From work to family to relationships and environments, the causes of stress can be plentiful and oftentimes, unavoidable.

For many African Americans, one of the leading causes of stress stems from money, or a lack thereof. With the cost of living on the upswing, an unstable economy has led to trying times for many Americans. A recent survey completed by Mental Health America (MHA) revealed that nearly half of Americans, 48 percent, are financially stressed. That number jumps to 56 percent for African Americans and carries with it a host of other stress-related implications.

Statistics from The American Institute of Stress show that nearly 75 percent of all illnesses affecting Americans are stress induced. High blood pressure, heart disease and cancer can all be linked to stress and without proper knowledge or assistance, the results can be fatal.
Suzanne Jessee, a professional counselor who promotes spiritually based stress coping mechanisms, was once plagued by anxiety disorders and agoraphobia (fear of being in public). However, she developed an emotional detoxification program that aims to lessen mental distress through lifestyle changes and exercise.

"It's just the process of going through and cleaning emotional house," Jessee said of the program. "I use a combination of therapeutic techniques to take you through the detoxification process. It goes along the lines of the seven R's: relaxation, realization, re-education, rehabilitation, reinforcement, responsibility and reassurance.”

Because stress is inevitable, improving coping mechanisms can better African Americans’ quality of life. While many turn to alcohol or increased food consumption to escape unpleasant realities, the ramifications of these methods can often cause more harm than good.

Avoiding or limiting the intake of white flour, sugar and caffeine are some of Jessee's most important tips along with the healthy consumption of lean proteins such as turkey, fish and almonds.

"So many times we eat for pleasure, enjoyment and emotional satisfaction," Jessee said. "The best fuel for our [bodies] is food from the earth that hasn't been altered chemically."

Jessee's therapy method differs from other stress alleviation models because it teaches lifelong skills to manage future anxiety-inducing situation.

Participating in group and community activities can also be vital to the psyche, but for others, time alone is essential. Different races may also have different formulas for combating stress. MHA revealed that 82 percent of African Americans resort to prayer and medication to help them alleviate stress. But according to Jessee, the effects of prayer, medication and other coping methods will vary based on a person’s personality type and other inherent inclination.

"You don't have to be a certain personality but you do have to learn the tools and practice the tools to manage stress," Jessee said. "Some people combat it naturally just like some people are natural athletes [and] singers. Other people have to work at. I was definitely a Type A, chronic worrier. [I] ended up in the hospital 18 years ago with panic disorder, anxiety and severe depression. I'm well today because I practiced the techniques that they showed me. Even the most acute Type A personality can learn to better manage their stress."

There's no such thing as a perfect existence, but with healthy coping methods, life doesn’t have to be unbearably stressful.

For more information on Suzanne Jessee's Emotional Detoxification model: visit www.suzannejessee.com