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Coping In Times of Change: Negotiating a Shifting Political Landscape

As we reflect on local, national, and international events this past year, particularly recent political events, we at the Eastern Kentucky University Counseling Center want to affirm that our doors are open to ALL EKU STUDENTS.

As an agency, the EKU Counseling Center is committed to the promotion and celebration of diversity in all of its forms. We are a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and multi-theoretical staff striving to provide culturally competent clinical services, outreach programming, and training opportunities. We recognize that not all diversity is universally valued. For this reason, we feel a special obligation as a mental health agency to affirm diversity, to condemn oppression in every form and to encourage the utilization of our services by all students, including those that might be reluctant to receive standard/traditional forms of treatment. To this end we seek to provide a safe, welcoming and affirming environment for all persons that seek our services.

The current divisive climate has been evocative for many of our students, staff and faculty. Many in our community have been impacted by larger political events to an extent that it has impeded their ability to thrive or led them to feel unsafe on campus. If we are not safe, it is hard for us to make progress in our individual goals. For individuals struggling with a friend group or family members who are politically divided, this can feel particularly stressful.

Ways to cope that are helpful for some people:

If possible, continue with your routine and engage in healthy activities.  Take care of yourself and then you can take care of your community! When we are overwhelmed with anxiety, sadness, and anger, it is critical to take good care of oneself.  If possible, maintain your usual routine and find ways to incorporate healthy ways to be connected and participate in activities that provide balance in your life.

Make sure you are safe. In times of distress, remember to take care of yourself.  Spend time with people that you feel comfortable with.  Enjoy activities that make you feel purposeful and engaged, spend time with loved ones and focus on the positive elements of your relationships.   

Pay attention to your feelings, emotions and your emotional needs. There are various ways that we experience intense emotional reactions to large scale events. Some may experience anger, pain and fear. Know your feelings are real. When we experience something that overwhelms us and makes us feel out of control, we can have reactions that impact our daily functioning.

Be mindful of your exposure to the news and media. While some may find being informed empowering, others may find frequent exposure to news and media distressing. Alternatively, this may be a good time to learn more about other people, the world around you and yourself - and commit to social action in ways that are consistent with your values.

Engage your community. Taking action can be a positive reaction to dealing with stress.  Explore options in your community and campus for ways to voice your concerns and worries in a healthy way. Some may find donating or volunteering to causes they feel passionate about, participating in peaceful protests or engaging with like-minded individuals can be useful.    

Others may reach out to local representatives.  Make sure you are heard by calling or writing to your state and U.S. Senators.

Link to full list of Kentucky U.S. Senators and Reps: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/KY

Reach out for help. If current events continue to impact your anxiety, mood, sense of safety, and daily functioning, please reach out for help.  There are many resources available to campus to help you in this vulnerable time.   We have several options to get help here at the EKU Counseling Center.  Please feel to reach out for support.

(Adapted from University of Michigan- CAPS)

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