2020 has been challenging to say the very least. The worldwide pandemic, California wildfires, and systematic and overt racism continue to blemish the American landscape. On top of our personal challenges, there is a lot to worry about. If you didn’t have anxiety before, it’s understandable if you are feeling it now.
Tuesday, November 23rd will be a pivotal date for our country as we choose our next presidential leader. Now more than ever, it is clear how important it is to stay informed and vote, especially within the Asian American community. The article, At the Dinner Table: Asian American Politics Across Generation, states that our community is the fastest growing in the nation, and becoming more politically involved.
Personally, politics has been a source of anxiety, especially as it concerns who our future 46th United States President will be. According to APA’s 2016 Stress in America™ survey, two in three Americans (66 percent) say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress for them, and 57 percent say that they are stressed by the current political climate. Watching the debates, listening to the news, and scrolling endlessly on my social media feeds have left me feeling uneasy about the state of the world.
In this charged political climate is important that we take care of our mental health. APA offers these tips:
Stay informed, but know your limits.
“Consider how much news you take in and how that information is affecting you. If you are preoccupied by national events and it is interfering with your daily life, this may be a sign to cut back on your news intake and limit social media discussions. For example, some people may find it helpful to schedule a short block of time in the morning and one in the evening to catch up on news without checking for every new update during the day. During “digital breaks,” take time to focus on something enjoyable, such as a hobby, exercising, or spending time with family and friends.”
I try to keep up to date with what is going on in the news, especially as we are approaching the election date. To help give me balance I use the Calm app, which is helpful for guided meditation, but also allows me to set reminders to check in with myself. “Have I been outside yet?” “How much time have I spent in front of a screen?” “What am I feeling right now?” Having those reminders to check in with myself are extremely valuable. I have also changed the setting on my phone to limit the time I have on social media. This prevents me from constantly scrolling wondering “what did Trump do now?”. When I’ve reached my limit, you can catch me outside (with my mask on) walking my dog or exercising.
Find commonalities with others.
“We come into contact with people every day whose beliefs differ from our own. If the topic of political differences arises, avoid heated discussions and try to identify commonalities within your different views. Sometimes, different views can come from a similar underlying principle. Be open to hearing the other person’s story, and maybe even validate how they are feeling. When we frame our thinking this way, it can be easier to tolerate or understand people with different views and even work together toward a common goal. If you find it difficult to discuss political issues in a calm and constructive manner, it may be best to disengage from the conversation.”
It is important to note it can be healthy to try to understand different views and find commonalities, however is not always possible. Myself, like many other POC have felt angry and upset when turning on the news to see the continued racism, violence, and brutal murder of POC people. Our feelings of rage and anger are valid and should not be ignored. If I am trying to discuss my views on the racial climate with people who are unwilling to understand, determined to disagree, or ignore my valid feelings, then trying to engage in a relationship let alone a conversation can be toxic or hurtful. I have no problem saying “byeeee”. I owe it to my mental health to be surrounded with people who make me feel heard and validated. Good vibes only.
Find meaningful ways to get involved in your community.
“Identify issues that are important to you, and research organizations that work on those issues. Contact them and see how you can join their efforts. You can also consider getting involved in local politics, where it can be possible to see the direct impact of your efforts. Attend a city council or town hall meeting to share your ideas with elected officials. Taking active steps to address your concerns can lessen feelings of stress.”
I have attended a few town hall meetings though my work, I learned a lot about what my work is doing to address systematic racism, and was able to share my thoughts on how we can do better as an organization. Attending these meetings helped me feel heard and engaged with my work community. I am also passionate about mental health. Joining the Em collective and being part of the Asian Mental Health team is a great way for me to discuss why I think mental health is so important . When we have our team meetings I feel inspired and motivated because I am surrounded by like minded people.
“Faith-based organizations and other community organizations can provide vital emotional and spiritual support during stressful times. Engaging in soothing activities, such as meditation, progressive relaxation or mindfulness, can also help you connect to the present moment and find some peace.”
As someone who is spiritual, prayer and meditation is a way of centering myself when I am in states of crisis or stress. After watching the debates, I was feeling very stressed and wanted to disengage from watching anything else about the election. So, I made it a priority to meditate and pray to allow myself a sense of calm introspection, to pause and let myself feel my stress and be okay with it. My spirituality helps me deal with stress because it makes me feel comforted, like I am a part of something bigger than myself, that my stress is not felt alone, it is shared. After meditation and prayer, I feel less burdened with stress, and am willing and able to continue to stay engaged.
Take care of yourself.
“Because stress can have a physical and emotional impact on your overall health, find activities you enjoy to recharge and reduce your stress. This can include exercising, listening to your favorite music, or spending time with close family and friends. It’s important to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and avoiding ineffective coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substance abuse.”
When I was in a “funk” (stressed or anxious) I used to deal with it by eating really bad junk food and going out to drink . My body felt weak and unenergized, unable to think clearly. My “funk” would never get better, it would just go away with time and leave me feeling exhausted. When I made my health a priority, I sought out a therapist, focused on a healthy balanced diet and started to exercise regularly. This change helped me become more mindful and calm, and gave me the energy I needed to help me cope during my “funks”. It is important that as we get closer to the election, when I start watching more debates and start to feel myself getting into a “funk” I make sure I take care of my health so I can vote with a clear mind and energized body.
2020 is a crazy year. By taking care of our mental health, we allow ourselves the space we need to become involved, get active, and vote with confidence on Tuesday November 3rd.
Photo: Joseph Prezioso / AFP - Getty Images