It’s almost a rhetorical question: is this election stressing you out? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Over half of all Americans are feeling the brunt of our election cycle in rising anger, anxiety, and fear, regardless of generation or political affiliation. What are we to do with those feeling of anger, sadness, numbness, or avoidance that seem to lurk close to the surface of our hearts every day?
Mention Nov. 9th in almost any group and you will sense a palpable change in mood. The election which has a stranglehold on our political rhetoric and lives will (most likely) be over by then. So will the attack ads. Gone will be the anxiety and fear about who might win and what that might mean. But no matter our political affiliations, in all probability we will be feeling hung over from the election campaign for some time. When we will, as a country, have to start binding up the wounds and fractures caused by rhetoric.
On Sunday, Gretchen preached about Healing the Heart of Democracy and challenged us to begin inside our own hearts (If you wanted to go deeper, copies of the book of the same name are available in the church office – remember to sign up for our series of the same name that will start in a few weeks).
But many might feel like we are just trying to survive the final 20 days of the election campaign. This is why on Thursday at 7pm after Vespers (which is at 6) we are holding a gathering called Moving Through Fear, an invitation to gather for a facilitated conversation about our hopes, fears, anxieties and question about the election and find comfort and support from each other.
But it’s not November 9th. It’s October 19th. November 9th is 21 days away. And somehow we have to figure out how to live through the last weeks of the campaign, which if the previous week has been any indication, aren’t going to end with an anticlimactic fizzle.
So I have pulled together an election survival toolbox for these last 20 days.
First – Honor Your Anxiety
Your anxiety and stress about this election is real, it is not misplaced, and should not be ignored. Elections are pivotal moments in the life of a country, and the rhetorical attacks have crescendoed to deafening levels. Over 50% of the country are reporting they are feeling anxious about the election, and the nation’s mental health professionals are reporting it is impacting every part of our lives from our job performance to how we treat our spouses, friends or children. The other side of anxiety, or worry, is a deep caring. When you feel the anxiety rising, just take a moment to honor the deep caring and connection you are experiencing in that moment. Ignoring your anxiety will not make it go away.
Second – Take A Media Sabbath
Carve out intentional time in which you are not being subjected to the 24/7 media cycle and the spin zones that leave us all nauseous. This could be deciding to read a book rather than listening to more news, or watching a sitcom rather than the upcoming debate. Don’t think of this as avoidance, however; the news will be there when you return, and without stronger boundaries to keep it at bay, the news can easily infiltrate your entire life to the detriment of the other parts of your life you find meaningful.
Third – Express your Feelings
Find a place in your life where you can express how you are feeling about the election. This could be in a journal, to a trusted friend, at a church gathering or small group. Expressing your feelings is different than expressing your opinions, though. Opinions center on the facts or arguments about the election. Feelings relate to how the election is impacting you on a deeper level. Expressing our anxiety is the first step towards being able to move through it. Staying at the level of “opinion and argument” does not allow us that opportunity.
Four – Ask Where Does it Hurt?
Ruby Sales, during the civil rights movement, learned to ask this question: Where does it hurt? It asks us to step out of our partisan divisions for a moment and recognize the woundedness that abounds on all sides. Politics is the expression of both an ideal of how the world is, and pain of what we experience now falling from meeting that expectation. Asking ourselves or others ‘Where does it hurt?’ shifts us to seek the pain and suffering that is at the root of many a political ideology. We may not agree with the solution that is supposed to address the pain, but asking the question asks to touch a pool of compassion in ourselves for those we may easily disregard.
Five – Disagree in Love
It should be expected that disagreement will occur when speaking about politics, but it should also be expected that we can do so in the spirit of love. The question is, will we allow our disagreements to corrode our relationships? By remembering that our relationships with those who disagree with us politically are just as valuable as those who agree with us, we remember a forgotten variable: our deep an abiding interdependence.