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How to Handle the Anxiety of a Donald Trump Presidency

Micah Abraham, BSc
How to Handle the Anxiety of a Donald Trump Presidency

Starting in January of 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States. While a plurality of Americans helped elect him into office, a similarly sizeable portion of the electorate not only voted against him – they believe, with all seriousness, that he could single handedly bring the downfall of American civilization.

Given that Donald Trump’s party also has control of the Senate and House of Representatives, and may soon have control over the Supreme Court, those that disagree with his beliefs have a reason to be concerned, and while many people are supportive of his beliefs, there are still many out there struggling with what can best be called “Donald Trump Anxiety.”

All Anxiety is Problematic

Different views mean different levels of passion. In a divided country, where two distinctive parties each have their own belief in what works for the government, it’s not uncommon to be concerned when the opposing party controls the law, and that can lead to many people finding themselves experiencing high levels of emotion over the election results.

But it’s not just the intellectual component of this situation that is problematic for those on the other side. Election anxiety is a very real thing. Psychologists have been reporting that many people that already had anxiety are experiencing an increased in their anxiety symptoms throughout the election season, and as the results came in, some individuals reported experiencing anxiety so severe, they triggered or came close to triggering full blown anxiety attacks.

In the upcoming days, it seems likely that this election anxiety will continue. Some people may experience rage. Others may experience depression. Others may experience sorrow. But many people will experience anxiety, and the closer it gets to the date, the more likely that anxiety will increase.

How to Control Anxiety Caused by a Donald Trump Presidency

For many, anxiety over a Donald Trump presidency feels simply like a political nervousness. But ALL anxiety is a problem, no matter what causes it. Anxiety is a form of constant physical stress, and physical stress can lead to serious health complications, including:

Stress can shorten your lifespan, and even a few months of stress can affect your hormones and organs in a way that isn’t good for your long term health. All persistent anxiety is bad for you, whether it’s because you have an anxiety disorder or because you are afraid of a Trump presidency, if you have severe anxiety you have to find ways to control it.

Treatment for this type of anxiety is not unlike any other form of anxiety. It involves making significant changes to your lifestyle and daily life that are all necessary for controlling anxiety. 

However, there are also many specific changes that can be made to help reduce this type of presidential anxiety. They’re not perfect – and would work better with traditional anxiety treatments – but they can make a big difference in your overall anxiety symptoms.

It is easy to vote. It is easy to post your feelings on social media for your friends to see – many of whom share the same view as you. It is much more difficult to become an active person in your local community on a political level.

Yet the single best way to reduce your anxiety is to start becoming a visible, physical force in politics and the community – not just on Facebook and Twitter, but in person as well.

Examples include joining local neighborhood associations, volunteering, calling congressmen to demand what you want, organizing rallies, protesting – whatever you need to do.

There are many different benefits of this for your anxiety. The first is that it gives you a reason to hope. One of reasons anxiety can become so strong is that most ways that people engage politically – watching TV, sharing links on Facebook, etc. – have little effect on any individual person. But being a part of the groups that can create change gives you little victories that you can use to have hope, and that will decrease your anxiety about the future.

In addition, it will surround you with other people that are also trying to make a difference, and one of the strongest ways to reduce anxiety is to surround yourself with support. With most traditional forms of anxiety, that support comes from friends and family. But with this type of anxiety, it comes from being around those that are also trying to work towards similar goals.

One of the main causes of anxiety over Donald Trump’s presidency can best be summed up by the last days of the election, when it was announced in the news that Donald Trump’s Twitter account was taken away because he had become too reckless with it. Those that were concerned about how this recklessness may affect his control over nuclear weapons were troubled.

Social media has become a great way to spread a message. But it has also become a great way to become stressed out about the effects of a Trump presidency beyond what you can control, especially if you use social media for news. As such, limit your social media use. You do not need to avoid it completely, but try to avoid letting yourself fall into the trap of being overwhelmed with it – especially if it is frequently political.

By default, much of your news and education is consumed online. You sit in front of your computer, inside, on the couch or at a desk, and read about as much as you can.

That means a lot of time indoors, and while it sounds cliché, there are proven benefits to spending time outside and away from electronics. Indeed, studies have shown that even eye strain caused by looking at words on a screen can contribute to further anxiety, while fresh air, movement (such as walking), and natural lighting all are known to reduce anxiety.

If you’re struggling with anxiety as it comes closer to inauguration date, make sure that you’re spending ample time outdoors, even if all you do is go for a walk.

Anxiety can be controlled through education. We see this with panic attacks. Panic attacks are often triggered by physical sensations – for example, you may feel some mild chest pain. This causes the body to rush with adrenaline worried that the chest pain is something more serious, like a heart attack. Then, when you learn how and why anxiety causes chest pain, it can have a calming effect on your anxiety in the future.

The same is true of politics. The more you understand how politics actually works, and the more you study it, the easier a time you’ll have understanding both what you can do and what other people cannot do. It’s not uncommon for many people interested to be interested in the EFFECTS of politics (such as women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc.), but not about HOW politics works. They are focused on the outcome, but not the process.

Understanding the process, then, can help you know what you should worry about and what you should not. It tells you more about what you can do to create change. It tells you what hope you have and what the process is. For example, one of the most often cited reasons for gun rights is that a large percentage of NRA members call their congressmen frequently and pressure them to vote for more gun rights. Perhaps knowing this, you can both take the action you want to take to support your causes, and understand how and why some politicians vote for gun rights.

Knowledge really is power, especially if your goal is to combine that knowledge with action. When it comes to anxiety, knowledge can be the difference between being anxious about a situation and feeling like you have control over it.

Donald Trump’s victory was almost entirely due to rural voting groups that felt left behind by the rest of society. As a result, one of the most important takeaways of the election is that no voting group should be completely ignored or marginalized, because when they do, they may fight back in force.

A considerable amount of anxiety comes from having limited connection with those that see the world through a different lens. Many are not just afraid of Donald Trump – they are afraid of those that voted for him, and they are afraid that they are going to vote that way again.

Fearing others creates further anxiety, and fearing that they’ll vote this way again can make that anxiety worse. That means that if your goal is to reduce your anxiety, then the best way to do that is to start affecting real change in those communities.

How can you create that change? The best way is to organized large meetings and groups to go into those smaller towns, and trying to connect with those that voted for Donald Trump. This helps you understand them more as people – even if you don’t agree with them – and can help turn some voters in a way that will give you more faith in the future.

But perhaps more importantly, it also takes away the mystery of the Trump voter. It breaks down some of the wall that makes it feel dangerous to live in the United States. While you may not always be able to control what Donald Trump does, it’s not just Trump that leads to anxiety – it is also the fear of the Trump voter. This strategy reduces that fear, so that less of your anxiety is focused on that mystery person. Just be sure and go in group for safety and positive energy.

How These Changes Help Fight Anxiety

Many of these ideas may seem like they are more related to activism than they are to reducing anxiety. Yet this is not intended to be an overly political post. The reality of anxiety is that certain types of anxiety causes need specific types of responses, and so those that are anxious about Donald Trump as president have to take specific actions in order to control it.

Here’s a different example: If your anxiety was caused by your job, then the best way to control that anxiety is to have a plan of action to find a new job, stress control techniques for when you’re off work, a routine for the morning before work, etc. These are all actions and activities related to work, which are each designed to control work anxiety and stress.

Similarly, when the issue causing your anxiety is related to politics and a Donald Trump presidency, the solution requires activities and changes that are directly related to that cause. The best way to address that anxiety DOES involve activism, engagement, and other related activities.

Although traditional anxiety reduction strategies do still work, it is going to be more difficult to avoid that anxiety if you sit at home, do little, and let it affect you. The more you do, the better you will be.

It looks like anxiety about a Donald Trump presidency is going to be a very real issue, and it may continue after he is inducted. But no one should have to struggle with anxiety, whether it’s caused by politics or caused by something else. So take the time to prioritize reducing your anxiety, because no matter your age, your gender, or your politics, no one should have to suffer with anxiety symptoms.

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