Care for Your Emotional Health During Covid & Election Season

I’m writing this long overdue blog entry during my “sick day” from work. No, I don’t have Covid. I am physically well. It’s my emotional health I am nurturing.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not going to unpack all of my emotional baggage for you to sift through. I am, however, going to share my thoughts about protecting my emotional health during these turbulent times.

Identifying what stresses me out

We are several months into the Covid-19 pandemic and less than a month before a presidential election … need I say more?

Friends and loved ones have suffered through Covid, and I personally have experienced hostility toward me for things I have no control over, like being exposed to someone with Covid. No matter what your position is in regards to acceptable behavior and government restrictions, there are plenty of people anxious to criticize and argue. I can feel the tension when the topic comes up in conversation, whether at work or in a social environment.

Now that we are in the midst of election season, the rhetoric is compounded by Covid and a multitude of other current events … wildfires in California, hurricanes, race relations … so many things that evoke strong emotions and cause division. Even a comment about a play in last night’s NFL game brings with it a reaction about the NFL’s position on whatever social issue comes to mind.

I started to make a list of all the things stressing me out lately, and realized that most of the items on my list were beyond my control or influence.

Decide What To Keep and What to Let Go Of

I have friends that believe so strongly in their position on certain social issues that they have chosen to wrap their lives around the fight for “justice.” They immerse themselves in rhetoric and pursue opportunities to debate in order to persuade others. They have accepted the fact that their vocal stance may impact relationships and business dealings. This is their choice. I’m not sure they are as persuasive as they think they are, but perhaps it makes them feel better to know they are doing all they can to further their agenda.

Is there any adoration for the “strong, silent type” any more? Is it okay to have an opinion, but to choose not to engage in debates unless there is a clear sense that the other party is open to listening? And what about those conversations among people of “like” opinion that simply reiterate the same points over and over again … in a sense, serving to encourage each other that they are right and the other side is wrong?

Putting up fences

When I feel myself getting stressed, I try to ask myself why. Is it due to a particularly volatile topic being discussed? Is it because I feel I cannot be honest with someone because of their position on a subject? and would sharing my opinion influence them or just make the matter more stressful?

At least until after the election, I have decided to put up some barriers of protection for my emotional well-being.

  1. I will avoid conversations that are simply a reiteration of arguments that have been expressed over and over
  2. If someone expresses themselves in a disrespectful manner, I will walk away from the conversation
  3. I will realize that the media is an expression of someone’s position on any given topic, and distract myself with an examination of what they are trying to persuade us of … whether I agree or not. Sometimes this exercise is amusing; when it is not, I will turn it off!
  4. I will curb my social media consumption, and seek out healthier options of entertainment
  5. I will try really hard not to look at people in light of their position on the issues
  6. I will think of topics I can use to change the subject to, during conversations that get “off track”

Reaching out

Just as I get stressed out about those touchy conversations, I need to remember that there are many others like me that would welcome a non-judgemental encounter. How can I bless someone today? If I’ve witnessed someone being marginalized, I can reach out to affirm them and encourage them.

What Makes Me Happy

I have begun a list of those things that make me happy. Here are some of my entries:

  1. candles … I love the flame and the scent … especially when I blow them out. It is a cozy reminder of being home.
  2. Hallmark stores – although I try not do shop for things I don’t need, there’s just something about Hallmark stores that make me feel good. Maybe it’s being surrounded by the “intention of well wishes,”
  3. Baby laughs – who doesn’t love a good baby belly-laugh?
  4. Rain and thunderstorms (cue candles)

For the next few weeks, I will make a conscious effort to employ these happiness cues into my day. For every political ad I withstand, I will sniff a stress-relieving essential oil. For every negative conversation I hear, I will listen to a positive podcast.

I will not allow myself to be hurt when someone withholds contact with me because they feel I’m not social distancing enough. I will respect other’s choices, even when I disagree. I will refrain from sharing jokes and posts that make fun of someone’s position on political or social topics. I will choose to be the sunshine in a gloomy period of sadness and mean spirited rhetoric. If someone wants to think I’m crawling in a hole, that’s okay with me. I am protecting my valuable emotional health.