Image: Art by PeteLinforth via pixabay.com. Public domain.
I have family, friends and students who call and text me:
- “Rabbi, I haven’t slept a full night since the election.”
- “I am overwhelmed with anxiety. I can’t function.”
- “Ruth, every day I shake and then break down in tears.”
- “I looked on Facebook and then I threw up.”
- “I have no idea how I am going to get through the next four years.”
I hear you. I hear your fears, and I hear your paralysis in anxiety. This post is my way of giving some rabbinical-friendly-motherly advice.
If you were not a fan of Donald Trump, you’ve had a bad shock. News reports from respectable sources led us to believe that Hillary Clinton would win the election. They were wrong: she won the popular vote, but Trump won the electoral vote, and that’s the one that counts. So you were misled, and you were surprised with bad news.
Now the news from both reputable and other sources is full of really scary words. I won’t repeat the words, they’ve already piled upon your surprise and created anxiety. You read them or heard them and now they are hurting you. Oof.
Here’s the facts: we are going to have many opportunities for mitzvot in the coming years, if Mr. Trump keeps his campaign promises. There will be work to do. If you are going to be useful in helping to preserve human rights, first you have to take care of yourself.
Remember: It is a mitzvah to attend to your physical and mental health.
Some ideas for taking care of yourself:
- As you know, your favorite news source was wrong about the election. It’s OK to not listen to the news for a while if all the news is doing is paralyzing you.
- Take a break from social media. It is full of clickbait stories that will needlessly upset you. Even if Facebook bans the ads for them, naive friends may be reposting “news stories” that are clickbait lies. At the very least, least don’t click on anything. Just connect to friends there.
- Get outdoors. If you aren’t watching TV or using social media, you now have free time. Take a walk or if you are on wheels like me, take a joyride outdoors if you can.
- Notice which friends calm you, and which ones upset you. Spend more time with the calmers, less with the upsetting people. Activism is one thing, anxiety is another. If you feel trapped with your anxiety, that’s not useful activism.
- Go easy on caffeine. If you must drink coffee in the morning, stop drinking it by noon.
- If you or anyone else are thinking of suicide, seek help immediately. You can do this by calling 911. “Thinking of suicide” includes joking about it, planning it, imagining it, and/or thinking about it a lot. It’s a serious matter.
- Did you know that some strains of marijuana can exacerbate anxiety? Other strains may be helpful. If you have a prescription, check with your doc and see if the sort you are using is making your anxiety worse. This article has some information on anxiety and pot.
- Pray. I find it helps to pray with a minyan. The repetitive good words of Jewish prayer remind me of the person I want to be, and connect me to the world beyond myself.
- If your sleep or eating patterns are disrupted for more than a week, seek medical help and/or counseling. Short term anxiety over real fears can snowball into an anxiety disorder if it goes unchecked for too long. Take care of it.
- There is still time to sign up for health insurance. Knowing that you are covered for the time being is one less thing to worry about.
- Here’s what I do to get through difficult times: Living on the Mitzvah Plan.
- Take action. Many felt helpless right after the election, but really, we aren’t helpless. There are things we can do. Here are some ideas for taking action against hate in America.
You are a human being, priceless beyond all imagining. Jewish tradition teaches that you are made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, meaning that there is a spark of the Divine within you. Take care of yourself, and you will be able to take care of others. That is how the world will become a better place.