ďMay people are destroyed for lack of knowledge Hoses 4:6Ē


     The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes stress as ďa mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability and depression.Ē In other words, stress, when out of control, can cause a great deal of emotional and physical damage. Learning to cope with these pressures is a key factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


     Where as exercise makes your immune system stronger, excess stress can make you more vulnerable to disease. Once youíre sick, stress can also weaken your bodyís ability to fight back. African-American men, in particular, suffer from a great deal of stress that often begins at childhood. Some experts think the excess stress is due to the racial discrimination we experience in our social and work surrounding. Think, for example, how you feel when several Caucasian people cross the street when they see you walking toward them at night. Arenít you frustrated when a police officer stops your car to check your driverís license for no apparent reason? Or when you canít get a taxi to stop and pick you up? Youíre an African-American .Our skin color often puts us at a disadvantage. Depending on where we live, events such as these may happen quite often, and when they do, they can cause a lot of stress.


     The real question is: Are you able to rise above these injustices? Do you feel victimized and angry when youíre mistreated because of the color of your skin? Or do you accept these insults as a challenge to prove your worth and integrity? Carefully watch the way your body reacts when youíre in stressful situations because your overall health and well-being are intricately tied to your state of mind. Becoming aware of anger and distress can be the first step toward controlling it. And you donít have to do all the work alone. You have many resources for coping with the strains of daily living; seek the objective advice from a friend, counselor, minister, psychologist, or psychiatrist.


     African-American men are very vulnerable to stress since, even though resources may be available, they may not have learned how to seek social support to deal with challenging situations. For starterís itís a good idea to develop emotionally intimate relationships with at least two or three people---men or women with whom you can share your deepest secrets and on whom you count for support.


     You can also release excess stress by exercising regularly and by taking advantage of the many entertainment options available. Get involved in any activity that brings you pleasure: Take a walk, get involved in a game, call a friend, do anything to remove yourself from stressful situation and relax and enjoy yourself. The situation may still be there when you come back, but the break will help you deal with it better.


     Take constructive action to make your life more relaxed. If your job seems to be a constant source of stress, try incorporating the aforementioned stress-reducing strategies into your daily life. Start a hobby or sport that you can look forward to doing at the end of a long working day. If you find yourself getting upset at work, make a conscious effort to think about things that make you happy outside of work. Use your coffee and bathroom breaks to go for a brisk walk outside.


     If youíve tried all these techniques and none if them seems to be working, consider what options you have. If itís your job that causes you constant stress, maybe itís time to consider changing jobs. If constant caretaking of children or an elderly person is stressful, ask a friend or family member to take over for a week.


     Whatever you do, donít attempt to relieve your stress by drinking, smoking, overeating, or using drugs. Although such indulgences may soothe your tension for a while, in the long run, theyíll make it worse by harming your health and further complicating your life.


     Only you can take control of your own level of stress, and to accomplish this task, you need to pay attention to the signals youíre getting from your mind and body. If you/re under too much stress, there are many techniques you can use, such as diaphragmatic breathing, meditation (incorporating any spiritual beliefs you have), and guided imagery, Worrying too much over day-to-day problems can jeopardize your health, so when you feel stressed out, do something about it.


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