— Puget Sound resident Marcus Searles considers himself an
enthusiastic consumer of knowledge and information, but over
the past couple of months, he’s had to turn off the news.
was everywhere, and it got to be too much," said the
who works as a title examiner for a Seattle escrow company,
said the constant stream of political information was seeping
into every part of his life.
worried about his mother because she is an immigrant from
Barbados; he worried about his young children who expressed
fears of the new president, a worry that he said robs them of
their childhood. He couldn’t focus at work and slumber
first time in his life, he found himself seeking relief from
was affecting me as a person," he said.
story is not uncommon. As news from the President Donald Trump’s
administration saturates TV and newspapers, local
mental-health experts say a healthy number of their existing
clients — and as many as 80 percent of potential new
clients, according to one clinician — are seeking help for
had people come back to therapy because of this
election," said clinical psychologist Marta Miranda, who
specializes in working with members of marginalized and
feel that they are being targeted as members of a minority
group, and they’re afraid," she said.
Mental Health, spokesman Steve McLean said one clinician
estimated that at least 80 percent of his new patients have
reported election-related stress, anxiety and fear.
patients have reported fear because of increased street
harassment since the election and increased fear over losing
health care and housing benefits, said McLean.
among groups that do not feel personally threatened by Trump
— and his partial travel bans, fights with world leaders,
controversial Cabinet appointees, stated efforts to dismantle
the Environmental Protection Agency, restrictions to abortion
access and the repeal the Affordable Care Act — anxiety has
been on the rise among people of all political leanings,
to a survey by the American Psychological Association,
two-thirds of Americans, including Democrats and Republicans,
said in January that they were stressed about the future of
areas, such as Seattle, reported stress levels were higher
than in rural or suburban areas, with 62 percent of city
dwellers saying the election and its outcome were a
"significant" source of stress. The survey also
found that the percentage of people feeling stressed about
their personal safety was the highest since the question was
first asked in 2008. And the percentage of people reporting at
least one stress-related health symptom, such as headaches,
anxiety or depression, rose from 71 to 80 percent over a
seen lots of shock, fear and grieving," said Seattle
psychologist Samantha Slaughter. "I’ve had clients come
in terrified and in tears about what they fear is going to
happen. It’s been pretty hard on my caseload."
Gurwell, a licensed mental health counselor, said election
news, and the way it’s sometimes regarded as "fake
news," is starting to make some people question their
reality. "People are even starting to wonder if they can
trust themselves and their understanding of things," she
feeling of lost footing can cut across party lines, she said.
said she does not have clients who say they are Trump
supporters, but as a member of the Washington State
Psychological Association and other professional
organizations, she is in contact with colleagues who do.
of them are worried, too," she said. "They may still
be very excited about him being elected, but they are confused
about the protests, worried about riots and hesitant to talk
about being happy," Slaughter said.
and Tim Cox, who supported Trump and a third-party candidate,
respectively, said they’ve been happy to see a political sea
change. They are, however, aware that some of their friends
said he’s sensitive to their anxiety and tension. "We
understand they’re going through some stuff with this, and
we’re there for them," he said.
said he tells them, "We have checks and balances for a
reason; this whole country was founded on not being controlled
by abusive power and that if he gets that bad, we can impeach
wife, though, has another philosophy. She listens to people’s
worries but refuses to let it affect her.
on yourself; do what you need to do and stay positive,"
she said. Just like before the election, some people are also
struggling with a family divide. Katelynn Wilhelm, 30, has
felt under siege since she marched in the post-inauguration
family got really angry at me," she said. "My
stepbrother, who has three beautiful children who were born
under the Oregon Health Plan (the state’s Medicaid program),
had the audacity to tell me to ‘Stop marching!’ and ‘Get
behind the president.’
so frustrating because I have a job with health care, and in a
way, I’m marching for him and his children."
dealing with kin, Slaughter advises people to send pre-emptive
emails asking that politics be off the table, at least for a
important that we one day be able to have conversations about
this, but maybe not right now," she said.
issue of trying to balance timing, sensitivity, honesty and
awareness is at the core of the struggle for many, she and
other therapists said.
very important that we be informed and not put our hands over
our eyes," said Jane Tornatore, a licensed marriage and
advises setting parameters and sticking to them. For example,
a healthy option might be to read the front page of the
newspaper to get informed about the day’s events and then
the same thing over and over, reading about it, gnawing on it,
does not help," she said.
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the most useful tools Tornatore teaches her clients is how to
understand the difference between the "circle of
influence" and the "circle of concern."
first contains everything people have control over, which is
simply their own thoughts and actions. The other circle
encompasses everything else, including the president, the
results of the election and family members’ opinions.
"You have to ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do
about this? Can I march? Can I write a letter? Can I donate
money?’ If the answer is yes, then do it," Tornatore
you suspect that your state and federal legislators have
received all the letters from their constituents they could
ever want, write it anyway, she said. You’re not doing it
solely for them.
we take a step, even a little step, we feel less hopeless and
more powerful. It’s good for our psyches," Tornatore
KEEPING ANXIETY AT BAY
psychologists and counselors offered these suggestions:
Perform small acts of kindness, such as opening doors for
others: Let someone merge into your lane, treat someone to a
cup of coffee or offer a word of encouragement, said Jane
Breathe in nice and deep and out for twice as long. For
example, count to two on your inhale and to four on your
we are stressed, we stop breathing, but if we can take deeper
breaths — and breathe out twice as long — it slows us down
and triggers our parasympathetic nervous system,"
gentle and patient with yourself, said Katie Gurwell. Remember
how a pendulum swings from one extreme to another before
settling in the middle and tell yourself it’s OK to have
days of hypervigilance and others of sticking your head in the
Meditate on a member of the large cat family, said Gurwell.
Lions and tigers "don’t sit around all day being
stressed or worried about what they are going to do. They hunt
when it’s time to take action, but then they eat and play
and bathe. They are not constantly in a hypervigilant state
because then their nerves would be shot." she said.
"Be like the lion, ready to act, but also soaking up the
sun and hanging out with the pride."
you plan to spend time with family members or friends who say
things that tend to provoke you, consider sending a
pre-emptive email asking that politics be off the table for
the duration of your visit, suggests Samantha Slaughter.
not read or watch news right before bed, Gurwell said.