These are turbulent times. Our nation is in crisis.
Living in the “Age of Trump” poses a threat to our nation and, with an outbreak of undiagnosed PSD (Political Stress Disorder) making its way across America, to our mental and physical health.
In a sense, we are a nation at war. With one another. And the world is watching. The Un-Civil War of 2018, much like the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements of the late 1960s, is tearing us apart as a nation. Lining up behind Trump, or against him, millions of Americans, including family members, co-workers and friends, have become “enemies.”
The threats to our nation — including cyber-warfare, racism, sexism, nationalism, global warming, and political corruption — have been fully “outed.” Awakened from its relative complacency, America finds itself in a state of bipartisan chaos. We no longer know who or what to trust. In question are the heart and soul of our country, the rights and freedoms of our democracy, what’s real and what’s fake, and what’s true and what’s a lie.
We are a deeply divided nation. Americans have radically divergent views on what democracy and patriotism look like. Some of us see our President’s behavior as “despicable,” “beyond outrageous” and “treasonous.” Others consider him “heroic.” The lines in the sand have been drawn, and like a couple on the brink of divorce, we don’t seem to have a clue about how to resolve seemingly irreconcilable differences of opinion. Nor do we seem to have the desire to do so.
A dark cloud of incivility, disdain, vitriol, contempt, despair, and hatred is hovering over our nation, blocking the sun and reducing us to the lesser versions of ourselves. Our daily dose of news on CNN or Fox, once designed to keep us informed, has become a “Breaking News” addiction. Inordinate amounts of angst, outrage, and fear are threatening to bring out the worst in us, at a time when we need to be at our best. America has arrived at a moment of truth that will define it’s character for generations to come.
Beneath all the hoopla, we’re all worried sick. What we hold dear, particularly our safety and security, is under threat. Whether we’re 35 or 75; Democrat, Republican, or Independent; for or against the Mueller investigation; or believe our president and/or his entourage are guilty of collusion, we’re stressing out about the state of our union. As is much of the rest of the world. Our leaders are at each other’s throats, and our democracy appears, at times, to be hanging in the balance.
You may be the kind of person who thrives on chaos . . . who says and does things to escalate conflict . . . and loves a good fight. Or maybe you’re a peacemaker who tries to find common ground, keep the faith and work together. You may think we’re on a downward spiral and that America is circling the bowl. Or that we’re going through a spiritual awakening in which we will evolve into smarter, better, and more compassionate human beings.
One thing’s for sure. The Age of Trump is upon us, and we are taking some pretty serious hits. Destabilized as individuals, as a functional government and as a nation, we’re all likely to be suffering the effects of Political Stress Disorder (PSD). Diagnosing whether or not we have PSD, and admitting it, is going to require being honest with ourselves. So is making sure we are each working to become part of the solution, not the problem. If we’re exhibiting some of the symptoms — namely, excessive anger, irritability, despair, fear, and anxiety — we can prevent it from doing any further damage to our health and the health of our nation by taking some of the steps outlined below.
Professional-Grade Self-Care,as outlined in my booklet, The Handbook of Self-Care, is as applicable to PSD as it is to preventing burnout, work-life imbalance or overwork. Here are five things you can do to significantly reduce your PSD, restore your sense of well-being and advocate for the resilience of our great nation.
1. Take Responsibility
By upgrading to Professional-Grade Self-Care and learning to take better care of yourself, you’ll be getting yourself into top shape as an advocate — and, once again, making sure you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. You’ve got to be at your best to help America be at its best!
One can only hope the folks we elect to represent us will become ever-more effective in showing us how to work out our seemingly irreconcilable differences; search for common ground; and make the world a better, safer place. If we’ve learned anything watching politicians this past year, it’s that we can’t necessarily count on them to lead the way. It’s incumbent on each of us to take responsibility for creating a better America.
At this moment in history, and in the absence of governmental leadership, the American people need to step up and take leadership. This will require newfound strength, patience, understanding, humility, faith, and courage — turning our outrage into purposeful action — supporting those in our nation who keep us strong — and adopting effective self-care practices.
This means (a) admitting when we’re stressed out; (b) learning to manage and redirect our sense of outrage; and (c ) making sure we are living on the solution side of things. Getting on the solution side of things may mean listening to and treating others with more respect, patiently working out differences, de-escalating conflicts, finding common ground, and building bridges that solve problems. It may also mean rededicating ourselves to speaking out boldly, marching, volunteering our time, treasury and talents, demanding leadership from elected officials and standing together with our fellow Americans to unwaveringly safeguard the integrity of our nation.
You’re probably not going to your doctor, therapist, or spiritual counselor asking for help with PSD. You may not be describing the irritability, anxiety, impatience, short-temperedness and fear to trusted confidants, loved ones, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, or friends. Nor is it likely you’re blaming the ugly family fight during the 4th of July on Collective PSD, but all the signs of Political Stress Disorder are present. Not only can you learn to get it under control, and regain your balance, you can learn to turn your outrage into positive action.
2. Acknowledge Your Caring Self
In all likelihood, no matter how you see things, you mean well. This means that you care about what’s happening in our country and the world, are diligently trying to make sense of everything, and want to use your voice and/or abilities to make things better.
You may be angrier and more outraged than ever — and may be feeling helpless, powerless, frustrated, and scared, but given the current state of affairs, this is 100 percent understandable. If you’ve been watching American politics unfold on the world stage, your circuits could not be anything but overloaded. Your neurotransmitters, frayed. You may still be in a state of shock, or feeling numb, as you try to make sense of what’s happening. Things that would have shocked you, might now seem commonplace. But it’s still effecting you.
Stop and acknowledge yourself. Your intentions are good, and noteworthy.
3. Catch Yourself Catastrophizing and Becoming Radicalized
Yes, you’re a warrior. Yes, you’re fighting for a noble cause. And yes, our nation is in crisis. Effective advocates, however, are honest enough to admit if and when they’re completely overwhelmed; losing their perspective in radical, irrational narratives; and/or catastrophizing.
People with severe cases of PSD can become radicalized and go to dangerous extremes demonizing, turning to violence, becoming paranoid, and wasting opportunities for reconciliation. Burned-out; spinning their wheels; inadvertently escalating conflict; taunting and enraging the opposition, they become part of the problem.
If you catch yourself catastrophizing and/or becoming radicalized, get yourself off the ledge. Take a deep breath, count to ten, vent your fears to a trusted confidant and slowly work your way back into a state of healthy, effective advocacy. Reel yourself in and be cognizant of some of the good that is also happening in our nation and communities. Rest assured that the majority of things that make America tick, are still ticking.
We can be grateful to, and take reassurance for, devoted legal professionals working in/for our Justice Department and FBI, members of America’s free press, community leaders and government officials who are holding us all accountable to indisputable facts and the highest moral, ethical and legal standards. We must keep the faith that our nation, its leaders and citizens, will be strong enough in the days to come to prevail.
Here are some ways of regaining our footing. Sharpening our effectiveness. And making sure our PSD is in check.
4. Learn to Unplug, Rest, and Replenish
Slow down. Turn off the news, unplug from social media, relax, quiet your mind, listen to calming music, talk with people who are positive and reassuring, don’t be afraid to say no, and resist the invitation to dive right back into the fray.
Taking the time to lighten your load, unburden yourself, listen to your heart, reconnect with loved ones, exercise, play, laugh and allow yourself to experience pleasure will help balance out the heaviness of what’s going on in the Age of Trump. Good self-care habits and practices lead to good mental health, resilience, sound judgment, and being in game shape to take sustained and effective action.
This might also be a good time to assess whether the activities, TV-watching/radio-listening habits, conversations, and attending politically charged events are the most effective way for you to fight for what’s best for our country. Step back and think about it. The way I can best use my talents, assets and abilities to make a difference is ____. Take time to think this through with a trusted family member or friend.
5. Be an Effective Advocate and Peaceful Warrior
You may be outraged by everything that’s going on and convinced that your way of seeing things is the right way. And venting the full measure of your emotions (hopefully in a safe and constructive manner). Try not to fall victim to your own sense of self-righteousness. Or fail to consider the power of good listening, openness, humility, respect, understanding, forgiveness, empathy, dialogue, and deliberation.
We have not begun to tap into our potential for finding peace, both within ourselves and with others who see things differently. Let’s aspire to be warriors of peace, justice, fairness and freedom whose service to our nation in reconciling differences will one day be recognized as honorable and valiant, along with those who took up arms and laid down their lives for our country in years gone by.
Americans are engaged in the Age of Trump. Let’s make sure we’re using our best assets, be it our knowledge, skills, talents, minds, hearts, networks and world view to rebuild, rather than tear down, America.
There’s no magic pill for curing PSD in the Age of Trump or for ending our Un-Civil War. Taking better care of ourselves, becoming guardians of our own health and sanity, and strengthening our approach to advocacy, we become the better version of ourselves as Americans and citizens of the world.