A Liberal’s Guide to Staying Sane in a Trump Presidency
If you’re a Trump supporter, and you’re still happy, I’m happy for you. Don’t bother reading the rest of this article. It’s not for you. If you’re a liberal leftie and you’re still dealing with stress six months into this Presidency, read on.
In the beginning, many of us felt like our car had unexpectedly swerved off the road into a rapidly moving river and we were underwater, panicked to get out. Election day felt like a foggy nightmare. Inauguration day wasn’t foggy. It was sharp. It was painful. It was terror-inducing.
The days that followed immediately were a blur as the weight and gravity of political shock and awe set it. Some took the immediate stance of being in resistance. Some tried to anchor themselves in love and tolerance, holding the space for light. Others, still in shock, froze.
I’m not saying everyone felt this way in January of 2017 after Trump took the White House. I know about half the country was doing a victory lap while the other half of us were in a state of disbelief and horror. I live on the West Coast in a very liberal stronghold. My community was turned upside down. My family with strong roots in the Democratic party was rocked to its core. I was beside myself. I got daily messages from friends who knew how bad it was for me for weeks, just trying to encourage me to do more than get out of bed.
Personally, I clumsily rode what felt like a never-ending wave that peaked at rage and dipped to depression and hopelessness. I’m not proud to admit that. You see, I’m a life coach. I’m supposed to have to tools to do better. However, all the tools I had at my disposal failed me and still do at times.
How do you just go on as if everything is ok when it feels like the world is crashing down around you?
How do you enjoy your freedom when you’re afraid it’s being taken away brick by brick?
How do you find your equilibrium when the days on the calendar can be predictably marked by daily political scandals or crisis?
These are questions I ask myself every day. They are also questions I hear many of my clients asking themselves. So, I know I’m not alone.
In the beginning election trauma and fear dominated many of my client sessions. However, as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks have now turned into months, it doesn’t come up with the frequency and intensity it did in January and February. People are tired of talking about it. They’ve been told to get over it too many times. They feel shame that they aren’t coping better. Six months have passed and for a lot of people things are worse than they’d imagined they might be.
What I’m hearing from my clients and what I’m experiencing in my home and life is a low level but persistent dull anxiety that permeates from below the surface into every area of our lives. How we see reality is forever changed and not in the ways we’d hoped.
Many are experiencing a persistent urge to be informed, almost addicted to the news. I know I’m donated more money to the Palmer Report in the last few months than I care to admit. Others are repelled by it preferring to live afraid under the covers.
So many of us feel significantly less safe, many for good reasons. However, a lot of the fear we’re feeling might be mostly imaginary, at least for the moment. However, whether the threat is real or imagined doesn’t really matter. The human psyche does not handle feeling unsafe very well.
The internet has coined the term “Trumppression”. The hashtag #trumppression has made its way around the world on social media. However, this goes beyond just a feeling of depression. The pervasive long-term anxiety is dangerous.
Fight or flight mode is no joke. It has a serious impact on health both physcially and mentally. We don’t nearly as well when we’re experiencing fight or flight. Relationships suffer because your brain conserves resources it would otherwise allocate to connecting.
And make no mistake, a lot of us have been in a state of fight or flight for about six months now.
Fight or flight can become a very serious syndrome called dysautonomia. Dysautonomia, also known as autonomic nervous system dysfunction or disorder, is a blanket label applied to a variety of conditions that develop, at least in part, because of malfunction or faulty regulation in the involuntary nervous system. Generally speaking, there is excessive activity of the sympathetic nervous system and under-activity of the parasympathetic nervous system.
In the early stages of autonomic nervous system dysfunction, the symptoms may be vague and fleeting like general malaise, headaches, weakness, anxiety, sweating, dizziness, constipation, exercise intolerance, depression, nausea, irregular heartbeat, heart pounding, disturbed sleep, irritability or blurred vision. Something doesn’t feel quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it.
Does any or all of that sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
So, back to the original question. How do you deal in your daily life when you’re freaked out every day?
Fight or flight mode rewires your brain to run a constant program of anxiety and despair. Meditation is scientifically proven to also rewire your brain — for peace of mind.
I know a lot of people say they don’t to meditate or can’t do it. However, if you stand a chance in hell, (and you do), of getting through a Trump/Pence Presidency without permanent changes to your brain chemistry, meditation is critical.
Get yourself an app if you need help. My ADHD nine-year-old loves to meditate with the help of an app called Headspace. Trust me, if he can do it, you can too.
2. Find one issue you’re passionate about and get involved.
There are more issues on the table than I can count. Environment, civil rights, women’s rights, healthcare…The list goes on.
If you’re on social media, you know that list goes on. My feeds are full of calls to action. Following all of them would be a full time job. Each and every one of them feels like life or death.
Pick one and do something about it. Get involved in your community, donate money, attend rallies, talk to your neighbors. Doing something feels good, and it’s good for you. Feeling like every house on the block is on fire, and you’re the only one with a hose, is not good for you.
Issue fatigue is paralyzing. You’ll be happier and more efficient if you can put all of your energy in one place.
3. Make self-care your new religion.
Your body is under stress whether it feels like it or not. You are more prone to getting sick. You are more prone to accidents. You are simply generally less likely to feel well on every level. I know I’m feeling more physically fragile than I want to these days.
Basic self-care isn’t going to be enough. You’re going to need to take it up a lot of notches. If the only good thing that comes out of the Trump presidency is that you learned to rock your self-care, that would at least be one good thing.
Physical self-care like healthy food, plenty of good sleep, and exercise matter now more than ever. However, emotional and spiritual self-care are equally if not more important. Make sure your self-care plan includes liberal doses of care for your body, heart, and soul.
Self-care can’t be lip service. It has to be a way of life.
4. Be extremely compassionate with yourself and others.
These are not normal days for many of us. Therefore, it stands to reason that your reactions and responses to things might not be normal.
Stress affects cognition. It garbles emotional responses. You might be shorter tempered than you’d like. Frankly, you might not feel as smart as you think you should be. You might not be operating at an optimum level. The people around you might not be either.
The benefits of a compassionate mindset have been well documented. They are psychological, emotional and even physical. However, compassion needs to start at home with you by you being compassionate with yourself.
Be willing to acknowledge to yourself and others when you don’t feel like yourself. Monitor your self-talk with loving discipline. Hug people you love and strangers. Laugh often. It’s good medicine.
5. Get support if you need it.
However, be mindful about the support you seek. It can be easy to think spending time with like minded people is healthy. However, sometimes that backfires. You want a safe place to talk about your feelings, not the necessarily the issues. A group spin-up about all the things you are collectively terrified about might not be helpful.
Spiritual communities are stronger than ever. There is a spiritual community for almost everyone. Even if you’re not a “church goer” there is a spiritual home for you if you’re willing to look for it. The thing about spiritual growth is it’s not focused on politics. It puts your focus elsewhere. Elsewhere is good.
Professional support might also be an important option. Coaching or therapy might really help. Doctors have seen a sharp uptake in prescribing anxiety and depression medications since January. I’m not saying you need meds. However, I am saying if you have trouble with daily activities it might be worth checking in with your doctor.
At the end of the day remember, nothing is permanent. The Buddhist concept of impermanence is often associated with loss. For many of us right now, the law of impermanence is a promise that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.