The extraordinary events of this election season and subsequent voting results have, unquestionably, created a tremendous amount of fear, uncertainty, emotion and anxiety for a large portion of American citizens. If you are one of those individuals who woke up on November 9th, 2016 with intense sensations of dread and emptiness, then you are not alone. As a therapist, I have witnessed the palpable anxiety that exists among many of my clients. The main question; How do I deal with this? seems appropriate to answer not just for my clients, but for everyone. So, I have opted to formalize some of my own suggestions for dealing with the fear and anxiety associated with mass uncertainty and complete loss of direction.
- Engage in a Media Cleanse – We have been bombarded with some of the most intense, hostile vitriol in American, political history. The campaigns and political parties are obviously to blame, but who gave them this platform?, the media. Make a conscious effort to disconnect from ALL forms of media, especially social media. There are plenty of recent studies suggesting that continued exposure to negative social media increases activity in the amygdala, the brain’s fear center where flight or fight messages increase the production of cortisol and adrenaline. Commit to a few days of a news “blackout,” delete Facebook from your phone and put your tweets on hold.
- Practice Self Care – Take a Walk, Go to the Gym, Practice Yoga, Listen to Music, Read, Paint, Write or Mediate. Also re-invest in proper sleep hygiene and healthy eating habits. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and watch your alcohol intake.
- Set You Boundaries – Let your friends, family and colleagues know that you are abstaining from political talk. If they can’t respect your wishes, then excuse yourself from the conversation.
- Do Something For Your Local Community – It may appear that kindness has vanished or is just not en vogue these days. Think about providing services to a local non-profit or volunteer organization. Helping others on a local level, where you can see the immediate benefits of your efforts will not only help reinvigorate your lost sense of community, but also strengthen those who need our help the most.
- Avoid Balme and Practice Compassion – No matter what the political climate, there is always going to be the perception that one group is right while the other is wrong. Blaming someone for their views, their lack of insight or their possible ignorance does nothing but strengthen our ego position that WE are right and thus better. Instead of arguing over right and wrong, offer compassion. Even if it is a silent wish for peace, goodness, hope, calm or understanding.
There is no question that the fallout and ramifications of 11/8/16 will be unsettling and unpredictable for the months and years to follow. We can choose to live in fear, despair and disappointment, or we can take care of ourselves in the best ways possible. If we are emotionally and physically well, then it will begin to spill into the lives of those we care about and the greater community as a whole.