Episode 15: Election Day Coping Strategies: We’re All Going Through It!
Episode 15: Election Day Coping Strategies: We’re All Going Through It!
In this solo mini-episode, Alyssa talks about the current political climate in the United States as the Presidential election draws to a close. She offers different coping strategies for ways to manage the stress of the election on top of dealing with a global pandemic.
Alyssa Scolari [00:24]:
Election Day, everybody. Well, at least everybody who is living in the United States of America, I should say. It is Tuesday, November 3rd, and I was going to drop an episode with an interview with my clinical supervisor. Her name is Rebecca Christensen, but actually, given the political chaos that we have been in for the last couple of months, I figured that it’d be a little bit more fitting to drop a solo mini episode on some coping strategies for how to help us all get through this election and the coronavirus for that matter because let’s be honest, times are so tough right now. And in case you have not been keeping up with the blog posts, even I’m struggling quite a bit. There’s been a lot going on in my personal life and the coronavirus… the numbers are spiking, and it’s giving me anxiety, and it’s just… I don’t know.
Alyssa Scolari [01:31]:
It seems like there’s no end in sight sometimes, so it can be really difficult to hold on to hope. And on top of it, we are also in the process of house hunting which sounds exciting, or it sounded exciting until we actually started to do the hunting, and then we realized that it’s almost impossible to find a house right now. The market is so crazy because people are fleeing the city and moving into the suburbs to escape COVID, so houses pop up on the market and then they are off the market within 24 hours. So, we are hustling, we are busy, and I am tired and sad. And I know I’m not the only one because I’ve heard people say this in both my professional and my personal life that everything that’s been going on with this election is stressing them out.
Alyssa Scolari [02:33]:
And I’m going to be honest. I’ve never been stressed out about an election. I’m 28 years old, and I am a little bit ashamed to admit that this was my first time voting. So I’ve had, I guess, two opportunities in the past, right? Is that right, Dave? All right, Dave’s giving me the thumbs up. I can’t do math. Math was not my subject. So I’ve had two opportunities to vote in the past, and I did not. And most people would look down upon me in shame. That’s something I actually never share with people, but I guess I just didn’t care. And this year is the first year that I really have started to care about politics and started to become involved. So those of you who are listening and your jaws are dropping to the floor, don’t judge me. This is a no judge zone.
Alyssa Scolari [03:36]:
I had other things going on in my life. I really didn’t have space for politics, but I’m here. I’m involved. To be honest, I’m a little bit nervous about coming on and talking about politics today because I know it’s such a charged topic, and there’s so much hatred. So I am going to try to keep things as neutral as I possibly can. And I would appreciate if you guys could just hold space for the things that I have to say on this episode today.
Alyssa Scolari [04:15]:
So I am not coming on here to tell you who I think should win. I am not coming on here to tell you what policies I think need to be put into place. That’s not the reason I’m here. The reason I’m here is because most of us feel very, very strongly one way or the other, whether you’re red, whether you’re blue, whether you’re somewhere in between, and I’m here to encourage courage you to just be able to hold space regardless of the outcome of this election. And we’re going to get into a little bit about what that means.
Alyssa Scolari [04:59]:
So one of the things that I think we all do, I know I definitely do this when I get into one of my depressive funks or episodes or whatever you all call it, is I spent a lot of time on social media, and I have spent probably way too much time on social media, not just during the election, but during all of quarantine, so pretty much the whole year of 2020. And there’s so much hatred. So I just keep seeing time and time again that if somebody does not hold the same political beliefs and values as you, that it’s a war. We are just spewing hatred and saying violent things and making death threats.
Alyssa Scolari [05:56]:
And while I understand the importance of trying to save our democracy and get our country back together, I also feel like it’s really important to hold space for all political opinions and beliefs. Even that statement itself is probably going to get me a lot of haters, but I’m not saying this because I have any kind of political agenda. I’m saying this because I believe that holding space is actually healthier for us.
Alyssa Scolari [06:34]:
So what happens if we are… for example, let’s just say most people would just assume about me that I am just this really, really hard liberal. And let’s say that I encounter somebody who is really, really pro-Trump. What would happen if I started making death threats to that person, if I told them that they were a piece of shit? What if I then took my anger out at that person and then turned to another social media platform? So let’s say I went on Facebook, and I started talking about my interaction with this person and how that person sucks. I hope that person dies. And then I have other people with different political views coming at me, or I have people who agree with me going, “That Trump supporter should die.” What does that do?
Alyssa Scolari [07:31]:
I mean, it doesn’t do anything aside from raise my cortisol levels, so your stress hormone, and make me upset, potentially trigger me, and does nothing to actually change the world. So when I say holding space, I’m not saying that you have to agree or accept whatever happens regardless of the outcome of the election. What I’m saying is that it’s so important for your mental health, your physical health for you to try to have some type of respect or hold the space for other people to have different opinions and different beliefs. If you allow space for that, without judging them to the extreme, without making death threats, you are not going to be as triggered, and then you are going to have more time and more space in your day to be able to make effective change in the world as a result of your political beliefs.
Alyssa Scolari [08:48]:
So that’s my brief political spiel. With that being said, I just hope that you all know that we’re all going through it right now. We are all really stressed out about the future of our nation, about what’s going to lie ahead in terms of this pandemic, and we need to try to take care of ourselves and each other.
Alyssa Scolari [09:15]:
So I’m just going to throw out a couple of tips here. Some of them might seem cheesy. Some of them are cheesy, but they might work for you. Some of them work for me, but I think it’s really important that we get back to basics in terms of self-care right now because there’s so much happening, and we really need to be taking care of each other and ourselves, like I said.
Alyssa Scolari [09:40]:
So one of the recommendations that I’m going to make, or one of the coping skills that I’m going to throw out there to all of you is actually directly from Marsha Linehan, who is the creator of what’s called dialectical behavioral therapy, otherwise known as DBT. I am not the biggest DBT fan. No offense, Marsha. I think you’re amazing. I think DBT skills are definitely needed, but I think that they work best when paired with other types of therapy. But one of the things that we’re going to be talking about today is in Marsha Linehan’s distress tolerance module.
Alyssa Scolari [10:26]:
So distress tolerance… it’s pretty self-explanatory, right? How do you tolerate or how do you hold space and try to make things a little bit less painful when you are in a lot of distress? As a side note, DBT absolutely loves their acronyms. Marsha Linehan was acronym crazy when she created DBT because every skill, almost, is an acronym. The one that I want to talk about specifically is the acronym… it’s called IMPROVE and ways for being able to improve the moment and, as I said, tolerate distress.
Alyssa Scolari [11:10]:
So the I for IMPROVE stands for imagery. Imagery is this concept that we can basically go to other places in our minds when things feel really tough. So imagining really relaxing scenes or maybe going back in your mind to a vacation or a really beautiful place that you used to visit or maybe a place that felt safe to you as a kid.
Alyssa Scolari [11:40]:
Let’s see, I know for me, I’m very visual in the moment. So when it comes to imagery, I like to look at artwork, or I like to be doing a puzzle that usually is full of bright colors. I need to be stimulated in the moment. I have a hard time imagining safe places in my head. I guess I’m not that creative that way, but whatever works for you. I know that this is one that most people find extremely relaxing.
Alyssa Scolari [12:12]:
The M in IMPROVE stands for meaning, so finding purpose or meaning in a painful or difficult or distressing situation. This one can be a little bit tougher for people because it feels a little bit invalidating, especially for those of us who have survived any kind of trauma. How are we supposed to make meaning out of those of us who have been sexually assaulted?
Alyssa Scolari [12:43]:
What I will say is this. Finding meaning is not the same as accepting or being okay with the reality of things. Finding meaning is more about what am I going to do with all of the pain that I’m feeling. For example, I became a trauma therapist. So I took the pain that I suffered. I took what I endured, and I use it to move forward to help others. And I touched on this a little bit earlier when it comes to the election, specifically, let’s say whoever you’re voting for doesn’t end up winning. What can you do with that? How can you find meaning in that? You can volunteer yourself to do whatever work you think needs to be done to create the effective change that you think is needed in this country.
Alyssa Scolari [13:42]:
The P in IMPROVE stands for prayer. This is another touchy one because people may or may not be believers. The P also could stand for poetry. So those who are not believers could also just find solace in poetry. I know I find a lot of solace in poetry, if not prayer is another way to be able to tolerate distress.
Alyssa Scolari [14:14]:
The R stands for relaxing actions. I love this one. This one is my favorite. Like I said, I’m a very in the moment, hands-on kind of person. So I have to actually do something if I’m going to be tolerating any kind of distress or uncomfortable situation in my life. I have to be in action, so whether that’s taking a hot bath, getting a massage, there’s nothing I love more than a good massage, practicing yoga or other kinds of stretching. I find yoga particularly helpful when I’m upset because it’s not something that’s requiring me to get my heart rate up so high that I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. It’s something that actually reminds me to get back to the basics and focus on my breathing and to move my body with intention.
Alyssa Scolari [15:10]:
The O in IMPROVE stands for one thing in the moment, so I actually was just touching on this a little bit. This may look like fully participating in whatever you are doing. So I’m the biggest fan of multitasking. I shouldn’t say fan. I should say I am guilty of trying to multitask in all areas of my life right now. I need to stop. It’s something I need to work on. And this one thing in the moment is actually very, very helpful. So for example, if I’m doing a training, an online training, am I actually paying attention to the online training right now? Hell, no. I’m writing my blog posts. I’m thinking about what podcast episode I could do next. I’m thinking about where I’m going to go this weekend. I’m petting my dog. I have such a hard time fully throwing myself into the moment.
Alyssa Scolari [16:11]:
So if this is something you have a hard time with doing as well, it’s going to be really helpful to try to be wherever you are during this election time, so to speak, and really, in all times when things feel stressful, but especially right now. So while you’re at work, you don’t necessarily need to be on your phone, scrolling through political-themed TikToks, on Instagram looking at the news. You just need to be at work. If you’re at church, you just need to be at church. If you’re at a sporting event, you just need to be at your sporting event. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, try to just be all in. Very similar to mindfulness.
Alyssa Scolari [17:02]:
The V in IMPROVE stands for vacation, my favorite word. This could mean a number of things. So it doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a plane and going to Fiji which is something that, dear God, I would give anything to do right now. Giving yourself a vacation could be as simple as turning your phone off for a day. Okay, a day may be pushing it for some of us. How about an hour? How about we turn our phone off for an hour? Why don’t we take a one-hour break from working? Why don’t we take a blanket to a park and sit in park for the afternoon? Why don’t we shut off all the electronics while we eat our meals?
Alyssa Scolari [17:55]:
That’s what I mean by vacation. Give yourself a day, give yourself a couple hours to sleep in, give yourself a day to stay in bed. If that day becomes two days, then becomes three days, well now we have a problem. But the vacation should be brief. And it’s just a way for you to escape reality. It is really okay for us to escape reality sometimes. We need it. We need to check out, as long as we remember to check back in.
Alyssa Scolari [18:24]:
Last but not least the E in IMPROVE, my least favorite, stands for encouragement and rethinking the situation. I’m going to be honest, not a fan of this one, but it’s definitely something that I need to work on and something that I’m sure a lot of you need to work on as well.
Alyssa Scolari [18:46]:
So self-encouragement means being your own cheerleader, telling yourself I am doing the best I can, reminding yourself that the stress and the chaos of this election and the pandemic will not last forever. It feels like it’s going to last forever, but it truly won’t. Reminding yourself that this is all going to pass and that even though things right now are highly uncomfortable, highly distressing, and highly triggering, we can stand it. We have been standing it for all this time, and we can continue to stand it and endure it and make it to the other side.
Alyssa Scolari [19:32]:
And like I said, just being your own cheerleader, encouraging yourself, patting yourself on the back when you do something good. Man, I’m really terrible at this one. I’m trying to think even as we speak of what I can pat myself on the back for.
Alyssa Scolari [19:51]:
Hey David Scolari, what can I pat myself on the back for? David Scolari’s usually my cheerleader. You know what-
David Scolari [19:59]:
Oh my dear lord.
Alyssa Scolari [20:00]:
David Scolari [20:04]:
What do you mean you don’t know what you can pat yourself on the back for? All the people you help every day, all the friends and family you give love to each and every single day.
Alyssa Scolari [20:13]:
… well, there you go.
David Scolari [20:16]:
I mean, I could go on.
Alyssa Scolari [20:17]:
He could go on, but he’ll be going on for 25 minutes. Dave is my… my husband is my biggest cheerleader. He’s also the editor of this podcast, so thanks to Dave for making all of this happen.
Alyssa Scolari [20:33]:
I can pat myself on the back for how hard I work to help people on a daily basis. It really is my biggest passion in life is being in this field and getting to help people to save their own lives. I could pat myself on the back for making the best out of this shitty pandemic and creating a podcast with all the free time that I had which I am also so very passionate about. So I will stop there. That makes me so uncomfortable. But it’s important that we do this every once in a while.
Alyssa Scolari [21:12]:
So to sum it up, I mean, that’s the IMPROVE acronym, and those are some tips and tools that you all can take with you, not just during the election time, I mean, especially during this time, but you can use these tools… I mean, Marsha Linehan created DBT, and she created this distress tolerance acronym for any stressful times. So you can use these tools. They are public knowledge. You can buy her book on Amazon. I actually really recommend it because there’s a lot of great tips in here.
Alyssa Scolari [21:49]:
And I hope that you guys have found this useful. Please know that I am holding space for you regardless of your political beliefs, and we will all make it out at the other side of this. It’s all going to be okay. I am going to wrap it down now. It is a Sunday night. So by the time this airs, it’ll be Election Day when you all are listening. And I am going to go spend the rest of the evening with David Scolari and the doggies.
Alyssa Scolari [22:26]:
So have a good one. Signing off. Take care.
Alyssa Scolari [22:33]:
Thanks for listening. Hope you enjoyed this episode. For more information about today’s episode and to sign up for the Light After Trauma newsletter, head over to my website at alyssascolari.com. I’m also on Twitter, and I’d love to chat with you guys. Be sure to follow me. My Twitter handle is @alyssascolari. Thanks again for listening, and take good care.