The Basics of Racial Stress and Building Racial Resilience

 In Blog

Part 1: Racial Stress: Allostatic Load and Weathering

1. “Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on the body. Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.”


2. “Allostatic load refers to the cumulative burden of chronic stress and life events[A]llostatic load and overload are associated with poorer health outcomes.”


3. “Blacks …had a greater probability of a high [allostatic] score at all ages, particularly at 35–64 years… “Weathering,” posits that Blacks experience early health deterioration as a consequence of the cumulative impact of repeated experience with social or economic adversity and political marginalization…. [P]ersistent, high-effort coping with acute and chronic stressors can have a profound effect on health… Not only do Blacks experience poor health at earlier ages than do Whites, but this deterioration in health accumulates…”


Part 2: Racial Resilience

1. “These recent discoveries about the effects of stress on health shouldn’t leave you worrying. We now understand much more about effective strategies for reducing stress responses. Such beneficial strategies include: 1) Maintaining a healthy social support network; 2) Engaging in regular physical exercise; 3) Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night. These approaches have important benefits for physical and mental health, and form critical building blocks for a healthy lifestyle.”


2. The Resilience tools below, developed by Lumos Transforms and shared by CHN with Lumos Transform’s permission, can help reduce stress.

Settling Breath

Sit upright w/ feet flat on ground. If you wish, close your eyes or soften your gaze, or look at something on the floor so you can focus inward. Put your hands softly on your thighs.

Breathe in slowly to a count of 1, 2 pause now exhale 1, 2, 3, 4 ……..
Breathe in slowly 1, 2 pause now exhale 1, 2, 3, 4 ……..
Breathe in slowly 1, 2 pause now exhale 1, 2, 3, 4 ……..
Breathe in slowly 1, 2 pause now exhale 1, 2, 3, 4 ……..
Breathe in slowly 1, 2 pause now exhale 1, 2, 3, 4 ……..
After 30 seconds, gently open your eyes.

Butterfly Hug or Knee Tap

Lift both hands with palms facing you. Cross your hands and grasp your thumbs. Place your hands on your chest with your fingers pointing up to your head and your fingertips under your collarbone. Tap one hand gently against your chest. Then the other. Continue 6 to 7 times.

An alternate way to get the benefits of the Butterfly Hug is to do the Knee Tap. Cross hands and tap on your thigh just above the knee, tapping one hand at a time just like the Butterfly Hug.


Put your right hand on your left shoulder and rub from your shoulder down to your hand (arm straight at your side, slightly in front of you) as if you are putting on lotion. Then switch your left hand to your right shoulder and rub from shoulder down to hand as if you are putting on lotion. Repeat 6 to 7 times. You can also squeeze gently as you run your hand down your arm.

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