Breathe, America

Take a Deep Breath America

Relieve the Stress

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Recently, I attended a conference aimed at improving your overall well-being. One of the sessions dealt with managing stress more effectively. The first thing the speaker, a psychologist specializing in suicide prevention and adolescent issues, taught us was the importance of breathing deeply when you feel stress or anxiety. The science behind it is that you feed your brain cells oxygen, which helps them function more efficiently. It also inhibits the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. It moves your body out of the knee-jerk reaction mode of fight or flight and into the calmer, more balanced state of mind. It’s simple to do and amazing in its results.

So, with all the stress about the election, please, my fellow Americans, take a few deep breaths. Hold each breath for three seconds, then release it slowly. Do this three times. You’ll feel better. I know I do when I get those negative feelings welling up inside.

Wait, you’re still you

Now that you’re all calmer, take a minute to assess what has really changed in your life. I would imagine that unless you were a candidate who didn’t win (or who did) or employed by one, or volunteering for one, your life looks vastly similar to what it did the night before the election. Am I right?

Like I posted to an upset friend of mine recently on Facebook, good things will happen in your life because of you, not because of the President.

In the photo a beach in Zanzibar at sunset where there is an inscription on the sand "Breathe Deeeply".Your future, though it may be different than what you imagined prior, will not be nearly as dreadful as you fear it will. Change is difficult, I know. I get it. But we all have to deal with it sometimes. This election is not so different than past elections. It’s very rare for one party to stay in power longer than eight years at a time. We’ve gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats eight times in the last 50 years. Has our country fallen apart? Has it been utterly destroyed? If you listen to the hyper-vocal, paid-to-fill-airspace-by-stirring-up-controversy talking heads on the radio or TV, you might be more inclined to feel that way. These people live in a bubble. They prognosticate for a living. Unlike most of us, their work product is emotion – negative feelings and reactions – not something tangible or measurable or even uplifting. So, don’t buy into the hysteria they are selling.

Realize that our country is made up of people who span a very wide spectrum in terms of their political beliefs. Our backgrounds, cultures, belief systems, and family histories are all very different. That’s what makes our country great. We are different and diverse, yes, but we share some very powerful ideals and principles. We believe in freedom. We believe in opportunity for all. We belief in justice and the rule of law for everyone. Men and women have fought and bled and died to protect these ideals and principles.

Different Strokes

We may have different approaches to implementing those ideals, but that’s what has kept our democracy strong. We wind our way through this political landscape, veering left, then right, but maintaining an overall middle-of-the-road course over the long-haul. That’s how the most people get at least some of what they want. Realize that no one ever gets everything they want. It would be unrealistic to think that way. To act out in anger and violence and obscenities casts a long shadow on what you believe and speaks volumes about the type of person you are. It does your cause no good, only harm.

So, we need to moderate ourselves, then work to moderate the political system. When we swing too hard between the extremes, we end up with exactly what we have now: backlash, hatred, and anger. All negative emotions. Move to the middle, people. Think like team players. We can start by trying to empathize with those who hold a different opinion than ours. That requires asking questions then listening with respect, something they are not teaching us on the TV, radio, or Internet these days. But we should all try it. We may be surprised by what we learn. Usually, we learn that the other side isn’t nearly as terrible as we conjured them up to be, thanks to those who benefit from stirring up controversy and playing to our emotions.

Remember who you are. Your worth as a person, your core values and beliefs, your relationships, intellect, and dreams are not shaped by the President of the United States. As important as his job is, he doesn’t control who you are as a person. He can’t take away your goodness as a person, unless you let him.  He can only recommend policy and articulate a vision for the future of the country. Congress has to pass off on those recommendations. So, if you don’t like something, write to your Congressional Representatives and ask them to do their jobs and represent you. Same goes for the things you like. Let them know so they can accurately reflect your desires.

Been Here Before

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Like many Americans, I’ve been upset about election results in the past. I was pretty certain that some of the presidents that didn’t share my views would ruin the country. The truth is, we have a system of checks and balances to prevent that. So, unless we’re electing really bad representatives in Congress, no president should ever ruin our great nation. Even if we have slipped up and elected some horrible people in Congress, guess what? We can change them out like changing a light bulb. Every two years we get to vote for Representatives in Congress. And every four years we get to vote for a new president.

Our country is great not because of the President, but because of the people.  Be a great person if you want a great country. Act with temperance and control if you want to be treated like an adult. Show dignity and respect if you want to earn it. Don’t whine and cry and burn things just because you’re upset. Educate yourself. Exercise. Read good books. Spend time with people you love. Studies show that being with your family and friends is another way to reduce stress in your life. Love and laughter are just as good as deep breathing and restful sleep for our overall well-being. Then, let go of your frustrations over things you cannot change. Focus on the things you can, realizing most of them are internal.  

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Sometimes, we don’t get the candidate we want into the White House. So what. Go on with your life. Very few people ever get everything they want. Be happy with what you have. Count your blessings.

Most of all, America, take a deep breath. Let the oxygen back into your brain cells.

Keep breathing. It will all be OK. 

 

Links:

1.      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/deep-breathing/

2.      http://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath/

3.      http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response

 

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