My clients have been either super anxious or super depressed ever since 11/8.
(You remember 9/11 don’t you?) They are saying things like: “The ground just shifted for me as it did when the Towers came down.”
All we had was an election! But for many , including myself, it created a feeling of DOOM, a NAMELESS DREAD, of wackiness and craziness to come.
Since I practice near Washington, DC, most of my clients are from a more liberal party than the one that won the electoral vote. (In my office we never voice the name of the new president, but use his initials or YKW, the initialism for YouKnowWho. Seems to remind many of my clients of Darth Vader but with hair.
Another client said: “I feel like I’m living in a High Stakes Reality Show” but with Nuclear Weapons and Tweets.”
I see many clients who have been traumatized in some part of their lives. If trauma has not been thoroughly worked through, one can be re-traumatized. This is especially true when one is taken back to a dark place as can happen when “the ground shifts”. Waking up to fear can itself re-trigger the old trauma.
Part of the work I do with many of my clients is to process their trauma. Being re-traumatized means looking at their fears. And from a Fear Perspective which is a One dimensional view. From ONE LENS.
When one is fearful of the unknown, one usually remains hyper-vigilant. One expects the proverbial “other shoe” to drop, the worst to happen. And if one’s family has an immigrant background or is trying to reunite with their extended family who finally got through the vetting process to come to the US, the worst may have happened. A visa for entrance or a green card may have recently been rescinded by the spate of Executive Orders processed at the end of January. Two Syrian brothers and their families of an American citizen were stopped recently at the Philadelphia airport, though they had visas and had been vetted in their homeland. But without having stepped on US soil and greeting the many family members waiting for them at the Philadelphia airport, they were summarily put back on an airplane and sent back to their homeland. https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/02/01/world/middleeast/ap-ml-trump-back-to-syria.html
Fear causes various stress hormones such as cortisol to surge through one’s body, raise blood pressure, heart rate and triggers serious anxiety.
A client who teaches in an elementary school with many Hispanic children reports many absentees and ongoing questions about a family member who “may be sent back.” “The children in my classes have lived here since they were babies and they have forgotten the language and customs their parents grew up with.” Schools in Montgomery County will not provide Immigration authorities with immigrant data about their families’ immigration status, but children don’t always know that. When they see someone in uniform, they get scared and fear the worst. Children should not have to live in fear.
So what can one do to reduce anxiety about the unknown?
Psychologists know that if one remains in a fear state, one can be depressed and re-victimized.
These are some idea which I have passed onto my clients.
- Take deep breaths, inhale deeply and exhale deeply. Often.
- Learn about MINDFULNESS. http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com
- Stay in the moment. Avoid cogitating about the future or worrying about the past.
- Join a political action site such as the ones that sprung from https://www.womensmarch.com or https://www.indivisibleguide.com/download-the-guide. Assembled by former Congressional staffers.
- Call your Representative or Senator. Don’t know how or who? Google “How to Call my Representative and Senator”. Get their names and numbers and save them in your smart phone. And call their respective offices. Often. One client I know does three things every AM:
- Get up , brush my teeth.
- Meditate using “Stop, Breath, and Think.” (or some other useful app)
- Call my representative and senators.
- Connect with like-minded folks at your place of worship.
- Dialogue with folks you don’t know or neighbors who are not as progressive and liberal as you are. Avoid antagonizing them. Find out some common interests. Befriend them.
- Get INVOLVED. Just sitting on the sidelines and cogitating on Being Victims or the Illegitimacy of the recent election will only deepen your anxiety and depression. Regardless of whether your candidate won or not, a representative democratic system works with a winner and a loser. WORK to CHANGE the system and end voter suppression.
- Read about how it happened. DogWhistlePolitics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle class by Professor Ian Haney Lopez. (Amazon.com, ISBN-13:978-0190229252, pb and Kindle)