A psychologist explains how exercise, empathy and action can give us strength to take on Donald Trump

Time to get to work.
Time to get to work.
Image: Ron Sachs / CNP / MediaPunch/IPX
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For many Americans, waking up to the reality of a Donald Trump presidency on Wednesday felt like a nightmare that just kept going. Many people are afraid, worried, anxious and, frankly, exhausted. This election has taken a massive emotional toll on our country. For those who oppose Trump, his election has only increased that stress. If you have been rocked to your core, here are some tips for getting through the next days and weeks.

Do these in order for best results.

1. Take care of your basic needs.

Pressing onward in the face of emotional and physical burnout is a recipe for disaster.  The impact of sleep deprivation, hunger, and anxiety on your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions is well documented.

It’s time for everyone to take a break.

  • Give yourself breaks from the constant stream of information. Resist the urge to constantly check Twitter and Facebook. Leave your phone in the car and connect with what’s happening within three feet of you. Information overload is a major source of anxiety, linked to distractibility, irritability, and chronic low-level stress. But it can be particularly difficult to resist when there is a national event that every media outlet is working to explain. Still, remember there is no reason to watch this event unfold in every waking minute of your day. Your brain needs some quiet. Unplug.
  • Eat something nutritious. A person cannot live by alternating between coffee in the morning and alcohol at night. Eat the foods your grandmother would give you if you came home upset and anxious: soup, say, or roast chicken. And remember to eat your leafy greens; since greens are high in magnesium, they are thought to promote a sense of calm.
  • Get some exercise. A short burst of exercise-induced endorphins can beat back anxiety and depression.
  • Take some time to be grateful for the good things you still have. Pray, meditate, count your blessings, hug your kids, and call your mother. Expressing gratitude can help you reorient away from disaster and see the reasons to fight instead.
  • If you are feeling scared, afraid and alone, and self-care doesn’t help you to regain your footing, reach out. There is help:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Naseeha Muslim Youth Helpline: 1-866-NASEEHA
  • Trans Lifeline: (877) -565-8860
  • Trevor Project: (866)-488-7386

2. Practice empathy.

When you’ve recovered, don’t just go back into the fray. It’s time to connect with these Trump supporters in real life. Do not unfriend the people you know who voted for Trump; reach out to them instead. The reason is simple: we can’t fix what we don’t understand.

Creative, innovative, effective solutions emerge from deep understanding. In the design world, this is called empathy. If you want to help someone see things differently, you have to first understand what they currently see. Want someone to change their mind? You need to understand their rational and irrational fears, desires and beliefs. Not surprisingly, solutions derived from design protocols are judged to be more creative and often found to be more successful. Here’s more on how to have productive conversations with people who are not like you.

3. “

Don’t boo, organize


There is a lot of work to do, and we need to do it together. We know that wide-scale change is possible if we work together in organized ways. There’s a reason why one of the most common tips for stress management is to take a small step in the right direction: When we are part of a movement, we feel more energized and in control of our lives.

We can hold our congressional representative and senators accountable and protect our most vulnerable citizens from harassment and intimidation. But we must look no further than ourselves to do the actual work. Here is a list of concrete things you can do right now to fight for social justice.