(ThyBlackMan.com) Stress is a natural part of life. Just about everything in which we engage results in some type of stress. For a lot of black men in America, though, stress-triggers have most often been associated with law enforcement, poor health, and chronic unemployment. Over time, these triggers result in significantly lower life expectancies for black men. Consider this:
The average white male lives
longer than the average black male.
That’s the difference between a life span of 74.7 years for white men and 67.8 years for black men.
Although stress is something that is sparked by an external stimulant, it’s important to always keep in mind that we possess the power of choice. We can make internal and external adjustments that can empower us to handle stress in a positive as opposed to negative manner.
If black men are going to rise above the ubiquitous health disparities of physical and mental stress, we must do so from the inside out.
Here are four inside-out proactive steps that we must take to live a stress-free life.
Commit to a Stress-Busting Diet
Are there foods that actually prevent or contain stress? Yes! Most
Folate helps your body produce ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like dopamine, which tend to lead to more relaxed responses.
Foods that provide this psychological boost include green leafy vegetables, berries, pistachios, salmon, avocado and dark chocolate. Make these foods a staple of your diet. Moderate your intake of red meat, which passes through the intestinal system much slower and results in inhibited responses to your environment.
In addition, aim to stay hydrated by drinking three to five liters of water per day. Water is a natural energy-boost and contributes to a feeling of mental alertness and alacrity. It also keeps your body from over-working by acting as a lubricant for your internal organs.
Use Meditation and Breathing
Whatever the stress-trigger, it’s important to remember that each of us comes equipped with what I call a two-tiered internal stress-release system. The first tier is called breathing. Breathing deeply is a form of mental detox; it relieves the anxiety brought on by our flight or fight syndrome when sensing danger or stress (read: a disrespectful police officer, a negative review by a manager, an angry exchange with a spouse etc.). It does this by calming the heart rate.
As little as ten minutes of meditation per day can help you control anxiety and reduce stress. Commit to a deep-breathing regimen throughout your day. At your desk or during lunch take several deep breaths; in through your nose as your stomach expands and out through your mouth as it retreats back into its normal position.
Respond Don’t React
The second tier of our internal stress-release system is the response mechanism. The dictionary does not make a distinction between a response and a reaction. I believe, however, that there is at least a psychological difference between the two. A reaction happens in a split second, without thinking. A response, on the other hand, is usually more measured and stoic.
The opposite of a response is reaction, which tends to be more knee-jerk in nature. The person who reacts to insults does so without pause.
In order for the response mechanism to dominate, we must consciously monitor the changes we are experiencing when stressed. We have got to always be aware of our emotions as black men.
Respond to your stimuli. Do not react.
Engage in Physical Activity
What’s your physical outlet? How do you let the steam out after a challenging day? Add a daily bout of stress to a poorly conditioned body and the results are double the jeopardy! Stress is an equal-opportunity killer of black men, but a high degree of physical exercise is a sure deterrent.
Begin an exercise regimen with a minimum ten to twenty minute of activity daily. Take up jogging, swimming or cycling, or do a twenty-minute power walk after work. Try to keep your heart rate up for at least thirty-minutes. Eliminate bad habits such as a smoking, which only exacerbates bad health.
If black men are going to live stress-free lives, we must do so from the inside out.
Staff Writer; W. Eric Croomes
This talented brother is a holistic lifestyle exercise expert and founder and executive coach of Infinite Strategies LLC, a multi-level coaching firm that develops and executes strategies for fitness training, youth achievement and lifestyle management. Eric is an author, fitness professional, holistic life coach and motivational speaker.
In October 2015, Eric released Life’s A Gym: Seven Fitness Principles to Get the Best of Both, which shows readers how to use exercise to attract a feeling of wellness, success and freedom (Infinite Strategies Coaching LLC, 2015) – http://www.infinitefitnesscoaching.com.