Originally written 14th November 2016 for Varsity, but not published
For many of us, waking up last Wednesday to the news that Donald Trump had been elected President of the US was devastating. Somehow, an openly bigoted, science-denying accused rapist with authoritarian ambitions had become the leader of the most powerful country in the world. In the face of this, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. Here are some things you can do to make yourself feel a bit better:
Talk to someone
It’s a simple tip, but one of the best ways to get through your fear and frustration is just to let it all out. Talk to your friends, to family, to your JCR welfare officers – to anyone who’ll listen. Fear is often a really isolating emotion, but lots of people are upset by this result, and talking to those people can help remind you that you’re not alone. If you find you need more help than your friends can give, don’t be afraid of contacting a professional – the University Counselling Service is there to help, and your college may have a counsellor as well.
At the same time, know that you don’t have to talk if it will make you feel worse
You don’t have to engage with that dudebro who made a snide comment on your Facebook post. You don’t have to argue with that smug UKIP supporter at lunch. If it’s going to make your day worse, it’s OK to just ignore it. It doesn’t make you complicit in those beliefs, it just means that you’re tired and that you’ll come back to fight another day.
Take the day off. Watch a feel-good movie. Binge on trashy TV. Go out with your friends. We all want to keep up with the news and social media, but often times trying to wade through all the mountains of articles and Twitter arguments is scary and exhausting, and there’s nothing wrong with just having a day to yourself and trying to forget about politics for a while.
If you can, fight
Even if you’re not a US citizen, there are ways you can help set back Trump’s hateful agenda. Join a human rights organisation. Donate to a US non-profit like the ACLU who have promised to fight Trump’s proposals. Take part in an anti-Trump solidarity protest. Being across the sea from all this can make you feel powerless, but there are still lots of ways that you can get involved, and doing so might be the catharsis you need.
Remember that it’s OK to be upset
You’ve probably seen people – Cabinet ministers, no less – saying that Trump won’t be so bad and that everyone should just stop whinging. You don’t have to listen to these people. Trump’s proposals threaten the safety of women, people of colour, immigrants, religious minorities, disabled people, LGBT+ people – and, since the US is so powerful and gets so much media attention, the legitimisation of his hatred will almost certainly spread to the UK and beyond. It’s OK to be scared of that, especially if you belong to a marginalised group.
This is a frightening time in global politics, and you’re not alone if you’re afraid and upset by what the future might hold. Those feelings are valid and you have a right to process that in whatever way will make you feel better. You’re not a bad person or a bad activist for putting your mental wellbeing first. We all deserve better than what’s happened, and it’s now more important than ever that we take care of ourselves and each other. The greatest way you can defy Trump and his supporters is to do what they could never do: treat others with kindness – and treat yourself with kindness too.