One of the Reasons Black Women are Anxious & Exhausted

Surviving White Culture

You know the experience of going out of your way to soften your tone so you’re not perceived as the “Angry Black Woman,” or obsessing over whether you should take your braids out for the interview. You know it all too well. It’s second nature. We alter our appearance, behavior, tone of voice, and mannerisms, not to fit into the White culture, but to survive it. Code-shifting is a coping strategy we use to persevere in hostile environments and to protect ourselves from pain and inequities. It can also give us a sense of belonging and a means to challenge biases and stereotypes held by others.

stressed Black woman at work, overwhelmed, Black man and White man are pointing the finger of blame at her

“Black womanhood has become virtually synoymous with strength. But the performance of this strength comes at an enourmous cost.”


-Chanequa Walker-Barnes, Author of When the Bough Breaks: The StrongBlackWoman and the Embodiment of Stress


The Cost

Code-shifting is our weapon in the war of racism + sexism + classism + whatever other “-ism” of oppression you experience. Code-shifting requires time and energy. At the end of a long day of battle, we remove our armor, only to discover we’ve survived another day, but not without being hit. Race-related stress impacts our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. These wounds can appear as depression, fear of places and situations, panic, feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, emotional eating, compulsive social media scrolling, and compulsive shopping.

Imagine that you’re home now, but still don’t feel peace. You don’t want to think about it anymore, so instead, you scroll or shop or eat, as a way to check out and comfort yourself. There’s a good chance you don’t even recognize why you do what you do. At that meeting today, your competence was challenged yet again! This wasn’t the first time and you know it won’t be the last time. But what can you do about it? You know what you’ve been doing isn’t the healthiest and it isn’t working

What Can Be Done?

We don’t always have the power to make our spaces of jobs and schools safe places. And even if we do have that power, how long before our change comes? And what do we do while we wait? Until our change comes, we can:

  • Create and seek spaces where you can let down your guard, get support, and validation (a group of friends or an organized Sister Circle)
  • Participate in activities that help you to reclaim your voice, like creating music or art, dancing, and creative writing
  • Practice mindfulness activities like yoga and meditation

And if you feel like you need additional support, you can schedule a consultation with me via 


Jessica Humphries, MA, LPC

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