Empowering Latinas: Strategies for Managing Stress in the New Year

Patricia Alvarado is a psychotherapist and owner and director of the group practice, Alvarado Therapy

Empoweing Latinas managing stress

Photo: Unsplash/July Brenda Gonzales Callapaza

Patricia Alvarado is a psychotherapist and owner and director of the group practice, Alvarado Therapy.

February 2023 is quickly approaching. You realize that this means that you are one month into the new year. 31 days in.44640 minutes… and yet you are feeling more lost and stressed than ever before. The pressures to perform, the pressures to have your year end goals in place, the pressures to have a plan all feel heavy and unfortunately, all too familiar.  I remember when I first felt this type of pressure. I was in my first quarter in college and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. My family is Mexican, from Ensenada Baja California, and within my family, I am the first of many things, including the first person to go to college. Thinking back to my first quarter in college I remember thinking that I needed to do as good as I did in high school or better. The only option that I had was to not mess up, graduate, and succeed. The efforts, sleepless nights, and stress did not matter; what mattered was making the family proud and making this all worth it by having a good job after graduation. 

While this is one of my first memories where I can recall feeling stressed, stress and anxiety had been living within me far before that. The thing is, when we are living in stress, we are stress. Key factors play a role including socioeconomic status, missed opportunities, grief, and overall survival. There were many things that I had to navigate at a young age including my changing body, making sure my clothes didn’t attract too much attention, how to read the room, not get pregnant, and most importantly, not be a disgrace to the family. 

So how does this all relate to the stress you may be living with right now? Well, if anything that I’ve shared has resonated with you, I am imagining that you have been living with stress and anxiety for a long time. It could also be that the new year is triggering you, which can explain why familiar feelings and resurfacing. 

Sidebar: What is a trigger you ask? Well, a trigger is anything that can remind you of a past painful experience, traumatic or not. We can be triggered by many things like yelling, smells, colors, tastes…the list goes on.  

As a Latina, it might feel like the pressure to succeed is even higher because we want to make our family and community proud. You may be a Latina in the arts, a Latina in college, a Latina in tech, or a Latina in media…regardless of the industry, you are a Latina in spaces where it is not normal to see a Latina. Having a seamless plan in place can feel like a necessary expectation. Yet, what if I told you that you have a choice?  Yes, choice. 

You can choose the path that makes sense for YOU among those people that matter to YOU the most. You can let go of expectations and YOU can be okay, just the way you are. This takes unlearning and relearning. Just like you learned to react through stress and anxiety, you can also learn how to manage your emotions, set boundaries, and feel comfortable with all parts of you. So what does this look like? 

Well, I’ll start by saying this, it is not easy but also, not impossible. Remember, this might be years and years of living within discomfort so you are not expected to completely change how you feel from one day to the next. However, making small changes can create a larger impact, baby steps.

A few things that can help are:

  • Free Writing Journaling. Yes, journaling. Write about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Use a stream of consciousness approach by writing and seeing what happens.
  • Intentional Journaling. An example of this is the Five Minute Journal! It has prompts that you do morning and night as a way to check in with yourself. 
  • Positive self-talk. It’s amazing how different you feel when you begin being nice to you. An example of this can be:
    • I love myself for who I am today. 
    • I got this.
    • I choose to focus on the positive. 

    Positive affirmations. Some may think this is like a prayer that your abuelita said to her favorite santo, and that can be true! Also though, positive affirmations can be a game changer when it comes to shifting your mindset from negative to positive. An example of this can be:

    • I am proud to be Latina and will celebrate my culture everyday.
    • I am grateful for the support and love from my community.
    • I am confident in my abilities and decisions.

    Physical activity. It’s amazing how a little bit of movement can make such a difference in our mood.

    Practice mindfulness and meditation: This can help to clear the mind and focus on the present moment, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.

    Embrace your culture: Engaging in cultural activities or traditions can provide a sense of connection and pride.

    Practice gratitude: Focusing on what you are grateful for can shift your focus away from stressors and promote a positive outlook.

    Connect with loved ones: Spending time with family and friends can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging.

    Seek professional help. It’s okay to ask for help because you don’t have to go through anything alone. Working with a Latina therapist can really help you feel heard and understood. Check out latinxtherapy.com or inclusivetherapists.com for a directory of Latinx therapists.

    We all have a little depression and a little anxiety. This is okay and absolutely normal. Despite the messages that you have received throughout your life, you can be different and you can be okay.  

    Remember this: 

    Even though things can be scary or uncomfortable, I can acknowledge moments when I am okay. I am capable of healing. I deserve healing.

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