taking care of our mental health in a politically charged society

It’s coming up! ELECTION DAY! wooohoooo! How exciting!

Now, does any one actually feel like that? ^^

I kind of doubt it.

I grew up pretty ignorant to all things political. My parents are neither passionately conservative or liberal, and politics weren’t discussed very much in our home.

It wasn’t until this year, the cursed year of 2020, (or as I like to call it, the year of GROWTH), that I have had to explore what I believe morally, politically, who I want to vote for, what I care about, etc.

It all started with the Black Lives Matter movement, for me. That’s what kick-started this whole discovery of myself and my values.

At the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, I was all for it. I was extremely interested in learning and growing.

But with a little time, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed. I even deleted all of my social media to avoid seeing the arguments, the developing information, and what I saw as “increasing tension.”

I didn’t like this because I have a desire to be informed, I want to care about my country, I want to care about the people in that country and who is leading them and how they are being treated.

So I started to wonder- can I be informed and also be anxiety-free?

Is it okay if I just choose not to participate in elections and politics to take care of myself?

Can I see and understand both sides of the argument, when one side seems more absurd than the other?

The answer to all of these questions, is– in short– yes.

Allowing People to Be Wrong about You

Going back to my anxiety in learning during the Black Lives Matter movement, I felt a lot of this was derived from reading every single day that I was doing it wrong.

It held me back from learning, because I felt offended and hurt seeing so many Instagram stories telling me I was doing it wrong because although I was trying to stand up for Black people, I was using the wrong hashtag or something or other.

Or perhaps that I shouldn’t be fighting for this cause, because while they believed some good things they were “wrong” about a lot of things.

There was a myriad of things like this.

Now I don’t think people’s intention was to make me personally feel bad, they are just trying to draw attention to the subject in any way they can, because it’s very important to them.

In reality, the only problem was how my brain was interpreting the information they were sharing.

So as I have been learning new skills, I learned one from Jody Moore’s podcast that I like to refer to as the “people are wrong about me” skill.

Rather than berating myself with all of the negativity being put on the internet, I decided to start learning.

I was able to talk with family and friends about the topic, because I realized that learning about it and asking questions didn’t make me a bad person, it just meant I was learning where I stood and how to recognize my own bias and learn to see people equally.

The reason it can be so stressful to take in political arguments is a lot of times people resort to attacking our character to sway us to their side. It definitely comes from both sides of the argument, and that makes being undecided extremely confusing.

Oftentimes it reads, “If you vote for this awful person, you are an awful person.”

Or, “If you vote for this other awful person, you are still an awful person.”

Now here’s a thought: What if the character of who we vote for didn’t mean anything about us?

I know that statement isn’t going to resonate with everyone, but that statement is what made it so I could finally see objectively both sides of an issue, and see where I fall.

That’s the question I asked myself that led me to understand other people’s opinions, and see why they think that way.

So perhaps when we see arguments that are emotionally charged and heated, we remember that this person knows nothing about us, and nothing about our personal character.

Try on, “I believe I’m a good person doing my best to understand what I believe.”

Ultimately, allow people to be totally wrong about you, and move forward with confidence.

Loving those who think Differently

“We are going to lead tense and lonely lives if we only allow ourselves to love those who think exactly how we think.”

My husband and I started dating about a year ago to this day, and since then, a LOT of things have happened in our country that have landed people on two opposing sides, or at least in different places along a spectrum.

Let me tell you, my husband and I rarely landed in the same place.

I wish I could go back and tell past Mallory that she doesn’t need to panic about that. That it’s totally normal.

That it’s actually HEALTHY.

Oh well, now I know.

Similar to the above section, often the character of certain people is questioned when they affiliate themselves with a certain political party. This can lead us to question our relationships to those who believe differently than we do.

We start to wonder if our friends are actually our friends.

If our parents are as kind and compassionate as we thought they were.

Or, like I did, if my boyfriend was still husband material.

I took his beliefs and I made them mean something concrete about him, usually that he wasn’t understanding or compassionate.

This means I ignored all the times he was compassionate with me, with his family, his friends.

I was taking a complex world issue and using that as my measuring stick, rather than the goodness that was right in front of my eyes.

Guess what? All of your loved ones have reasons for believing the way they do.

And guess what else? Some of those reasons are understandable, and make so much sense that you can absolutely see where they are coming from.

And other ones will make absolutely no sense to you.

And it’s all fine! Just as you allow others to be wrong about you, allow others to be wrong about the situations at hand and consider that maybe they are right in some ways.

That is how we develop understanding.

That is how my husband & I are likely voting differently in this election, and there has been little to no tension about it and a lot of healthy conversations.

It is impossible for us and all of our loved ones to share the exact same opinions, and we are going to lead tense and lonely lives if we only allow ourselves to love those who think exactly how we think.

As we let go of that toxic mindset, our anxiety can lighten because we know that we still love our friends, we still love our spouses, family, etc., despite the differences in opinion, because we aren’t making it mean anything about our relationship.

It’s so freeing.

There is no “right” Answer

Many of the issues we face politically are made so black and white, but there are always significant issues on both sides. I think most would agree with that statement.

That is why as we take in Facebook posts, Instagram stories, news articles, etc., we do so with a knowledge that it is not the end-all-be-all of information. Including this blog post!

You take it in, and filter it through what you already know and believe, and keep learning.

Having said that, if world issues do not interest you and you don’t wish to take part in learning about them, many will tell you that is the wrong way to live your life.

It’s not.

It’s not wrong or right.

You. Do. You. It is none of anyone else’s business how you choose to live your life.

Is it okay to change your mind about that and jump back in when you feel ready?

Definitely.

So looping back to to the questions at the beginning of the post, you can totally be more informed and be anxiety-free. Here’s how:

Stop tying so much meaning to political issues and who you are as a person, and stop tying so much meaning to others’ views and who they are as a person.

Realize that whatever is supposed to happen will happen, and it will all work out somehow. Your brain might reject that, but it really will all turn out okay.

Is it okay to choose not to participate?

Totally.

Can I see and understand both sides of the argument?

This is where I get a little opinionated.

Yes, yes, yes.

You totally can.

I feel what our country needs right now is a big epiphany, to realize we agree on so much more than we disagree on.

A small percentage of people are clear on the right and another small percentage clear on the left, and a bunch of us in the middle trying to figure out the most moral things to believe and to do.

The problem is that the small percentage is a lot louder than the rest of us tend to be.

Open your minds and hearts to the experiences of others, and listen with love.

Seriously.

If we stop entering every conversation on the defense, we can leave knowing so much more than we did before.

That’s all I have for today.

Please remember to be patient with yourselves during this crazy year and a whack election.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed.

But I hope that the insight I have offered helps lighten some of that load for you.

If not, keep going. It will be okay.

Stay calm guys, I love you!

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