A lot has changed in the six months since Donald Trump was sworn into office, both on a political level and a personal one. Bustle’s State of Our Unions series looks at how millennial women's relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners have been affected since the 2016 election. Today's topic: therapists on what to do if you're still reeling from post-election anxiety.
A lot of us have been feeling stressed out by Trump and his administration. So, first of all, take a deep breath. A big one. "Shock, anger, or outrage can peak your heart rate, which will only exacerbate your feelings of anxiety," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of relationship blog, You're Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. "One of the quickest ways to immediately remedy that is to practice deep breathing exercises when you feel your body is overly stimulated."
It's important to remember, but the truth is that deep breathing isn't always going to cut it. Even though the wake of this election has demonstrated to many just how important it is to practice self-care and generally make sure that you're taking care of yourself, it's sometimes much bigger than that. So if you're feeling like you're really having trouble coping with this administration, you're not alone.
Therapists are finding that a shocking number of patients are expressing stress about the current political climate. Sometimes it's specific stress, related to their family, job, health, or immigration status — but for some, it's much more general. People are being affected in so many different ways, but there's always a way to help yourself, even if it only makes you feel better for the moment. So if you're really freaking TF out over Trump, here's what real therapists recommend.
"For people that are struggling right now, I would encourage them to become and stay active in their local politics," Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Most people only vote in the presidential election once every four years. There are county and state initiatives that are very important as well as being sure to vote for your U.S. Congressional and Senate seats. If you aren’t happy with what we currently have, how can you be part of the solution?"
Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish, LCSW, tells Bustle:
"1. Don't let your heated conversations about your political differences be a 'stand-in' for the real issues that are bothering you in your relationship. Ask yourself: what is really upsetting me?
2. Don't jump to conclusions that your [partner] is just like your negative view of Trump if he agrees with some of Trump's ideas or style. Many of us hold a variety of ideas that don't fit into neat categories. And the smartest of us are open to learning and revising.
3. Some couples actually feel their potential differences enrich their relationship. These couples say that their differences make them think more clearly — and value the other's viewpoint. Remember — long-term, mutually happy spouses report that their opposite styles strengthened them as a team — and was one of the things that attracted them!"
"I think it is important for people to realize that we have a system of checks and balances and that there is a limit to the powers of one office," Shlomo Slatkin, who founded the Marriage Restoration Project with his wife Rivka, tells Bustle. "I think many anti-Trumpers have more faith in our system as they have seen 100 days past and there is no anarchy, etc.... A lot of the worst expectations have not come true, so I think that can help lessen some of the fear that people have had. There has been a lot of confusion, misinformation, as well as carelessness that has led to unnecessary drama. Let's focus on staying connected with each other and not fall victim to fear and depression."
"I recommended over and over to find your tribe," Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. "Find those who support you and love you. Talk about your fears with your tribe. Then it's time to get out and DO SOMETHING. Volunteer, run for office, etc. Then the last step — if you have a conversation with someone who supports Trump, listen, and then share your thoughts. Know that you can't change everyone's mind, but you can try and have an educated discussion about your concerns, rights, and thoughts. And remember that so many others feel the same way."
"Get involved and active," dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. "Even if you can't change the big picture, you can contribute in small ways to resisting oppressive policies and trying to implement positive change. If you can do this in the company of like-minded others (not just at your computer in your own home), then you have the added bonus of feeling less alone in these difficult times.
We need to be able to survive for the long-haul, and this means we need to fuel ourselves with the things we need to keep going, like joy, beauty, connection, and fun. Don't worry, the hard stuff will still be waiting for you and you'll have many more opportunities to get upset about the news."
"I would recommend behavioral strategies to lower their stress response, including regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, being outdoors, fostering close relationships, etc.," Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "I also would recommend cognitive interventions aimed at the anxiety-inducing thoughts, which usually begin with 'what if'. One method is to write a list of their 'what ifs' and then write the word 'so' before each statement. De-escalating our thoughts can be really powerful in combating anxiety. Another approach is for them to imagine the worst case scenario that could happen with Trump in office and then develop a plan on how they could respond if that were to occur. Last, I would help clients discern what they can and can't control with Trump being in office and focus on the parts they can control while trying to let go of the rest."
"Focusing on what people can control can help," relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. "For example, donating time or money to causes aligned with their beliefs can give people a sense of accomplishment that they’re doing something positive."
If you're freaking out and having trouble dealing with this administration, you're not alone. By focusing on the positive, surrounding yourself with good people, and taking care of yourself, you can get through this.