How to Keep Today's Political Climate From Affecting Your Mental Health

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Zara

We live in a country where school shootings have become commonplace—and lack of action from government legislation is not only consistent but expected. Our president hate-tweets about public service officials, integral media resources, other countries, and liberal ideals. Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare is up for debate. Equal rights for anyone who doesn't identify as straight (or white) is "controversial." This is a frightening moment in history.

In times of turmoil, whether it be frustrations with the political landscape or smaller, more intimate moments in my life, my anxiety tends to take over. And it's not just me: Anxiety is one of the most common disorders in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) every year. I worry about what I've said, what I've done, and what might happen in the case of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or sexual assault. "All of this stresses our system, and the brain and body should return to normal levels once the stressor is over, but if the stressor is constant, you'll find yourself in a heightened state all of the time," explains Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, executive director at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health Group of those spiral-prone feelings. And with such immense time spent wrapped up in my own magnified anxieties, taking care of myself became less of a priority. Or, I should say, it used to.

I'd let my bedroom become a mess—piling clothes on top of clothes without a thought. I'd stay out late to blow off steam and forget that restful sleep is a far healthier option. I'd drink beer and eat fried foods with abandon and scoff at the idea of exercise. "I'm fun," I'd tell myself. The truth is that I was drowning.

It wasn't until Trump took office and activism became more a part of my consciousness that I realized self-love could be part of my resistance. If he wasn't going to look out for me, then I'd have to work harder at doing it for myself. If I was going to pay massive premiums for health insurance and fight for control over my own body, I'd have to start taking my physical health more seriously. And since censorship, climate change, and gun violence are real and are threats to my very existence, looking after my mental health is imperative as well. So where to start? I spoke to a few experts for actionable suggestions to dealing with anxiety and learning wellness and self-love all over again.