How You Can Cope With Racism and Racial Trauma
By Lauren Krouse
Racial trauma is the phrase we use to describe how racist incidents, racism, and racial discrimination can add up in your life and become a source of chronic, toxic stress that can feel overwhelming—especially if you don’t have anyone to talk to about it.
But you can begin to process racial trauma with a community that makes you feel seen, accepted, and loved for who you are.
Here are a few ways to do that:
Validate Your Own Reality
It’s not uncommon to feel like the effects of racism on your life are somehow your fault, there’s something wrong with you, or you just have to get over it and pull yourself back up again. But racial trauma is real and what you’re feeling is real. It is not your fault, and you should not have to deal with it alone.
Talk About It
Find a trusted adult, friends, or family members who are open to having honest and open conversations about race and racism. Ask if they’re in a good place to talk about these topics and support each other as you share similar experiences, reflect on them together, and exchange ways to cope.
Separate Who You Are From What Has Been Given to You
A practice called identify affirmation can help reduce the negative impacts of racial trauma. With identity affirmation, you work with a therapist to recognize false beliefs you may have internalized about yourself, separate who you are and what you value from these thoughts, and push back against negative messages society gives you about your racial identity.
It’s like rewriting a more truthful and loving script for yourself. To rebuild a sense of self-love and compassion, ask yourself: How do I find beauty in my identity and who I am? What are my values and how can I honor them?
Give Yourself Time to Recover
Self-care can be a powerful way to reclaim the time, space, and rest you need and deserve. It’s not just a way to heal and recuperate from racial trauma, but also a way to insist on loving yourself in a world that can be hurtful and hateful. Practices such as mindfulness and journaling can also help you process heavy thoughts and feelings and consider new perspectives and strategies.
Take Breaks From Bad News
If you’ve noticed doomscrolling is giving you surges of anxiety or bringing you down, you do not have to be a direct witness to everything. It’s OK to take a screen break or decide not to watch a traumatizing video. You’re not letting anyone down or denying what’s happening. You’re protecting your own health and well-being, and that is the most important thing.
Find Ways to Take Action
It’s easy to get trapped in despair when you think about how much is out of your control, and those feelings are normal, OK, and important to accept. At the same time, you also want to think about what can make you feel empowered to push back against feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness.
For example, you could join a racial justice group to push for transformative change, connect with activists you admire for inspiration, or build your own healing and learning circle with like-minded friends. Just finding joy in the little things and having fun with people you can be yourself around can also be so healing.
Remember: You Deserve Rest, Care, and Support
Combating racism is going to take all of us working together to push for progress and justice. In the meantime, racial trauma creates real stress, exhaustion, and pain, and you need rest and care to manage those effects. Try to give yourself the nurturing love and compassion you’d give anyone else, and keep in mind that community has always been the key to surviving and thriving in difficult times. You deserve so much support.
If you’re struggling to find someone who can listen, hold you up, and help you find a path forward, it is possible to create new connections and build a support system. Learn how a culturally competent therapist could help or contact a helpline run by people from your community to be heard right now.
Learn More About Racial Trauma and Your Mental Health
- How Black Youth Can Take Care of Their Mental Health After Racial Violence
- Racial Battle Fatigue: What is Racial Trauma and Its Effects on Mental Health?
- How Exploring Your Black Identity Can Improve Your Mental Health
- Ways to Begin Exploring Your Racial Identity
- How to Break Free of the ‘Strong Black Woman’ Stereotype
- Using Humor As a Healthy Coping Mechanism
- How to Support Social Justice Without Hurting Your Mental Health
- The Benefits of a Therapist Who Understands Your Cultural Background
- How to Find a Culturally Competent Therapist
- How Knowing Your Identity Can Help When You’re Faced With Discrimination
- How You Can Cope With Racism and Racial Trauma
- Getting Mental Health Support in Black Families
- Celebrating Your Black Identity Is Self-Care