It should come as no surprise to anyone that election night is this Tuesday November 3rd. Whether you are scrolling through social media, watching TV, listening to the radio, or just driving down the road, it’s hard to escape the constant inundation of reminders that we are in a tense election cycle. For many, politics has become a highly contentious topic that is sure to raise your blood pressure. For some, you avoid mention of politics at all costs, while for others, you have become completely immersed.
A presidential election during a normal year can be stressful, but, as you know, 2020 has been anything but normal. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, there’s no way to escape the constant worry of COVID-19, civil unrest and political divisiveness. And then, there’s also mention of murder hornets, wildfires, dust clouds from the Saharan desert… the list goes on.
It feels like one of those years where I’ve caught myself saying over and over “what’s next?”
We’re not sure – should we laugh or should we cry?
In a year where many of us are feeling overwhelmed with fear, angst and uncertainty, sustaining our mental health has never been more important.
How do we handle all of this at once? What can we do to take care of ourselves during these tense times? What can we do to ensure our mental health stays intact?
We all handle stress in different ways – of course, some better than others.
I recently had the chance to talk with Candra Savage, LSW, EMDR, a therapist who works with patients with complex trauma, attachment wounds, substance abuse and other mental health needs. She also happens to be a dear friend of mine. I asked her to share some self-care tips she would recommend for us to get through the next few weeks and beyond.
Here’s what she had to say:
In these times self care needs to combat the onslaught of marketing, social media, and influx of outside opinions of “who you are supposed to be”. My guide to true self care and (survival guide) include:
1. Turn off the Information: that may be the TV, News, Phone, TikTok – whatever is filling your mind with outside images, thoughts, ideas, beliefs. Allow your OWN body to have time away. You may be surprised how much these OUTSIDE forms of information actually keep your body from internally regulating. Also, not all media is there to calm you, as it can be a source of anxiety, feelings of not having or being enough, and can distract you from real rest.
2. Get into nature: in “COVID times” nature has become the new escape. Use a local park, a hiking trail, a bike path to reset your mind and body. Make the outing biweekly/weekly and for at least 30/40 minutes. Leave your phone and headphones in the car and just WALK. Listen to the birds, feel the air on your face, and let your body tell you what pace feels good. Just a simple walk can clear the mind and allow your brain to come up with creative solutions to your current stressors.
3. Meditate: this is a big word that really means use music, sounds, stillness, or a guided story to allow your brain to ‘shut off’ for a bit. Our brain in stress mode is often in the past thinking about pain or in the present trying to avoid pain. Meditation puts it in the present and this can allow you brain and body to ‘reset’ and ‘recharge’ just like updating your phone. It works better, faster, and with more mature choices.
4. Talk to a professional: don’t buy into the belief that therapy is just for someone with problems. If you are breathing then you qualify. Times are hard. You may just be good at holding it together, but for how long? Give yourself permission to ‘get help’ and guidance. We only grow when we open up ourselves to new ideas and new ways of being. Therapy can assist in making the internal conflict and overwhelm manageable.
5. Trust yourself: last but not least believe you are worth the investment of time, money, energy, and love. You would EASILY give it to another. Treat yourself the way you would treat another and invest in YOU. When you are at peace those around you will follow; trust me, I do!
Jeremiah Robinson is a licensed and certified physician assistant in Atlanta, GA
Candra Savage is a licensed social worker in Red Bank, NJ.