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When Politics Threatens Your Health

connectionsThe 2016 presidential election is over but feelings about it are not. I am not going to get into a political discussion; instead I am going to address health issues. Someone always loses in a political race, and if that loss is felt deeply, life can feel unbearable.  When life is painful and we feel powerless, our health is at risk.

I know a good deal about living an unbearable life. I was seriously mentally ill for 20 years. I lived with anxiety and fear for longer than that. My health was a mess. So were my heart and soul. I wasn’t just hurting, I was hurting others who cared about me.

Along the way, I began to change. It was a slow process with a good bit of trial and error. Small changes worked best for me. Honest assessment helped. Chastising myself never worked. In time, gratitude and a deep sense of peace replaced anxiety and fear. These days, I feel tranquil most of the time, and no, I am not medicated.

This may sound cold, but I feel calm even when I see people who are helpless and hurting. I don’t panic when I see injustice. My heart aches in these situations, but I don’t drown in the pain. I feel angry but not powerless. My inner voice doesn’t abandon me; instead it asks, “What can I do to help?”

“What can I do to help?” is something I ask a lot, especially when I don’t like current events. I try to listen for an answer, rather than react.  Here are some things you can do when unhappy about political events:

  • Let elected officials know your opinions. Don’t just express your views – develop a relationship. Drop by their offices. Call and chat. Tell them why you care. Be polite. Do this often.
  • Write, call, email your representative and senators in Congress. If you aren’t sure who your elected officials are, you can look them up at www.congress.gov. You can call your congressional representatives through the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.  Ask to be connected to your representative.
  • Better yet, visit or call them in their local offices.
  • Write opinion letters to news media outlets.
  • Express yourself on radio talk shows.
  • Use social media to suggest ways to make change.
  • Sign or circulate a petition.
  • Get involved in a group that is addressing an issue that you feel strongly about.
  • Contribute to organizations and candidates who are seeking change that you believe in.
  • Protest, but do it nonviolently.

Through it all, take care of your health. An unhealthy you isn’t going to be an effective change maker. Don’t let worry rob you of sleep. Exercise can chase the fear away. So do gratitude and humor. Make health part of your personal political strategy.

Above all else, be kind to others. Rancor is not a tool for change. Love is.

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