Your phone rings. You look at your screen and notice it is your relative calling you, your family member who voted for the candidate who won the presidency, the candidate whom you did not vote for.
Suddenly all of the sadness, fear, grief, anger, and worry flood over you again. You have been feeling waves of these emotions for the last two days.
Sometimes they are so intense that you burst into tears.
Sometimes they hurt so much that you want to curl up in a ball and hide. It’s a situation that you don’t know how to handle, an unprecedented time of uncertainty and feeling out of control.
Coping With Feelings of Grief and Sadness
These experiences are being felt all over our country right now. No matter who you voted for, you are aware of an energy of divisiveness, fear and judgment that has percolated into our souls like a poisonous drip over the past year and a half.
Stress of this kind shows up in our bodies in somewhat unusual and perhaps unrecognizable ways – physical exhaustion, irritability, difficulty focusing, using destructive behaviors to self-soothe (or to attempt to), digestive problems, sleeping problems, volatility in your closest relationship because you don’t know how else to cope, avoidance, among many others.
The future is uncertain. What will happen next is unknown in many ways, and this can feed our fear even stronger. So what do we do? How do we discuss this with our children when we can’t wrap our heads around it ourselves?
Fear has run rampant in our country ever since the beginning of this election season and it came to a head Tuesday night when the country became more divided than ever before. Fear breeds hate. We must not feed the hate.
Three Steps to Taking Care of Yourself and Finding Meaning in Despair
I certainly don’t have all of the answers on how to get through this difficult and trying time, but I have been leaning on many of my loved ones and listening to how they are coping. I’ve learned some quite amazing and …hopeful… things. Here are a few ideas:
1.) Let yourself feel. Many of us are in shock. Shock affects our nervous system in intense ways, slowing down our responsiveness and our abilities to integrate our minds with our bodies effectively. We are more susceptible to reacting with WHY and HOW COULD YOU, than responding with mindfulness. This will ease up.
But for now, taking care of yourself and your loved ones in ANY way you need to is our priority. Leave work early to go home and cry in your bed; call upon your neighbor to come sit with you and hold your hand; attend a gathering in your local community. Don’t try to change your emotions today. They are there for a reason and need to be given space to run their course. It won’t always feel this intense.
2.) Set boundaries. How might you mindfully address the family member in the beginning of this post? Give yourself permission to kindly and gently tell them that you are not able to talk with them right now and that you love them. That you will call them back later when you feel more able to come up with words to speak. This is on your own timeline, there is no deadline.
This is how boundaries are enforced: by identifying your need and your emotion, by recognizing who and want can either help with those needs or who might hurt those needs, and then communicating with them what needs to be in place so you can move forward.
Set boundaries with news sources and with social media. Social media can be a way of connecting with others who feel your pain, but it also can easily become an obsession and lead to more suffering. Choose your battles, and know when to turn it off.
3.) Lean in and come together. This is one of the most beautiful results of the recent election that I have witnessed so far. When we are united in pain, we can move forward to heal it. Connect with your neighbor and smile at them. Organize with your community to rally for local causes that matter to you. Volunteer. Attend a spiritual service. Recognize that we will get through this, stronger together than divided.
Nurture Your Spiritual Self
I’m noticing within myself a need to reconnect with my own spirituality as my soul has felt hurt and broken recently. I have wanted to avoid feeling things instead of trying to be with them and understand them.
I know that I tend to this part of myself when I am in nature. I am uncertain how else I can heal it, but I do know that spirituality connects us with a part of ourselves that is empowered to heal us. How can you connect with your spirituality?
Repairing with Love Instead of Dividing with Hate
In closing, I want to touch on how we might repair the love and connection that our society so desperately craves right now. We all make assumptions about people….this is a huge part of why there is so much fear, hate and judgment in our country right now.
We fear and we judge what we don’t know. Fear loses its power when we open up and allow.
The person who has different views than you do, whether they are a family member or friend or just someone you see walking down the street: try to offer them loving-kindness. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even if it feels like the most difficult thing to do in that moment. You don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes, and if we can try to accept and allow instead of judge, then we’re one step closer to finding hope in our lives once again.
Steps to Self Compassion
Here is a mediation adapted from HeartMath that teaches us how to practice compassion for ourselves and for others:
- Recognize what you are feeling.
- Focus in your heart area and breathe in love for about a minute.
- Now breathe self-compassion through the heart area and throughout your entire body for a few minutes.
- Find a still, quiet place inside where you can feel this compassion. If negative thoughts or feelings about yourself arise in the mind, gently return your focus to the heart area.
- Radiate compassion out from your heart to any issues you are addressing – perceived failure, a feeling of inadequacy, insecurity or self-pity – with an honest understanding of what you are going through. Continue to do this for a few minutes, longer if needed, all the while creating within a heart-filled environment of compassion.
I’d love for you to leave a comment with any ideas you have for how to persevere despite adversity and how you have taken care of yourself in a time of turmoil and pain. We are stronger together!