What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?


Donald Trump’s use of that phrase to persuade African-Americans to support him was nothing short of astonishingly cynical. We all know how he only cares about one man of color and that’s thanks to his tanning bed. Yet despite his devil-may-care attitude, there are plenty of people in America who are just a little perplexed and worried about the direction this country is taking, as evidenced by this otherworldly presidential campaign.

One longstanding way of measuring the impact the world has on its inhabitants is by keeping in touch with America’s two most iconic advice columnists, Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers. Interestingly enough, these identical twins were born and raised in the city where I currently live. Nonetheless, these two acted as societal canaries-in-a-coalmine insofar as what appears in their column speaks to a larger uncomfortable community condition, chafing at us as we try to make it to our daily finish line.

The Dear Abby column was headlined: “Woman copes with anxiety by filtering out bad news.” The writer signed her letter as “Serious Guilt.” Apparently, she had to have her husband act as gatekeeper regarding her daily news input, which should never include events that could trigger an anxiety attack. Finally, she wanted to know if she should feel guilty about prioritizing her mental health over and above her need to be an educated citizen.

Abby, of course, told her she should never sacrifice her health to a seemingly endless set of tumultuous news headlines. Abby added that the number of folks using medications to combat anxiety and depression stands at 13%. Her advice, ultimately, was not to feel guilty about missing some new salacious news story but rather protect yourself from the onslaught.

The point here is if this type of problem shows up in a Dear Abby column then others are likely to be in the same boat. I know it’s been difficult at times coping with this long and winding campaign and its downright nastiness. Let’s not forget the only important poll numbers that truly speak to our angst are their unfavorability scores, which can easily cause a person to be a little anxious about what to do between now and Election Day. Furthermore, because we care so little for the candidates as human beings, we can easily get a little nervous about this country’s future.

With that in mind, let me be so bold as to give my own advice to anyone feeling the pinch. As a former Certified Peer Specialist in the mental health field, I have learned several techniques whereby we can cancel many of those feelings of being so adrift.

First, limit yourself to no more than two hours watching the news. No matter what anyone says, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference among those outlets. As far as your phone and your computer, turn them off two hours a day. You won’t miss a thing. Stay off social media, particularly Twitter, two hours a day. Now that you’ve freed up two to six hours of your day, you have extra time to indulge in the more important parts of life.

Perhaps you can get extra sleep. Perhaps you’ll be more productive at work. Perhaps you can spend more time with the people you love instead of those you can’t stand (Trump and Clinton). Or perhaps you can simply step outside and revel in the moment.

What the hell do you have to lose?

Eric Blumberg is a former radio news reporter and talk show host who now teaches communications and writing at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City. See ericblumberg.net.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2016


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