Step back for a minute, turn off the 24-hour news outlets and talk to seniors and other people in your lives who have experienced challenging times in our country and have witnessed many other campaign seasons.
It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard debates and discussions about the presidential election, whether at work, at dinner with friends or at home.
These discussions can leave us feeling drained and often fearful about our future. As a response to the issues, consider some advice from seniors that may help you navigate through the sensitive political environment.
Step back for a minute, turn off the 24-hour news outlets and talk to seniors and other people in your lives who have experienced challenging times in our country and have witnessed many other campaign seasons. These discussions may help you refocus your thinking from fearful thoughts to action-oriented items.
A number of seniors that I have spoken with have pointed to previous political campaigns in the United States where there were ongoing debates and heated discussions. They remind us that, despite your political viewpoints, some of the mostly hotly contested candidates who became president are now regarded as some of our country’s greatest leaders.
One example discussed was the campaign of Ronald Reagan. Considered by many to be one of our greatest presidents, during his campaign great doubt and criticism was raised in regards to his background as a “B-list” actor, changed party affiliations and age.
Harry Truman was criticized as a failed haberdasher and for his short tenure as vice president. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was criticized because he ran for a third term, incarcerated Japanese Americans and didn’t permit European Jews to enter the country.
Let’s look at lessons learned and recommended by seniors to incorporate into our lives.
Lesson 1: Listen to the people around you.
Many seniors felt that problems often occur when we ignore others’ concerns and think we are more knowledgeable than them. They recommended that we ask for others’ opinions and react to their worries. Most problems occur when we stop listening.
Lesson 2: Take action.
Seniors recommended being proactive instead of being fearful, and express our concerns to others. This may involve being informed, voting or engaging with your political party at a state or national level. Action-oriented steps help reduce anxiety and fear.
Lesson 3: Be comfortable with your ability to make a difference.
This is not an easy lesson to learn or to apply to our lives. Many individuals question their ability to make a difference or wonder if their opinions will be heard. Many seniors recommend working at voting booths, educating your children and talking about current events.
One senior fondly reminisced about learning about politics at a young age from her parents during dinner discussions. She felt that it was important that her parents took time to teach their children about the world.
Lesson 4: Communicate with consistent messages and use everyday language.
People can understand anything if is explained with clear, concise language. There is no need to hide behind big words or jargon. Don’t underestimate the people around you. Many seniors point to FDR’s fireside chats, where he kept citizens updated with short, concise messages.
Lesson 5: Take a deep breath and access the situation.
Nothing can be understood or solved when you are upset. Many seniors have lived through challenging times in their lives.
They felt that finding ways to reduce your anxiety through taking deep breaths, going on a walk, spending time with family or other forms of distraction are helpful in understanding and living through stressful situations.
This presidential campaign can be a positive learning experience for you and your children. It does not need to be a time of increased concern. We can approach this political season and our lives by using these valuable lessons learned from seniors.
Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., is a psychologist at Abramson Center.