Stress Management and Resiliency Program for African Americans

Bizu Gelaye, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

Gregory Fricchione, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

Mind-body programs are a promising approach to providing accessible and acceptable intervention, particularly during the present pandemic to address chronic stress and enhance resiliency. However, limited prior studies have included African Americans who could greatly benefit from such intervention programs. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found African Americans reporting higher levels of chronic and acute stress compared to non-Hispanic whites. This includes disproportionately high exposure to stressors such as racism, discrimination, financial strain, community stressors, relationship stressors, and acute life events. Overexposure to chronic stress without sufficient resources leads to maladaptive neural pathways of over-responding to stress, depression, and stress-related acceleration of aging from cells to regulatory systems and premature mortality. The Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART-3RP) mind-body intervention is an evidence-based relaxation response to stress with more than four decades of research. The workshop will bring together scientists, mind-body medicine researchers, community leaders, and faith leaders with deep history of working among African Americans. They will work together to refine the SMART-3RP so that it can be tailored for African Americans in a way that incorporates spirituality, racial pride, survival theology, and reinforcement of culture.