Coping with Anxiety in a Post-Trump election.
Just a little about me. I work as a clinical therapist in an outpatient anxiety program at a hospital as well as have my own private practice. The day after the election when there was no longer any doubt that Trump was our president-elect, I saw a sharp upswing in anxiety and fear as well as sadness, anger, and frustration. I also noticed people presented as feeling hopeless, cynical, disconnected from their fellow Americans, and had a general feeling of helplessness. Full disclosure- I initially felt a lot of those same things and much of what I am about to say is a result of my experiences both personally and professionally.
The morning of November 3rd I took to Facebook as I felt wholly voiceless and in shock. As a result I wrote that I felt ashamed of my country. A consequence of this was that a family member who had voted for Trump then responded with a defensive remark about my moving to Canada if need be. I was stunned by this. I then found an e-mail waiting for me from this same relative definitely looking for a fight and indicating that I was ignorant about the state of the country, had been mislead by the media, etc. I took some time before responding with what I thought was a peaceful response of essentially we can’t change each other’s minds, so let’s not discuss politics. It did not end there as I received two more emails looking for me to pick up my sword. We have since reconciled. This was very stressful and straining for me, but I learned a lot from this experience.
# 1) Facebook is not your friend. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy seeing what family and friends are doing and reading snarky memes, but when it comes to politics, it will take you hard and fast down that road to self-righteousness and divisiveness. If you feel the need to post on Facebook, you need to ask yourself why. Then- will my needs be met if I do this? And finally- will there be any foreseeable consequences to my relationships? You may not know the answers to these questions, which I feel is all the more reason to take a moment to pause before hitting the keyboard as I did. Also, I would not read any of the Trump/Hillary articles that are clearly out to incite more ire. I usually just click on the hide post option to remove temptation. Just like the rest of us those journalists have an agenda for what they are writing and putting out there. In the past I have had to hide a relative’s posts so that I could continue to like them. I knew that otherwise their posts would play in my head at every family reunion and I didn’t want this to cloud my experience of the kind, intelligent person I knew this person to be.
# 2) Accept that you cannot change other people’s minds. Remember that just as strongly as you believe what you believe, so does everyone else. Can you be talked out of your political or religious views? Not likely. Stop doing what clearly is not going to work and that you have by now seen has not worked. This is pure ego and arrogance when we are trying to convert others to our way of thinking. Other side of this, do not take the bait if someone tries to engage you in a political debate. I would suggest coming up with a polite statement that you will say to relatives at family get togethers. Something like- ‘You have your views and I have mine. Please pass the rolls.” Remember at this time to also take a deep breath, filling your abdomen with air. Allowing your body to relax, which will help your mind to relax.
# 3) Stop watching political news. Do I really have to explain that one? If you want to fuel your rage and indignation, by all means continue to watch the pundits at work as well as their guests whose blood pressure I swear I can feel rising as the show becomes more and more heated. Emotion likes to keep itself going and this is a good example of this at work.
# 4) If you are feeling helpless and hopeless, focus on things you have control over in your own life. Look for all the day to day moments that you are the one making the decisions, such as what you wear, what you eat, etc. Notice how in every moment of every day you are making a multitude of decisions with what you do and what you say. Chose to do things that move your life in a positive direction- take that walk, spend time with loved ones, and so on.
# 5) If you are feeling full of rage and indignation, then I would suggest letting this ignite your passion for activism and focus on your role in change in the world. What movements or causes do you want to become a part of or champion for that perhaps you had been ignoring? I don’t mean to sound like a bumper sticker, but this is your opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world. It will also increase your self-respect by doing what really matters to you.
In summation, much of what I had to say was the Serenity Prayer at work. Know what you have control over and change those things. Know what you do not have control over and leave that be. And finally take a moment to take a deep breath to understand the difference.
Author: Sara Banks
My background is in working with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, including OCD, eating disorders, as well as stress management. I specialize in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as well as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
I work at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville (suburb of Chicago) as a clinical therapist serving a wide array of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and OCD. Currently, I run a limited private practice in Naperville.
My role is to increase your self-awareness to identify what you value, what is currently working in your life, and what is getting in the way of you living the life you want to live. I view therapy as a partnership wherein my role is to help you to move towards the life you want to live based on your values
There is so much wisdom in this article and good, practical advice.