I have to be honest with you, the last few months since the election of Donald Trump have been really hard on me. I find myself worried, sad, and scared for my friends, myself, and Americans in general. The first few weeks after the election, I would constantly read news, and seek out like-minded individuals on the internet that I could rage with.
And then, after the inauguration, I felt sick. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was glued to the news because I had to know what was going on every single day. With all of that worry and stress, I was starting to break down. I have both depression and anxiety, and being glued to the news, wasn’t helping. I had to pull back. I knew I had to start taking care of myself, and doing things that were better for me than waiting for an alert to let me know about the Muslim Ban, or repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Below is a list of things that I did to help myself. Maybe it can help you as well. Please know, if you’re going through something difficult, you don’t have to keep barreling through it every single minute of every day. Take care, and be gentle with yourself.
1. Get Musical
I seriously love musicals. Growing up as a choir kid, I have always sung and pretended to be in musicals (when I wasn’t actually participating in them). I’ve turned to Hamilton a lot lately, but who am I kidding? I was obsessed with that show when we all thought Trump winning was just a hilarious joke. Fortunately, this musical has kept me calm and, if anything, it allows me to slip into a world where I can sing along to beautiful melodies and pretend I can rap. If full-blown musicals aren’t your thing, maybe you can turn to your favorite album, musician, or song. I have a soft spot for all things cheesy like boybands, and pop music in general. The Backstreet Boys carried me through the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Oh, and *NSYNC, too. Most recently, I’ve found solace in One Direction. Whatever kind of music you enjoy, or whatever makes you feel good, try that out. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, we all need a release.
2. Laughter Is The Best Medicine
When I am having a hard time, I like to seek out things that are funny because laughter does, indeed, make everything better. I have found great solace in laughing through four seasons of Brooklyn 99 , knowing that it’s okay to laugh, even when times are hard. Whether it’s watching a funny movie, or gorging on The Golden Girls, you need laughter. Whatever you find funny, hunker down for a little while and laugh your cares away. It’s healthy to put our stress on a shelf for a little while, and really enjoy the moment. You can't carry around the stress of the world all day, so to be able to relax and laugh for a bit helps. I think I deserve that, and I think you do too.
3. Hug Your Pets, Or Someone Else’s
I love my cat. I really, really do. He’s always there when I’m feeling down. He knows when to curl up into my lap and purr as I pet him and rub his cheeks and kiss his nose. My cat, Sondheim Schwartzman Glass, has been a savior during some of my darkest days (pre and post-Trump’s election), so I totally stand by pets being very therapeutic. For me, the feel of his fur relaxes me as it’s so soft and touchable. It feels like an automatic comfort as I start petting him, especially the days when I can’t leave my house for fear I might explode into a million pieces. If you have a pet, and they provide comfort, lean on them in these times. If you don’t have a pet, perhaps a friend has a pet you can come over and cuddle with for a few minutes. It really does help. And, pets don’t judge you (well, maybe cats do), and they will be there when you need them. It’s remarkable how much better I feel when I get even a few minutes with my fur-dude.
4. Do Something For Someone Else
When I would get sad as a teenager or in my early 20’s, my mom would tell me to get out of my head and help someone else to gain some perspective on my own situation. I have really taken that to heart lately and it does make all the difference. For the last 6 months, I’ve been a volunteer at a hospital here in Portland holding and cuddling babies, and it’s the best thing I could do for my soul. I go into that room and pick up a baby who has no one to hold them, and who may be sick and in pain, and I just wrap them up in my arms, coo at them, hold their hands. While I’m definitely trying to send some love their way, I know that they are sending it right back to me. Babies don’t have an agenda. It’s such a good way to focus on other things, and to get away from all the noise.
I’ve also found a way to help by volunteering my time to Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Working with causes I believe strongly in has allowed me to feel as though I’m also helping in some small way. I’ll talk more about this next month, but know, if you’re feeling down and like you’re missing something, volunteering is a really good way to help yourself, and definitely help others.
5. Be With Your People
There is nothing better than getting to be with my people. Whether it’s calling my sister on the phone every day, or getting together for dinner and drinks with some of my closest friends, being with my people has always been a good way to do a little self-care. Even via text message, talking with my friends can really help lighten my mood. The people in my life are good ones, and I can count on them to make me smile, and feel loved.
Lately I’ve started doing yoga at home, and have noticed a difference. I’m not an advanced practitioner, and I don’t do it as regularly as I would like, but being able to put my energies into something beneficial has greatly helped my mental state. Being able to take a few minutes for myself and be still in my own body has allowed me the chance to focus on what I’m feeling and why. I love that I can do it at home, and don’t have to drag myself out of the house, which can be a struggle sometimes. I’m doing something positive for myself which doesn’t require much but a little effort from me, and about 15 to 20 minutes of my time.
STEP AWAY FROM THE INTERNET!!! GET OFF OF FACEBOOK! DON’T READ THAT NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE!
The most important thing for me was to pull back and get away from the news for a while. I would leave my phone in my room if I was at home. I wouldn’t check it as often at work, and made a concerted effort to only look at things that made me happy if I was on the internet. I did crossword puzzles online to use my brain in a different way, and to take my mind off of things. It helped. It wasn’t healthy for me to be plugged in to everything all day, and it certainly wasn’t sustainable. I know we all want to stay informed, and we want to make sure we’re on top of it (RESIST! PERSIST!) but at the end of the day, sometimes, you gotta throw your hands up and say: SCREW IT. I realized the news will be there when I decide to check in, and the things that I care about will still matter after lunch or tomorrow, if I decide to read it.
These are merely a few of the things I have done in the last few months to help take care of myself during these trying times. There are, of course, many other ways to take care of ourselves, so do something that works for you. I recognize that I will always have a tendency to worry, and I know not every day will be good. But, I also know not every day will be bad, and taking care of myself goes a long way in creating more and more better days.
So, remember to RESIST. Remember to PERSIST. But, most importantly, remember to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.