The Trump administration is aging me dramatically. It feels like this country has been in a perpetual state of chaos with the seemingly endless stream of injustices and accounts of preventable human suffering happening every day. It is more important now than ever to become an activist by practicing integrity and making sure that your actions align with your morals, values and the things you preach about on Facebook. We should all be voting, donating our money and time to causes we believe in, calling our representatives to tell them how we really feel, and generally striving to be good, empathetic humans who treat strangers with kindness and basic respect.
Even if you’re taking positive actions every day, it’s still easy to feel helpless at times.
We’re being bombarded with horrific stories every time we look at a screen, which can be emotionally draining and bring up a lot of painful or hard-to-handle feelings. This significantly affects our mood and makes us more likely to see our own personal problems as more threatening, distressing and overwhelming to the point of inducing anxiety attacks.
I personally found myself paralyzed this week after seeing photos and audio clips of migrant children being ripped away from their parents. The suffering of strangers triggers such strong emotions in me sometimes that everything else in my life feels pointless. When I reach that state, I’m pretty useless to incite change or even help myself. It’s not a place I want to dwell, so I’m going to share some of the ways I cope with stress personally. Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should just hide behind their privilege by unplugging and running away into the mountains because the news is too unbearable to handle. No, there’s too much work to be done, especially if you’re in a position to lend your voice to people that have none. However, chronic stress and panic attacks will render you unproductive and eventually kill you, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself because saving the world requires a lot of energy.
Here are some of my favorite coping mechanisms to help me calm down (that don’t involve leaving my doctor voicemails about Xanax):
Get outside and move around
If you feel anxiety coming on, take a look at your surroundings. Are you in a crowded, climate-controlled, artificially lit room staring at a screen? That’s not natural. Go outside and release some endorphins by walking around. The hardest part is getting out the door, but it’s always so worth it because fresh air and sunshine can be healing and boost your mood immediately.
So I have never been one of those people who experiences intense anxiety when they smoke, but I know those people exist so obviously don’t do this if you know it only makes it worse. Marijuana is a relaxing experience for me because it slows down my thoughts and helps bring me into the moment. If I’m in a mood and really need to chill, I’ll pair a joint with everything else on this list. If you’ve had a bad experience with it in the past, just be mindful of your dosage and start small. Look for strains that are high in CBD that allow you to relax without feeling foggy-headed. Get stoned in an environment where you feel peaceful and safe, either alone or with friends you can be your true self around.
I know it sounds so basic, but meditating is like the best thing ever for racing thoughts or when you feel like you’re going into panic mode. It’s basically sleep that you get to be awake for. Download some meditation apps on your phone. Try guided meditations or coming up with a personal mantra. There are a million ways to do it, and there’s a reason the practice has been around for thousands of years, so look into it.
Stop doing all the other things you know stress you out but keep doing anyways
Cut down on sugar, get quality sleep, don’t look at your phone before bed, don’t check your email when you first wake up, be less of a slave to your social media notifications, drink less coffee, try yoga, find a good therapist, etc. We all have an ongoing list of personal habits that we’d like to change or improve because we know it will lead to becoming better versions of ourselves. Don’t try to do everything at once, but incorporate little changes and see how self-efficacy builds your confidence and lowers your stress because you’re committing to yourself and doing something you said you would.