I have waited to let the dust settle a bit before writing something about the shock many feel regarding the election. Having said that, it would appear things have churned up into a regular dust storm with each passing day. The shock waves keep coming with each announcement from Steve Bannon as Chief White House Strategist to the most recent of Greg Tillerson, CEO of Exxon as Secretary of State. Then there are the missed intelligence briefings; conflicts of interest; foreign relations’ debacles; Russian meddling in the elections; talks of dismantling the EPA; fears that the Dept. of Education is also in jeopardy and the incessant twitter rants by the President Elect. This has caused most people repetitive, emotional jarring and left little room for a settling-in period.
Chronic worry about anything, as we all know, compromises one’s health. Stress hormones suppress the immune system and cause inflammation, which in turn causes acceleration of plaque buildup in arteries and other detrimental effects. Increased heart rate and blood pressure can lead to reduction in blood supply to the heart wall, intestines, brain and other parts of the body. Anxiety leads to insomnia; changes in appetite; difficulty concentrating; irritability and, over time, depression. If you are one of those who is excessively worried about this election and the myriad of possible, dangerous outcomes, you need to develop and practice ways to relieve that stress on a daily basis, if you’re going to survive the next 4 years.
Let’s begin with concrete ways to first, recognize when you’re stressed. Then, in subsequent posts, I’ll talk about various methods to reduce stress and give you some exercises to do (both physical and non-physical) that will slow your heart rate; lower your blood pressure and lead to overall happier days and nights.
Some of us walk around in such a chronic state of stress that we barely know the signs. Start paying attention to your body when your mind is drifting into doomsday mode. Do you notice any of the following:
tightness in your chest
a lump in your throat
a “pit” in your stomach
changes in appetite
When you are able to tune into your body and your mind, you’ll begin to know when to enact your coping skills, as you learn them. Some say that the body is the first to indicate to us what we are feeling, thinking or even what our intuition is telling us. Make it a practice to set a timer on your phone for several times/day to check in with your body and any other things you notice about yourself. This will help you develop a part of you that is the observer of you. As you check in each time:
- Notice what your body is feeling and where.
- Take account of your mood and how your interactions with others and your environment have gone up to that point in the day.
- Keep a journal or chart on which you rate the intensity of feelings in your body from 1=minimal to 10=intense.
- Label your mood. Is it a normal, neutral mood; a sad mood; irritable; angry?
- Rate your mood’s intensity from 1 – 10 (again, 1=minimal to 10=intense)
Go through this exercise for 7 days then reflect back on it as we begin, in the next blog, to teach you some basic ways to address those feelings when they become a 5 or above.