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Vote For Inner Peace: Mindfulness As A Means To Maintaining Your Sanity During Election Season

What is the biggest trigger of stress and anxiety for you currently? For many people, the first response is “politics”. If we break down that question even further, what is it about politics that is causing you so much stress and anxiety? How much of that stress and anxiety regarding politics is specifically triggered by things like comments people are making on social media or political based arguments that you have recently had with family members, friends, or coworkers? Now I want you to be honest with yourself (ask shame to take a step to the side and instead invite curiosity in). Did those arguments or responses you posted on social media accomplish anything? Sure, maybe it made you feel better for a moment to vent or get something off your chest by directing your anger at another person, but can you honestly say that that was the most productive use of your time? Or that those interactions reflected your best self? Can you honestly say that you walked away from that interaction feeling like you or the other person have a better understanding of one another? Can you confidently say that that was the best place to try and evoke change about things you are passionate about? What is so interesting about humans is that even when we are honest with ourselves and realize the answer to most of those questions is probably no, we continue to engage in the same behaviors and conversations. Why is that? I can’t speak for everyone but the main reason I see people continue to engage in this way is because of fear and anger. Specifically, fear and anger about things like: a perceived loss of control, our identity being threatened, things staying the same, things changing, being wrong, being hurt or others being hurt, having to admit that we are wrong, having to admit that we do not have all the answers, and that others who we have deemed as the expert(s) don’t either. These things can feel very heavy and over-whelming so it is no wonder then that when they arise, if we do not have a way to make space for them and know how to navigate them, they instead get projected in less than ideal ways onto others. Becoming Self-Aware My hopes in all of this is not to make you feel like the solution is to deny those feelings or become silent in your beliefs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with standing up for what we believe in and tapping into what our fear is trying to tell us…from a self-led, conscious place. If we don’t tap into that, then anger will take over in unhelpful ways and may look more like rage or shaming and attacking others. This is often the result of what happens when we haven’t paid attention to our fear. It has been forced to turn the volume up to get our attention. Anger can be healthy but when it is the product of unacknowledged fear, that is often when we inadvertently show up in a way that very closely resembles others that we are fighting so hard against. This will never lead to the change we are hoping for. Healthy anger on the other hand is vital in helping us identify what our values are and what we are passionate about. However, if we are unsure how to recognize that anger and how to utilize it in a useful way, that is when it tends to take over and become projected onto others. Hence why learning how to become more self-aware is key. Becoming more self-aware allows us to a) recognize when anger or fear is present much earlier on b) gives us a way to better understand the messages that anger and fear has for us c) allows us to live from a conscious place and make the best decision possible of where to spend our time and energy, including the interactions that we choose to engage in. Get Curious Once we become aware of fear or anger being present, the goal is to turn inwards and get curious about what those things are trying to tell you. What does fear or anger believe will happen if whatever the trigger that is currently happening persists? Is this a valid or realistic concern? Is there anything that you can do to try and evoke change? If so, where would be the most effective place to direct your energy to make that happen? When we do not take the time to turn inwards and get really clear on that, that is when we tend to respond and engage with every comment, post, or statement that we see or hear. If we do not learn how to become very intentional with where we direct our energy, passion, and actions, we will become burnt out and inevitably contribute to the decline of our physical and mental well-being. AGAIN, I want to reiterate this is not about denying our feelings or taking away from the fear, anger, and outrage that people rightfully feel, this is about taking care of ourselves so we can continue fighting for the things that we are passionate about in the most effective way. Projection is a powerful thing and we can only recognize it by learning how to pause and practice self- awareness. Pausing and Reflecting Before Responding So, what does this look like in real time? Once you have taken the time to make space for your fear or anger, have gotten curious and feel like you understand what it is trying to tell you, you will then have a better understanding of which interactions make the most sense to take the time to engage in. Some useful things to ask yourself to further that understanding the next time you are tempted to engage online or in person with someone about something that you disagree on, may be: 1. What are my intentions in choosing to have this interaction? 2. Is this interaction still going to feel beneficial to me if the other person doesn’t agree with me? 3. Is this interaction going to be a useful way to spend my time and energy? 4. Am I feeling grounded enough to have this interaction with the other person and not attack them? 5. If my goal is to evoke change in what I am passionate about or stand up for others, is this the best place to do that? What other places or ways can I do that instead that will lead to the change I’m hoping to see? Ultimately, we must remember that we have a choice. We do not have to engage in those conversations in which we cannot stay grounded in, we do not have to keep following people on social media that we feel bothered by, we do not have to be around those that hold views or beliefs we feel are damaging, and we get to choose where our energy and time is going to be the most effectively utilized. This type of awareness is key to ensuring that we are showing up as our best selves. The next time you are feeling frustrated or anxious about the world around you and feeling like you are uncertain if things will ever change, remind yourself of this: showing up as our best selves, especially during times of chaos, inspires others to do the same. Therefore, doing your own work is truly the best way to ensure that you are contributing to the change you are hoping to see around you.