MANAGING SOCIO-POLITICAL STRESS

 

I’ve always taken very good care of myself, in regards to the food I eat and the products I use on my skin and hair. I’ve known the importance of maintaining a clean, natural, toxin-free lifestyle to avoid diseases and ailments for as long as I can remember. But if you are anything like me, you are experiencing either a mild, moderate, or severe case of panic and traumatic emotional instability, due to the uncertainty of our current political environment. 

 
Photography Bradley Ennis

Being part of an Italian immigrant family in Australia had its advantages. We eat a Mediterranean diet, with our own organic vegetable garden. My parents would get their meat from a local butcher, or buy a live lamb or pig to roast. (Sorry, vegans, but that’s just how it was then.) We went camping most weekends, not because the sprawled out suburbs were over-congested, but merely to enjoy the Australian outback and magnificent coastal beaches. I also witnessed the downside of belonging to an immigrant group and witnessed the struggle of two very different cultures trying to coexist. There were Aussie neighbors who welcomed us with loving arms, and others that did not.

I didn’t know anything of cultural divides when I started school at the tender age of five. The first time I encountered the divide was with name-calling at school. Hearing a word directed at me coming from a down-turned mouth and cold, hostile eyes was frightening to say the least. I was very free and outgoing; I was a happy kid until I started to go to school. I was set apart from other students because I was from another country and from an immigrant family. I didn’t understand it, and thought that I was less worthy as a human being than anyone else at school. I didn’t understand racism; all I knew is that I was different in the eyes of others around me. The name-calling and ridicule continued for many years well into my young adulthood.

Wikipedia: “Wog and dago" in the UK and Australia are derogatory and racially offensive slang words referring to a dark-skinned or olive-skinned person, usually from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, other parts of Asia such as the East Indies, or the Mediterranean area.

My mother and grandmother, who had been living a modest life on their small family farm in northern Italy, along with my mum’s five sisters and two brothers, came to Australia via a three-month sea voyage in the mid-fifties, in hopes of a fresh start. They had been living as refugees in their homeland after the bombings of WWII displaced them from their town. My dad’s reason for moving to Australia was completely different; he was an educated man looking for an adventure. Little did he know his future would entail emotional beatings and undermine his confidence and very existence .

The point to my story is that I have lived with discrimination, even as a white person in a white land, and I’ve had to deal with taking care of my feelings of isolation and my state of emotional well-being all of my life. As I started to travel the globe, a broader vision awakened, and I observed all sorts of bias and discrimination from one border to the next. I felt their pain as well as my own, and now I’m starting to feel that same fear again as I did when I was a child. The feeling of disempowerment and the enormous empathy that one takes on can be overwhelming and debilitating.
 

 
 

Here are some ways that can help you deal
with emotional distress.
 

The first obvious step is to take time out of news feeds. You want to be informed; that’s understandable, especially because we the people hold the power for the first time in history, thanks to technology and social media. But this could be short-lived, so stay informed, avoid early morning news that can aggravate you and set a tone for the day. Or take every other day off from any news items. If that’s too much time away from important news (because it is very important), keep it in the back of your mind, eventually you will notice your mood swings from your time on and off the feeds.

Each and every day take 10 minutes to meditate, either morning or evening, and if you’re up to it, do both. The breathing that you do for meditation resets your nervous system, calming your mind and heart. It helps to maintain a healthy emotional distance from negative energy and will help with making clear-minded decisions.

Make plans with friends to enjoy evenings together, or afternoon tea or coffee and I suggest hitting the dance floor as much as possible, whether at a friend’s place or out and about.

Exercise: I think this era will produce some of the fittest humans in history!! Let’s hope so. Exercise is a great mood equalizer. It reduces stress by elevating endorphins and serotonin levels, which in turn will make you feel relaxed and happy.

 
 

Create a therapeutic bath ritual: Shop for a relaxing bath salt. It should contain Epsom salts, sea salts and baking powder as a base, with aromatic essential oils. Some suggested for soothing essential oils: Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Eucalyptus, and Rose. Make the bath experience a ritual, collecting ingredients like various plant oils such as coconut oil, avocado oil or jojoba oil for moisturizing as you heal and relax. Make a date with this routine at least once a week, if not everyday. And, yes, it’s OK to take morning baths, in fact, it’s a great way to start the day!

Cooking:  Even if you regard yourself as a killer cook, there is always more to learn, especially from other cultures. And if ever there was a time to celebrate other culture this is it. Protest through cooking and serving your friends foreign cuisine could be the most passive pro-active activity you can be involved with right now. 

Art projects: Create, create, create!!! Whether it’s a short film, a scrapbook, a fine line drawing or any DIY project, you will find that your personal expression will reveal your inner most truths and emotions. Your creative expression will unleash things that are longing to come out, releasing the stress of instability.

On the flip side, you can also get involved with local community groups that will help keep you up to date and involved in the ‘people’s movement’. Everything we do that works toward getting us back to a democratic society is in our hands, and as much as this may sound weighty and draining, getting involved will facilitate two things: your involvement, however small, will make you part of the solution and your voice will release pent-up anxiety and that feeling of helplessness.   

Now more than ever finding moments of peace and relaxation needs to become part of our everyday routines. However as concerned citizens mitigating the stress of this era will not be at the top of your to do lists. That’s why I recommend rituals and scheduling time for regeneration and rebooting your system, so that you can stand up and fight in a way that makes you proud.

 
 
Left image- my mother second from the right with my aunts on board a ship headed to Australia. Middle image- myself and my little brother. Right image- My whole family for my uncles birthday party.