For many people, the world shifted in a major way on November 8, 2016. Despite numerous allegations of business impropriety and sexual misconduct, Donald Trump was elected to serve as the 45th President of the United States. In the ensuing days, reports of hate crimes increased exponentially. We heard news accounts of Muslim women having their hijabs forcefully removed, Latin American immigrants told to go back to Mexico, and acts of intimidation against African American people. Swastikas were painted on walls, and confederate flags were hung with pride. Red baseball caps with Trump’s campaign slogan (Make American Great Again) began popping up all over the place. The Trump era had begun.
Many of the people I know and love—my friends, colleagues, church members and yoga students—were upset by the presidential election results. But the displays of discrimination, racism, religious intolerance, and xenophobia disturbed them even more. They had a hard time reconciling this display of American pride with the notions of freedom and democracy in which they had believed. A sense of malaise began to set in as a result.
Months later, President Trump was inaugurated on a cold, grey, January day in Washington, DC. The next day, hundreds of thousands of women and their supporters marched all over the world to protest his presidency and announce their intention to resist any executive orders or legislation that would restrict the civil rights of women, immigrants, and refugees. For the last two weeks, groups have gathered to organize marches, protests, and sit-ins as well as other forms of resistance. All of this political activity--as well as the ongoing despair over the direction of our federal government--has left many of my dear ones feeling anxious and afraid.
It's normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if your life is stressful.
As someone who has dealt with generalized anxiety disorder in the past, and been able to overcome it, I want to share some of the strategies that have helped me to reclaim my joy and optimism, and embrace life to the fullest.
1. Reflect: Spend a few minutes alone asking yourself why are you feeling anxious or scared. It is important to be as specific as possible.
It is not sufficient to acknowledge that you are upset; identify the specific reason why. I used to think there was nothing worse than facing my fears. Through therapy I discovered, avoiding the pain is actually much worse than facing it. When we name our fears, we are able to then begin to address them. As long as they remain amorphous parts of our unconscious, the anxiety will persist.
2. Challenge Your Thinking: Once you admit your fears, challenge them. Sometimes we allow our fears to grow uncontrollably. If think you are suffering from catastrophic thinking, one way you can check is to ask yourself, “Is this really true?”
Checking the veracity of our fears will help us know when we are catastrophizing—allowing our normal fears to become irrational.
3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Sometimes I would bring a fear to my therapist. She, in turn, would ask me, “If that came true, what is the worst that could happen?” For example, I was really worried last summer that my contract wouldn’t be renewed by the beginning of the school year.
As I went further and further down the line contemplating the worst-case scenario, I realized that I could live with any of the consequences of a delayed contract. I wouldn’t like the situation, but I could live through it.
4. Even though… Nevertheless: My all-time favorite cognitive behavior therapy technique is “even though… nevertheless.” It involves facing reality (illness, death, loss of employment, end of a relationship), and then finding the silver lining in the situation.
Life isn’t always good. Challenges and difficulties arise. But we can still find something positive for which to be grateful. Check back next week for more strategies for dealing with generalized anxiety, including taking action to change the fretful situation.
Are you still not sure if you are dealing with generalized anxiety disorder? Here is a list of common symptoms from the Mayo Clinic:
Physical signs and symptoms may include:
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.