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- Healthy Man of the Month for July 2016
- HIV Testing is HIV Prevention
- Your ‘Mental’ Endurance
- Bisexual Health Priorities
- Entertainment CEO DonJuan Clark
- New Drug Helps Men with Melanoma
A New Way to Manage Stress
As a Black man, it can be hard to not feel angry and stressed out when watching the evening news or just looking out of your window.
Trying to maintain through a hard day, dealing with relationship frustration, or attempting to stay calm watching people defend the Confederate flag on the news can take a toll.
Learning to actively control your mood can make a big difference in your day. If you do not learn to deal with your stress head-on, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has stated that prolonged stress can interfere with your immune system, reproductive health, and digestion.
We know the human mind is powerful, and that many say positive thinking is the key to mental health. However the reality is that positive thinking is only a first step.
Cognitive-Behavioral psychology is based on the idea that your thoughts and your actions can have profound effects on the way that you live and experience your life. So while it’s great to think positively, let’s talk about supporting those healthy thoughts with actions, and using actions to promote healthy thinking and the ability to reduce your stress and control your mood!
Like any other skill, learning to be more mentally healthy takes practice and starts with small steps. A great way to start down the path to a healthier mindset is through learning to use Mindfulness (a Cognitive-Behavioral psychology technique). Researchers have found that mindfulness training helped reduce anxiety and depression (Piet, Wurtzen, and Zachariae, 2012), and that mindfulness helped reduce stress in people who were already healthy (Chiesa and Serretti, 2009).
Using mindfulness means that you learn to be more aware of the moment. You learn to let go of the past, worry less about the future, and just deal with what is happening around you in the present.
Let’s try a mindfulness exercise called Diaphragmatic Breathing:
Most people breathe with their chests, so that their chest rises and falls with each breath. This is not the most efficient way to breathe, as you are not using a key muscle, located right below your lungs – the diaphragm. In this exercise you will learn to breathe using your diaphragm, and because it’s different than the way that we usually breathe, you’ll have to focus in order to do it.
It’s all about focus…
- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Take a normal breath in.
- You will notice that both hands move as your chest and your belly move with your breath.
- The goal of diagrammatic breathing is for the (belly) hand to move with each breath, but the (chest) hand to move as little as possible.
- Take another breath and try not to move your chest at all.
- Your belly should go in and out, moving the hand that is resting there.
- Keep practicing for the next 3-5 minutes, taking deep breaths and trying to control your body.
- How do you feel right now?
- What were you thinking about when you were doing the exercise?
- What would it be like to do this next time you feel like you might lose your temper, or you are in a bad mood?
My Brothas, take care of yourself out there. We know it’s hard to be healthy when you can’t breathe.
Bedford Palmer, Ph.D. – is a Counseling Psychologist in Oakland, California. He is an Assistant Professor in Counseling and teaches courses on counselor ethics, community mental health, human sexuality, gender identity, social justice, and multicultural competence. Visit his website drbfpalmer.com or tweet him at @drbfpalmer. Copyright 2015 Bedford E. F. Palmer II, Ph. D. Used with Permission.
Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593–600. Retrieved September 4, 2015 from https://www.radboudcentrumvoormindfulness.nl/media/Artikelen/ChiesaSerretti2009.pdf
National Institute of Mental Health (2015). Q&A on Stress for Adults: How it affects your health and what you can do about it. Retrieved September 4, 2015 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
Piet, J., Wurtzen, H., & Zachariae, R. (2012). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on