We Asked People How They're Managing Their Trump Anxiety
Yoga, Ben & Jerry's, moving to Europe...we're barely keeping it together.
Image: Cris Faga/Con/Getty Images
Anastasia Lopukhin, 27, Chicago, IL
I notice myself eating way too much comfort food and not getting enough sleep—because I cannot stop ingesting news about policy changes, for example—and, for someone who rarely gets nightmares, they've become a regular occurrence. I get distracted at work with worry and can't stop taking in news.
Besides doing things like yoga and forcing myself to read non-political books, I've applied to be a Big with Big Brother Big Sister, I've begun monthly donations to various publications, the DNC, and the ACLU. I want to be actively opposing this administration, not sitting back and wallowing, but some days it's too difficult. I've also started communicating more frequently with friends who live in other cities and I don't see very often. I want them all to feel like they're not alone.
Stephen Mikhail, 28, New York, NY
I'm prone to panic attacks, which I have Xanax for, but I have found I haven't needed it provided I stay active and engaged with people. At first, I looked to social media, but I would get too exhausted to fight or argue with people. The fear and anxiety continues to be very real, but I have decided to label it as excitement (something I heard Aly Raisman does before gymnastics competitions) and channel that excitement into my efforts to galvanize my network of friends, family and colleagues to be more active in their resolve to stand up for not only themselves but for others as well. Relabeling that word has made a world of difference but of course, that underlying fear of what could happen next does remain.
Ajai Raj, 31, Plano, Texas
I'm experiencing this constant, low-level dread. I worry about losing my health care, and, when I go out, I wonder if I'm going to run into some racist asshole at a bar. I'm also worried about whether my mom and sister will be safe. Dallas and Plano are relatively diverse, but have just as many errant Trump supporters. I deal with it by making jokes on Twitter, reading as much as I can to stay informed, and burying myself in work. I also find comfort reading about history and learning about how Democrats and the American political system as a whole have conspired to get us to this point. In a lot of ways, Trumpism is a unique phenomenon, but it didn't rise up in a vacuum, and I think treating it that way or just writing it off as a pure expression of bigotry is shortsighted and counterproductive. Oh and I'm making plans to move to Europe next year, so that helps.
Nadia Dawisha, 34, Cincinnati, Ohio
Sometimes it's hard to sleep thinking about all that's at stake. The way I deal with this stress is to take action. I've really been throwing myself into social justice work. As an advocate for sexual assault survivors, I understand what it's like to face countless obstacles and disappointments. I've been working on legislation around sexual assault, gotten involved in organizing in local politics, and even started a social justice reading group. Getting involved in advocacy work is a way for me to channel that optimism into something tangible and meaningful.
Veev Conty, 24, Sanford, North Carolina
Pro-Trump signs in my old neighborhood were expected, but not in my parents' front yard. I didn't expect Puerto Ricans to get over Trump's anti-Mexican sentiments, because where we live, Mexican means Hispanic, which in turn means us.
I know they didn't believe he'd actually come for everyone or anyone. They are just desperate for change, like me. Now, it feels like I'm waiting to see my queer community find a more prominent position on the list of undesirables, because it's inevitable, isn't it? It's hard to feel safe in HB2's home state. I step out of the closet much more timidly. I don't mention my identity-related anxieties to family and most friends because I won't find validation there. When it's too much, I stop reading. I turn on some KPOP and get lost in the vibrant colors and choreography. Something about always having another boy band singing mindless pop restores my faith in tomorrow.
Arnaldo Sanchez, 27, Hoboken, New Jersey
I feel really anxious even though I'm a citizen, because I hear all this stuff about deporting people from countries like Mexico. My coworker just found out today that his wife's brother is being deported, they fingerprinted him and everything. This is now a reality for kids I grew up with back in Boston. There's a woman I know who's Iranian, and now her mother can't leave the country to come see her. I was tearing up talking to her. Now you're labeled as a criminal: You're either illegal or you're against the law because you were born in a certain area. We all know you're clearly not a fucking terrorist, but the President is saying you are, and the morons who believe him don't see the difference.
The supporters are scarier than Trump himself. I work in a corporation and they'll still eyeball me and see me as illegal anyway. I'm brown, so I'm a target. To some people, I look like someone that doesn't belong here. I never had to deal with this before. I feel unsafe. When I'm on Facebook and I see someone say something ignorant and I speak up about it, they comment that I "should go back to where I came from." So now more than ever, I'm reaching out to people and talking about it, acknowledging that it sucks, to my friends, my family, people around my who are affected. I just feel bleak. It doesn't really help much to talk about it because there's a powerless feeling about it, but it's good to know people are going through it with you. Still, there's this doomed feeling that you can't shake when the most powerful people in the country don't care about the conversations we're having with each other. I feel like it's going to come to a point where we won't have any other option but to go out there and protest and unify and fight against it. If things continue the way they are, then someone like me, a textbook "Slactivist" will get out there, donate to the ACLU, go to the next protest, I'm going to get pushed to the point where I have to do that. If anything good comes of this it's that we're being put into action.
Laura Silverman, 33, Washington, DC Metro Area
I feel sick when I read the news and imagine the progress that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama slip away. And just in the first weeks.
To manage my anxiety—firstly, I marched on Washington. I actually got politically involved. Other than that, I stress eat a little Ben and Jerry's, but I also am doing what I can to physically stay active. I re-started my home yoga practice and have been walking around my neighborhood. Seeing my family and playing with my nephews also helps, as well as keeping involved with my blog and remembering the bigger picture of love trumping hate. We will get through this dark time, and not without kicking and fighting.
Ilana Masad, 26, Queens, NY
Since the inauguration, I feel scared in a way that I haven't felt since living in Israel. I am once again living in a country with a supremely unstable government, with a megalomaniac at its head. I really do feel anxious and afraid. As someone with depression, anxiety, and complex PTSD, I've been finding that my thoughts have simply found a new, and rather legitimate, source of worry, stress, frustration, anxiety, and fear.
Several times since the inauguration I've had stretches of hours where I'm unable to concentrate on anything but refreshing my Twitter feed to find the latest horrifying news article link, retweeting the voices of those wiser than me who need to be heard, and feeling a low burn of panic in my gut. I feel relatively safe because I'm privileged in being white, straight-passing, visibly able, but the safety of others has me as anxious. I work. It's how I deal with everything. I go into overdrive, take on too many projects, and work work work. I try to read lots of fiction, too, as it's a way to separate myself from the world for stretches of time. It works while I'm working. When I stop, it stops.
Gabrielle Pedriani, 26, New York, NY
You know that feeling when somebody dies, and you're so desperate to get them back that you start feeling this overwhelming panic and inconsolable anxiety at the thought that they're gone? That's similar to how I feel about Trump. I'm trying to get into the acceptance stage, but I can't stop this anxiety that somehow someone's made a mistake. I'm not able to make rational decisions, because I'm having a hard time accepting that this is reality. I don't know who to trust, I can't turn to my family, and in general I feel very lonely.
I ended up quitting my job, something I'd been thinking about for a while, and taking a two-week trip around Portugal to take a step back and reset. I know I need to come back and dive back into it—the hard conversations, the critical thinking, the strategic activism—but I needed to take a moment to truly process what will help how I handle myself in the coming years, and I had too much anxiety and anger to do that without taking a breath first.
Rakhel Shapiro, 28, Brooklyn, NY
I feel afraid that I will be powerless to stop the great harm Trump is causing. This manifests in anxiety, sadness, and anger in my body. I organized a half-day mindfulness retreat the day after the Women's March because I wanted to give people—and myself—a safe landing pad to connect with themselves and process their emotions. I taught techniques to help focus on emotional sensations and allow them to arise and pass as they need to. And I taught techniques for focusing away from emotional sensations in a skillful way, so that people can get some reprieve from the intense emotions that are coming up for so many of us right now, without stuffing or repressing.
I know I am not the only one who has had moments of feeling overwhelmed or burned out by how much work we have in front of us to care for one another right now. Taking time to sit with my emotions with an attitude of complete permission is an incredible tool to protect against emotional build-up in the body that can lead to overwhelm and paralysis. Movement is also part of my mindfulness practice, and how I have been caring for myself. Connecting with the goodness of humanity that radiates through music and dance has been incredibly nourishing. And moving my body has helped move some of the fear, sadness, and anger through and out of me as well. The only time it hasn't worked is when I lose sight of the need for balance and feel like I should be taking action all the time. And sometimes the feelings are big and uncomfortable. Mindfulness helps me live with that reality in a constructive way.
James Frier, 30, Boston, MA
I currently teach ethics and I use that as a platform to educate and discuss the concerns of my students. Our conversations have ranged from conflicts of interest and blind trusts to our discussion today about the Muslim ban and what everyday people, as well as major companies, did over the weekend to combat it. I've stayed at work for hours after the end of the day to engage with my students about these topics. Not only is it therapeutic to talk about it, but I have learned more than I could have imagined from my students in the process. They're passionate about this and can't wait until the next election when they'll be able to have their voices be heard. I'm just trying to prep them with as much information as possible to light the fire beneath them.
There are some times, however, that I need to just disconnect from it all for a day because it's overwhelming.