5 Stress-Reduction Tips For Black Women


An Ode To Mental Health Awareness Month

I inherited my advocacy for health as the child of a mother with heart disease, whose 12 siblings and mother also suffered from it. I began going on walks around age 9 or 10, with my mother following her doctor’s orders to manage her weight and alleviate stress.

Mom & Me on Grandma Scott’s front porch

I’ve heard the concept that “stress kills” so many times. But it wasn’t until my mother died at 65, that I knew it to be true. Being a classy, educated and God-fearing woman did not protect her heart from being broken by her husband (my father) and my sister whom the crack epidemic had enraptured, or my nephew whom my mother raised — as many grandparents of addicts at that time were forced to do. She was stressed out, and her heart disease could not be quelled. She surrendered her time here on earth after her third heart attack, brought on by many years struggling with stress.

So, growing up watching this life embedded in me the need to prioritize my own health & well being. Research studies have observed that Black women may be excessively burdened by physiological impacts of chronic stress caused by health disparities including perceived discrimination, neighborhood stress, daily stress, family stress, acculturative stress, environmental stress, and maternal stress*.

Reports show that these disparities coupled with consequences resulting from combined racial and gender discrimination may ultimately contribute to an increase in disease manifestation.

When Black women were asked in a study what their top sources of stress were, they reported the top three as health, family and relationships.

A Qualitative Assessment of Gender- and Race-Related Stress Among Black Women, Tipre & Carson

I questioned if everyone has the same stressors, independent of race. But, then, as I answer my own question, I inherently know WHY the stress is much greater for us Black women.

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a bright light on the disparities across racial lines spanning a wide range of health indicators, from maternal mortality rates to chronic diseases. Black women are disproportionately affected by conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, often experiencing worse health outcomes compared to other counterparts. And these disparities are exacerbated by social determinants of health, including socioeconomic status, education, and access to healthcare services.

In the same aforementioned and referenced study, when asked about how stressors could affect body weight, those Black women participants voted emotional eating, not enough time for exercise, and eating fast food due to lack of time or money as the top reasons as to how stressors influence women’s weight.

Illustration: Rogistok

Awareness is the first half of the battle.

Given this knowledge, I invite Black women to join me in doing the following 5 things to attempt to reduce their stress levels:

  1. Be selfish with your health. I know that taking care of yourself feels like a very selfish thing to do, but if you don’t take care of your body, your mind and your soul, I promise you two things, 1) no one else will, and 2) the world will keep going, you just won’t be here, or will be in a compromised state if you are.
  2. Protect your energy. The people you surround yourself with have great power and influence to shift your spirit, and thereby your life. Learn to trust your spirit. If something doesn’t feel right about how you are when you’re with someone, let them go.
  3. Obey your spirit. Each of us is a spiritual being having a human experience. As such, there is something which each of us is designed to do on this earth. When in solitude, cherish those moments, and ask your spirit what it would do about different situations, and allow your soul to lead you.
  4. Honor yourself. I completely understand the desire to be in relationships with other people. However, this craving can lead us down a dark path of compromising our values and what is best for us. Spend time knowing who you are, your purpose and your worthy, and never compromise your being just to be with relation to another.
  5. Take off the cape. We’re used to doing EVERYTHING, and being EVERYTHING to everyone. We have to stop. Our health, wellness and livelihoods depend on it. Slow down, try to honor your being, set your own pace, and do what you can, when you can. Validate yourself by being, vs doing.

If you’re in New Orleans, or can spring a trip to this magical city for Juneteenth Weekend. Join me and four outstanding women who are truly committed to living life on our terms and honoring our highest selves and our purposes at Freedom Fête on Saturday, June 15. Click below for more.

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  • Djuric Z, Bird CE, Furumoto-Dawson A, et al.. Biomarkers of psychological stress in health disparities research. Open Biomark J 2008;1:7–19. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Olivia F. Scott is Assistant Professor of Advertising at Loyola University, Adjunct Marketing Professor at NYU, Founder of Omerge Alliances Marketing Consultancy and Freedom at The Mat. Learn more at oliviafscott.com.



The O Blog | Marketing POV by Olivia F. Scott

Olivia is a C-Suite Marketing Exec & Founder. An NYU & Loyola Professor, she has led mktg at Carol's Daughter, VIBE, Live Nation, Ogilvy & more for 25+ years.