hyper stress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or she can handle. It results from being overloaded or overworked.

-Hypo stress occurs when an individual is bored or unchallenged. People who experience hypo stress are often restless.

Stress can have an impact on us physically as well. The body responds to high levels of stress with a – fight, flight response – hyperstress or hypostress which is a freeze response.

This means we are no longer in our comfort zone or our window of tolerance where we can emotionally regulate and make reflective choices, instead we often just react.

In moments like these we have a dysregulated nervous system, which controls the internal function of the body, and the emotional systems within our brain stay active.

Thus, we may experience the following:

• Body – temple tension, headaches, dry mouth, tight/aching muscles, fatigue, loss of appetite, rigidness, unsettled stomach, extreme change in heart rate.

• Functioning- lack of motivation, inability to manage stress, inability to do daily tasks, loss of purpose/enthusiasm, chaotic responses, memory loss.

• Emotion- emotional outbursts, highly strung, extremely sad, extremely flat, low moods, dissociated, overwhelmed, wanting to disconnect from others, aggressive.

We can return to a state of calm with visualisation, somatic adjustment and grounding.

Visualisation: Find a quiet place, image yourself somewhere you feel relaxed and at peace. This could be the beach or being held be someone you love for example. Remember what you could see, smell, feel, hear maybe taste, utilise as many senses as possible.

Grounding exercise: You can listen to a guided meditation online, making sure you are in a relaxed position laying with your back on the floor or sat up with your feet firmly on the ground.

Deep breaths- You can focus on your breathing and feel it get deeper and longer as you relax.

Somatic Adjustment- Comes from Sensorimotor therapies which focuses on our physical bodies (posture, facial expressions) and communicates to our nervous system and vice versa.

For example, if you hang you head low, curve your back and look downwards, negative feelings will come after a while.

Similarly, if you straighten your back, lifting your head or even raise your arms for a short while you notice a positive shift in your mood.

Try it, notice what thoughts you have when you feel under pressure notice what shape your body takes and make some adjustments to support a mood shift and positive outlook.

From these you can tailor and develop your own psychosomatic coping skills (interaction of mind and body) – ‘psycho’ – mind ‘somatic’-body.

Also exercise/regularly moving your body is great too and it’s not just about weight loss but the endorphins can help boost your mood and it keeps your mind healthy as well.

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