Are we going to be ok? What’s going to happen? How will we make it through the next 4 years? Since the election, these are some of the questions that keep replaying in my mind and I doubt that I’m the only one. Stress and anxiety has been at all time high for people. As […]
Are we going to be ok? What’s going to happen? How will we make it through the next 4 years? Since the election, these are some of the questions that keep replaying in my mind and I doubt that I’m the only one. Stress and anxiety has been at all time high for people. As a therapist, here’s the reassuring answer I keep coming back to: community organizing and self-care.
I look to community organizing to give us hope and move us forward. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter, Showing Up for Racial Justice, MPower, United We Dream, and so many more that do amazing work to fight systemic oppression. They are getting us involved, doing the necessary grassroots organizing work, and inspiring all of us to be part of creating a just, safe, and better world.
Self-care is also a necessary part in reducing stress and anxiety. It is especially important for those of us working for change. We have to take care of ourselves in order to be in the best possible position to help our family, friends, and community. Some of us have been in this fight our whole lives and some of us are just starting to get involved now. Either way practicing self-care alongside of community organizing will keep us stronger and more energized. Standing up against oppression is emotionally and physically exhausting. Self-care is usually the last thing that comes to mind when we stand up against discrimination and challenge oppression but yet it’s one of the most important elements in us sustaining our fight. Just like running a marathon, we need to keep our stamina and energy through the whole race not just the first few miles. Self-care is how we can do it.
Here are tips to reduce stress and anxiety:
- Get involved: Here is a great website with a list of social justice organizations and how you can get involved: What can I do? If you are already involved with an organization, do your best to consistently be engaged in the work they are doing. Now is the perfect time to start to getting involved to actively work for change if you haven’t done so yet.
- Keep a journal: Writing can be very therapeutic. It allows you time to process your thoughts and get out the anger, rage, pain, and sadness without judgement. It may also spark ideas that you can share in this movement building work.
- Exercise daily: Get your body moving. Exercise has a naturally calming affect and even a few extra minutes a day can make a difference. For busy people this means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking, parking farther away and walking, and taking a short walk during your lunch break.
- Identify the people who care and support you: Who are you close with? Who won’t judge you? Who has been there for you during difficult times in the past? Who is in your family, friend, community circle that you can go to? Lean on your support system and let them know when you’re feeling down, tired, stressed, or overwhelmed.
- Prioritize: We can not do everything even though we often wish we could. Identify and make a list of your priorities in ranking order. Put your time and energy into the ones on the top of the list and strategize how to get help from your support system or leave the others for another time.
- Identify your strengths and talents: Make a list of all of the positive characteristics, talents, and skills that make you who you are. Re-read this list every time you feel overwhelmed, down, or stuck in a difficult situation. Be creative and see how to best use your skills and talents in the social justice work you are involved with. Also, don’t compare your list to anyone else’s. Each of us has unique strengths to share with the world.
- Be aware of your trauma triggers: Oppression is traumatic. Many people have experienced trauma in their life. Pay attention to your trauma triggers. This could be anything reminding you of a past traumatic incident. If you notice that you are having emotional or physical symptoms such as flashbacks, panic attacks, or trouble sleeping, listen to your body and address your needs with people that care about you. If you are struggling to address it on your own, please seek professional help (That’s what us therapists are here to help with). We need you to be at your best and strongest, to be involved in this work. By taking care of yourself, you are ensuring that our social change movement continues.
- Be compassionate: Be kind to yourself and others. We are human and we all make mistakes at times. Be reflective of your words and actions. If you make a mistake, work to correct it but also forgive yourself and allow yourself to move forward. If you have family or friends in your life that cause you stress, which may likely have escalated after the election, approach the situation with compassion to get them involved in social justice work. We often think that by avoiding or cutting ties with people, we will feel better. But it often has the opposite effect. This does not mean that you shouldn’t have boundaries. Create the boundaries that you need for this to work. Guide your relatives or friends to have open conversations, see different viewpoints, expose them to opportunities they may not have had before, and understand the root of where their issues comes from. Reach out for support when you need it through this process. Here some places you can go for coaching and extra support: Showing Up for Racial Justice or U Power Change, my site that offers post-election coaching with a focus on family dynamics and healing.
- Look to history for inspiration: There have been amazing social movements and leaders in the US and all over the world. Do your research, read about them and become inspired. Here’s a place to start: Teaching A People’s History
- Meet with a professional counselor: It’s true oppression can’t be counseled away but a therapist can help reduce stress and anxiety during difficult times. A therapist can help you feel confident, happy, strong, and in your best place to be active in this social change movement. We work with you to find solutions to family conflict, relationship stress, work challenges and any issues or trauma from your past that affect you. To find a therapist go to Psychology Today or U Power Change which offers online counseling and coaching.
If you have any additional ideas of what people can do to reduce stress or anxiety post-election, please post a comment or send a reply my way at email@example.com so I can add it onto the resource list.
Rorri Geller-Mohamed, LCSW is a licensed therapist that specializes in identity, family dynamics, and community change. She is the founder of U Power Change, an online counseling and coaching organization that helps busy and progressive minded people to find hope, healing, and happiness.
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