Alleviating Our Election Anxiety
By Rev. Catie Scudera, Published on January 1, 2017
Two months ago, our DLRE Mark LaPointe helped our congregation cope with “election stress”: together, he and I led an evening election anxiety workshop; he led us in a Time for All Ages about different stress-relief techniques; and, he published a blog article with his top tips. As time marches on toward the inauguration of Donald Trump as the United States’ president — a man who has advocated for an assortment of policies outside our UU values, including an uncompassionate mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, an anti-pluralistic Muslim immigration ban or resident registry, an unscientific and dangerous denial of climate change, and changes to healthcare access and Social Security that would lessen support for already-vulnerable Americans — I thought we might want to be reminded of the ways we can de-stress, rest in our core selves, and stay courageous and committed to justice.
First, of course, we have to acknowledge and accept that we have feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. Though I’ve read many arguments that a stress response to November’s election is an “overreaction,” I absolutely disagree. The folks I know (myself included!) who have felt concerned and afraid after the election are having understandable emotional responses to a sudden and unpleasant change in our realities. As The Atlantic explains, “Women and people of color have good reason to be anxious, given the sexist and racist things Trump said during the campaign, given his threats against the women who accused him of sexual assault, given how he has painted Mexicans as criminals, given that he was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, given so, so many things. People have very real fears rooted in policies Trump has promised to enact in office.” This is not even to mention that the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked over one thousand hateful incidents since Election Day, many of which were directly attributed by perpetrators to Trump’s election. Fifty-three of those incidents took place in Massachusetts. In the New York Times, the combined shocks of the election results and its aftermath of hateful incidents and hate crimes was deemed a “collective trauma.” I encourage anyone who is feeling upset about the election to talk about it with their loved ones, the church’s Pastoral Care team members, or a professional therapist.
So, for those of us who have been experiencing heightened levels of distress since Election Day, how can we take good care of ourselves leading up to and then on Inauguration Day?
Much of what Mark shared with us in November is still very good advice: limiting our media intake so we’re not in constant “consumer” mode, making time for things we enjoy (like art, music, and the outdoors), and attending to worship and other church events (our common, communal spiritual practices). We want to stay dedicated any of our other spiritual practices — dialogue with friends, meditation and prayer, yoga and dance, art and singing, etc. — as centering activities help us stay calm and focused even in the midst of chaos and despair. We can consider which of our Unitarian Universalist Six Sources will help each of us the most this month, and in the coming months and years. We ought to remember to include some time at least once a week with the Source that most feeds our souls. Committing ourselves to ongoing healthy routines of exercise, eating and hydrating, and socializing will give us great benefit in the short- and long-term.
As for Inauguration Weekend itself, we can opt not to watch the ceremony itself live. Especially in the internet age, we can choose to watch a highlight reel or short clips later on, if we feel committed to seeing it. And, for those of us who do plan to watch, we can give ourselves permission to turn it off if our anxiety levels are rising and take brief breaks to do something that rejuvenates our spirits. There are also great local events happening that weekend, if we feel soothed by being with community: a small group in the town of Needham is developing an interfaith vigil the evening of the Inauguration (more details to come); the Women’s March has a branch event in downtown Boston on Saturday the 21st and many First Parishioners plan to commute and attend together; and, that Sunday the 22nd (while I’m recovering from participating in the Women’s March down in D.C.), guest preacher Ken Wagner will share his journey with the spiritual practice of anti-racism and how that can sustain us in the coming years.
And, instead of despairing about the incoming administration’s policy plans, we can make a New Year’s resolution to uphold the mission, vision, covenant, and Principles of our church and faith; protect the vulnerable through charitable work and legislative pressure; and continue to advocate for progressive values in our families, neighborhoods, and larger society. 2017 is a new beginning for us all, and we needn’t resign ourselves to hopelessness before it’s even begun. With the support of our beloved community at First Parish, our loving family members and friends, and our deeper connection to our values and a Larger Love, we will continue to influence and build a better America for everyone.
— Rev. Catie