For a long time I’ve been struggling to deal with the reality of Trump as leader of the free world. Having an angry misogynist with racism and bigotry running through his veins in charge of the United States has brought up fears and insecurities I thought I had long banished. I know I’m not the only one who’s been walking around with what feels like a layer of skin missing. My bones, my nerves, my very self has been exposed to the harshness of the world and sometimes it feels like that exposure has eroded my ability to cope. It’s taken a bit of the cushioning I was using to deal with the day-to-day stuff.
So when Kim Jong-un started appearing with frightening regularity on the top of my newsfeed my immediate reaction was to burst into tears. And then run and take cover at the bottom of my bed where nobody could get me, not even the light.
I tried not to read the news but given that I don’t live in a yurt in an isolated village it didn’t work. Even if I stayed off social media I had actual people talking to me about the state of the world. My fear is everywhere.
While I wish I had the power to talk Kim Jong-un, placate him and convince him of the power of communication and negotiation, even peace and freedom, I realise that’s fantastical thinking. Possibly more positive fantastical thinking than imagining how I will say goodbye to my dog and son when the bomb drops, but still…
Sitting within my bubble of privilege in the relatively safe suburbs of Sydney I hear my husband remind me that being scared is not going to change the outcome for anyone, it’s just going to make me feel worse. And while part of me wants to turn around and shout “But what about all the Koreans who have no choice? You can’t tell them not to be scared” I realise that I sound about three. I am not actually making the situation better even for the people I fear for. And I am making myself worse – and in that process the people around me are not faring so well.
So, in these times of high angst I have turned to a flight attendant for help.
Listen to our special episode with David Gillespie on whether Donald Trump is a psychopath. (Post continues after audio…)
If you’ve ever listened to the safety instructions on board an airplane you’ll know the flight attendant will instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others, it makes sense because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask. Likewise if we don’t care for ourselves during periods of high stress, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to be around for the people around us.
If I can’t help the global situation the least I can do is help the people around me maintain some sort of normal. So, in a move contrary to everything I’m feeling I’ve started to look for the things that make me feel a little stronger, a little lighter, a little more hopeful. Hopefully my list can help you breathe through this turbulent patch so that you can come out the other side and share your own.
- Listen to podcasts. Stick something funny, informative or helpful in your ears. Stay away from the news based episodes until Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are no longer front and centre. Do NOT hold your breath while waiting (just in case).
- Listen to music. Loud music helps my brain fall into place – not heavy metal music, I’m a staid 49-year old woman listening to Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Noah Gunderson – okay I’m listening to folk music – but loud.
- Cook or bake. A recent study reported in Smithsonian Mag tells us “…researchers followed 658 people for about two weeks, and found that doing small, everyday things like cooking and baking made the group feel more enthusiastic about their pursuits the next day”. This is a win-win really – your family gets fed and you have a good chance at feeling a bit better by creating something with your own hands. I find sugar helps the process along the way.
- Watch Instagram stories. In a world where social media can often be overwhelmingly negative, angry or just plain fake, the stories on Instagram seem to offer a dose of escape seldom found in other places. I wonder if it’s the fact that there are no comments attached to the stories that make it such a safe space, but whatever it is, I’m taking it.
- Count your steps. I have become slightly obsessed with my Fitbit, but at a time where I want to stay curled up in the bottom of my bed being able to set and meet a target for the number of steps I have to take every day is a positive way to make sure I pound the pavement instead of hammering my brain
- Watch the ocean. Normally I’d be the last person to suggest anything to do with nature, I am more comfortable in an air conditioned building than I am in a garden but when the world threatens to overwhelm me looking at the size and the repetitive motion of the sea reminds me that there always was, and there always will be nature.
- Talk to people who understand. Even if it feels like no one does, keep trying. There is someone who gets where you are it, it could be a friend, a colleague, a family member, a therapist, a stranger or even someone at the end of a help line. Don’t keep it all in. Share it to alleviate it.
Know that if nothing else history has taught us that this too shall pass, and just think of all the oxygen we’ll have to share when we land.
How do you cope when fear threatens to overtake?
If you want to know that it’s going to be OK, here are more stories for you:
- Calm answers to the questions you’re too scared to ask about Trump and North Korea.
- “Seriously, Trump thinks he’s in an episode of The Apprentice.”
- J. K. Rowling is leading the resistance against US President Donald Trump.
Featured image via Twitter.