Tara Edwards is a freelance writer and a story master at 8-Player Pictures film company. A native Ohioan, Tara moved to New York in 2009 to attend New York University where she graduated with an honors BFA in Dramatic Writing with a double major in Psychology. You can find Tara on her official WordPress blog or tweet her @findtaraedwards.
Below is her perspective on self-care after the election, and tips on managing our anxiety.
Once you’ve tried to take your own life, there’s little that truly scares you. Before my suicide attempt, I was afraid of riding roller coasters, and I used to run as fast as I could up the stairs after turning out the lights in my father’s basement to prevent being in pitch black darkness. After my suicide attempt, I realized that at least when it came to my life, no one had ever threatened it more than I did. That unlocked what would begin to be my journey in dealing with my special form of anxiety—social—and everything in life that had previously had driven me to hide in fear.
Among the most vulnerable of us in the United States, Donald Trump has done nothing to quell the fears that many of us felt would come with his election. The rise of hate crimes and harassment continues. None of Donald’s appointments appear to be ones that will aim to assist those of us (women, the physically and mentally disabled, people of color, the LGBT community) with our continued struggle for equality.
Admittedly, there is a lot to be fearful of.
But as a great post-apocalyptic fictional character once said to his community, “If we are to be prepared for it, we must shed our fear of it.”
Part of living with social anxiety has taught me that conquering whatever it is that is causing the crippling fear, is to admit a few things. The first is that some things will happen and you won’t be able to see them coming. You won’t be able to stop certain things from happening. What you can do however, is attempt to control your emotional processing of it. I am of the mind that grief and proper processing of pain are important. And if you are still grieving and still feeling the horror every single day that is Trump in office, then you should keep digging through it. Keep feeling it.
But when you’re ready, here are a few things you can do to manage your fear and anxiety.
Meditation or Controlled Breathing Exercises
Part of anxiety is the body’s physical reaction to our thoughts that we’re being threatened. If you hear something frightening or read something that causes a physical sensation of fear and anxiety, meditation and breathing can at least cause the inverse effect in which your body feels calm, which will help calm your mind. The cheapest and easiest option is an app called Breathe2Relax.
Safety in Numbers
Avoid isolation to the furthest extent that you can handle. Introverts (including me) definitely need personal time, but try to check in with people who care about you. This is good for not only the action of soothing fears that you’re alone, but also is good in the face of something truly horrible. It may not ever come to a day where some of us will need places and spaces to hide, but it is much easier to find those spaces when you maintain contact with people who share your values.
Isolating people is one of many steps to keeping people afraid and unwilling to express themselves and the things they need. Avoiding isolation can send a loud and clear message to people with harmful intentions. Also, it’s important to remember that most of the country voted for Clinton. Even in red states, there are people who want to protect those of us who may be vulnerable.
I myself may never ever purchase a gun, but for some of us, having a gun may be a necessary option. If you live in a state where the threat of violence has continued to escalate and you feel comfortable with guns, getting one can at least provide the comfort of knowing you can defend yourself.
For the rest of us, easing anxiety through self-defense class or boxing classes may be the answer. Part of what eases anxiety is being prepared. If you are always prepared for conflict in the extreme, then you’ll feel less anxious when the signs of that kind of situation arrive.
Remain Educated and Aware
Fear of the unknown is a huge source of anxiety. Every time we can learn something about unknowns—like how policies will affect people on an individual level—that’s a tiny quelling of fear. Think about the things that most concern you and set up google alerts for them. Follow activists that address those concerns on Twitter. Subscribe to a local newspaper. These things will keep you up to date in the face of other outlets that tend to filter news based on what might garner the most views from an audience. Already you can see how the major focus of the media is Donald Trump and his cabinet, even though there are still other issues like Texas’ new abortion law, the acquittal of the police officer who killed Keith Scott, and the current struggle of the Standing Rock Native Americans. By maintaining knowledge about issues that may directly affect you, you will know when it is time to act preemptively.
Learn your rights and seek legal council if you have the ability. Public libraries and the internet are your friend. These sources will give you the facts to equip yourself should anyone try to convince you that your rights do not belong to you. While lawyers can be incredibly expensive, there are organizations that may be able to help you or give you advice should you be facing any legal troubles.
It is rare that changes happen overnight. In fact, the smartest people regarding Donald have posited that this has been a slow build since perhaps even the 2008 financial crisis. Don’t beat yourself up for needing time to process everything that happens over the next couple of years. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes that may happen along the way. Instead, be patient with yourself. You are human. You cannot be perfect and anticipate everything. Anxiety may sometimes defeat you, but what defeats you today does not have to defeat you forever. You’ll learn ways to deal with things as you experience them.