An array of unexplainably difficult feelings and thoughts are present in the days following the major political changes being brought forth in America. These political changes can impact our health and mental health, requiring an increase in self-care. So, where do we go from here? What do we do in these intense and fraught times? Without minimizing or invalidating the pain that many people are in, there are some steps that may be helpful for moving toward healing, even in small ways.
First, we can take a pause. We can sit with our feelings. Whatever we are feeling and thinking is valid. We can notice how certain activities, such as watching the news, going on social media, spending time with family, or laying in bed make us feel. There is a lot to think about, and we may not be our best selves today. We may not be capable of accomplishing all we want to today, or even all that we need to. That’s okay, healing takes time.
We can make a choice to be extra gentle and compassionate to ourselves today and in the near future. Removing judgments and “shoulds” from our vocabulary can be very helpful to us.This gentleness can be facilitated by asking ourselves the following questions, and working to answer them.
- Are we ready to begin the healing process?
- If so, what feels healing?
- Are our basic needs of safety, food, water, and sleep met?
- Where and with whom can we safely, freely and thoroughly express what is weighing on our brains and our hearts?
- What or who do our minds, bodies and spirits need?
- Is thing harmful to others or ourselves? Is it healing in the long run?
- What boundaries do I need to set in order to heal?
- What do I need to let go of, take a break from, or not do in order to heal?
Treating ourselves as we would a child we loved and cared about very much can start the path toward healing.
Another step in the healing process is working to separate facts from feelings. When we have fears and anxieties, they can trick us into thinking that feelings are facts. Depending on, or maybe regardless of your beliefs, there are some facts that are unspeakably difficult to sit with. However, there also may be some feelings masquerading as facts. Maybe, for example, you’re having a feeling that “the whole world is doomed” or “everyone hates me”. Maybe you’re feeling upset about how you or other people voted, or didn’t vote, feeling like “I am or they are the worst person in the world”. It can also be possible to see people, ideas, or political parties as “all good” or “all bad”. These are feelings that stem from anxiety, and increase our suffering. Many of these beliefs are not fully based in facts, but instead in judgments or predictions. Remember that it’s not possible to accurately predict the future with certainty, and it’s not possible to understand other people’s motivations with certainty either. There is a lot of hate, anger, and verbal attacking that has happened in this cycle, and it’s likely that this hate is coming from hurt people. As you notice these thoughts and feelings, you can make a choice, if you’re ready, to challenge them with compassion. Even if we don’t believe people deserve compassion, compassion can help us heal when we are ready to practice it.
Thirdly, mindfulness of the present moment can help us to alleviate our suffering. Regardless of what the future holds, we can think about what, if anything we can do to heal ourselves or others today in the here and now. Suffering may come from past, feeling guilt or worry or hurt over our decisions we made or didn’t make. Suffering may come from moving to the future, worrying about what will happen to us or those we love. Grounding ourselves in the present moment can give us a reprieve from our suffering. Grounding can look like doing meditation, breathing exercises, going for a walk, noticing details in the room we are in. Grounding can also look like just making a plan for getting through the next small piece of time. Grounding could also be finding sources of comfort for your five senses; comforting smells, temperatures, pictures, people, music, clothing or tastes. In essence, grounding is working to fully be where our feet are. When we are ready, we can forgive ourselves for our past and remind ourselves that we are currently in the present, the future hasn’t happened yet. We can work to find meaning or learning in our suffering. Maybe we will be motivated to make small or big changes in our lives that help heal ourselves or the world. Maybe one day our suffering will become art, maybe it will change our career path, or maybe it will inspire us to reach out and be active and connected with the world. Working to find meaning can also help us to decrease suffering.
Much of America and the world are currently struggling today, and greatly in need of care. Self-care for the hurt after this election can look like whatever you need it to, the first step can be giving yourself permission and validating whatever you are feeling or needing. The second step can be working to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves, and patient with the healing process, even if we are not ready to start it. When we do start the healing process, grounding oursleves in the present moment, looking for meaning in our suffering, and separating facts to care for our feelings can be useful small steps. Healing is an individual process, and it may take a long time to understand what you need to heal, and what our world needs as well. Wherever you are in the healing process, and whatever you are feeling and needing, you can give yourself permission to have it be okay. It’s okay to not know what will happen, or how to get through today. It’s also okay to continue living, breathing, loving and finding joy today, even in a time of such uncertainty.