In these modern times, you would think people would be more accepting of each other’s differences and uniqueness. However, discrimination is still very much a reality in our world and it is something many people experience every day.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines discrimination as the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on certain characteristics. People can be targeted because of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, weight, education, and income among others.
Regardless of the reason though, being discriminated against can be a highly stressful and damaging experience. If not dealt with properly, it can negatively impact one’s life. However, it is possible to overcome its damaging effects.
There are many coping strategies that you can try. The important thing is to distinguish between helpful, proactive coping strategies from the harmful ones. Maladaptive coping strategies, such as self-blame, denial, violence, and self-harm, for instance, are harmful not only to yourself but to others as well. Proactive coping strategies, on the other hand, provide you with healthy ways to cope and overcome discrimination.
If you are dealing with discrimination, here are some proactive coping strategies you can try.
Shake it off
It is easy to feel upset or hurt when you experience discrimination but try not to dwell on it too much that you fall into depression. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you and that what’s wrong is what was done to you. While there are instances wherein you’ll need to take a more proactive stance, there are also times when it is best to just ignore it.
Engage in pleasurable activities
People tend to feel better when they are doing something they love or enjoy. Indulging in your hobbies, whether it’s listening to music, reading books, watching movies or playing sports, can help take your mind off the upsetting episode, helps you relax and think clearly.
Play to your strengths
Being discriminated against can often decrease one’s confidence level. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses or on what some biased people think is wrong with you, focus on your strengths. Remind yourself of the things you are good at, the values and beliefs that you have and use those to motivate yourself to be a better person. You may also look to other people like you who are discriminated against but have shown excellence in what they do. Find inspiration in what they have achieved.
Experiencing discrimination can impact one’s physical well-being as well. It can cause lack of sleep and weight gain or loss, among others. Take note that neglecting to take care of yourself physically will also have a negative impact on you mentally and emotionally. It is important then to eat healthy and exercise. Exercise can not only make your body feel good but can also reduce depression.
Utilize religious or spiritual practices
Not everyone has a religion to turn to in times of distress. However, you can benefit from some form of spiritual practice that allows you to clear your mind and your heart. Praying or meditating about your experience can help make you feel better and at the same time allow you to make sense of it all.
Have a support group
Having a group of people, whether family or friends, to run to can make you feel like you are not alone. Talking about your experience with people you trust will help you just let it all out instead of holding everything inside.
It is also great though if you can find a support group composed of people who have gone through what you have experienced. Hearing about their own experiences can be a great learning opportunity for you. You might be able to learn new and better ways of handling things in case you find yourself in a similar situation again in the future.
Chances are, you are not alone. There are others experiencing some form of discrimination and some of them might be too upset or scared to address it or talk about it.
Remember that any form of discrimination, big or small, is not okay. It is not something to be tolerated or accepted. People who do not know any better need to understand this. Take this opportunity to tell them that what they are doing is wrong. Defend yourself and anyone else suffering from discrimination who are unable to defend themselves.
Seek professional help
Sometimes the experience is too overwhelming that professional help is already necessary. Don’t be afraid to seek help from the counselor at your school, from the human resource department at your workplace or from a psychiatrist. These professionals are trained to handle these situations and can help you manage your stress and anxieties.
Different situations and different people call for different coping strategies. Use one or a combination of these strategies that best fit what you need. Whatever you choose to do to overcome discrimination though, make sure it’s a positive and healthy option.