With another holiday season peaking, and the uncertainty of the changing political climate affecting many, you might be the exception if you are not dealing with unusual levels of stress, anxiety, or even bouts of depression. In my practice and in conversation, it is clear the recent U.S. presidential election has triggered many people’s personal traumas and left some feeling increasingly vulnerable. As the holidays bring many families together, at least in terms of proximity, some people are returning to environments where their wounds first occurred.
If you’re one of them, it may be more important than ever to adopt and commit to self-care practices that help you feel balanced, supported, connected, and grounded. The following are eight ways in which you can make a major shift in how you feel inside as you relate to the changing world in which we live, and that may enable you to take actions that support what you care about.
- Identify your story: If you are feeling heightened anxiety or depression related to the election, it is possible the results and the subsequent uncertainty has evoked childhood emotional wounds. In order to find more emotional balance and connect with your strength, it is vital to identify the particular lens you are seeing your world through. Identifying your fears, and how they connect to both your history and current events, may offer you the opportunity to heal, grow, and feel more empowered. Therapy may be helpful in this pursuit.
- Practice being in the present moment: Quite often, people unconsciously use the fears that derive from childhood wounding to predict the future. The truth is we don’t know what will happen. The best way to be with that not knowing is to practice being in the moment. If you are with a family member or friend, really be with that person. If you are washing the dishes, focus all your attention there. This practice can help prepare you to respond effectively to whatever comes your way. Therapy and meditation are great forums in which to practice this.
- Connect to others: Connecting with people you know and trust is one of the best antidotes to anxiety and depression. Our brains are wired for us to socialize and talk and think with others. The natural defenses built into your nervous system may relax if you spend time talking, being close to, and having fun with others. For some people, this may mean being around people who are not technically family.
- Get exercise and sleep: Proper exercise and sleep are both essential to reducing anxiety and depression. Attend to the body’s basic needs in times of stress. This is a baseline self-care technique.
- Recognizing the beauty: Another important practice, at any time but perhaps especially now, is to keep one eye on the beauty that exists in our world. We are being bombarded with fear-inducing news that over-represents the dark side of humanity. If you focus on that external noise, your ability to cope with anxiety or depression may be strained. There is a world of beauty that exists that needs our attention and care. Every day, try to notice something—be it an act of kindness, a flower, or a sunset—that holds beauty for you.
- Identify your values: Ask yourself what is important to you. Caring for something gets you instantly in touch with your heart and perhaps out of the anxious or depressed mind, and sets you up to take action to fight for what you care about, should the need arise. Whether you care about climate change, social justice, personal interests, or just being kind to others, allow yourself to be passionate about something—anything. This may alleviate your pain.
- Find voices of mentorship: There are all kinds of voices out there saying all kinds of things. Protect your heart and mind by finding the voices that resonate for you in terms of how you want to think and live your life. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t listen to or consider opposing viewpoints, but find mentors or role models you can relate to as you go through emotionally challenging times.
- Express your creativity: Your creative force, regardless of how it is expressed, may bring you in touch with something greater than yourself, and could release you from an anxious or depressed state. Daily expression of creativity may be nourishing to the soul and can be one way to develop present-moment awareness.
As you move through the holiday season and beyond it, remember to go easy on yourself. With our traumatic histories along for the ride, the world can be difficult enough to navigate without piling on additional baggage you don’t deserve to carry. Connect to what is important to you, pursue it with all the vigor you can muster, and simply do the best you can in any given moment. That’s enough for anybody.
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