De-stressing in the Age of Trump

Julie Hotard
7 min readMay 12, 2018

Many, maybe most of us, need to relieve or release stress in the age of Trump. I’ll describe here a few techniques to do that here — ones that people can do at home for free.

This isn’t going to be an essay about changing your attitude. It’s more about changing what you do and say. There’s nothing wrong with changing your attitude. But there are plenty of articles on that subject already.

If attitude change is your preferred method of de-stressing, then feel free to read some of those articles instead. Changing your behavior usually does end up changing your attitude too though.

I’m going to cover a number of different methods of stress release here. It’s not that one isn’t enough. It’s just that people are different in what kinds of methods they are willing to try. Then, having tried a method, it may or may not work for that individual. Hopefully, there will be something here for everyone.

I do recommend that you try no more than one of them per week or month or so, so that you can delve in and give it a good try.

Using these methods is not a substitute for psychotherapy. If you have serious emotional or mental problems, or if you try out the exercises and feel worse rather than better, you should seek a qualified psychotherapist. A psychotherapist may be able to help you find what you need, in order to feel better.

First of all, here’s a technique I call “underwhelming” yourself. As much as is practical, you decrease the amount of stressful stimulation you take into your body and mind.

For example, if you are not a journalist or someone else who has to be aware of politics for your job, then don’t watch or read the news very often or for very long, if it’s stressful. People are different about this, so let your own body, mind and emotions be your guide to how much news is too stressful. Try different amounts of news, and none for a while. See how you respond.

Even if you are in journalism or in another politically related career, you can still carve out larger sections of your schedule to be with family or friends, read a novel, go swimming or fishing, paint a picture, listen to music uninterrupted etc.

Some people feel as though they want to know what’s going on, in case they might be able to do something about it. In that case, you may want to trade back and forth, on news versus rest, with your spouse, friend, or someone you know from a political activists group.

Each person may take a week of consuming news and letting their partner know whether there is something going on that they might do something about e.g. if there is a march or a local election soon.

After a week or whatever time period works for you two, you trade roles. Then the first person gets their rest from the news. You could do this in larger groups too. With five people, for example, each person could get 4 consecutive weeks of rest from news, for each week they end up watching or reading news.

I sometimes go for weeks without reading news except for brief tweets that I happen to read. If anything important is happening, my husband lets me know.

If you do this, your big problem might be what to do with all your new free time. What a great problem to have. What would be the most fun activity to do? For example, becoming “addicted” to basketball (or some other sport or activity you enjoy) can distract you pretty well. This is comparatively harmless and can take up as much time as you need it to, so that you can relax again.

It may surprise you to realize that doing less talking and thinking about politics can actually make you more effective. It’s very easy to get lost in small distractions, rather than to focus on what matters most. There’s a big picture and a lot of small news items that may not even be news. As I see it, the big picture is that we need to change our government and media systems, to make them more transparent, honest, fair and compassionate. One more or less tweet by Trump won’t change that.

Getting overwhelmed with unimportant details is an obstacle to becoming aware of the big picture and finding ways to solve problems.

Once we take some rests from politics, we can then be up for the challenge of deciding and focusing on what’s important, what we can do something about — rather than getting stressed out about distractions that don’t matter much, or about things we can’t influence.

Another way to release stress is to attend support groups.

A friend told me about a political activist group meeting she was in, where each person took a few minutes to vent at the beginning of the meeting. It worked well to help the group focus on the tasks at hand for the remainder of the meeting.

There are also emotional support groups for the public, such as Twelve Step groups, although they are not generally focused on political stress. Some people start their own support groups, with friends or with people from political activist groups — people who trust one another and want to emotionally support each other.

Whether in a group or with just one other person, many people benefit from venting feelings.

Venting feelings is not the same as getting into a habit of obsessing.

If you talk about political concerns, and you release distress that way, that’s good. But if you just habitually talk to others about politics and don’t feel any better, you may want to consider changing the subject, at least some of the time. Notice what happens when you do.

You might even develop new interests in this way.

Even if your goal is to come up with action plans or better understanding, once you give your mind a rest, you may think more clearly.

When you take a step back and rest, your perspective may expand. Your insights and plans may become clearer.

There are people on the other extreme too — who completely avoid talking about politics. If that works for you, don’t fix it. However, if you never talk about politics, but feel constantly uneasy beneath the surface of your mind, maybe you could benefit from venting to a friend about it — someone who feels comfortable listening to someone else vent. You can trade back and forth, venting and listening. It’s worth a try, although it doesn’t work for everyone. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it any more.

Another way to release emotional distress is through body movements.

There are a number of techniques. These don’t work for everyone either, but they work for a lot of people. Many psychotherapists teach some of these to their clients.

Here is a demonstration of Eye Movement Therapy on youtube.com.

It’s sort of like watching a tennis game. You follow the green light with your eyes. Some people listen with the sound on, some with it turned off. The idea is to experience one’s distress and then to let it pass on through your body and and out of it. So you let distressing feelings or thoughts occur, or even “wallow in them”, rather than try to avoid them, while doing this.

This is just one of the EMDR youtubes. Just type in EMDR or eye movement therapy into youtube.com to get others, if this one doesn’t suit you.

Here’s an article about EMDR.

There’s also a technique where you self tap your own acupressure points — the Emotional Freedom Technique — a different technique for the same purpose. Here are some demonstration videos for it.

There are affirmations that the presenter says while tapping. If you like them, you say them with him. If you don’t like them, you turn the sound off.

The theories proposed for how these two methods work are different. But I suspect that they actually work in similar ways.

Here are a couple of videos on what are called Trauma Releasing Exercises.

There are other videos on this method on youtube.com also. There is a lot of explanatory material at the beginning of the videos. Later on in the videos, people are actively demonstrating doing the movements.

Here’s another emotional release technique: active movement meditation.

This one involves moderately strenuous exercise. So if you don’t usually do strenuous exercise, ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to do it. Of course, start gradually and do less than the full amount, if you are not used to much exercise. Done as instructed here, it can be quite a workout.

This meditation is labeled with the name of a guru. However, I am not recommending this or any other guru or religion here. I am simply recommending it as a de-stressing exercise. Most Eastern meditation methods have long histories. The most recent guru to promote an exercise is rarely the one who invented it.

Here is page one of a written description of how the exercises are to be done.

One can modify this series of exercises to fit one’s individual needs. For example, if jumping hurts or gives you shin splints, then you can shake or move up and down in place, rather than jumping. You can do each segment for 3 or 5 minutes, rather than 15 minutes etc. Just go with whatever is reasonably comfortable, not painful, and not exhausting for your own body, if you decide to try it.

I’ll let those be enough exercises to cover for now. Of course there are many more types of stress release — for example, yoga, Qi Gong, and many other types of movement exercises. Many people benefit from meditation. Tara Brach is my favorite person who discusses meditation on youtube.com.

Feel free to let us all know in the Comments section your questions, comments or experiences with these methods. Stress release, when it works, gives us needed relief and helps us to think more clearly. It helps us to take better care of ourselves, each other, and our nation. Unwinding and letting go of as much stress as possible, can be the ticket to a lot of other positive changes. I expect most of you will agree with me, that we could all use some positive changes at this point in time.

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