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"There's A Lot Of Uncertainty": Self Care In A Volatile Political Climate

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

President Trump laid out his agenda before Congress on Tuesday night, and while he appeared to take a softer approach, some are not buying it. Many are having problems coping with the new administration in day-to-day life.

In a recent study by the American Psychological Association, 57 percent of respondents said the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. Much of that traced back to Donald Trump’s election and campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

In his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, the President did not mention any changes in his immigration plan. Instead, he appeared to double down.

“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” said Trump. “The office is called VOICE – Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.”

For Dr. Kevin Moser, a psychologist who counsels immigrants, the Donald Trump campaign and fledgling presidency are nothing like he’s seen before – either here or abroad. Moser watches the Trump news stories each day, thinking how the President’s words and deeds are going to affect people in general and Moser’s clients in particular.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Pensacola psychologist Dr. Kevin Moser

“I’ve had clients kind of in tears, and scared; it’s a tough situation as a counselor to know exactly what to say,” said Moser. “I think one of my major jobs is to give people a sense of hope; to help them see that there is a way out. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

One of the challenges Moser faces in working with clients who have “Trump Trauma,” is how to quantify the scope of mental anguish being dealt with. Moser says while he loves his country, he also feels a bit of uncertainty on a personal level with which he must deal.

“I try that quality of empathy, where we try to put ourselves in the position and maybe in the shoes of another,” Moser said. “And I sense there’s a good bit of fear.”

Whether it’s caused by Donald Trump, or financial problems, illness, a threat to one’s legal status, or any of a myriad of issues, Moser says the stress generated potentially can damage relationships. But he adds that there’s a lot of data out there that can provide answers to many of their questions.

“We live in a wonderful age, where there’s a lot of good research on even the neuropsychology coming out now, and we internalize the stress,” said Moser. “There’s not so much of a distinction between the mind [and] body. I would also throw in the soul; they’re so connected.”

So – bottom line – how can people – immigrants and citizens, adults and kids – handle Donald Trump in the White House over the next four years? Moser says what works for adults can also work with children.

“It’s so important to normalize things like anxiety [and] feelings of sadness, to make them realize that it’s part of life,” said Moser. ‘If it’s extreme, it needs to be dealt with. A lot of anxiety is anticipatory; we’re worried about something that’s going to happen. So the more we can talk about it and share that, and get those emotions out – the healthier we’ll be.”

Another way to deal with all things Trump, says Dr. Kevin Moser, is somewhat basic: encouraging folks to reach out with kindness to minorities -- especially Latinos and others in the President’s immigration crosshairs.