8 February 2017: Caring for yourself in anxious times

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. – “The Crisis,” by Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.

There are souls stating unequivocally they were confident in the outcome of the election. Sure. Would they have been willing, then, to put the deed of their house and their entire financial portfolio on the line on November 7th?

The election outcome has stunned everyone, as individuals and as the nation. Those horrified by the result might be as psychologically and emotionally impacted as they would be if their family were assaulted and maimed severely. Those pleased with the outcome are thrilled if not giddy; yet, even among them, there seems to be an air of apprehension. Possibly because they know this has the potential of blowing up big.

Talking to friends and colleagues and reading postings, the toll of the election outcome is palpable and is taking a toll on psyches across the divide. We’re living in a time of high anxiety.

Another period of our history was such a time of angst. But…

“I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it,” wrote Paine in that same pamphlet.

Two nights later, General George Washington crossed the icy Delaware, caught the Hessian mercenaries in drunken stupors, and made history. The struggle thereon was far from easy, but in the end, it was, as we know, successful. Can we do no less?

Over the past eight years, progressives became complacent. Oh, there was the Occupy Wall Street and other such movements, but deep in the progressive’s heart, we were confident of a Democratic/Hillary Clinton victory. And her being president would check the hard-core right dominating Congress.

That isn’t the reality, so the question before us: How to deflect or lessen the negative energy emanating from and induced by the non-stop, 24-hour barrage of insanity and to maintain one’s sound mental and physical health? Watching every detail of it has the potential of causing one to cross the bounds from being an informed citizen to being obsessed. That is no less than an addiction.

The challenge, then, in any period of anxiety is for the individual to take care of him/herself, to pay attention to his/her state of mind and physical health. Turning down or perhaps even turning off the noise, can go a long way. Auditory barrages echo through the mind. It’s important to remember a “news program” job is not so much to inform but to entertain, to keep you tuned in. It’s about ratings.

Besides, the news can easily be accessed via print and electronic media. One caveat: the downside to the electronic is the danger of the visual impact, stunning, attention-grabbing headlines that play on the emotions.

Let me be so bold as to suggest three courses of action:

Redirect the mind consciously. Read a book. Bake a pie while listening to fun or soft music. Engage in conversation with friends and even debate with those of a different mindset but paying to the tone of your voice.

Take political action. Engaging in exercising your First Amendment rights by protesting, such as millions did in the Women’s March, writing letters to the editor, and calling your representatives is not only productive in moving the needle in the direction you want, but is also personally satisfying, giving you the sense you’re not merely an arm-chair citizen.

Go out into nature. From sitting in the fresh air on your deck to walking helps the body purge the mind’s angst. What afflicts the mind invariably afflicts the body. Not all disease arises from one’s psyche, but all dis-ease does.

I’m no Dr. Phil, guru, nor a mental health expert. But being where I am and doing what I do, I hear and see lots. And it’s disconcerting.

Finally, most important, breathe, exhale, and repeat. For if you don’t take care of you, you cannot take care of anyone else.

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