5 Tips to Get You Through the Kavanaugh Investigation

No matter what your politics, emotions are being triggered.

Posted Oct 02, 2018

No matter what your political party, the recent events involving sexual assault, alcoholism, and fear of being wrongly accused, are triggers that bring up difficult emotions. As an emotion-centered trauma psychotherapist and regular citizen, I am keenly aware of the distress Americans are feeling this week. To mitigate distress and get through this difficult time, there are some basic emotional wellness techniques we can apply. Here are my top five:

1.     Slow down every few hours to check in with yourself. This means setting aside a few minutes to stop everything you are doing, close your eyes, scan your mind and body from head to toe, and take stock in how and where in your body and mind you experience any distress.

2.     Take at least five full, deep belly breaths. Breathe in through your nose and imagine sending the air deep into your abdomen. To help with this, place one hand on your chest and the other over your belly button. When you breathe in, your belly should expand out like a Buddha. Your chest should not rise. This takes practice, but it is worth it for stress relieving. Exhale slowly through pursed lips (like you’re blowing on hot soup) to release the air in whatever way feels maximally relaxing for you.

3.     Name and validate your deepest core emotions. The seven universal core emotions are anger, sadness, fear, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual excitement. Many times since the testimony last Thursday, I have had to validate the following emotions I sense in my body and mind. I say to myself whenever my anxiety rises: I am sad, I am angry, I am disgusted, and I am afraid. Validating emotions helps calm them. Your emotions may be different than mine. Check in with your body to find your core emotions and validate them the best that you can. 

4.     Give yourself a ton of compassion. Give yourself a "selfie" hug by wrapping your arms around yourself (try it, it actually feels good and is calming). With your internal voice, say to the distressed parts of you, “I am so sorry this is happening to you.” Try to feel the compassion deep inside you. Allow the words and hug to soothe and warm you.

5.     Tune into your distress to see what else might help. Give yourself what you need when possible. Explicitly ask for what you need from others like a hug or to share your emotions and receive validation. Since the brain responds to fantasy and imagination, as well as reality, you can imagine being in a safe and calm place. Picture a beautiful beach or mountain view. Imagine being surrounded by people or animals who make you feel protected, nurtured, and soothed. Try out different images or sounds to see what is calming to your nervous system.

Depending on our past traumas and the challenging experiences we have endured in our lives, the Kavanaugh hearings can trigger PTSD-like feelings, images, beliefs, behaviors and more. The first order of coping is to be in what feels like the safest and most nurturing environment as possible. The second strategy to feeling better is to soothe and calm your nervous system, which is likely on high alert. Slowing down every few hours, breathing deeply, validating your feelings, giving yourself compassion, and tuning into what you need, are all tried and true techniques to help you get through a difficult day. 

References

Fosha, D. (2000). The Transforming Power of Affect. New York: Basic Books.

Hendel, H.J. (2018). It's Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self. New York: Spiegle & Grau, a division of Random House