How to Stop Politics From Wrecking Your Dinner-

If the dinner table already feels like a battlefield because you are recovering from an eating disorder, the addition of politics at the table can feel terrifying.

Add holiday stress to the polarizing political climate of 2020 and it is no wonder many warriors are anxious about the upcoming weeks.

This season you will probably encounter loved ones who hold different political opinions than you. Passions can run high when politics are brought up. And, if you are highly empathetic and sensitive like many warriors, these mealtimes may feel even scarier.

If you are stressed about navigating intense political conversations, please know you are not alone. Politics do not have to wreck your meal this year. Below are some suggestions to help you through a meal when politics shows up at the table.

 1. Take a Few Deep Breaths and Ground Yourself

If you find your heartbeat racing and feel an urge to argue your political viewpoints, try taking a few deep breaths and ground yourself first. Focusing on your breathing, noticing how the chair supports you, and putting attention to the way your feet feel on the ground are concrete ways to ground yourself. Identifying three things you see, hear, smell, and feel in the moment can also help.

When you intentionally take steps to ground yourself in difficult moments, you can calm your nervous system and gain strength from your center.

If you feel moved to voice your political opinion, grounding can give you the strength to stand your ground.

2. Use Your Voice

Finding and using your voice are important parts of recovery. When it comes to standing firm about your values and truths, you have every right to state your beliefs. If you are compelled to express your opinions, allow yourself the freedom to speak from your heart. Remember to avoid attacking or making arguments personal while speaking. Learning to speak assertively is a skill that takes time and practice. Speaking your mind and sharing your truths can be a way to strengthen your recovery skills and sense of self.

3. Set Boundaries 

It may sound scary for someone in recovery, but learning to set boundaries is an important skill to develop. 

You have the choice to disengage from a discussion especially if it becomes hurtful or abusive.

Sometimes saying, “I am not going to talk about this right now,” is the best way to take care of yourself during a political discussion.

4. Change the Subject

Redirecting the conversation can be a solution to stressful discussions.  Before you see friends and relatives, think of some questions you are curious about. What are some topics you have in common or funny memories you have shared? Consider aspects of your life you would enjoy talking about. Going into a gathering with a plan of possible discussion topics can ease anxiety and empower you to change the subject if needed. 

5.  Practice Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion can be a game-changer when recovering from an eating disorder. This practice, developed by Kristin Neff, Ph.D., and Christopher Germer, Ph.D. combines mindfulness, recognizing common humanity, and learning to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.  Mindful Self Compassion can not only increase resilience and cultivate overall wellbeing but also help you sit through uncomfortable situations.  When you are in a painful moment, try placing your hand on your heart, taking a few deep breaths, and repeating a mantra in your head. One helpful phrase is, “Everyone is on their own path.” Reminding yourself of this truth during a stressful political discussion can be very helpful.

6. Focus on Gratitude

Focusing attention on gratitude can shift your mind during a hard moment.  If you find yourself amidst a heated political debate, is it possible to pivot your thoughts and recognize one positive thing at that moment?

Silently naming three things you are grateful for in any given moment can powerfully shift your attention.

Gratitude is a skill that can develop over time with with practice.

7.  Remember It Won’t Last Forever

During intense moments it can be very helpful to remember that no matter how difficult a situation is, it is temporary. Know that you can make it through an uncomfortable moment because you are a strong and resilient warrior.

“Don’t let the behaviors of others destroy your inner peace.”

Dalai Lama

While you cannot control the opinions or thoughts of your loved ones, you can use all of the skills you have developed in recovery to get through any difficult meal. Even if politics show up at the table.

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