Many of us are struggling with our current political reality.
The alarming stories we hear and read in the news can cause stress, anxiety, and fear. Whether or not we are politically active, we are all affected by the national dialogue.
In a time like this, how can we maintain hope?
How can we stay grounded in an unsteady world?
I started asking myself these questions after the most recent presidential election. As a field organizer for Hillary Clinton, moving through her heartbreaking loss in November 2016 was particularly difficult. My colleagues and I had invested enormous amounts of time, energy, and grit into the campaign. We were fiercely aware of what was at stake.
But after November 8th, it felt as if the world had suddenly constricted and turned upside down.
The 10 months since the election have been filled with ups, downs, and a lot of devastating news. In order to participate and resist, I needed to quickly recover from the election loss, so I developed a set of self-care techniques that have proven to be effective and reliable in the face of continued challenges.
In turbulent times, a steady mind becomes even more essential. Our strength is required now, more than ever. I hope these techniques help ground others too, so we can all navigate the tough days ahead:
1. Engaging with Media
We interact with many forms of media on a daily basis. The information we absorb through the internet, social media, television, podcasts, or the news has a powerful effect on our thoughts. But sometimes, we forget to consider the quality and quantity of the media we consume.
Just as we feed our bodies healthy and balanced diets, so too can we feed our minds healthy and balanced media content. It is important to stay informed about current events. It is also important to balance negative media stories with uplifting content.
At least once a week, I seek out a new article or video that focuses on a topic such as leadership development or mindfulness. My goal is to find something empowering and enriching that can provide relief from all the hard-to-digest stories in the news.
“Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it faith. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.” ~ Unknown
Unplugging our devices and making time for silence is an important emotion management technique. Meditation helps us release recurring anxious thoughts and find solid ground. From that centered place, we can make wise decisions and take inspired action.
Meditation is most powerful when it becomes habitual. As we develop the practice, we create a distinctly safe space, accessible at any time.
I like to meditate in the morning because it helps me start the day feeling grounded and peaceful. Later in the day, if I notice that I am stressed, I will set aside a few minutes to meditate quietly.
“The way through the challenge is to get still, and ask yourself: what is the next right move?” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Because emotional and mental turmoil manifests in the body as weakness or pain, exercise can play a vital role in stress reduction.
Yoga is particularly powerful as a healing tool. The combination of breath, movement, and philosophy can result in a therapeutic release of emotional, mental, and physical tension. By setting aside time each day for movement, we honor our bodies and cultivate strength and resilience.
After the election, I developed a daily yoga practice which helped increase my mobility, relieve pain, build strength, and clear my mind.
“The goal [of yoga] is not to tie ourselves in knots—we’re already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power of the universe.” ~ Max Strom
4. Building a Supportive Community
Thank goodness for wonderful family and friends. During moments of weakness, they remind us of our strengths and lift us from struggle. I have endless gratitude for the many people who helped me move through the election loss and take powerful and positive steps forward.
I have learned that the best way to build a supportive community is to be a supportive friend. Listening, sharing, laughing, and showing empathy are the most important parts of any healthy relationship. When we treat others as we wish to be treated, we begin to attract the right relationships into our lives.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” ~ Amy Poehler
5. Taking Action
For the first time, many of us are calling our representatives, getting involved in local elections, or fundraising for progressive causes. Some have even been inspired to run for elected office. Taking action is a necessary step to reclaiming our power and embodying our values.
One lesson we can learn from the election is that we can never, and should never, take progress for granted. We must instill volunteerism and conscious citizenship into the fabric of our lives. It is now our responsibility to contribute time and resources in service to the communities and causes we care about.
As a former field organizer, I know the power of phone banking and canvassing. As a professional in philanthropy, I also value fundraising. After the election, I raised more than $500 worth of donations from family and friends for an organization close to my heart. It is empowering to know we can all make a difference.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank
Gratitude is a muscle that needs to be strengthened daily. Taking time to count our many blessings brings light into our lives, adjusts our outlook, and changes the attitude we project into the world.
But focusing on our blessings does not mean ignoring life’s challenges. We can hold two truths at once. Gratitude helps us feel more grounded and safe amidst struggle.
To cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” each night I write down five things I am grateful for. They range from the big things (my family, job, or home) to the smaller things (taking a walk during lunch or reading a great book).
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie