Managing anxiety while Donald Trump has his finger on the button

The most unpredictable President of the United States in history with the least amount of diplomatic experience and one of the world’s most powerful military is online bullying an unpredictable, unstable dictator who is experimenting with international-range weapons of mass destruction. A bit of anxiety makes sense.

I don’t think the world is going to end tomorrow, nor am I stocking a cellar with canned goods and bottled water (though I do joke about it, and having three days of food and water is sound emergency planning advice). I’m also aware that the machines of international conflict require a great deal more than an ill-advised tweet. That said, traditional diplomacy and predictability of the United States went out the window on January 20, 2017, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that we’ve got two school yard bullies eyeballing each other across the Pacific.

I worked out my anxiety on this subject in a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy worksheet (potential worries) today, after it popped into my head at 2 am and swirled around for a while, keeping me awake:

Situation: Trying to sleep, having circular thoughts about the possibility of WWIII or a massive conflict between North Korea and the United States.

Anxiety level: 20%

Cognitive Distortions: Catastrophizing, Overestimating the threat (a subjective measure)

Cognitive Restructuring: What could I do to change this (nothing), what could I do to prepare for the worst-case scenario (nothing)?

Balanced Thought: Even though the possibility of a large-scale conflict between two powerful nations exists, there is nothing I can do to control it.

While this is a somewhat silly, over-the-top worry, I brought it up in group (presented as a silly worry) to address the balanced thought I ended with – that there is nothing I can do. I was ultimately asked a question that answered my concern with the balanced thought: did it ease your anxiety?

It did. My anxiety disappeared, and I got to sleep. Thinking about all the other stuff Trump tweets about, of course, wouldn’t help. But even in those instances of social injustice that he is creating, there are solutions that can be taken every day – such as joining or donating to important non-profits, supporting people of ostracized racial, religious, or sexual identification communities, and making sure to tweet unflattering pictures of the orange one.

The lesson for me here was that although we may be on the brink of a nuclear apocalypse, I may as well cuddle a puppy and get some rest – because when tomorrow (probably) comes, there’s going to be a lot of work to do.

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