How and with whom can you share love and goodness this week?
In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association 52% of respondents identified the 2016 presidential election as “a very or somewhat significant source of stress” in their lives. Stress and strain typically accompany everyday life and its pressures. Nothing new about that. It has been around since our ancestors hunted saber tooth tigers.
But this election cycle seems to have people wound a little tighter than usual. Anxiety appears to be heightened. Politics aside, what can we learn, for our own emotional well-being, from the 2016 election? As the Chinese character below indicates, crisis (perceived or real) can be a time of opportunity.Robinson Meyer, in an article in The Atlantic, turned to clinicians and asked their advice about strategies to combat election-induced anxieties. First, he found that most of this political anxiety did not qualify as clinical anxiety–the sort that requires a visit to a therapist. None-the-less, the anxiety could not just be waived away with the flick of a hand or a shrug of the shoulder. A few of the coping strategies Meyer summarized included:
- Self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up about feeling concerned. Identify, accept, and attempt to understand the feelings.
- Consider the outcome (Productive worry). Meyer repeats an oft-stated axiom that we are wired to worry. (Again, kind of like our ancestral cave people who always had an eye over their collective shoulders for lurking danger.) We attempt to identify threats and prepare for them. This can lead to adaptive behavior that helps us function in a positive and proactive manner. We take appropriate action. The flip side is unproductive worry. This is when we cannot turn off the thought process. We obsess. We ruminate. We can’t find an “off-switch.” We can’t sleep. We end up in an unending loop of catastrophizing. This may be a sign to seek professional help.
- Focus on the now. Or as Meyer states, focus on the immediacy of something you are doing to get you away from the election worry cycle. Meditation. Yard work. Yoga. Music. Journaling. The day I wrote this post, I went for an early afternoon swim at the gym. While focusing on the immediacy of my stroke, breathing, and turns, the world outside of the pool was far away.
- Talk about your worries. Tap into your support network. Get your fears out. Listen to yourself talk about them. Sort through them. See self-compassion above.
Eileen Crawford, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor headquartered in Celebration, Florida, reminded me that “the root of anxiety is fear of loss of control over events or people around us.” Below (an excerpt from her blog post soon after the Pulse shooting in Orlando of July 2016), you will find a few of her suggested strategies:
“…. It is especially important to seek out and grow the good and set boundaries and limits around your exposure to the bad. Here are three things you can do:
- Turn off the T.V. and put down your cell phone. Be mindful of the inundation of news coverage coming from all directions. Find out what you need to know, and then take a break – as long and as often as you need to.
- Increase time spent on pursuits that relax and rejuvenate you. Your mind and heart need a break – give them one.
- Spend time with people you love, trust and enjoy. Show them your appreciation and gratitude, and share times with them that affirm life.
When the world becomes nonsensical, lifting each other up with love and goodness is all that makes sense.”
Consider her urging to establish and communicate clear boundaries and limits. Review yours and make sure you and those around you understand them. Don’t torture yourself with an endless barrage of news (cable, network, social media, colleagues, family) that continually distresses you.
As for love and goodness, how and with whom can you share love and goodness this week? You never know whom you will help. It could even be yourself.
Video recommendation for the week:
Blow up the TV and throw away the papers? Maybe singer-songwriter John Prine had an anxiety-reducing strategy figured out years ago. Time to go back and give a listen. A personal side note: The lead guitar in this clip is Jason Wilbur. I had the wonderful opportunity a few years back to participate in a guitar training session with him and then listen to his mastery later that evening in a concert here at the beach. He graciously posed with me that evening.
Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
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(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.