We all have different reactions to the 2016 election. My reaction was abject fear. Every worst case scenario ran through my mind, including the prospect of America becoming a dictatorship. I was not talking about how wide and deep my thoughts went lest I be judged. I even considered male friends I might marry that lived in other countries where I could take refuge. Yes, that’s how far I took it!
Since the initial shock I have climbed up out of the depths of fear better prepared for any scenario. Being prepared is comforting. Fearful thinking brings me into heightened awareness where I begin to pick up on patterns. If I don’t properly channel my fear it can reside in a negative space — one of overwhelm and despair. However, if I look at the negative voices as holding a clue as to the solution then I can start to realize the negative voices can actually be helpmates warning me of danger or offering tools for protection. For example the “I am not good enough” voice is actually asking you “are you prepared to take this on?” or the “I am just one person” is a question of “can you take this on yourself or do you need to be working within a community?” If you listen, then you have the ability to assess whether the voice holds some truth. If it does, you can make informed decisions and take action. If it doesn’t, you can dismiss it. By listening and assessing the negative voices you take back your power and become the conductor of your own personal orchestra; turning up the volume of your thoughts in some areas and turning down the volume in other areas. If you do not listen to these voices and shove them in a corner, they pop up in unexpected ways — like the whack-a-mole game.
The current administration has ignited people in a way I have never seen. I see people wanting to take action but not knowing what action to take. The large number of issues and opportunities to choose from is overwhelming. It is easy to get swept away in all the commotion and end up completely shutting down. I urge you not to do this. Society needs you. You need you.
I want to offer a three part solution that can help alleviate stress:
1) Identify ways to contribute.
2) Connect with community.
3) Center and care for yourself.
You can do the following exercise by yourself, but I recommend doing the following activity with a group. This can be done remotely or you can make a fun night of doing this in person. Doing this as a group allows you to share your commitments and hold one another accountable.
Every action matters, no matter how big or small. There is no need for self-judgement. You define your role as it works for you. I will ask some big questions. Don’t feel pressured to answer a specific manner. The important thing is that we all awaken to the injustices that are happening in our country and help in our own way.
Part 1. Take a moment to explore the question, “how can I contribute?” You will need a blank piece of paper and a pen to write down your answers.
Figuring Out Your Strengths:
- What are you good at doing?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What would a dear friend or co-worker say your strengths are? — If you don’t know, you can ask!
- What accomplishments are you the most proud of? This can be anything: receiving a promotion, loosing weight or getting married, etc. — What skills did you use to actualize this accomplishment?
Causes You’re Passionate About:
- Were there causes you have been involved with in the past?
- What is it about those causes that make them important to you?
- Are there new causes that the recent election has brought to the surface that you find yourself becoming passionate about?
Helping Society — Root Issues/Solutions:
For this next section take a moment to brainstorm some key overarching systematic solutions that call to you.
Democracy requires involvement and is one of the main problems + solutions I have identified. Here are some suggestions of ways to get involved:
- Empowering leaders is one of the best things you can do. The 2018 election is big – 23 seats are up for reelection. You could help make a difference by supporting the candidates in states where the votes are happening.
- Check out this 10 point plan as resource: http://michaelmoore.com/10PointPlan/
- Use your pocketbook to vote — I like https://grabyourwallet.org/ because it identifies the specific reasons of the brands you should boycott, giving you more freedom to make informed choices. Sarah Silverman also has some wise words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqfrIo3k0ZI
- Build empathy by talking to people that have different opinions. Try to understand their ideas, fears, and beliefs. There is a reason why they feel the way they do.
- Find creative ways of getting involved.
- No action is an action — do something!
~ After answering these questions play with pairing your answers together in different ways. Can you find places your answers overlap and work together in ways you can make an impact?
Part 2. Connecting With Community
The second step is finding a way to connect with community. Community can be a group of friends, a kickboxing class, a meet up group, etc. Any group that lifts your spirit and you spend at least an hour with can be considered community. Please write down how you will connect with community. Make sure to write down measurable commitments — such as, I will go to improv class 1x a week.
Part 3. Centering Yourself Within The Chaos
When my daughter gets emotionally upset my mom says, “try being like a duck and let the water roll off your back.” During turbulent times it is easy to get swept away by emotion and stuck in our heads. We go around and around over the same types of thoughts like a broken record. If we get stuck in thinking we’re apt to neglect our body and spirit. When this happens, I recommend a heart centered meditation. One option is the Headspace app for guided meditations — www.headspace.com. If after a few times you feel it is not helping you get centered try some other way such as going out into nature or some form of prayer.
Lastly, how will you engage in self care? For some that could mean having fresh flowers in the house or going for a motorcycle ride. Possibly, it is as simple as committing to put lotion on after you shower or reading a chapter a night of a book. Write it down your commitment for your self care.
My hope is that this article will help you maintain sanity as you move into action. This is not a sprint. This is a marathon!
Originally published at medium.com