Anxiety is the most common mental health issue on the planet. It comes in many forms — from a generalized version to some specific phobias and beyond. To this long list, you can add “racial anxiety.” It’s not new. In fact, let’s face it: racial anxiety has been a reality for a very long time. Only recently, however, has it been officially recognized.
The concept of racial anxiety is meant to serve as an umbrella term. It encompasses all the stress people of color (POC) experience because they are people of color. This includes a Wie range of transgressions. One of these is racial profiling.
What is Racial Profiling?
It is a practice of discrimination based on a person’s skin color and/or perceived ethnicity. Racial profiling could take place when you’re trying to hail a cab or get a table at a restaurant. You may encounter it when shopping for a house or shopping in the local grocery store. But perhaps the most stressful example of racial profiling is the kind perpetrated by law enforcement officers and agents.
This occurs when a cop uses a person’s characteristics to target them as likely lawbreakers. This potentially traumatizing event can also be potentially deadly. A POC has every right to question why there are being stopped, questioned, or detained. However, this has been shown to put the person at even greater risk. The daily — hourly — fear of being criminalized based on your race is the cause of an incredible amount of stress and anxiety.
Common Symptoms of Racial Anxiety and Trauma
- Social isolation, avoidance, and withdrawal
- Edginess and hyper-vigilance
- Less likely to take chances or stand out in a crowd
- Chronic stress
- Physical symptoms with no apparent cause, e.g. muscles aches and tension, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbances, and more
- Reliving events, nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts
The above list is just a sampling. Consider that racial profiling is always on the news. It’s also always being discussed within communities of POC. With constant reminders, it is crucial to practice some self-help tactics and seek professional support.
How To Cope With Anxiety Over Racial Profiling
Connect With Your Community
No one is going to “get it” like other people of color. Connect — in person and online — with folks who know the struggle.
Recognize the Signs and Red Flags
Stay aware of what racial anxiety looks and feels like. Learn how to address it early.
Know Your Triggers
Keeps journals to monitor your triggers. This information can help immensely with you avoiding situations that escalate your anxiety.
Take Tech Breaks
Step away from your devices. The non-stop notifications and clickbait headlines are doing you no favors. Take breaks and use that time to practice mindfulness.
Practice Daily Self-Care
Build resilience with a daily regimen. Elements to include:
- Stress management techniques like meditation and breathing exercises
- Physical activity and exercise each day
- Maintaining a steady sleep schedule
- Making smart, healthy eating choices
- Connecting with others for low-stress socializing
Find Ways to Be Joyful and Grateful
No matter how unfair our society is, balance exists. Your task is really a challenge. Find ways to help yourself and others thrive in a world of racism and prejudice. Meanwhile, do not miss all the reasons —big and small — to be grateful. This balance can buoy you in the toughest of times.
Ask For Professional Help
As mentioned up top, anxiety is more than just a feeling. It is a diagnosable mental health condition and requires support from an expert. Life can feel alienated for POC. Do not exacerbate this reality by going it alone. I’m here to help you, guide you, and support you.