By Tammy Severino
Over the past seventeen months, a whole host of changes have taken place in this nation. The changes are not just about a different party at the helm, they are about reversing course to a time in history when life was much more tenuous for women, people of color, the gay community, non-Christians – communities where are, and have always been, easy to be called ‘other’. For many, the current calls to “Make America Great Again’ are nothing short of a dog whistle to embolden those who ascribe to the ugliest times and sentiments in our nation’s history. Further, reversing course on the environment, creating trade wars [that will, ultimately, cause financial pain to those the tariffs claim to help], and other like policies/political actions are alienating our allies and isolating our nation on the world stage.
If we consider a math equation where ‘X’ is all of the above actions and ‘Y’ is the incessant tweeting of the current White House resident, along with the ability to access news 24/7 via an array of modalities, then the sum of these two equals a more extreme stress level than most people have ever before experienced.
Never before have I seen an election result in people ‘disowning’ friends or relatives, complete with unfriending of people on social media, avoiding social situations, or shutting down certain avenues (i.e. social media) altogether. These efforts to avoid friends, family or colleagues who disagree politically [or engage in non-stop discussion about political happenings] is an extreme the like of which has never before occurred in our nation’s history. But then again, 45 is a ‘leader’ unlike any who has ever held the highest office in the land. Personally, I have found myself alternating between absorbing everything I can read and complete avoidance of the news of the day. Both extremes, in truth, are unhealthy.
For many years the concept of work/life balance was all the rage. Working women are still in quest of the elusive perfect balance. I am of the belief that the concept is timely and fitting for what many – perhaps more than half the nation (if votes in the 2016 election are an indication) – are experiencing. In order to survive and thrive until the 2020 election takes place, it is important to find ways to manage stress during the time of Trump.
It is my opinion that all of the things we do to stay healthy – both physically and emotionally – are equally important during this patch of history. Eating well, being physical, getting enough sleep – all of the things your doctor would tell you to do regularly – are even more important right now. However, I have some tips for how to keep stress [related to the goings on of 45] in check. Please feel free to tap into any or all of them until you find the blend that works for you.
Yoga is my great go-to when I feel daily stress getting too intense. It is a great activity for people of any age and any fitness level. A good instructor will offer modified moves for those just beginning their practice, so you need not feel uncomfortable. However, if heading to a local yoga studio is outside your comfort zone, pick up a blue-ray and a mat for your practice at home. As you improve, you may add to your collection with varying routines designed for differing results (focus, relaxation, weight loss, etc.). You may even look for videos on YouTube or other video sights. Keep looking around until you find an instructor who works for you (tone of voice, pace, background music, etc.). When you know you have a stressful day ahead, try 30 minutes of yoga to help you maintain your composure and balance throughout the day. Or, conversely, use it to unwind after a particularly challenging experience. Other practices, including meditation and Reiki also offer the ability to less the stress dissipate and leave your body. You may elect to use one or all to find the right blend for you. A gym workout will help increase endorphins, channel energy and enhance your physical state. It is a different release than yoga or meditation but is definitely a positive to help you achieve a reduction in stress.
It is important to limit how much time you spend soaking up his activities and actions. While I do believe it is important to be educated and informed (which will limit stress caused by being uninformed), try limiting the amount of time you spend watching/listening/reading the news. Try a local channel for updates on news happening near your home versus all of the national activities. While in the car [or other mode of transportation], put on a playlist or favorite music station. Try to avoid keeping the news on all day. You may not be listening to him directly, but hours upon hours of talking heads and panels discussing his every move will be just as damaging. Listening to your favorite songs, books on tape, or other non-news entertainment will focus your mind on something more positive. In the same vein, head into your settings for ALL of your devices. Turn off the push notifications for all of your news outlets. There is no reason to get an update every time he orders another fast food burger and fries or angers yet another ally.
Try allocating regular time for something social with people who make you laugh. There are few things more beneficial for the soul than laughter. I think the friends with whom I am closest are those who can make me laugh – even on the gloomiest of days [you know who you are]. If need be, set a rule that there will be absolutely no political talk during your time together. You will find that the time will be spent discussing entertainment, books, family, sports, shopping, travel…all of the social things you have in common that brought you together as friends in the first place. If you happen to disagree politically, it may also save your friendship.
Take time for yourself. We don’t often spend time just being with ourselves. Sometimes it can be absolutely refreshing to go for a walk, a drive, a swim…whatever you like to do…all alone. It will allow you to think and, perhaps, think an issue weighing on you more clearly. If you are able, try not to think at all. Rather, just be in the moment. That is by far more challenging but will allow you to release more stress.
If none of these tips provide you with sufficient help – enough to feel in control of your anxiety levels during this time, please seek help. Finding the right professional can make all of the difference in your life. He/she will work with you to find ways to regain control and move forward in a positive manner. There is no shame in seeking help. In fact, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
It is important to note that you are not alone. Following the election and inauguration of Trump, the American Psychology Association reported that, for the first time in over a decade, stress and anxiety levels among Americans had a marked increase. More than sixty-six percent of adults in the nation reported increased stress levels about the future and direction of our nation under his leadership. Those are remarkable levels. However, it is important to note that he has woken up many in the country who realize sitting on the sidelines is not a good plan of action. More women and people of color have registered to run for local, state and national elections than ever before. People who have never volunteered are getting involved. And, for those who are neither campaigning or volunteering, remember that your vote counts. Be heard and be counted. If you chose not to vote last time, please don’t make the same mistake in ’18 or in ’20.
Remember, the greatest thing the Founding Fathers did was create a system of checks and balances. We elect a President and in 2020 we will elect another. America is not just a place; it is an idea. That idea is not lost…it just took a wrong turn. So, don’t let your stress get out of control. Take steps to claim power in your own life and, if you see another who needs help in doing the same, be a friend and offer a hand. We are in this together.
Tammy Severino is a writer, marketer, development consultant and professional seeker of knowledge. When not with her family – both the bipeds and quadrupeds – she spends her time reading, writing, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and exploring new ideas.