Managing Anxiety in Times of Political Strife

Dena Scott

Clinical psychologist at Ginger

Managing Anxiety in Times of Political Strife

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, we can all agree this is a tense week for our country. If you’re feeling especially anxious right now, there are steps you can take to ease your anxiety and feel calmer. Below are questions and answers about how to maintain mental health during this stressful time.

Is it normal to feel this anxious about politics?

The idea of “normal” changed in 2020. Rather than trying to classify your feelings as “normal” or not, try to view your anxiety as appropriate and expected. It can be helpful to name the factors contributing to your anxiety so you can understand exactly where it’s coming from. Factors like ongoing systematic oppression, white supremacy, heightened economic, political, and social tensions, and COVID-19 all can contribute to anxiety. For Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), it’s also important to acknowledge that your feelings of anxiety may be related to incidents of trauma that disproportionately impact BIPOC communities. If you feel like your anxiety is overwhelming or debilitating, seek support from your community, family, or a professional mental health provider.

How can I best manage my emotions with everything going on?

Practicing self-compassion during this time is essential. Try to take time and space for yourself to identify what you need right now. Doing so won’t make your anxiety disappear, but admitting you could use help during this emotionally taxing journey is a good first step. Seeking support can seem like a daunting task, so please tap into resources that speak to you. There are many avenues to your social-emotional wellness. Find one that’s right for you.

Engaging in community care in addition to self-care can also provide a sense of collective healing during these times. We tend to focus on caring for ourselves, which is necessary, but this is also a time when we need our communities to stand up with and for us. BIPOC and non-BIPOC communities have different needs. Being able to intentionally show up and care for your community can be its own form of liberation and collective healing.

When the news and events around the inauguration feel overwhelming, how do I determine when to reach out for professional help? How can coaches or therapists help?

There’s never a bad time to reach out for professional help. It’s common to assume you need to have a specific feeling, event, or moment of crisis to warrant professional support, or to wonder whether what you’re feeling or experiencing is enough of a reason to reach out. But this thinking can prevent you from seeking support that could in fact be beneficial. You don’t have to be able to articulate a clear reason for reaching out. Mental health professionals can help you with anything you’re feeling, no matter how vague or undefined. They won’t judge you for reaching out, and there’s no need for you to judge yourself either for needing or seeking help.

Mental health professionals such as coaches and therapists provide a safe space to connect, listen, and support you in identifying and practicing skills to manage these overwhelming feelings. In addition, at Ginger, coaches, therapists, and psychiatrists work collaboratively to understand why you’re overwhelmed, how it’s impacting your life, and what resources are most appropriate for you. Coaches and therapists are ready to partner with you on this journey.

What are some ways we can navigate conversations with friends or family who may have different political beliefs?

There has never been a better time to engage in dialogue around our differences. And yet, these conversations are challenging to engage in, so it’s important to know your limits. This means checking in with yourself and identifying if you have the capacity to engage at that time. Give yourself permission to step back if you’re not ready. It’s unlikely that the dialogue will be healthy or productive if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed.

If you determine that you’re ready to move forward with the conversation, set an intention and enter the conversation with an open mind and an open heart. Remind yourself to speak your truth, and be aware that your truth might not be a shared truth with your loved one. If conflict arises, be willing to lean into discomfort and allow respectful difference to provide space for curiosity, understanding, and growth. Also, never underestimate the power of listening to understand (versus listening to respond). When you listen to understand, it can help you see the other person’s perspective better. For more ideas on navigating difficult political conversations with loved ones, check out this Ginger article.

What are some specific things I can do on Inauguration Day if I’m feeling particularly anxious?

The feelings that many of us have — mistrust, sadness, anger, fear, and feelings of injustice — are layered and complex, and cross political party lines. As you navigate your feelings around Inauguration Day, try these suggestions:

Take a break from devices, individuals, and collective spaces that are focused on the inauguration if you’re experiencing information overload.

Pause, breathe, release, and connect with things and people that bring you peace and joy.

Engage in healthy, creative distractions such as music, coloring, writing, painting, building.

Get your body moving! Find and engage in a movement activity that works for you, whether that’s taking a walk, running, kick-boxing, dancing, yoga, jumping rope.

Carve out specific time for prayer, mindfulness, and meditation if these practices provide you with a sense of relief.

Talk to people (professionals, loved ones, or both) who help ease your anxiety and offer solace.

Our country requires intentional and collective healing that goes far beyond any political party attachment, personal belief, or individual feeling. There is much work to be done. But as we like to say at Ginger, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Take care of yourself first so you have the strength to work hard for others.