As time marches on since Donald Trump was sworn in as the president of the United States there is more and more uncertainty that is surfacing about the future of our world. This insecurity is not limited to the United States; instead it is a global concern as the U.S. is commonly considered the most powerful country in the world and the effects of this controversial presidency are being felt internationally. With the onset of these global challenges there comes an array of backlash that threatens individual and collective mental health.
One only needs to tune into the daily news to find that incidents of racism, misogyny, homophobia and other egregious acts against humanity are on the rise. People are dealing with all kinds of emotion that challenges their well-being if not handled in healthy and socially-acceptable ways. Fear, frustration and anger are on the rise and we have seen many incidents where the expression of these emotions has harmed others.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (https://www.splcenter.org/20161129/ten-days-after-harassment-and-intimidation-aftermath-election#introduction) has reported that there were 867 hate-related incidents since the election targeting blacks and other people of color, Muslims, immigrants, the L.G.B.T. community, and women. The reports of hate crimes are rising. The narratives of these victims are filled with fear, grief and sadness. Reading their words is deeply troubling and can cause us to fall into feelings of helplessness and deep anxiety.
Now is the time for us to understand how we can work with the powerful emotions that we are experiencing so that we don’t lash out, shut down or suffer anxiety because the world is seemingly breaking apart. Indeed, we can live our lives to the fullest while still taking mindful action towards positive change.
Hearing the defamatory words of Donald Trump and the hate speech being expressed by a myriad of people in other walks of life is enough to challenge the emotional well-being of even the strongest person. This kind of verbal attack can incite people into believing they are under siege and can trigger post-traumatic stress no matter how unrelated the incidents are.
In order to protect ourselves we need to have skills that will enable us to navigate this unsettling terrain giving us hope and courage to face the future. The following are a means to that end.
1. Limit the amount of media you are consuming on a daily basis — it presents you with images and information that can be frightening causing a potential spiral into anxiety and depression. When we are stuck in these challenging emotions we can stay locked into our sympathetic nervous systems which means we have the potential to shut down, get sick or feel helpless.
2. Find time to exercise so that you can release any of the pent-up emotions you are feeling. Exercise can be a simple walk around the block to a full on workout.
3. Practice loving-kindness meditation; bringing loving kindness to yourself and to others (even those who are bringing violence and hatred to our world — while that may be difficult; it is necessary). Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. Several research studies show that the regular practice of loving-kindness meditation increases feelings of love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, wonder and awe. These positive emotions allow us to tap into our parasympathetic nervous systems thereby allowing us to access our own powerful inner resources to become more mindful, find purpose in our lives, access social support and find healthier lifestyles.
4. Find gratitude in your life — there will always be something to be grateful for (nature, the air we breathe, family, friends, pets etc. etc.). Practicing gratitude helps you to see that not everything is bad and that there is good in the world. It also helps us to find hope, a feeling that we need to continue to move forward and to engage in activities that will help us to become agents of change.
5. Develop your emotional intelligence so that you are aware of yourself and others, particularly in relationship. Understanding how you react by developing emotionally intelligent responses will assist you in dealing effectively and proactively with others instead of building up resentment and anger that ends in a reaction of harm.
6. Understand that all emotions are natural and the expression of each one of them is important. However, we must know that inflicting harm on others as a result of uncontrolled emotion is unhealthy and will only lead to additional trauma and pain.
7. Find time for daily meditation. The research tells us that simply sitting in meditation for just five minutes a day can re-wire our brains so that we become calmer and more compassionate. We can calm that “monkey mind” we all have from time-to-time. We simply need practice.
8. Be proactive in your reactions to world issues and calls for change. History has shown us that reactive, violent and hate-filled responses only serve to exacerbate the problem. Find peaceful and nonviolent ways to contribute to the change that is calling us.
9. Engage in meaningful and mindful dialogue with people. Look at the perspectives of others and try to understand their point-of-view. Open dialogue will open doors to understanding. Holding fast and furiously to our own ideals without attempting to understand puts us in a silo and prevents us from making meaningful change.
10. Find your inner leader, no matter what your role is in life. We are all leaders and we can all be agents of change. Know that leadership is not about managing others; it is about empowerment of others and allowing people to find their own inner leader.
Being mindful is open to all of us. Daily mindful practices can help guide us through the journey ahead of us. It is time to live in this moment, finding solutions based in love and hope; not fear, hatred and anger. Together we can make a difference and we are now seeing global examples of how that movement is on the rise.
Originally published at medium.com