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Believe This Situation Will Change


That's what she said when asked how she was doing. She was worried about her niece, who was terrified her parents were going to be deported. This is a by-product of one of the most contentious and polarizing presidential elections in recent history.

People are experiencing lingering stress from the election. Whether the candidate they supported lost or their candidate won, they're feeling conflicted from the bitterness of the campaign.

I recently listened to a National Public Radio interview with Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist and researcher at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. McGonigal shared that, as a result of the election, many people are experiencing abnormal stress. She's noticed that people, no matter their political affiliation, report huge levels of social mistrust. They feel like America and the world has changed. They ask people they thought they really knew, "Who are you?"

Many folks don't feel safe, respected or valued. All of this leads to a stress that is different from the kind that comes from the ordinary hassles of life. McGonigal noted that this kind of stress stems from what she calls "social mistrust." It's a phenomenon in which individuals believe that there are just a bunch of people in society who can't be trusted. This kind of distrust is particularly toxic because it can change our genetic makeup, alter our immune system and increase our risk of maladies like depression and heart disease. This social mistrust can lead us to disconnect from other people and make us fantasize about escaping to Canada.

McGonigal reminds us there is something that we can do to transform stressful feelings from being destructive to constructive: Whatever or whoever you feel threatened by, believe they can change and the situation can change. When we have this mind-set, there is increased likelihood we will speak out against bias, racism, sexism and xenophobia. We will be more open to talking with people who express such biases. We become more willing to collaborate with others we disagree with, rather than avoid or humiliate them.

It is not necessarily easy to believe some people will change or that the current situation can be different. But cultivating that mind-set, at the very least, helps eliminate toxic stress.

We may not want to believe that people or circumstances can change. For many, this election may make them feel like a change for the better isn't possible. But we must discover the power within us and, as McGonigal noted in her interview, double down on the positive and know we have the energy and the courage we need to move this country and our world forward.

Peace and Blessings,


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