As we approach the 2020 presidential election, it feels like we are increasingly surrounded by societal upheaval, unrest, conflict, and mistrust. Our nation is facing a pandemic, economic crisis, racialized systems, large-scale protests and riots, and soon we will know the results of the presidential election. Based on the highly-charged nature of the political climate, it seems likely that no matter which candidate is chosen, at least one group will have loud, inciting things to say (or do) about the results.
How can we safely engage with a world that feels increasingly conflictual, divisive, and unsafe?
Here are 3 tips that can help:
1. Strengthen our own ability to control emotions.
While we cannot control external events or other people’s reactivity to them, we can control (or at least work to control) our own emotions and reactivity. This tip is especially applicable if we often feel sensitive, touchy, irritable, angry, sad, down or hopeless. The better we get at regulating our own emotions, the more manageable our engagement with the outside world will be. If you want to improve your emotional regulation, try some of these strategies:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can help relieve stress and boost overall mood.
- Sleep adequately. A good night’s sleep fosters mental and emotional resiliency.
- Build a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness helps us remain grounded when emotional reactions strike. The Headspace app is a great place to start your practice.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 things you are genuinely thankful for daily. This shifts our perspective from negative to positive aspects of our lives.
2. Create safe havens.
When faced with chronically, anxiety-inducing situations, it is so important to cultivate safety in any way possible. We can create safe havens for ourselves in different ways:
- Physically: Fill a part of your room with soothing objects like pillows, blankets, favorite books, pictures, and essential oils. Come to this space when you are feeling overwhelmed and give yourself time to be soothed by the objects you curated and reconnect to a sense of safety.
- Relationally: Identify relationships that are safe for you – those in which you feel secure and supported. Consider letting these people know that you are thankful for your relationship with them and that you might be coming to them for additional support. Reach out to them as needed!
3. Practice skills of reconciliation and forgiveness.
It is not always possible to be at peace with everyone, but harboring grudges, anger, and resentment only hurts us and creates more pain. For our own well-being, we can practice small and big actions of reconciliation and forgiveness. Look out for opportunities to practice:
- Empathy: Everyone has a story, even the people who hurt us. Empathizing with the complexity of others’ lives can help increase our capacity for forgiveness.
- Perspective: Naming and validating our own experiences as well as the experiences of others is crucial! Often this simple act can de-escalate the intensity of emotions and conflicts to make them more manageable.
- Choosing what you focus on: Our perception and selective attention have incredibly strong influences on our mood and overall well-being. Ruminating on negative events, others’ wrongdoings, and perceived hurts can exacerbate negative emotions. Be mindful of what you focus on and challenge yourself to identify silver linings, hidden blessings, and positive aspects.
Written by: Mindy Nahigian, AMFT, CCPC Administrative Support