I know that you and I may have different political leanings, and that's OK. I believe that healthy societies can thrive on diversity,
as does the natural world
. I have faith that most humans are trying to be good people and do no harm, and that our great country is capable of enduring change and righting wrongs over time. I believe that our Constitution and Free Speech are both incredibly powerful protectors of Democracy.
But still, I have to admit, the past week has been incredibly difficult for me to process. As someone who relies on Medicaid, I worry about my health care coverage in the next four years. As someone who cares about global climate change, I worry about environmental policies coming down the line.
As someone who cares about world peace, I worry about the emerging stance on international relations. As a person with a disability, I worry about the rights of all minorities in this nation. Because infringing on the liberties of vulnerable populations anywhere affects us all - we are all in this together.
Whether or not you share these concerns with me, I still want to be honest with you, because honesty and vulnerability reminds us that we are human. And here's what I have to tell you: twice this week I had panic attacks after reading the news. These were not some over-exaggerated, drama-filled throes on my part... They were real, physical, and unexpected reactions to reading words that are very stressful to me. This week is doing a number on my mental health, that is for sure.
I tell you this because I think part of what is fueling this stress, aside from the policies of the new administration, is the lack of empathetic language we are using about these developments. There seems to be no compassion for the other side, no desire to understand. It seems we have made enemies with those who disagree with us. This war of words seems symbolic of something much darker simmering below the surface: unchecked anger.
Now I understand that anger is real and has its place. But we must remember that love is still our highest aim, even in the midst of chaos. Anger is only justified if fueled by righteousness, not hate... Hate should never be our motivating factor in any of our actions or our words. So try, try, try not to demonize the other side. Remember your conservative uncle with a heart of gold who would do anything to help you out in times of need. Cherish your tree-hugging niece because you watched her grow up and you love her laugh.
Remember that so many of the people we disagree with are just people trying their best.
I am not naive and I realize that not everyone is trying to be a good person - there is indeed corruption in this world. But in our communities, in our circles of influence, we can try to be civil. Civility matters, kindness matters, and respect matters, because human lives matter.
A couple of days ago I sent out an online S.O.S. to my social networks regarding this growing sense of panic, and I received a lot of great feedback of ways to combat anxiety. So I want to share their suggestions with you, because I know I am not the only one struggling this week.
If you are struggling with anxiety, know that so many of us are in the boat right alongside you. I repeat: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In reality, none of us can see or control the future: as Jesus said "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" We can only control how we respond to the circumstances that come our way. But let us remember: we are all in this together, and that collectively we can reach towards love.
Here is a list of a dozen things that have helped me deal with anxiety:
1) Talk about your fears with a trusted friend instead of bottling it up
2) Go for a walk outside and just see the sights and feel the air
3) Meditate (I suck at meditating, but I have success with Buddhify)
5) Look at pictures of puppies and kittens (weirdly therapeutic)
6) Play music (I find improvising is the most centering for me)
8) Log off the internet when you're stressed, especially social media
9) Get enough sleep... being tired makes everything seem worse
10) Watch / listen to something funny - laughter is medicine
12) Get counseling - a caring, trained professional can help so much!
And remember, above all, focus on love. In the end, love is what matters.