Racial trauma is a topic that is not talked about enough and it’s time that we start having more discussions on it to help educate and uplift communities of color.
Not only can racial trauma affect your mental health, but it can also affects your physical and emotional well-being.
If you haven’t heard of racial trauma before, I highly suggest you stick around to learn more about it!
If you have heard of it and are looking to learn how you can personally cope with it or can help a loved one cope with this type of trauma, then keep reading to learn the signs to look for & 8 coping strategies you can start using today!!
What is Racial Trauma
Racial trauma is the effect racism has on someone’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
You can experience racial trauma if you directly are discriminated against or if you observed someone else being racially profiled & getting harassed due to their ethnicity.
A few examples that could cause racial trauma are::
- Hate crimes
- Discrimination at work
- Systemic racism
These are not the only examples of racism that people of color experience. There are an unlimited array of ways that people can and will discriminate against people of color.
If you are unsure if you have experienced racial trauma or would like to learn more about it, keep reading to learn about the symptoms and ways you can cope with it!
Who is Affected By Racial Trauma?
Before we get into what signs to look for if you think you may be experiencing racial trauma, let’s first discuss who is most affected by it.
Being that racial discrimination is one of the primary risk factors for racial trauma, any racial or ethinic group that has been treated insignificantly or has been dismissed due to the color of their skin could experience racial trauma.
In America, the majority of people of color will face racial trauma as we have a system that was built around racist views.
Although, statistics have shown that racial discrimination is more prominent in the Black community in comparison to any other racial group in America.
Alongside that, racial trauma can also be seen in children as young as 12 years old who have indirectly or directly experienced racial discrimination.
Therefore, it is extremely important for communities of color to be aware of what we can do to cope with this type of trauma to not only improve your personal health, but also your children’s.
Symptoms of Racial Trauma
According to the American Psychological Association, the symptoms of racial trauma are very similar to the symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
A few of the symptoms that are listed in the DSM-5 for PTSD are:
- Re-experiencing the trauma (flashbacks, nightmares)
- Avoidance of trauma reminders
- Negative mood/emotions (Depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Hyperarousal (body is in high alert)
All of these symptoms could lead to physical symptoms such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Physical Pain due to chronic stress
- Loss of Appetite
- Heart & Respiratory Complications
If you have experienced racial trauma, this does not indicate that you will experience all of these. These are just potential signs to look for!
For example, when everything happened in 2020 with George Floyd, I experienced an increase in anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and loss of appetite.
I did not personally experience the racial discrimination that George Floyd experienced that day, but watching his video and seeing the protests following was a lot to take in as a person of color.
If you have experienced these symptoms following a racist event, then keep reading to find a few helpful tips that you can use regularly to ensure your mental health is in a positive space.
8 Coping Strategies for Racial Trauma
In the Black community, we have a bad habit of pushing how we feel to the side and moving on from the trauma.
But if you never address it, that trauma will continue to build up until you can’t hold that baggage anymore.
This can make you feel suffocated and can be very overwhelming.
Instead of ignoring how we feel, let’s talk about a few positive coping strategies you can use not only for racial trauma, but to also just relieve stress!
Seek Support/Professional Help
I put this as the first one because it’s time that we normalize going to therapy especially in the Black community.
Some people don’t think it would be beneficial or that it’s a waste of time, but in reality everyone can benefit from therapy!
A big part of healing is for you to be seen and heard. Going to therapy is a great way to do just that and more!!
Not only will they be there to listen, but they are also there to help you through your healing process!
Below I have a few resources you can use to have an online therapy session or be able to find a local Black therapist near you:
Surround Yourself With Like Minded People
I want to reiterate that it’s important for you to be seen and heard instead of isolating yourself and pushing how you feel down during your healing process!!
Another great way you can do that is by surrounding yourself around friends, family, or like-minded people in general!
I say like-minded people because sometimes when we face discrimination, we learn that some people we associate with don’t have the same values as we do.
During such a vulnerable time, it can be hard to hang around someone who may trigger your trauma or may make you angry because of their views.
Therefore, surround yourself with people who can relate to your situation or understands what you are going through.
You can use that time to just have fun, eat some good food, play games, do something artistic, or even have a positive talk on the social issue(s).
Track Your Feelings
How you are feeling is valid. Please don’t forget that!
Don’t ignore how you are feeling.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be overwhelmed.
It’s okay to be scared.
Embrace those feelings and if you need to, let yourself cry too!! These emotions should not be bottled up, so let them out!
Now if you are like me, it can be hard to even pinpoint how you are feeling and why you’re feeling that way.
So a great way to start becoming aware of your feelings and getting comfortable with expressing how you feel is to track your feelings.
You can either download a mood tracker or just get a journal and dedicate it to you writing down how you feel and what made you feel that way!
This will feel weird at first, but stick with it and you’ll see how beneficial it is!
Become Aware of Your Triggers
To piggyback off the last tip, you should also raise your awareness on what places, people, situations, media pages, etc. that trigger your trauma.
Sometimes you won’t even realize what it was that triggered it, but that’s where tracking your feelings will come in handy!!
By becoming more aware of your emotions, you can also begin to pinpoint what triggers your trauma.
Create a list of these triggers and then make a list of coping strategies you could use for each of those triggers.
For example, if a trigger of mine is ‘The ShadeRoom’ page on Instagram, then a coping strategy could be that I block that page.
(I have no problem with The ShadeRoom, I just used it for the example!)
Or, if a trigger is seeing a graphic video of police brutality, I can take a break from social media, ban a keyword used for the video, or do a breathing exercise to keep me calm.
It won’t be easy when you are faced with these triggers, so it’s really important to role play and practice because the goal is for your coping strategies to be effective!!
Engage in Self Care Activities Regularly
You can’t go wrong with practicing self care!
To get your mind off of it and to put your mind and body in a positive space, try to engage in self care activities on a regular basis.
When I say regular basis, this could mean 2x/day, 1x/week, or 1x/month.
Whatever works with your schedule is what is best for you!!
I do hope that you will at least plan to do it once a week because that gives you something to look forward to each week!
But, if you are having a rougher day or just don’t feel motivated, remember it’s always okay to take a break and use that time to cater to yourself!
The most important part of this tip is to do what works for you!
Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past your limit.
You need rest and sometimes how much you need will vary from week to week & that is absolutely okay!
Limit Your Screen Time
One of the biggest ways we are all able to stay up to date on what is going on in the world is through social media.
It is definitely a blessing to have a never ending source of information at your hands at all times, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.
It’s especially overwhelming when it has to do with something negative and most times, the media is sharing too much information that can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and anger.
So, if you feel yourself glued to your phone and drained from seeing so much negativity, try to take a break from social media or from your phone altogether.
Everything will still be there when you get back, so don’t worry about missing anything!
You can always catch up later, but it’s important to reset and give your mind a break.
Use that time to do something that will benefit you such as meditation, prayer, reading, yoga, journaling, a hobby, etc.
There’s so much you can do when you take a step away from your phone. So enjoy the time away from the chaos and embrace the moment of stillness!!
Sign Petitions & Protest
The other tips focus a lot on trying to create awareness in yourself and also using your time to cater to yourself.
But one thing is that when we experience racial trauma, the event isn’t going to leave our mind.
So, it’s also important to still stand up for what’s right without having to ponder on the negative aspect of the situation.
You can do this by signing petitions, protesting, and bringing awareness to social issues within the community and on social media!!
If you are someone who is not a fan of being in big crowds, but still want to help, you can always volunteer to make signs for protestors or create care packages that have water, snacks, and masks in them!!
You should never have to lower your voice on what you feel is right!
Continue to stand up for what you believe in, but also make sure to take care of yourself while you do it!!
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to leave a comment on your thoughts on the effect racial trauma has on communities of color and also make sure to share this on your socials & with someone who might find it helpful!!