Here is October’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
This presidential election has me going crazy. I’m irritable, on-edge and honestly, very worried about the future of our country. How can I stay informed without driving myself over the edge?
Signed, Needing Some Presidential Peace
I think everyone can empathize with how you’re feeling, because most of us are feeling it, too. I have a few ways you can save your sanity and reduce your anxiety during election season.
- Take a deep breath and remind yourself that there have been other incredibly tumultuous periods in history that have turned out well. Sometimes things have to get a bit shaken up before they can get better. I know your brain’s response is going to be, “Yeah, but there have been other times in history where things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.” And that’s true. We’re just trying to give the positive outcomes equal airtime. So you can respond right back, “Yes, that’s true, but that’s all I’ve been thinking about and it’s making me anxious, so I’m going to spend a little time thinking about the times when chaos preceded progress.”
- Use this opportunity to talk with your family about your values and your hopes for the country and humankind. This election has shined a light on the lingering racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious discrimination, etc. in this country. Check your own feelings of fear and anger and make sure they aren’t contributing to the problem. Talk with your kids about how your family treats people and make sure your actions are in line with your beliefs.
- Stay informed, but limit your exposure to political articles and commentary. It takes only 10-15 minutes a day to scan the news and get an update. Don’t watch a news channel as paid professionals argue back and forth for hours on end. Don’t read every news or opinion article in your social media feed, and for goodness sake, stop reading the miles of comments strangers make on these articles. Set clear boundaries for your exposure to the election news.
- Infuse the rest of your life with peace and joy. Go for a walk. Read a great work of fiction. Play soccer in the backyard with your kids. Serve at a local shelter or soup kitchen. Remind yourself that is still much to be grateful for, and much to enjoy.
I’m glad to hear you’re riled up about the election. We all should be. We should care about our government and the future of our country. But there is a difference between passion and anxiety. Take care of yourself, take some nice long deep breaths every now and again, and spend your time being part of the solution by engaging in life in ways that line up with your values.
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC, a group family therapy practice in Chester Springs. Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families. And check out her books on Amazon.