By Larry Shushansky, LICSW
During the Inauguration of President Donald Trump, millions of people around the U.S. were thrilled. But millions of others were dismayed, depressed and scared. Since then, the same divisive attitudes and tensions continue—and if anything, they have gotten even fiercer.
It’s important to be passionate about what we believe in and to advocate for what we think is right. But that’s different than tying our well-being and moods to political currents that constantly ebb and flow. We need to find a balance between being attached to the politics of our time and being detached from the political storm. It’s important to have our voices heard, but it is equally important to maintain our well-being.
If you’re feeling frustrated, scared, overwhelmed, hopeless, angry and maybe despaired, try to identify what is triggering these emotions and try to prioritize your well-being over all else. Here’s how you might accomplish that:
Continue routines you might have had in place before the political storm hit that helped keep your mental health strong. Take a walk, exercise, meditate, go to yoga, get involved in a recurring spiritual practice. This is standard advice we get from just about anyone. But few of us really understand its powerful value over the long-term.
Also, do things that give you a certain degree of solitude and quiet, like taking a long bath. It’s important to allow yourself some alone time to be with your thoughts without interruption.
It can be easy to feel negative and gloomy all the time. When keeping up with the tumultuous media, make sure you stay engaged with activities that foster your well-being and mental health. Keep positive activities part of your life: Meet up with friends, go to the movies, put on music and dance around the living room. Whatever makes you happy. (And make sure when you get together with others, you limit the amount of time you talk politics!)
It’s important to get enough psychological distance from the political squalls that are created by politicians and others who believe differently than you do. Here’s how to do this:
Sometimes when we feel powerless, we believe the more information we have the better. We convince ourselves that information is power. And while this can be true, we have to remember that it is possible to take in too much information. It is possible to make ourselves feel overwhelmed and scared.
To start weaning back on your media intake: Refrain from opening your Facebook feed, or any other social media, first thing in the morning or as you’re winding down for sleep. Seems simple, but try it once and just see how hard it is.
Decide on how active, or inactive, you’re going to be in the political process. Determine how often, and over what issues, you are going to contact your senators and representatives. How many letters, emails, and calls are you going to send? How many marches are you going to get involved in? How much are you going to talk about politics to your friends and family? Set limits for yourself and follow through.
As the political climate changes, make sure you check in with yourself at each turn. If you find yourself inundated, confused, angry, overwhelmed, scared, anxious or depressed, then you may need to take additional steps towards self-care. Whether the political winds blow favorably in your direction or not, try to remember the old saying, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be worth a damn to anyone else.”
As a therapist for over 30 years, Larry Shushansky has seen thousands of individuals, couples and families take a psychological step back from their problems and become independent enough to figure out what they needed to do to have the life they’ve wanted. He has set up family therapy programs, directed a residential facility for adolescents in hospitals, mental health centers and family service agencies before starting his own private practice. Follow him on Facebook here.
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