Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blacks pay physical price for stress of discrimination
Stress for Success
February 22, 2011

Imagine frequently:
· being followed by store employees who suspect you of stealing;
· being excluded at work;
· feeling like you have to prove yourself again;

Perceiving these and other racial stressors often, month after month, qualifies them as chronic stress making you vulnerable to illness and disease development. The stress will eventually take a toll on you emotionally and physically.

February is Black History Month, a good time to consider the on-going psychological affronts that many African-Americans still encounter, especially in their public lives of working and shopping, and especially in low income inner-cities.

At the other end of the African-American stress continuum is the stress experienced by more educated and accomplished blacks:
· 93% of African-American female college students admit to feeling like an imposter when they succeed at something;

Some of their stress comes from them:
· Feeling like “pioneers,” paving the way for more black achievement;
· Buying into society’s historic stereotypes of African-Americans being less competent;
· Being female since females of any race often ascribe success to outside reasons versus their own efforts;

Regardless of the source of racial stress, the negative consequences can mount.

National Institute of Health
‘;(NIH) research “… links excess prevalence and severity of hypertension among African-Americans to chronic and disproportionately intense societal stress." This partly explains why, when compared to all other racial/ethnic groups in America, blacks have the highest incidence of:
· Diabetes;
· Cardio-vascular heart disease;
· Hypertension and stroke;

“This is not to say that all African-Americans have poor health,” said researcher Vickie Mays, UCLA professor of psychology and health services. “However, African-Americans – as a group – have not gained as much ground (in health improvement) as other ethnic groups.”
When stress to the cardiovascular system is chronic to the point of allostatic load, the cumulative wear and tear of stress on the body, the immune system is suppressed, blood pressure increases and, over time, atherosclerosis can develop, resulting in coronary vascular disease. The chronic stress response is also associated with other diseases and obesity. (www.MinorityHealthDisparities.org.)

Heart disease is largely a preventable condition. Stress reduction strategies, including lifestyle changes, not only prevent heart disease and hypertension, they may even reverse some damage. NIH funded trials found meditation was 2 ½ times more effective in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure than typical relaxation. It’s a significantly healthier way to reduce blood pressure since it has no adverse reactions and costs nothing compared to standard drug treatment.

The health protections these strategies offer are only part of the pay off. Equally important is that from practicing healthy habits and experiencing their subsequent positive results you gain a greater sense of personal control, which lowers your daily stress level, enhancing your health improvements even more.

To reduce your stress, put your energy into controlling what you can, which largely excludes societal racial stereotyping. Instead, make lifestyle changes to protect yourself from the physical ravages of stress. How can you improve your daily habits of exercise, nutrition and meditation?

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eat healthy, stay active and stop making excuses
Stress for Success
February 15, 2011

Feeling refreshed after a wonderful two-week Colorado vacation with friends and family it’s time to get my body’s insides feeling as energized as my mind and spirit.

Here’s why my body needs help.

We spent a week with close family - three couples and four kids - in Durango, CO. Wonderful cooks in each family showcased their skills creating mouthwatering breakfasts, lunches and dinners. This continued with our Boulder friends, too. I ate heartily at every single meal (boof!) and consumed generous amounts of alcohol over evening card games, laughter sessions and football games.

Now that we’ve returned, we’ll do our annual post-holiday, two-day cleansing apple diet to rid ourselves of our excesses.

I have two additional healthy intentions:
· To switch to one or two meals weekly of beans and legumes, with little or no meat: since my husband is the cook, I must convince him this is a good idea. So, while in Boulder I purchased a bean cookbook. To make this happen I may have to cook these meals – I haven’t cooked for over 27 years.
· To return to my exercise regimen: weekly bicycling, kayaking and Nordic Track plus yoga multiple times a week. I slacked off last quarter due to a variety of reasons, one of which was the cold weather.

If I fail to accomplish these goals, I’ll stay attuned to my reasons – aka excuses, like it’s too cold to kayak today.

Best-selling author Bob Greene, Oprah’s former personal trainer said, “I’ve heard every excuse on the planet – except a good one. Having an excuse is an obstacle that you choose to place in front of yourself. … in general, we do it to justify not changing. When you are out of excuses is when you are ready to change.”

Which excuses justify you not changing? Do your knees hurt? Maybe your job exhausts you so much that you can do nothing when you get home but veg out. Whatever your excuses, bring them to your conscious mind and admit that you just don’t want to do whatever it is you’re considering. Keeping excuses conscious versus automatic (unconscious) gives you more power to change someday.

Also, strengthen your motivation for healthy change by using intrinsic reasons that benefit you rather than someone else. The day of each week I target for my Nordic Track session isn’t a day I say, “Yippee! I get to do the Nordic Track today.” I just do it because I’m committed to strength, energy, health, flexibility, etc., all intrinsic reasons to work out.

Greene encourages you to look for some form of activity that fits you. Distract yourself while doing it if that would help, like watch TV as you march in place. Make a t-shirt for yourself with “No excuses” printed on it. Eat modestly and healthfully five days a week leaving two days to eat whatever you like. Do whatever works for you.

As one reformed couch potato said, “There is no excuse good enough for poor health.”

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Children can overcome abuse, deal with trauma
Victims of sexual assault struggle
Stress for Success
February 8, 2011

In recent articles (http://stressforsuccess.blogspot.com) I’ve covered how vulnerable children are lured into sex-trafficking due to their desperation. S/he’s:
· Likely running away from an abusive home, therefore homeless;
· Alone and frightened;
· Just a kid.
A seemingly protective man, and sometimes a woman, offers to protect them. What would you do?

Beyond predatory traffickers/pimps who are preying on vulnerable kids, there’s a sad reality that makes them more vulnerable to this nightmare: early and repetitive childhood sexual trauma.

Sexual abuse harms victims’ mental, emotional, spiritual and physical development. The following description is adapted from “Childhood and Adult Sexual Victimization” by Parson, Brett and Brett.

A victim of repetitive childhood sexual abuse undergoes damage to her still-developing personality. The abuse shatters her very spirit, which is much more difficult to heal than mental and physical damage.

“Mind, body, and spirit” implies that spirit is part of the total self. Rather, spirit permeates all. It represents her essence. It holds the fabric of the self together. Spirit:
· Provides her with a healthy self-centeredness: a sense of her unique self;
· Is the natural belief that her self is her priceless, personal possession, worthy of protection and respect;

Sexual assaults devastate his spirit and self-respect. His natural social tendencies are haunted by constant vulnerability, resulting in blameless availability for adult abuse. The child goes from being spirit-filled and alive to essence-defused and empty. The degraded self may be drained of most traces of feeling human.

Contributing immeasurably to the child’s helplessness is the blaming the child for the incest while the adult denies responsibility. The abuse is committed on someone who is least able to protect himself from immoral adult power.

After repetitive abuse the child’s changed view of self is the essence of his stress. He’s robbed of his free will, spontaneity, and autonomy. His patterns of perceiving, trusting, and acting are drastically altered based on many secrets too terrible to face. He’s forced into secrecy with threats of exposure, abandonment, fear of repeated sexual injuries, and further humiliation. He’s constantly wary around adults.

He’s forced to grow up fast, learning how to survive. To survive he navigates his dangerous terrain through hyper-vigilance to adult mood and behavioral cues of impending abuse. He maneuvers around them. He de-activates the mines before they explode through good behavior and an appeasing manner to avert adult depravity. Running away becomes a viable option.

His spirit dims; her laughter is extinguished. Their environment is a place where no joy, hope, and love are allowed to flourish. There’s only emotional and spiritual darkness, helplessness, and buried rage to be resurrected at a later time, and unleashed suddenly on unsuspecting targets, including the self.

They live in a persistent state of stress-induced burnout due to near-constant paranoid expectations of attacks. Being chronically revved-up is akin to living in an internal police state.

What’s profoundly remarkable is that these children find a way to survive. Their strength and ingenuity are integral parts of trauma therapy, which can help. To find trauma therapists in our area go to http://www.mhaswfl.org/.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Human sex-trafficking is a horrific crime
Stress for Success
January 25, 2011

Got enough stress?

Compared to that of sex-trafficking victims, I assume yours is miniscule.

January is human-trafficking awareness month. This horrific crime came to my professional attention through a curriculum I’m writing for Beauty from Ashes Ministries, a local nonprofit that supports those in the sex-trade and adult entertainment worlds to leave those industries.

Here’s what I’m learning:
§ Federal law defines severe human sex trafficking as a commercial sex act induced by force, coercion OR in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18, eliminating the “consensual sex” argument with someone under 18;
§ Domestic minor sex trafficking victims are US citizens or lawful permanent residents under the age of 18 who’ve been recruited, harbored, transported, provided or obtained to perform commercial sex acts defined as any sex act done in exchange for monetary or non-monetary gain. Examples include:
o Pimps prostituting someone under 18;
o Parents prostituting their child for rent or drugs;
o Trading a sex act with a minor for basic needs like shelter or food, known as “survival sex;”
o Street prostitution, escort services or Internet-aided prostitution;
§ Nationally 450,000 children run away – or are thrown away - from home annually so there’s an abundant supply of vulnerable children;
§ An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 adolescents annually are victims of trafficking (National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 2009;)
§ American children are easier to recruit and sell than foreign victims because there’s no need to cross borders;
§ 30% of shelter youth and 70% of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation (Shared Hope International;)
§ One in three teens on the streets is ensnared into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home – 150,000 annually;
§ Shared Hope International reveals pimps commonly sell under-age girls for $400/hour, 10 – 15 times a day, six days a week, totally 9,360 – 14,000 sex acts a year for which the girls receive no money;
§ The average age of entry into pornography and prostitution in the U.S. is 12! (The US Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section);
§ 66-90% of adult sex workers were sexually abused as children (Violence Against Women, 2004;)

Think about the vulnerability of these children: most are running away from one abusive situation - their homes - right into another where traffickers/pimps are waiting to exploit them (more on understanding these children next week.) How would any 12-year-old you know hold up under such conditions?

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world (UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2008.) Ninety percent takes the form of sexual exploitation. Gangs increasingly prostitute minors for prestige (imagine that!) and income; it’s fast replacing drugs as their main revenue source.

Sadly, Florida is the third highest trafficking state.

These horrific crimes wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a demand for sex with children. And the “product for sale” is most commonly local American children.

For more information, go to www.beautyfromashes.org.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Some kids are vulnerable to sex trafficking
Stress for Success
February 1, 2011

January was Human-trafficking Awareness Month and last week I shared some information about the insidious crime of sex-trafficking. By increasing awareness of the traffickers’ strategies and of their victims perhaps we can help prevent it.

What makes children vulnerable to trafficking? A leading factor is sexual abuse within their homes from which many kids run away, as well as:
§ An unstable home life;
§ Physical abuse;
§ Being a chronic runaway;
§ Exposure to drugs;

Traffickers/pimps spot vulnerability a mile away. They recruit adolescents with low self-esteem who crave protection and love. They find them where they hang out unsupervised at:
§ Malls;
§ Parks;
§ Schools;
§ The Internet;
§ Other kids;
§ Bus stops;
§ Movie theatres;
§ Clubs;

The trafficker/pimp uses calculated recruitment strategies to earn his victim’s trust before grooming her for his planned exploitation. He presents himself as a friend, boyfriend, or caretaker. Through talking with his victim he assesses her home life to determine her vulnerabilities as well as aspirations, then targets her weaknesses, tells her what she wants to hear and gives her what she needs:
§ Offers shelter if she’s homeless;
§ Becomes her boyfriend if she craves love;
§ Becomes her friend if she’s lonely;

He promises a better life through employment, education and possibly even marriage. His offers represent a life-line to survival for his victims (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.)

The trafficker/pimp eventually introduces his real intent by persuading the victim to have sex with him. Satisfying her needs then establishing a sexual relationship become the basis for future psychological control.

As trust develops, he ups the ante: demanding uncomfortable sex acts and punishing any refusal or protests with physical and emotional abuse. His abuse grows as does his blaming her for the abuse. If she doesn’t conform, he expands his control over her by:
§ Threatening the loss of the glamorous life he promised her;
§ Using the act of prostitution as proof she loves him;
§ Using physical abuse such as beatings, starvation, locking her in a closet, gang rape, forced drug use, etc. until she complies. This is often followed by affection through love-making and privileged treatment.

He isolates her from all positive contact and interaction with friends and family as he methodically removes her security and resources. She gradually becomes physically, mentally, emotionally and financially dependent upon him.

This is when he maneuvers her into prostitution by requiring her to repay her debt to him or to earn money so they can achieve his promised dream.

The trafficker/pimp’s tactics are very effective in transitioning a young victim from a vulnerable run away or a throw away into a sexual slave. His victims are probably homeless and are too young and emotionally immature to make it on their own. They become helpless in the face of his increasing pressure and control.

As effective as the trafficker’s tactics are the psychology of the victims also works to keep them enslaved; my topic next week.