Staying Grounded in Politically Charged Times

How to remain calm and connected to what matters to you

by Christiane Manzella, PhD

It is safe to say world events are unfolding now in a way that is unlike any other time. And with social media and the 24-hour news cycle, we may be exposed to news, strong opinions, and calls to action almost constantly. Contemplating issues or taking a stand can be energizing, but having our beliefs and thoughts about events in mind so often can also be distressing and exhausting. And all this can be a significant, destabilizing distraction, interrupting our daily routines and chipping away at our well-being.

It's understandable if you or your family members experience increased distress in this highly charged climate, but fortunately there are ways to manage it. These suggestions are intended to help you begin to transform distress or discomfort into resiliency – for both you and your children.

Be mindful about media. As people around the nation and the world work to come together on important issues, we will continue to be exposed to many intense reactions – in the news, on social media, and through other outlets. Think about how much news you want to receive and in what way. If you find yourself spending so much time on social media, or watching the news until you lose your sense of feeling connected in other areas of your life, come up with a plan to engage with news and social media in limited, focused ways. Then spend the rest of your time on the other things in your life that are important to you. 

Take a moment for yourself. Pause and feel whatever emotions and thoughts you have as they come up. Your thoughts and feelings can be useful guides to help you cope with nonstop information, telling you what kind of information helps you feel engaged and productive, and which kind leaves you depleted. Remembering to breathe and take care of yourself demonstrates a healthy way to approach life and living to your children.

Filter the news for your children. You are their best source of information about whatever is happening because you can see their responses and adjust how much you share and in what context. Listen to them as they play: They have heard and seen a lot of viewpoints, and hearing how they explore them during play can give you a better idea of what kind of support and information they need. You can also help them stay in touch with your core values – even while they learn that others may have a different view.

Model your values. And finally, as we figure out how we want to engage in this new world of politics and social media, it's important to remember to be guides for each other as well as for our children. Take some time to reflect on the principles that matter to you, and then think of how to act on them in your daily life in ways that feel good to you. Being strong, vulnerable, and honest as we reinforce and model our core values not only helps us cope when we struggle but can also transform struggle and conflict into an opportunity to see that we can find our way forward together.

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Christiane Manzella, PhD

Christiane Manzella, PhD, has been a therapist and grief counselor in New York City for more than 20 years. Dr. Manzella earned both her master's degree in clinical psychology and doctorate in counseling psychology from New York University and carried out her doctoral dissertation research at Beth Israel Medical Center hospice, with postdoctoral supervision in grief and bereavement work. She was named a Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement, awarded from the Association of Death Educators and Counselors (ADEC), and is completing the third year of a three-year term on their Board. 

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