Let’s Talk about Anxiety in Black Women
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
The other day I was driving to pick up my two-year-old from school and started feeling nervous. Out of nowhere. All of the sudden I began worrying about the sneakers he wore and hoped that they didn't make him fall on the playground. And if he fell, how badly would he get hurt? Every scenario raced through my mind. Super random, I know, but this is what anxiety can look like.
While I intellectually knew that the reasons for my sudden anxiety were mostly baseless, I still found my mind racing and imagining the worst possible outcome. Because this happens every so often, I took a moment to pause, take a deep breath and tried to reset.
Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an event or something with an uncertain outcome”. Women are much more likely than men to suffer from it, and here's the kicker- Black women are affected in even larger numbers, due to increased societal and environmental pressures. Well, damn.
Far too often, Black women are not allowed to acknowledge mental health concerns without being vilified or negatively labeled. We are consistently told by society that we must be a “Strong Black Woman”, and are not allowed to be vulnerable and powerful at the same time, which is utterly ridiculous.
Shaming around anxiety happens to everyone- from celebrities to every day people. It broke my heart to see one of my favs, Summer Walker, who had one of the hottest albums of 2019, vilified by the same fans who once praised her after she disclosed her battle with severe social anxiety. While her anxiety was so bad that she was forced to eventually cancel her tour, presumably losing tons of money, many spectators were quick to claim it was all an act and scream about her inventing an imaginary illness. She was attacked online and the backlash was relentless and cruel. These sorts of reactions, unfortunately, are all too common and are among the principle factors that prevent Black women from seeking, and receiving the vital help we need.
The good news, however, is that the stigma is slowly decreasing as more educators, doctors and therapists continue to address mental health within black and brown spaces. There are new and convenient therapy-booking apps, and intentional wellness is becoming more mainstream every day (a self-care reminder likely popped up on your instagram feed today, right?). Even more celebrities are beginning to address the topic of mental well-being, including Taraji P. Henson who recently launched a foundation and revealed her struggle with depression and anxiety.
The more people share their story, and the stories of how they cope, the better. Here are a few of my favorite tips for addressing anxiety- what are yours?
1. Seek Help: Find a therapist that can work with you to address your needs. Therapy should no longer be a taboo word and with the right help, your anxiety can be appropriately treated and addressed.
2. Know Your Triggers: What are the subjects that bring about your anxiety? Kids? Money? Think about what those things are and learn how to manage and address those feelings to avoid unwanted stress.
3. Move Your Body: Try to exercise 30 minutes every day as endorphins can help people manage depression and anxiety symptoms. Breathing exercises and meditation have also been proven to help.
4. Find Your Tribe: Take the time to reconnect with friends, laugh and engage. Many
studies have shown that social support improves black women’s mental well-being.
Anxiety should not be a dirty word for anybody – but especially black women. So take a deep breath and know that you are not alone and there are meaningful ways to manage your anxiety, however big or small. Oh, and, my son didn’t fall on the playground that day...go figure!