Election day has left me drained. I’ve been sitting at my desk for the last hour, frozen in the act of trying to write this article about self-care.
In the last 18 hours, friends and loved ones have written me to tell me they are scared, and feel physically ill. Muslims, transgender people, Latinos, and women have shared thoughts on how they plan to keep themselves safe during the presidency of a man endorsed by American Nazis and the KKK. Kristallnacht is trending on Facebook.
Many people are very anxious today in America.
It’s important to do the work of making the US a safe place to be a woman or member of minority population.
It’s also important, in beginning that work, to practice self-care. If you feel sick or desperate or sad today, take steps to manage your mental and physical health.
When patients are stressed, depressed, or anxious, psychologists encourage them to work on meeting their basic physical needs.
Get a good night’s sleep
If all is not well with your body, it’s hard to take care of your mind. Sleep is critical to emotional health.
Eat wholesome meals
For the reasons identified above, making sure to stick to a regular schedule of eating healthy foods can make a difference to your mental health.
Go for a walk
It’s a simple, straightforward way to get out of your head.
Turn off the news feed
It’s important to stay informed, but an endless stream of news and thoughts that make you anxious is not good for the mind.
Take stock of your mood
Make time to notice how your feeling. Are you breathing ok? Is your mind racing? How’s your body feeling?
Tell someone how you’re feeling
Friends and loved ones — a support network — are critical in times of crisis. If you’re feeling scared or anxious, let someone who cares about you know.
Breath through panic
“If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it,” according to the UK National Health Service.
“Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathe slowly and deeply. The goal is to get the mind used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away. Try this breathing technique for stress.”
There’s a growing body of evidence on the value of mindfulness for mental health. I’ve personally found the apps Bhuddify and Headspace helpful in learning this skill.
Don’t try to be perfect
Setbacks happen. Forgive yourself, and figure out your next step.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
As tempting as it is, they could hurt your mood, not improve it.
Get help if you need it
If you feel out of control, you can reach out to any of these numbers:
- Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: 741741
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
You should also find yourself a mental healthcare professional. If you’re unsure where to begin, ask your primary care doctor if they can offer treatment or a referral.
Do the work
A great way to improve your mental health? Getting things done you feel good about. Find ways to do good in the world, and do them.
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