Self-Care and Sanity in the Age of Trump

meditation

Practicing adequate self-care and staying grounded is challenging enough with the everyday pressures and demands we face as we juggle our careers, family, and personal lives, along with the various stressors that try to throw us off our path. But with an administration in power who are making policies that will hurt so many people nationwide, including ourselves, our friends, and family members, it’s becoming an increasingly difficult practice. As much as we may try to put away our phones or turn off our TVs, we can’t really escape the deluge of stories and tweets related to our Narcissist-in-Chief or the conversations that he’ll inevitably pop up in. And that’s actually a good thing, to a certain extent. It’s equally dangerous to bury your head in the sand as it is to remain constantly on high alert and obsessively plugged into the comically tragic reality show that is the White House, circa 2017. The big question is, how can we strike some kind of balance, in order to stay informed and politically active (If I were a younger Millennial, I’d probably use the expression “stay woke,” but that phrase just rubs me the wrong way) but not overwhelmed, so we don’t drown in the ever expanding political swamp that Trump promised to drain?

I’d like to say that the following list offers six simple ways to stay grounded and sane during this era that has been causing us to feel anything but those two qualities. However, self-care in the age of Trump is not such a simple practice. It takes a great deal of patience, dedication, self-awareness, and informed decision making. We must remember that even though feelings of frustration, anger, and despair may rise to the surface as we’re doing this work, it’s important now more than ever to have an arsenal of healthy, positive self-care practices that help us balance out those dark emotions and keep them mostly at bay for the next (God forbid) four years.

1) Find an outlet to channel your frustration, fear, or other dark emotions into something more positive.

There are so many outlets out there, and so many like-minded people to connect with in order to enact positive change. Attend a town hall meeting run by one of your senators or representatives (check townhallproject.com to find one in your area). Join the local chapter of an Indivisible group (indivisibleguide.com). Go to a march or another peaceful protest. Download the apps, “5 Calls” and “Alder” for simple, daily actions you can take from home. Volunteer for or donate to one of the many organizations that are doing work to counteract the Trump administration’s damaging policies: immigrant rights organizations, the ACLU, the NRDC, Planned Parenthood, the list goes on. So, rather than firing off that tenth angry Facebook rant of the day or simply sharing article after article, put your money where your mouth is and find a way to get more actively involved. And rather than feeling constrained to operate within the realm of political activism, simply be of service in any way you can. Help feed the homeless, volunteer at your church or temple, donate your time and energy to working with senior citizens and children in need, or walk dogs at a local animal shelter. Because honestly, what bad situation can’t be made at least partially better by cute animals?

2) Tap into your creativity

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative type,” you’ll benefit greatly from channeling your energy and emotions into some kind of project, whether it’s fine arts, knitting, writing, music, yoga, gardening, taking a community education class, or starting a project around the house. It’ll get you away from the TV, the laptop, and the phone, and into something that will actually feel therapeutic and rewarding.

3) Reconnect to your roots

As a yoga teacher who studies the chakras (major energy centers in the body), this is a big one for me in terms of staying grounded. By reconnecting to nature, you recharge and balance your root chakra, which is probably the best and most simple war to stay grounded. Just today, I found myself engaging just a bit too much in Trumpy Twitter shenanigans, and I made a conscious decision to walk some local trails before I became hopelessly sucked into a rabbit hole of never ending tweets and articles. It honestly made me feel at least 50% more grounded and sane. Try it. It really works.

4) Laughter- it really is the best medicine

Seriously. I don’t know where I’d be without Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Jon Lovett of the amazing podcast/comedy hour that is “Lovett Or Leave It,” and pretty much the entire cast of SNL (especially the now adjunct cast members, Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin). They are all true rays of sunshine in these pretty dark times. If there’s one positive thing to emerge from the raging dumpster fire that is the Trump administration, it’s all the amazingly high quality satire that’s out there. So go check it out. You’ll laugh until your face turns orange…I mean, red.

5) Attempt to find some common ground with people on “the other side”

To paraphrase the wise words of Joni Mitchell, “[look] at life from from both sides now…” This one has definitely been the most challenging for me to put into practice, and it’s something I need to get better at. While we’d all prefer to stay inside our comfortable bubble of like-minded people and publications that validate our feelings and ideologies, its important to hear what the other side has to say and at least attempt to find some common ground. Now I’m not advocating that you become a Fox News junkie or an avid Breitbart reader, but maybe check out more “mindful” conservative publications like The American Conservative, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist every now and then. And perhaps even try having a mindful, respectful conversation with a co-worker who may lean more to the right. Be open to truly listening what they have to say and why they have certain beliefs, without attempting to change their minds or convince them that you’re right. This is a whole lot easier to do with Trump voters versus Trump fans, and there is definitely a distinction between those two camps. I’ve also been listening to podcasts that highlight speakers whose politics aren’t always so left-leaning. Politico’s “Off Message” and Ana Marie Cox’s “With Friends Like These,” which is all about uncomfortable conversations, are both great choices.

6) Know When To Disengage

Speaking of uncomfortable conversations, I’ve had more than a few of those since November 8, and I’ve learned when to just disengage. Some of these conversations have derailed into anger and stubbornness on both sides; I’ll admit I’ve allowed myself to become heated, defensive, and even slightly combative while engaging with a few Fox News aficionados and Trumpeters of the “Lock Her Up!” variety on Twitter. And I’ve come to realize that those “conversations” will never lead to any shred of compassion, understanding, or common ground. But I have had a few genuine conversations with (mostly reluctant) Trump voters that have actually been more “comfortably uncomfortable” and somewhat eye-opening. I think it’s important to at least try to establish some common ground with relatives, co-workers, and acquaintances whose political views are different from yours, but if that quest to find shared values proves to be too much of an uphill battle, it’s best to just politely disengage. It’s perfectly healthy to block and report those unhinged, alt-right Twitter trolls you may have encountered, or to delete those super Trumpy Facebook “friends,” who still share “Hillary For Prison” memes and who you probably didn’t even like before the election, all in the name of staying sane. It’s also perfectly healthy to avoid seeing family members with whom you’ve failed to find any common ground after having made honest attempts to do so.

7) Keep practicing your tried and true self-care methods

Now I’m not talking about drinking wine, which, if I’m being honest, is my #2 go-to self-care practice. Yoga is #1 of course, and stress eating is #3 😉 I’m talking about those simple, everyday things we do to take care of ourselves that are genuinely healthy and therapeutic: getting outside, going for walks, soaking up some sun, going to the beach or going on hikes or bike rides, taking bubble baths, making sure you get a decent amount of sleep every night, listening to your favorite music (Joni Mitchell has been even more of a staple in my musical diet since November 8), or sustaining a mind-body practice like yoga or meditation (I highly recommend the Headspace meditation app).

And yes, maybe even drinking a glass or two of wine. Because with Donald Trump in the White House, we’ll need all the wine we can get!

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