OK, It’s coming and I have some “Inspirdrive”, to coin a phrase, of how I feel at this moment in this country’s history. Being in the mental health field for 30+ years I am bamboozled by this election season’s long and snarly road. I’ve heard more frustrations, rage, confusion, depressive and anxiety symptoms that I can remember in the past. Our mental health is stressed! (As if you didn’t know) The impact of stress is well documented in research. More than a little stress in our lives impacts our bodies and health and most of us have been told that at one point or another. We are designed to deal with stress on a short term basis. Our bodies are marvelous machines made to solve problems and get our needs met and once that’s done, calm down. Our animals have this figured out. I talk to my cat about all that is going on here, the political media blitzes, the polarizing of social media, the Protest in western ND, you name it. He lifts his head up while I get activated, assesses that it’s not going to hurt him and sinks his head back down on the rug…. although when the vacuum cleaner is brought out, he freaks out and disappears until its quiet again. This political season has brought out the low drone of a constant vacuum cleaner that follows us around and as much as we may want to avoid any fallout it is almost impossible.
Many of the clients I see have reported significant impact in their lives, whether it be work, social or family relationships. It brings out the Stress in them, meaning that when we are triggered by anything either in our external or internal environment that creates a negative emotion, a resulting reaction occurs. Research suggests 4 Stress Styles that are most common. The first one is Placator/Peace at any price style. If we are unaware, this can be rather automatic such as “I think Clinton should win” comment to a Trump supporter. “What, are you crazy? Can’t you see she’s a crook?” The response here may be related to what style of stress that is carried. Let’s just say the Clinton supporter was brought up to be agreeable and not to rock the boat. Her response may be…”Well maybe you’re right, I’ll have to check it out or Yes, she did do lots of things.” The second one is the Blamer/I’m right, You’re wrong style which would trigger a different reaction. “What? You’re the one who’s crazy. Have you seen that video?” The third approach is called Super Reasonable/Computer style which downplays any emotion. “Well, it says in the polls that there is a slight lead for Clinton. Let’s look at the statistics.” The fourth style is called the Distractor/Ignore and the problem vanishes. Responses may be completely unrelated to the issues at hand. “Hey, let’s just forget all this and go out and play cards/shop/clean the house/work/drink…you name it.” These reactions to stress triggers are usually tied back into our childhoods and that software is pretty tightly woven. In order to bypass these automatic reactions, we need to first be aware and understand the power that they have on our everyday behaviors. Once you do this then comes the good part. You can take parts of each of the styles and integrate them into your own style for a positive outcome. For example, the positive aspect of the Placator is being sensitive and compassionate to another’s emotions; the good part of the Blamer is the assertiveness it brings to the table; the ability to speak our truth without blaming. The Super Reasonable/Computer can remind us to use logic and reason when managing a situation and with the Distractor, comes the reminder to play and take breaks…. but we will get back to the problem.
Even though we can’t eliminate our negative tendencies to react in these certain ways, we can transcend them with practice. After the election will come all the waves of uncertainty of “what’s going to happen” until the dust settles in January. Then, it’s likely to resurface again given the roller coaster media ride we’ve all been on. What I’d really like is to feel a sense of stability and trust. One way to keep sane is to focus on things we can control. Look at your hands and for most of us we can move them. Let that be a reminder for the moment that what may be most important is self-management or as I like to call it Mindfulness. How am I going to cultivate stability and trust in myself given that I’ve just heard or seen someone make a triggering comment? The goal here is to catch your style going into action and allow yourself the chance to create the mindset that is best for you. Is this easy? It gets easier with practice but the rewards are great; one being the expression of your authentic truth rather than the automatic stress style dribble. The more you practice the more dribble you can experience which leads to a stronger sense of self and a better outlook which of course is a stress reliever. Although this is not the immediate “keep yourself sane” technique but it is one to work on daily.
Some of the best strategies for this season relate to catching yourself, breathing deeply and evenly and repeat to yourself 10 times “All is well”. There is a great mirror exercise written about by Louise Hay that confirms the power of positive affirmations to yourself daily. Check out the mirror exercise on You tube if you are interested. Even though you think all may not be well on the outside, this exercise calms the mind. If you want excitement and drama go for it. Media will be hyping it all up but keep in mind the balance of nature and the power of small practices to keep yourself sane. Don’t forget to add the water, herbal teas and lemons/limes. These are detoxing for any type of stress you are facing. One of my favorite essential oils to calm anxiety is Frankincense or Lavender Frankincense which combines two calming essential oils. Just make sure they are of therapeutic grade and organic. For more information on that check out http://goDesana.com/newpath In the short term, do-nuts, diet coke, a good stiff drink or any number of mind medicating substances may be calling your name What your brain really needs is care! Finally, on Tuesday let’s not forget that we are all in this together. Let’s do what we can – in our own ways – one task or practice at a time. Good luck!
Tina M Johnson, MSW, BCD
1321 23rd St So, Ste H
Fargo, ND 58103