It All Starts Here: How to Keep It Together Despite a Creeping Despair

This post was originally published in my weekly newsletter.

These first days following the U.S. presidential election have been heavy, no matter what side you're on. A lot of the news and what it could mean for Americans and the larger world is pretty grim, and emotions have been high. Even up here in Canada we're waiting to see how this affects our country, because the U.S. is Canada's primary trade partner, and we experience a lot of cross-border culture creep. The far right has been chasing women out of political positions here, too. We're not immune.

As much as it's compelling to read endless streams of articles and news updates about the president-elect, though, it's left me unable to sleep. I end up lying awake and tabulating all the ways the world could suffer over the next few years. Not only does this solve nothing, but it also leaves me feeling weaker and less effectual, so I've had to lay out some simple strategies to maintain my well-being. We can't fight for the earth and other people if all we're capable of is eating peanut butter in bed.

How to Keep It Together Despite a Creeping Despair

  1. Stop what you're doing and relocate your body. Are you obsessing over the president-elect's transition team appointments? Are you on your fifth article detailing polar ice cap melt? Have you spent too much time wondering how a man with Steve Bannon's looks doesn't get more chicks? STOP. Whatever you're doing, get up, put your body in another location, and make it do something else. Go wash your cupboard doors or walk to the corner and back. It will kick your thoughts off repeat.
  2. Set a timer to enforce a limit on social media and reading or watching the news. If you're going to catch up on the day's events and fall down Facebook's rabbit hole of misery, set a timer for no longer than 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, repeat #1: stop and relocate your body.
  3. Read and watch things that are wildly off the present current events topic. Give your brain variety so that it doesn't get stuck in a horribly dark rut. Brains need several vacations every day, even if they're only five minutes long, because horribly dark ruts can get pretty deep without them.
  4. Eat unprocessed food that grew in the sun. Eat the equivalent of at least a cereal bowl of vegetables and fruits every day, if not two bowls, and raw is best. My go-to stress food over the last ten days has been spoonfuls of the most processed, sugar-laden peanut butter I could find, and that's not how to maintain a good poop schedule.

    Pro tip? A good poop schedule is a revolutionary's secret power move.

    (I'm sorry I said poop.)
  5. Do one kind thing every day for a person who is not you. Kindness helps develop perspective and reminds you that the communities closer to your heart and home need to be nurtured. Donate your time, money, or food. Compliment a stranger. Tell someone why they matter to you. Watching a smile thrive under your kindness is a vitamin for better living.

I worry about us. I know people all over the right-to-left spectrum of today's political climate that are hurt, confused, angry, and grieving. I fell so far down into despair myself that I wasn't sure we were all worth fighting for anymore.

You know what, though? We are worth fighting for. Evolution is a slow, tough slog, but it has its good parts, and we're one of the few species on earth that can do it somewhat on purpose. It's miraculous that we are even able to talk about everything that's happening at all, let alone use that information to make choices and affect change, but we do it every day.

Start by eating an orange or some spinach. Then, step outside to look at the sky. Give a smile to at least one stranger. It all starts here.

We're miraculous, even if we're sometimes monstrous. We can do this.