We are seeing a level of activism, ranging from protests to financial donations, that people under a certain age have never before experienced. It’s scary and it’s exciting and it is also hard emotional work.
We are only three weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, which means that we’ve got three years, 11 months and one week left. What were you doing three years, 11 months and one week ago? How different did your life look then? A lot can and does happen in four years under typical circumstances. Under these circumstances, four years can and will feel like an eternity and it is crucial that we take certain measures to preserve our mental health (without losing steam) as Trump and his administration continue to take actions that go against everything we believe in.
The first thing we must do is fight every urge to adjust or adapt to Trump as president of the United States. Due to the psychological concept known as cognitive dissonance, which is defined as discomfort caused by having two contradictory ideas, values or beliefs that then prompt us to find a resolution to the internal conflict, it may be harder than we think to resist acceptance. For anyone who is accustomed to having at least nominal amounts of respect for our president, there may be an unconscious pull to find a level of respect for Trump in an effort to resolve the uncomfortable feeling of believing our current president to be a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, deeply underqualified manipulator. If you notice yourself thinking or saying anything along the lines of “Maybe he isn’t that bad,” you are likely falling prey to cognitive dissonance. If this happens: Resist. Remind yourself of all the horrendous decisions he and his administration have made and will continue to make and keep resisting.
Next, I’m going to recommend to you what I have recommended to all my clients (most of my sessions these days consist of political talk in part): You need to strongly consider limiting how much time you spend each day on social media. If your Facebook newsfeed looks anything like mine, it is regularly almost entirely full of articles, conversations, opinions and emotions related to our current political climate. While Facebook and other social-media sites have historically been a pleasant one- or two-minute distraction from our own lives — full of photos of people’s vacations, pets and other fun moments — it is now another forum for us to experience stress. The greatest issue with social media, as opposed to visiting a news-based website, is that we have no way of knowing what we’re going to get until we get it. When we visit CNN or New York Times’ sites, we know we can expect articles related to Trump and whatever horrendous policy he’s just come out with. When we visit a social-media site, we could potentially be pummeled by a whole slew of outrage, rants, sadness and other expressions of emotion that activate a level of emotion within us. As such, my specific recommendation is that you decide on a few times during the day that you deem to be ideal for social media and purposely choose to check it only during those times.
Lastly, self-care, self-care, self-care. There has never been a more ideal time to start engaging in healthy habits that have long been on your to-do list but have yet to be successfully incorporated into your daily life. If you’re someone who has never been able to get to bed early enough to get a full seven or eight hours of sleep per night, try it now. If you’ve been meaning to get into therapy but keep putting it off, start researching therapists and make a couple of phone calls. Some other self-care-related routines include regular exercise (exercise positively influences neurotransmitters in the brain), a healthy diet, spending time alone and spending time with loved ones in a purposeful way (the effect is somewhat different when we do things with intention).
For all of you newly inspired activists: Thank you for being outraged and loud about it. Don’t stop any of it — just don’t also forget to take care of yourself.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).