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What Can Help with Severe Post-Election Anxiety?

17 Jan

We got this question from Judith, who is having a high degree of post-election anxiety, including symptoms of chest tightness, face numbness and jaw pain. Her doc has diagnosed her with anxiety, and her usual coping tools aren’t working. We try to address what she can do.

Question:

Hello,

I'm having an unusual amount of post-election anxiety. I went to the doc for chest tightness, face numbness, jaw pain - and he says it is anxiety.  My usual tools aren't touching it and I don't want to become dependent on lorazepam [Ed. Note: Xanax].

A friend said that you have a CD for anxiety. What is the name of it?

Thanks much,

Judith

Answer:

Dear Judith,

You are not the first person to write in about this. And good for you, for not wanting to become dependent on Lorazepam (otherwise known as the tranquilizer, Xanax). 

Unfortunately, it's fairly easy to become addicted to the stuff, as well as its cousin Valium (Diazepam) and other medications in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. 

Here is what I recommend:

First, consider putting yourself on a news fast. If you've been paying close attention to what you experience as appalling news, it's no doubt become an exercise in helpless distress for you. Take a break, and instead, turn your attention to mindfully engaging in small, personal activities which you have some agency over and which might be a source of comfort or satisfaction: cuddling the dog, being kind to random strangers, making soup, doing home repairs, keeping a gratitude journal, and the like. 

Additionally, you may find that having hand-wringing, "ain't it awful" conversations with like-minded friends is generally not helpful or cathartic - it just amplifies your sense of helplessness. 

Take some time away from this and come back when you have a specific issue you choose to fight for, the energy to focus on it, and the right forum and companions to be effective with it. 

This may be a matter of weeks or even months. Think in terms of the long game. General, unfocused protest, beyond writing political representatives, can wind up feeling like feckless flailing, but specific action, especially at the local level, can be empowering and change-producing in a steady cumulative way. 

But first, you need to tune the instrument, and the instrument is YOU, in order to get your strength and resilience back..

As for some mind-body resources:

Our popular guided imagery audio program, Relieve Stress, has four different tracks, offering a range of exercises: (1) guided imagery for anxiety and (2) for peaceful perspective, plus (3) a deeply relaxing walking meditation and (4) some very calming, user-friendly affirmations. 

In addition, Julie Lusk’s newly released Yoga Nidra meditation is a body based, deeply relaxing practice which could also take you out of your thoughts and into some profound physically oriented relaxation and a powerful sense of well-being. 

And this might sound odd, but a lot of people with post-election blues and distress have found solace from our guided imagery for Heartbreak, Abandonment and Betrayal, as it helps give people a sense of their own solid inner core – their essential  wellspring of resourcefulness - as well as some wider perspective that goes beyond what is right in front of us. So, perhaps you will get some therapeutic impact from that audio, too.

Good luck and I hope this is a help.

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Belleruth

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award