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Is the political climate traumatizing us?

Since last November’s election I have had many clients tearfully report feelings of hopelessness, shock, despair and fear. When comparing their responses to symptoms of trauma there seem to be several parallels. Here are some of the common emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma:

• Shock, denial, or disbelief

• Confusion, difficulty concentrating

• Anger, irritability, mood swings

• Anxiety and fear

• Guilt, shame, self-blame

• Withdrawing from others

• Feeling sad or hopeless

• Feeling disconnected or numb

So it would appear many of my clients are suffering from trauma related to the current political environment. The clients expressing these reactions are not necessarily limited to a specific party or political leanings. They fear that our core values are under attack. The divisiveness, violence and chaos we’re witnessing are having a negative impact on mental health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are some resilience factors that help offset the impact of exposure to trauma. These factors are:

  • Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family

  • Learning to feel good about one’s own actions in the face of danger

  • Having a positive coping strategy, or a way of getting through a bad event and learning from it

  • Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear

So let’s apply these ideas to how we can cope in today’s America. Let’s put positive energy into community building, lending each other support and participating in civic action. This doesn’t just mean arguing on Facebook. Stay informed, but stick to reputable news organizations.

Take small but proactive steps to combat powerlessness. Call your local or state representative, attend a community meeting or donate to an organization you support. What’s important is that you try to remain positive, proactive and connected. Anger, hatred and isolation are the enemy and we should not let them win.

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