By Robert Stitt
When a woman or person of color enters the workforce, they enter a world of conscious and unconscious bias. This means that they may have to work harder or perform better to get the same recognition as male employees of other races. Even when dealing with people who are not racists or misogynists, there is often a bias that is present. This bias is not limited to those outside one’s own race or gender, either. Often those with the greatest bias are other women and minorities. Understanding this isn’t going to make it go away, and it doesn’t do you any good to be upset about it. However, understanding the reality of the situation does allow you to be prepared for the situation you are entering into.
Comprehending your reality also helps you deal with the stresses associated with it. According to Black Enterprise, the stresses of workplace bias (or overt sexism or racism) has been linked to numerous psychological and physical issues including “hypertension, breast cancer, depression, cardiovascular disease, the common cold, and mortality.”
What do the ultra-successful women and minorities do to combat their stress? It turns out they often emply the same strategy that those who deal with other major stressors use: meditation. From Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Oprah, meditation is a major calming force in their lives. One of the world’s great traders, Ray Dalio, noted, “Meditation, more than anything in my life, was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.”
Studies have shown that meditation can improve mental capacity so daily tasks require less focus. It can also help on an emotional level, bringing out more positive thoughts, feelings, and even compassion. By being emotionally regulated, a person is able to reduce depression and anxiety.
There is actually a physical change that happens in the body during meditation, thus reducing cortisol production. Cortisol is the stress chemical tied to anxiety, blood sugar irregularity, weight gain, immune system repression, gastrointestinal problems, etc. If this list sounds like the very things that happen when you get stressed out at work, you likely have cortisol to thank for them. When cortisol production is reduced through meditation, your physical and mental state improve.
As your body and mind improve, so do your relationships with other people. You may even find that your workplace is more enjoyable, even though the workplace itself has not changed.
The question, then, is why are you not meditating? Black Enterprise suggests it may be due to a lack of knowledge. Many Black professionals are simply not familiar with the benefits of meditation. It is not something that is promoted culturally, and it is not taught in business school. In fact, meditation is often viewed as a “white thing”. Hopefully, with meditation becoming more mainstream, this will change.