Finding Balance In The Time Of Trump

 

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.

A League Of Her Own

 

In 1920 women in the United States were given the right to vote. Since then, the League of Women Voters has been at the forefront of the political arena engaging with legislators and people across the country in affecting policy and helping to facilitate important discussions on both sides of the aisle that impact all Americans.

Below, is my interview with Dr. Sondra Cosgrove, President of the League of Women Voters for Nevada.

LR: You’re the President of the League of Women Voters for the state of Nevada and a Full-Time History professor at College of Southern Nevada. In addition to those titles, you’re a mom, a mentor, and a volunteer. How do you juggle?

SC: I’ve figured out how to lead a three-dimensional life. I layer my time to efficiently multitask: through technology, I can use every minute of the week as effectively as possible. This means that much of what I do happens virtually. I teach half my classes online and half in a hybrid modality, which gives my students the freedom to complete work on a schedule that best fits their lives. It also allows me to create course content and assignments while I am on break; to stay connected through email and messaging; and to grade anywhere I have an internet connection. I manage my community and family roles similarly. While League has in-person meetings, most of what I do as President of League of Women Voters Nevada happens in virtual space. I manage our social media accounts and blog electronically and I can do voter registration, community outreach, and mentor our younger members through a combination of in-person and virtual activities. My children are grown, so I’m at an age where I have a lot more time for my own goals.

LR: For those who don’t know, how would you describe the work and mission of League of Women Voters?

SC: The League of Women Voters began on February 14, 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment established women’s right to vote. The suffragists who fought so hard to gain the right to vote realized that women would need help registering to vote, engaging with elected leaders, and running for office so they created the League as a women’s organization to promote civic engagement. Since it’s founding, League has added issue advocacy to its mission. There is sometimes confusion over this part of League’s activities. We are a non-partisan, but political organization under the I.R.S. This means that we do not work directly with either political party and we do not endorse candidates, but we do advocate for issues with elected leaders. Our 501c3 legal designation allows us to do this type of political work. We still spend much of our time ensuring that every eligible voter can register to vote, learn about candidates and issues, cast an easily accessible ballot, and engage in legislative processes, but – especially since the Civil Rights movement – we also advocate for issues legislatively and through litigation to strengthen our democracy. These two main focuses make League one of the oldest women’s groups in the country that gives women leadership opportunities and a political voice outside the political party structures.

LR: LWV is neither Democrat nor Republican and is issues focused. It’s been around ninety-eight years and is still going strong. How would you like to see the organization grow?

SC: To survive for almost one hundred years, League had to become adept at evolving early in our history. This doesn’t mean that change is easy or even orderly, be we do understand that League must reflect the needs of women in each generation. We are currently refreshing League practices and issues to better align with Millennial and Gen Z needs. In addition to access to voter registration and election processes, younger women are also worried about access to affordable higher education, various forms of harassment in the workplace, and affordable healthcare. In the current iteration of League, we’ve increased our use of online forms of communicating and advocacy and we’ve integrated more professional development on diversity and cultural competency into our training programs. Each day, League of Women Voters of Nevada is listening to our very diverse community and offering opportunities for empowerment and action that reflect local needs.

LR: The current political climate evokes a lot of impassioned emotion from many people. What are some of the issues that most concern you as a woman? How is LWV participating in that conversation on a regional and national scale?

SC: While I would definitely describe Leaguers as passionate, what mainly attracted me to League is how the organization uses rational, academic processes for determining outcomes. We’re sticklers about adhering to Robert’s Rules of Order to manage our meetings and organizational processes, which ensures every member can participate and feel safe and heard. This strong commitment to using good processes to produce good outcomes also applies to how we decide which issues to support. Before any issue comes up for a vote of the membership, it goes through a detailed study process. By the time we vote on adopting an issue or position, we all feel included, heard, and sure the outcome will be fair. Personally, I am working to guarantee women have equal opportunity and are treated fairly in the workplace in political spheres. The League of Women Voters US is currently working through Congress and the Courts on redistricting reform, immigration reform, and restoring the Voting Rights Act. And in Nevada, League is working with our legislature on behavioral healthcare, renewable and sustainable energy, and reforming how we manage legislative sessions.

LR: Recently, I attended a meeting where you had speakers sharing their thoughts on Intersectionality and how LWV can be a part of that process. For people who don’t know what Intersectionality is, how would you definite it and moreover, why is it so important?

SC: Intersectionality is an introspective approach for pursuing social justice. The theory of Intersectionality teaches us that to truly address social inequality and discrimination it’s vital to be aware that every person’s reality consists of many identities and experiences. Intersectionality informs anyone dedicated to advancing social justice to be acutely aware of the oppression people of color and other minority groups face in American society. Intersectionality reminds me that what I view as important, may not be as important to distressed community members. And, to achieve social justice outcomes, I must listen, work to provide spaces where anyone can feel safe to ask for help, and be ready to address the issues that are most important to those who ask for help. League members want to make things better – it’s our reason for being. So, for me, it makes sense that the concept of intersectionality should guide how we prioritize our advocacy and how we marshal resources for immediate community needs.

LR: On days when you’re not teaching, what’s a typical schedule like for you in terms of your LWV duties?

SC: As I mentioned, I live a layered life. During most of each day, I am a professor, a League president, and many other roles simultaneously. Daily, I post reliable news and political analysis on our League social media accounts to keep folks updated on important issues. I attend events and community meetings as they arise. I find and invite speakers to our League meetings, which happen on the third Saturday of each month. We have a very active Behavioral Healthcare committee that meets once a month and we have board meetings quarterly. During the legislative session, I testify during hearings related to our issue priorities, watch hearings to keep track of votes on important legislation, and post legislative updates on our League blog. I also speak at civic and community group meetings to provide legislative updates and advocacy training. Lastly, because I am the state of Nevada LWV President, I travel to Reno/Carson City area at least once a quarter to meet with our northern League and to Washington DC or other cities to engage in national-level League business.

LR: You’re invited to speak at many events and spend a lot of time with legislators and policymakers too. What’s the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of that part of your responsibilities?

SC: I guess I’m a bit weird because I like to attend meetings and other types of events. I find that each is an opportunity to meet people with different perspectives, to exchange information, and to form new coalitions. I see every person as an expert in something and I’ve found that most people are happy to share their expertise if asked. Political work can be frustrating at times when someone disregards established protocols, practices, and rules but, by and large, the lawmakers and other elected officials I work with are all dedicated to making Nevada a better place.

LR: Nevada is among the states with the greatest proportion of female lawmakers, is home to the first Latina Senator in the United States Senate, and had a DREAM Act recipient elected to the United States Congress. In a state as diverse as Nevada, how does that affect LWV?

 SC: Nevada is an awesome place to live for all those reasons! Because League is a federated organization, state and local Leagues have great latitude to adapt in ways that reflect individual community needs. For the Nevada League, that means recognizing that every part of our rich and diverse population has unique challenges. We are aware that we cannot assume to know what issues need to be addressed on a day-to-day basis, so, we strive to maintain a constant stream of information coming in from our members and community partners. Leaguers are ready to listen and then act to help.

LR: What would you say to encourage a young person about the importance of civic engagement?

SC: As a history professor, I am an ardent advocate of civic engagement. Our political systems and processes do have problems, but I can professionally attest to the fact that our nation has achieved great things, despite these problems, when more people vote and advocate for their needs. Why would our history be so full of epic battles over voting rights if voting and fair representation didn’t bestow power? League recognizes that the fight to empower voters and defend democracy is still with us. As long as people of color and the poor are denied the right to vote and the right to fair representation, League will stand strong to eradicate those strains of injustice.

LR: How can people find out more about League of Women Voters?

SC: The League of Women Voter’s US website offers League’s history and a summary of our current efforts nationally. The URL is www.LWV.org. Anyone can access our state and local Leagues through our state League website at www.LWVNV.org. We also have a blog with updates on meetings, elections, and governing processes. The URL for that site is www.LWVNVblog.org. In addition to those tools,we have Facebook pages for the League of Women Voters of Nevada, League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada, and League of Women Voters Northern Nevada. On Twitter, you can follow us at @LWVSNV.