Tips for Recovery from Trump-Induced Stress
Or, How to Take Care of Yourself While Fighting to Change the World
Do you feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by the news? Common sense tells us that it’s very stressful living in a nation now governed by a capricious leader with no experience in public service (and researchers have also reached the same conclusion).
If you have lost your motivation to be part of the Resistance and to take collective action to fight for your rights and those of others, you are not alone. Women, in particular, are the backbone of the Resistance, and commonly feel obligated to take care of others before themselves. Yet a burned out activist, worker, wife or mom will be no good to the Resistance if she is fatigued, ill, and has lost her belief that she can make a difference.
Self-Check: Are You Having a Health and Well-Being Emergency?
If you find that you no longer find joy in things you used to enjoy, have experienced major changes in sleep or eating patterns, and/or are troubled by negative thinking including thoughts of suicide, it may be an emergency! Or, perhaps you have noticed these symptoms in a loved one – or a habit has developed of relying on alcohol or other unhealthy means of coping. You can read more here about signs of depression. If you recognize them in yourself, it’s important to reach out for help from your health care provider, a mental health professional, your religious or spiritual leader, or other trusted person – or talk to your loved one about how much you care about them and that you’re concerned about the changes you’ve noticed in them. The national suicide hotline is open 24/7 and people who call are not necessarily in the middle of an active suicide attempt – you can call if you are feeling hopeless, lonely, panicked, or otherwise in need of emotional support and decide that it is time to reach out.
You might benefit from taking a vacation, literally and figuratively, where you don’t read the news and relax in a setting away from your everyday life. Because researchers have found short, frequent vacations to have the most benefits in terms of recharging your batteries, getting away for the weekend – or even taking a day trip – may help.
Preventive Measures: Do You Need to Conserve Your Health and Well-Being?
If you are not paralyzed (yet) but feel your activist energy dwindling, it’s important to be proactive and prevent that from happening. You can take very small steps every day in order to reduce your stress and care for yourself – these things can be as simple as pausing to take several long breaths, making yourself a cup of tea, or asking for a hug.
If you’re able to make a larger commitment to yourself, schedule in an activity that you enjoy on a regular basis, whether talking to a friend, reading, hiking or doing other exercise, or participating in a hobby.
It can be tricky to find work-life balance – and even trickier to find work-activism-life balance. Accept that you may need to compromise and devote yourself to one or two causes that you feel most passionately about (or are best-equipped to help with), or otherwise limit your availability for participating in activist activities. Trust that others in the Resistance are doing their best to work on the causes that they’ve chosen to focus on.
Positive Psychology: How Can It Help Me?
For the past 20 years, the goal of the growing movement of positive psychology has been to balance the traditional focus of psychology on diagnosis and treatment of mental illness (a negative outlook on human nature) with a more positive focus on learning about how to improve everyone’s health and well-being. What are some ways that we can we apply principles of positive psychology during these chaotic political times?
Humor is an important way of coping – there’s even laughter therapy! – and there are many ways to bring more humor into your life, whether by simply spending time with friends who make you laugh, reading the comics, reading political satire, or watching late night television (Saturday Night Live, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, etc.). For those willing to make the commitment, taking an improv class or clowning class can be life-changing!
People who regularly feel grateful are better prepared to deal with disaster. Although at first it may feel unnatural, there are many different ways to gradually incorporate gratitude into your life, such as by writing a gratitude letter, doing a gratitude meditation, or reframing the situation to view it in a more positive light. In terms of politics, you can read the Small Victories weekly newsletter, which highlights positive news, or follow Jen Hofmann’s suggestions for acts of gratitude in her weekly newsletter (typically thanking elected officials for their actions).
Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First: The Importance of Prioritizing Your Health and Well-Being
Getting enough sleep is fundamental to living a healthy life. If you make a commitment to prioritizing your own sleep by getting enough sleep and keeping regular sleep hours, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by positive consequences like finding it easier to remember things, feeling more cheerful, and being less likely to get sick – you’ll also be a safer driver and less prone to accident or injury. If it is unavoidable to be on an electronic device at night, try blue-light reduction apps like f.lux.
Good nutrition and regular exercise are also key to your health and well-being. Exercising has been found to be related to improved memory and longevity. While it can be difficult to achieve your goals with nutrition and exercise, taking the initiative to make improvements – perhaps by packing healthy snacks, or investing in an under-desk cycle or a standing desk – can make a difference in the long run.
By taking better care of yourself, you can be a more effective activist, worker, partner, parent, friend, etc.
The Big Picture: We’re in This for the Long Haul Together
As we approach the new year, hopefully some of these self-care ideas help you replenish your energy, and figure out how to sustain your ability to resist in the future. Midterm elections are coming up, and Together We Will continue to resist!
Tina Suzanne, who edits the TWW newsletter, is a psychology professor and mom of two. She is new to political activism and believes in democracy and the power of collective action.