When listening to people (sentient adults who actually voted) talk about the evil clown who somehow wormed his way into the Oval Office, I hear them say they’re angry about the way he’s rolled back critical regulations protecting our waterways and our bank accounts. I hear them say they’re disgusted with his Cabinet choices. And I hear them say they’re embarrassed for our country as he alienates our allies, one by one.
What I don’t often hear people admitting is that he’s making them physically ill, and maybe that’s because they don’t realize it’s actually happening.
In January, I went to see my doctor and told her I thought my blood pressure may have been going sky high since the election.
“Are you depressed?” she asked me.
“Hell no, I’m pissed off!” I told her. It was, and still is, the absolute truth. Then she reassured me that I’m not alone. Many of her other patients had been reporting to her that they were dealing with greater anxiety and stress since November — more than she usually hears about.
To have that much anger and anxiety sustained and even escalating daily is not good for your heart, your mind, or other parts of your body.
So could it be that the man who helped kill health care for 24 million Americans is actually making you ill? Yes.
In the days after Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood pussy-grabbing audio tape broke the news, Laura Bassett, senior political writer for The Huffington Post, wrote about her reaction to hearing the news aboard a commercial plane:
“The nausea in my stomach crept up into my throat. My chest felt heavy and squeezed, like someone was sitting on it. My jaw and teeth ached, and I realized I’d been clenching them. By the time the flight attendant reached out with a bag of pretzels, I was breathing into a brown paper bag I’d found in the seat pocket. I walked to the bathroom of the plane and hovered over the toilet, hoping my body would purge what was making me sick.”
Bassett, who had been raped at a fraternity party when she was in college, was expressing what many rape survivors were also feeling. In her article, she shares the stories of five other women who had visceral reactions to the idea of a Groper-in-Chief, and a comment from the president of the District of Columbia Psychological Association, Dr. Stephen Stein, who confirmed that Trump’s remarks about grabbing women had opened up old wounds for women who had been traumatized before.
Distress was a common feeling among America’s immigrant population, too, as they considered the implications of a president who wants to shun, ban, and deport those who came to this country looking for a better life, a better education, or just a chance to survive.
“I feel nauseous. I can’t look at him,” Miriam Avilez told The Guardian after watching the televised inauguration. Avilez, a 27-year-old undocumented student, said, “Everything we’ve fought for, all the victories we’ve had, in one day are basically taken away.”
Across the pond, others commiserate, even though they don’t have to live with the problem directly. In writing his opinion piece for the The Independent in November, Matthew Norman said, “I feel sick to my stomach when I contemplate what a Donald Trump victory would tell us about Americans.”
“We are terrified to a degree and in a manner which, though it may ring a bell (or sound the four-minute siren) for those who lived through the Cuban missile crisis, is a novel experience for anyone under 65,” Norman added.
America’s allies are fearful of waking up to see a mushroom cloud on the horizon and it’s making them physically ill, too.
Before the election, Real Simple magazine published some real simple, hard facts: 52 percent of Americans reported the election had been a “very significant” or “somewhat significant sources of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s statistics.
Just going to vote can make you ill. A 2010 study published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology (let’s ask Sean Spicer to say that three times fast) showed higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the saliva of voters headed to the polls, based on samples collected by Duke University and University of Michigan researchers during the 2008 election.
And not surprisingly, the “fight or flight” instinct we have when we hear the latest atrocities from the Trump White House, actually triggers the flow of cortisol that can lead to other health issues like weight gain, memory loss and whoa, even cardiac arrest if the body is exposed to too much of it for too long.
In short, the current administration may be slowly killing you.
But, even if there’s no immediate cure in sight, there may be short-term remedies you can employ to protect your health:
- Turn off the TV once in a while. Take short media breaks. Don’t let yourself engage in pointless arguments with trolls on social media.
- Get outside and breathe. Grab your hiking boots or your tennis racket and enjoy the fresh air while it is still protected by the EPA.
- Try a little daily meditation. Measurable health benefits of 10- to 20- minute daily sessions include relief from stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and insomnia.
- Yoga, too, can help lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, banish depression, and help your body regulate the release of cortisol.
- Take better care of yourself in general. Hydrate. Avoid stress eating (Girl Scout cookies and potato chips have been my downfall while binge-watching CNN). And whatever you do, don’t rely heavily on alcohol and other recreational substances to dull your pain.
We might have four more years of this, and although we can hope for relief much sooner, we have to find a way to stay well in the meantime.