Editor’s Note: All Matthew’s Place blogs during the month of December are sponsored by UnitedHealth Group. These posts are focusing on health–mental, physical, and emotional.
This isn’t an article on how to calmly discuss politics with loved ones. If I could crack that code, I wouldn’t have ruined two Thanksgivings (and a Rosh Hashanah) arguing over Zionism and subsequently locking myself in my room for the rest of the night.
No, this is an article on how to not lose your mind during what promises to be the Superbowl of political arguments. As a comedy writer, coach and highly anxious human — I spend a lot of time creating best practices to help me calm down, especially during family time.
So here’s a few tips to maintaining sanity, creating boundaries, and surviving this holiday season relatively unscathed.
1. Get In Some Nature
Nature is old AF and it’s certainly seen some shit: the fall of the Roman Empire, Fascism, the Godfather 3 — and yet it remains steadfast.
A quick story.
Two weeks post-election when I was still in my “I-just-want-to-stay-in-bed and-hate-read-articles-about-Trump” phase, my friend dragged me up to his rooftop to watch the Full Moon. After pushing past my initial boredom, I sunk into a deep hypnotic daze. We could have been there for 15 minutes or 50. I lost track.
Clouds passed the Moon’s orb yet she remained bright and unfazed. The glare of the city obscured her light yet she remained bright and unfazed. At one point it started to rain. She remained unfazed. Nature reminds us of the expansiveness of time. Whether it’s taking a walk around your neighborhood or staring at the heavens — let the wisdom of nature reinforce what Martin Luther King Jr. already knew, that although “the arc of the moral universe is long, it always bends towards justice.”
2. Untangle the Necklaces
You cannot separate political conversations from your existing family dynamic. When engaging in debates with my parents, I often find the subtext is actually just “do you value me?” Sometimes I wonder if we’re actually having an argument about our broken educational system or the fear I’ve disappointed them with my career choices. While it’s devastating when family members don’t share our value system, it helps to remember we’re “untangling a giant mess of necklaces” — complex family dynamics, our own identities and how they intersect with the larger political narrative — and it can be difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins.
3. Solo Activist Time
Guess what I did after baking my holiday apple pie? Spent 20 minutes taking actionable steps towards policy change: making phone calls to my state officials and donating cash to worthy causes. Before you visit the folks, make a game-plan of all your activist goals for the trip and allocate designated time to make the world a better place. You may not be able to change Grandma Ethel this holiday but you can direct that energy towards positive action. So do it!
Ariana works as a TV writer, VO performer and professional coach. As an artist, she’s written for IFC and TruTV’s ‘Almost Genius’ and lent her voice to Toys R’ Us and Nick. As a coach, Ariana’s certified through the ICF and Coaching for Transformation program. She’s spoken on mental health in the arts with the Observer and works with creatives to overcome blocks and create their most truthful art. Contact her at ArianaSeigel.com or @ariseigel on Twitter.