We live in some really depressing times. People are sad, angry, anxious, and worried.
I think I can help a bit with that.
Lots of us remember Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, and we were upset then, too. But I don’t think I have seen the intensity of emotions that I am seeing today, when I compare that event to 45’s chaotic presidency.
Part of it is, I think, due to the outrageous flaunting of public opinion and the blatant disrespect for our Constitution. I don’t think there is anything to compare to that, in terms of how much contempt the Republicans and the president have for the American people and our democracy.
Putting all that aside, I want to focus on what we can each do on an individual basis to keep our emotional equilibrium.
We live in an instant information era. Breaking news hits us many times a day, and if it doesn’t get on the TV news it gets on social media and takes off. News that we had days to digest in the past now has us scrambling to make sense of it within minutes.
That’s cognitively tiring. Exhausting, even.
It’s easy to just say, “Oh get the hell off the internet and go do something else”, but for those who cannot get out of their homes (due to illness or poverty or whatever), it’s not that simple.
Of course, if you can get out and go camping or take a bike ride or do some kind of hobby, that’s great! You probably have a lower level of stress than the rest of us. I am all for that!
My suggestions – for the rest of us – are as follows:
When you read or see a news story that upsets or angers you, stop reacting. Drop what you’re thinking about. Think in a different way.
The first part, to stop reacting, is called “thought stopping” (yeah, I know, pretty obvious name). The trick is that you need to be aware when you are reacting, so you can stop it.
Here is an easy way to do that: put a rubber band on your wrist. When you start to feel upset, snap it. That is your (slightly painful) cue to tell yourself to redirect your attention.
With time, you won’t need to use a rubber band. Or maybe you are aware and don’t need to use a rubber band, which is terrific! You’re ahead of the game already!
You can also use any other attention-getting device, such as a small bell or something. Whatever interrupts your reaction is fine.
Next, drop whatever you’re doing that has upset you – reading news, looking at social media, watching TV, what-have-you. Immediately go into the “think” part.
You can do this in several ways. You can redirect your thoughts to something completely different. Kitten and puppy videos are on YouTube for a reason, people!
You can read a completely unrelated book. Or a book that’s on the same topic but that sees it from a different perspective – like any book written by your favorite comedian.
You can listen to your favorite music. Or play your own music.
“That sounds like good old distraction,” you might be thinking.
Yeah, it does. You can think of it as “mindful distraction”. The difference between that and distraction alone is that this method is a conscious effort to change your thinking.
It is called “cognitive restructuring”.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you see a news story about the presidential pardon of Joe Arpaio, or the story about the ban being lifted on giving the police military weapons, or the taunting of North Korea, or…well, you get the idea.
And you react with anger, and/or hopelessness, and think, “We’re so screwed! Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this! Everyone in Congress is complicit! My hair is on fire!”
Hence, the “on fire” association when I nicknamed this method.
So, here’s what you do – stop reacting. Drop what you’re reading, and think about writing your congress person. If you’re like me, just Googling your congress person’s website tends to turn your feelings down a notch.
Or you could say to yourself, “Self, remember all those crowds at demonstrations and town halls we see! People are doing things! And there are more of us than there are of them!”
Keep reminding yourself, Republicans may control all 3 branches of government now, but most Americans are pretty sick of the way things are being handled, as evidenced by polls. And, Hillary won the popular vote. There were always more of us than there were of them.
Write these reminders down, if it helps (and it might).
I don’t recommend that you immediately go post your outrage somewhere, like on FB or Twitter or comments sections of websites, because that just continues to make you upset (because you haven’t switched your thinking).
In fact, the more you dwell on something, the stronger the connections between the neurons in your brain get for that idea, and then you can get stuck, unable to stop thinking about it.
That’s called “laying down neural tracks”. They can be switched/lessened, but it takes more work. That’s the kind of thing for which I used to conduct therapy. Therapy works, but it takes awhile.
It takes some effort to do stop, drop, and think, but it’s worth it. It will lower your stress level, and possibly make it easier for you to sleep at night.
And judging by the way the world has been lately, you’ll have many opportunities to practice this technique – think how good you’ll get at it! Your health might improve, too.
See? Sometimes I do more on this blog than just bitch. Heh.
Today’s weirdness comes from Chambersburg, PA (which is about 80 miles SE of where I live):
The couple sees Jesus in their baby’s sonogram. I see yet another reason why I need to move out of Pennsylvania.
Today’s recommendation is for Motorola smartphones. I just got a new one the other day, and it was so easy to set up…ok, with minimal crying, I mean…and I love it.
My last smartphone was a Motorola, too (there is a post somewhere on this blog about it), and it was a klutz’s dream. I dropped that sucker so many times, and it never broke or cracked or anything. It was a Moto G.
This one is a Moto E4. I imagine it will be dropped a lot, too. It was very affordable (less than $40), it’s on the Verizon pre-paid plan, and it’s at Target or on target,com. Has a great battery life and decent storage, with a slot for a memory card. Best phone for the money, in my opinion. And no, no one is paying me to write this, I just really like Motorola phones.
Be good. Be kind. And remember, the only thing that should be on fire is 45’s pants.