How to deal with microaggressions in the workplace, according to mindfulness coach with a Harvard MBA

What do you do when microaggressions at work start to affect your well-being? Many black employees resort to code switching, changing their appearance, or simply ignoring it. However, the stress that accompanies discrimination in the workplace can cause physical and mental harm, and exploring different methods of staying grounded could potentially be life-saving.

According to Harvard Medical School, discrimination can contribute to several health problems, like high blood pressure. According to a. especially for black women to learn which appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and found an association between chronic discrimination and high blood pressure in a large sample of African American women.

Zhalisa “Zee” Clarke is a Harvard MBA who transitioned from leading teams at Fortune 500 companies to teaching mindfulness and breathwork. After experiencing firsthand the detrimental physical and mental effects of microaggression in the workplace, Clarke began her journey to find healing.

“I worked in the financial services sector in Silicon Valley for years, and during those years being a black woman was very challenging. I was passed over for promotions. I found my white co-workers paid a lot more than I did.” Clarke shares with CNBC Make It.

“I would say things in meetings and people would just completely ignore my comment. And then a white colleague could say exactly the same thing and be praised. And that started to affect my physical and emotional health. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I thought, ‘I’m going to get fired’ every day.”

This work exhaustion sent Clarke on a sabbatical to India where she received her yoga certification, became a sound healer and studied breathwork. Practitioners say these methods of elemental healing offer several health benefitssuch as reduced anxiety, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease, although not all have been proven.

Clarke recommends practicing mindfulness, which she describes as “observing how you are feeling and also what is happening around you,” for Black people experiencing work stress, discrimination and/or burnout. She uses the acronym RAIN to stay confident in these situations.

“R stands for recognize how you feel. When you are angry, realize that it is okay to be angry. The A stands for allowing it to be there, the opposite of sweeping it under the rug. I stands for examine. What are you experiencing right now and what do you need to make you feel better? And the N stands for nurture, do something about it.”

Clarke also urges black people to practice breathing techniques that can help “reduce anger and reduce fear.” These techniques can be a quick fix when you’re in an environment where you can’t necessarily step back to collect yourself.

Clarke has two breathing techniques that she does when she’s in the moment: belly breathing and 4-7-8 breathing.

Abdominal breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s resting and digestive response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding science direct.

“Breathe in and let your stomach expand like a balloon. And then exhale and let that belly come towards your spine.

Corresponding health line4-7-8 breathing helps rebalance the body and regulate the fight-or-flight response we feel when we’re stressed.

“Fear can be very debilitating,” Clarke says. “The 4-7-8 breathing where you count to four, breathe in, hold to seven and breathe out to eight is amazing for anxiety and insomnia.”


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