Restoring your balance after great stress

Last week’s election was a dramatic example of serious division in our nation. The depth of conflicting views has put stress not only on our political system but also on relationships between friends and family members who may have differing political views.

Wendy Levin-Shaw, LCSW, a therapist at JF&CS’s Squirrel Hill Psychological Services, offers a few suggestions for managing our feelings and healing personal rifts. She says the steps follow those of resolving any conflict:

  • Take care of yourself. Do whatever you do to de-stress: a long walk, meditation, go to the movies, exercise, listen to or play music, go to the place where you get spiritual nourishment. Consider turning off the news and social media.
  • Do something. Residual distress and feelings of powerlessness can be alleviated by taking action. Join an organization you believe in or volunteer to help others. Clarify your own beliefs and priorities. Find an effective way to make sure that your voice is heard.
  • Find agreements. In dealing with disagreements with friends or family members, look for the places where you can agree. Though we may disagree about what to do, we often share the underlying issue – concern for our family, our country, our relationship or our future. Can you share your concerns? Can you acknowledge that you may actually feel the same way about lots of other things?
  • Listen. When we are agitated, we may think we are listening when we are actually already generating our response. Try to give your undivided attention, allow the other person to finish, let it soak in, and then respond. Think about how much you want to be heard.
  • Widen your sources of information. Explore respected, non-partisan news outlets. You don’t have to agree – just become informed of different perspectives. Social media and Wikipedia aren’t enough.
  • Remember that these are people you love. We don’t have to think alike all the time; in fact, we often love people because they aren’t like us. Remember the joy of those differences. Relationships are the essence of our lives – think of the times that they have been an immense source of comfort and strength.

The steps above can lead to rediscovering or strengthening the central quality needed for any enduring relationship: respect. In counseling, it’s an axiom that the most toxic thing to a relationship is not when people disagree, or even fight, but when they have trouble respecting each other. It’s up to us to show the respect we want from others. Despite differences of opinion, we have to pursue peace and tolerance if we want to live in harmony.

If your life is out of balance, and you think that counseling might be right for you, call Squirrel Hill Psychological Services at 412-521-3800.

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