Give yourself total
permission to feel whatever you are feeling! Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel the way
you do. You might
be feeling terrified, numb, hopeless, hopeful, unsympathetic, enraged, wordless,
agitated, immature, hypersensitive or irrationally happy.
There is no right way to feel, but you will get
better sleep at night (which is very important) if you allow yourself to feel lots
of wide-ranging or intense emotions.
scary, uncertain times it's important not to spin out on fear, but to treat it
like an animal that needs respectful, caring attention. If a terrified rabbit
turned up in your living room, you wouldn’t yell at it; you would be still,
talk in a quiet, friendly tone, and try to wrap it up in a towel to soothe it.
own heart pounds, try to treat it like a frightened rabbit.
breathing in normally and breathing out slowly, as this will naturally bring
your nervous system closer to being balanced. If you feel like yawning, yawn
away — another wonderful natural regulatory mechanism the body uses to bring us
back from fight-or-flight. Feel your feet on the ground, feel the ground under
you, make sure to drink fluids and eat something nourishing if you can. Call a
friend or take a walk.
Don’t Get Used to Things
That Upset You
There 's a relentless onslaught of news.
It might be feeling like every
time you open your browser you get the wind knocked out of you. If you wake up
in the morning, check your phone… a cloud of sadness and anxiety may settle
over your entire day. You can’t live like this over the long term.
So when it gets
to be too much, it’s okay to unplug for a bit.
Twitter and reading the news. Stop feeling guilty when someone asks you if
you’ve been following the latest story and you have to say no. Go a week or a
day or even an hour without talking/reading/writing about what’s going on in
Washington. It will still be there when you get back, I promise.
This is really
important, because at some point it will become too much to handle.
You can cope by
shutting it out for a while — binge watching Netflix, playing with your dog, going to
But if you don’t
do that, if you try to maintain this fever pitch of anguish and fear and
outrage, something far worse than a little down time is going to happen. Your
brain, to protect you, will just turn down the volume on the outrage and adapt.
People can get used
to anything, and if you don’t take steps to prevent it, you will get used to it.
It’s okay to
resist the powerful urge to adapt to the new normal. But that doesn’t mean you
have to live in a constant state of anxiety and anger. It means, when you do think
about what upsets you politically, the appropriate feeling is outrage. But you
can’t live like that all the time, and that means you have to spend a
significant amount of time not thinking about it and all the work that has to be done.
I promise this
will not make you a bad or a weak person.
You will do more
good if you make time for other conversations and non-political activities. It’s
like taking a vacation from your job, which research has shown dramatically
boosts productivity. Take a good long break, then come back refreshed and
ready to work.
Not every job has
to be done by you, even if you’re the best at it. If social media trolls are
giving you heart palpitations, you can let a tweet go un-answered. Even if
you’re the most knowledgeable person at the dinner party, you don’t have to be
the one to jump in when the conversation turns to politics. For that matter,
you don’t have to show up to the dinner party if you know it’s going to turn
into a debate.
about social media!
attention to how you feel while you’re using social media (or compulsively
checking). Are you feeling a warm
glow of connecting with friends, family and people you enjoy? That sounds good.
But if you’re getting agitated, having fruitless arguments with strangers or if
you find yourself ruminating about a Facebook post instead of sleeping at night,
then try to switch to something less disturbing to your peace of mind.
Instead of being obsessed with your devices. Go...Watch a
movie. Call a friend. Give money or time to a good cause.
Focus Your Energy on One or Two Issues
You can’t show up
to every march and donate to every cause. You can’t write treatises on every
issue and argue with everyone you disagree with.
If you want to be effective on anything,
pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the
Ignore people who
say things like, “you’re not a real feminist if you aren’t working to protect
the environment” or “you’re betraying the cause of economic justice if you
don’t show up for prison reform.” That’s all nonsense. There is a spectrum of
support, and nobody can be everywhere at once.
Do not engage in
activist one-upmanship, and don’t allow yourself to be shamed for not being
fully briefed and up to date on everything, for not spending your days glued to
CSPAN and Twitter, for not making someone else’s number one issue yours as well.
That is a demand for
emotional labor from you, and you do not have to give it.
don’t have to suffer to make a difference
Go ahead and do
things that are good for the world, but do them in ways that you personally
Don’t let anyone
tell you that humor is wrong, or that
you aren’t allowed to be proud of your contribution, or that it’s unseemly to
have fun while you’re doing serious work. That’s all bull, and it’s
counterproductive to boot.
Don’t forget to
play to your strengths. There’s no need to force yourself to do a kind of work
that you find unpleasant or boring.
If you’re a writer, write articles shedding
light on important issues, convincing the other side or rallying your allies to
action. If you’re an artist, make art with a conscience. Teachers can bring
social justice into your curriculum. Lawyers can volunteer at free legal
clinics, write amicus briefs, do pro bono work. Like to argue? Be the one who
calls out the sexist comment at a dinner party when everyone else doesn’t know
how to react. Love to bake? Bring cookies to activist meetings and homeless
No matter what your passion is, there’s a way to use it for good and
have a great time doing it…and be patient with yourself if you don't know what to do....the right action will come if and when it comes to you!