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Working While Outraged

It’s only been two weeks, y’all. For me, at this point, the intensity of my own outrage is in conflict with my rationalization that we’re in a very long game. To be honest, it’s draining.

Even though I’m talking about the Trumpocalypse (and yes, assuming that most readers here share my political leanings), “outrage” may as well be the buzzword for this entire craptastic year, right?

There have always been conditions to be outraged about, but from start to finish, 2016 in particular has pummeled us with demoralizing events of all kinds. As of this writing, we have about five weeks left of the year; but as we’ve warily become accustomed to, who knows what can happen in that brief period?

pexels-photo-196667How many more times this year will we witness deaths, shootings, standoffs, disasters, political upheavals, and myriad other injustices near and far? How many times will we need to consider social media breaks? To try to prioritize self-care? To remind ourselves of the risk of secondary trauma as therapists?

As many times as we need to, evidently, because if we want anything near a shot at “going high”—however we ultimately decide that looks—we’ll need to be resourced. If we’re going to make it through the end of the year, much less the next four, it bears repeating: self-care is essential. If you’re like me, you may be harboring a concern that self-care is a slippery slope to resignation. Don’t buy it; we’re in a collective trauma response, and “staying informed” does not equate to hypervigilance.

So, let’s go through this again:

  1. (Continue to) give yourself time to grieve. Whether it’s the anticipatory loss of the first African-American first family, the shock of the nation’s bigotry, anger that the nation’s bigotry is only now coming into many people’s awareness, or the fear of the loss of your own hard-won civil rights, try to make space for all of your feelings. We don’t all have to be in the same place with this process. This is a long game, and you have every right to your own process.
  1. Spend time with (safe) loved ones. Not feeling family holidays? Then don’t do it. This is a fresh wound, so give it time to heal. But if you relish political debates and your family does too, go for it. Whether it’s Friendsgiving, immersing yourself in your annual family gift-wrapping contest, or opting out completely, do you this year. But try to do you surrounded by people (or pets) you trust.
  1. Take a(nother) social media break. Yep, the ever-popular screen vacation is as necessary as ever. Your newsfeed will be there in a week. Just do it.
  1. Take action(s). If you’re in the space for it, taking concrete steps can help you feel more empowered. You can protest; meet with friends to exchange ideas and support; call your elected representatives; sign (or start) petitions; or donate to changemaking organizations. What would help you feel more connected and impactful?
  1. Spend (more) time in nature. We’ve had a few free National Park days, so take advantage! But you don’t need to travel to enjoy the outdoors, of course. Go for a hike with friends. Lay down on some grass. Marvel at the inclement weather. Stick a plant on your windowsill.
  1. Move (your body, not to Canada). This is one that we can easily forget to do. Netflix binges and Westworld aside, moving your body can do more wonders for your mood than you would remember. (Also see #3.)
  1. Breathe (in and out). Another one we forget to do. Why don’t we all try it right now? If you feel some release, great. If not, see #1.

As we move further into this new sociopolitical reality, recognize that transitions take time. Whether you’re in anger, denial, bargaining, despair, or even acceptance, give yourself permission to be where you are. And, give yourself permission to shift between these states on your own timeline. Outrage doesn’t have to lead to burnout.

Shirin Shoai

Shirin Shoai

Shirin Shoai works with people inspired to build more meaningful lives and relationships. Grounded and curious, she supports clients toward clarifying desire, exploring identity, setting healthy boundaries, managing challenging emotions, and navigating difficult transitions. She also facilitates groups for motherless daughters and mixed-race women of color.

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