People like you and me all over the political spectrum are feeling tension in our communities due to what is coming out of the White House, fueled by President Trump’s divisive comments and behavior.
You may feel personally offended that he failed to reprove white supremacist and neo-nazi thought in the wake of a rally that left at least one dead in Charlottesville. You may be just like me and ask yourself: How far is this going to go?
We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected through social media and the uber fast pace of technology advances. At the same time, we are witnessing the fire of division, racism, and violence being stoked over and over by our President. The seeds for violence are getting out of hand and now, are coming to California.
How is all this affecting your health? Besides the political discourse and the high emotions these events arise in many of us, there is a definite impact on many of our primary physiological functions from the constant fight or flight response caused by the political and social environment we are living in.
Regardless of how you feel about the U.S. President or what political party you identify with, this is the bottom line:
We are all affected by what our country is going through. Stress affects our bodies in a variety of ways and can come from our environment, our thoughts and our situations.
You may experience a heightened sense of alertness, anxiety, or the desire to spend your lunch break in a meditation class after scrolling through your favorite media outlets articles about the president.
If this is you, and you feel like I do, you are not alone. The good news is, stress, no matter what the cause, doesn't have to control our thoughts, our body, or our life. We are the commanders in chief of our internal world! Managing stress is critical to staying healthy.
We need our health more than ever to face what is to come. Thinking about the President being in office for three more years may cause you to break into a sweat, but these simple tips can help you to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally.
Here are some science-based, researched tips and action items you can keep close by for the upcoming weeks. The likely confrontations brought by fascists and white supremacists coming to rally in California will surely heighten stress. Remember that fear responses come without an invitation, but we don’t have to allow them to stay. You CAN do something about it, right NOW.
How Stress Affects You Physically: When you are stressed, your body increases the level of cortisol and adrenaline in your blood. Your adrenal glands make both hormones, which increase sugar in your bloodstream, elevate your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and boost your energy supply.
The body’s natural stress response is incredible, but it is not meant to be employed constantly. Long-term activation of the stress response system can put you at risk for anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment to name a few. Stress leads to inflammation and inflammation is at the root of many health diseases today, including diabetes, hypertension, joint pain, etc.
What You Can Do About It:
- Breathe . Seriously, take 20 deep breaths. Breathing slowly and steady will increase oxygenation, circulation and alkalinize your blood. This response helps reduce inflammation.
- Avoid stimulants like sugary coffee that make your body acidic. Instead, replace your coffee with green tea and indulge your sweet tooth with whole grain vegan cookies and muffins.
- Walk. Walking will stimulate your breathing and allow new perceptual information coming from your environment, such as trees rustling and birds chirping, to lower your stress response.
How Stress Affects You Mentally: Stress can take a toll on you mentally, increasing negative thoughts and affecting your rest. It can reduce the time you spend in your deepest level of sleep, a time that allows your brain to rest and reset so you can think clearly.
What You Can Do About It:
- Question your thoughts . Pause and pay attention to what you are thinking. Notice your thoughts slowing down. It’s important to remind yourself that thoughts are not real. You can create new thoughts based in conscious choices. You can choose to think that you are safe, and that you are strong and that you will be able to get through this challenging time.
- Purge your negative thoughts . Clear your mind of confusion by writing down all negative thoughts on a piece of paper. DON’T read back to what you wrote, just put the paper in the trash.
How Stress Affects You Emotionally: When stress creeps in, it affects how you feel. You become more prone to agitation, frustration and moodiness. You can also feel overwhelmed and like you are losing control. Ongoing stress can make it difficult to relax and quiet your mind. Overwhelming stress can also cause you to avoid other people, creating isolation and loneliness.
What You Can Do About It:
- Gratitude . Say three things out loud that you are grateful for. Gratitude is a position of the heart and mind that acknowledges the good things in life. Positive psychology research finds that expressing gratitude can help people feel more positive emotions, deal with adversity, and balance stress.
- Bring love back to your body. Think of someone you love dearly, perhaps your child or your puppy. Close your eyes and bring your hands to your heart, holding that image and the wonderful sensations of love in your mind for 1 minute. This movement is sure to bring love back into your body.