If you’ve been feeling more stressed than usual, you’re not alone.
According to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America report, more Americans are feeling more maxed out than ever. Over half – 57% reported significant stress over the political climate in particular.
None of that comes as a surprise to Dr. Ron Samarian, who is the chief of the department of psychiatry at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. At least once a day, a patient comes to him with anxiety related to politics.
“Some of the things we’re seeing are really unprecedented,” he said. “The fear of uncertainly is a constant, whether it’s political or otherwise. We seem to have an unprecedented level of political uncertainty, which can feed into the fear of disunity of the country, fragmentation of relationships. For example, neighbors that don’t agree with us, friends, family, and even of course the safety of our loved ones and the security of our finances.
“Certainly in our lifetimes, it’s never been this distorted. … It hits a lot of different areas all going to the same place, which is the uncertainty and the lack of control or the feeling that we don’t have as much control.”
Such stress can come out in many ways: anger, fear, anxiety, grief, dread. This can take a big toll on mind and body alike.
One healthy way of confronting this stress is through mindfulness practices. Here’s how Buddhist monk Phap Dam – a senior disciple of the renowned Thich Nhat Hanh – recently explained it in an interview for Vox:
We see the mind like a house, so if your house is on fire, you need to take care of the fire, not to go look for the person that made the fire. Take care of those emotions first; it’s the priority. Because anything that comes from a place of fear and anxiety and anger will only make the fire worse. Come back and find a place of calm and peace to cool the flame of emotion down.
Meditation provides a route to that place of calm and peace.
Meditation is not an esoteric practice; it’s not something you do only in a meditation hall or Buddhist retreat center. It can happen right in whatever activity you’re doing — while walking, in the office. It means you are there, present with calm and peace.
With a breath, you can bring calm, clarity and rest your thinking.
Learn more about the healing power of mindfulness in this excellent talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
Originally posted February 21, 2017; updated