The U.S. presidential election has been upending, to say the least. Some people are celebrating its outcome, while others are reeling with angst and despair. No matter which reaction, we likely agree that a profound fracture in American society has been exposed. The question is: Will we face it with wisdom?
I do not know. What I do know is this: change is an innate principle of who we are. As individuals, families, work-teams, and whole societies, we create, we destroy, we rebuild, and at our best, we evolve. As human beings we are also becoming. We have experience deep in our history and our cells of transcending that which came before to make way for what’s new.
And therein lies our possibility: we are never stuck.
Ironically, it is precisely when we’re thrown into a new reality—when the greatness of stress is bearing down on us—that we’re most likely to fall back to a comfort zone, to opinions, emotions, and reactions we already know. (I know I do.) Problem is, we then recycle the same paths we’ve been on, blinded to options for moving forward.
How can we bring fresh energy and spaciousness into our lives today so that we move ahead with wisdom, rather than out of stress? These five strategies can help:
- Find center. How? Breathing with awareness. Your breath is one of the most tangible tools at your disposal for shifting the state of your mind and body. The 1:2 breath is a superb choice, in fact, for regaining calm if you’re feeling over-amped by the election results and post-election chaos. And this type of breath can be done anywhere—at work, at home, in your car, in a conversation. Simply, inhale slowly from your lower belly all the way to your shoulders. When you reach the top of your breath, exhale, making your exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. (Repeat as needed.) You’ve just helped your body shift from “fight or flight” to a healthier, more relaxed state.
- Back up. Yes, temporarily detach. Unplug the circuitry of your mind and body from the post-election stress to get in better touch with how you think and feel about it, rather than being swept up in the sway of others. How? Try out a media detox, take a nap, dive into a juicy book, go for a walk outdoors (without a news program blaring into your earphones.) Strategically disengaging is invaluable to moving forward with clarity.
- Go low. If you’re feeling stuck in stress, dive a little deeper to find out what’s underneath it. Resentment about how people are responding to the election results? Anxiety about what the future holds? These emotions don’t have to be toxic. Channeled well, they can be a formidable force for good.
- Go high. The starkness of the fracture in American society is a clear opportunity for all of us to learn…to take an honest, nonjudgmental look at where we’ve been blind to each other and to expand our perspectives. What could you read, watch, or listen to, or who could you talk with for a point of view opposite of yours? The key here is to be curious about perceptions and experiences that contrast with your own. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s insightful TED Talk, Can A Divided America Heal? might be a gentle start to this exploration.
- Reach out. Regardless of our differences, as members of a human community we are the same in our need for connection. Check in with family members, neighbors, and others in your life. Genuinely listen to how they are experiencing this post-election time, without making them right or wrong. Getting outside ourselves in service to others—the higher sentiment that we’re all in this together—is precisely the act of empathy and kindness we need more of right now.
Before poet-musician Leonard Cohen left this earth, he moved us with these words, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I am hopeful the glaring fracture we face today is our opportunity to make our lives better, everyone included. We have it within us to respond magnificently. Will I? Will you? Will we?
To learn about the transformative leadership programs, coaching, and culture change services at Wisdom Works, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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