What to Do When You Want to Protest But Panic and Anxiety Get in the Way

Under the best of circumstances, a protest can be a stressful experience. It’s impossible to know who and how many will turn out. The marching or sign-holding or chanting may draw the attention of law enforcement officials or possibly, counter-protests. Passions are high all around. All of these factors are exaggerated in the face of a pandemic. Adding to all this turmoil is the prevalence of anxiety in the U.S. — a condition that can be triggered by any of the factors mentioned above. What is someone with anxiety to do? What’s the “right” choice if you feel strongly about an issue?

No Peace With Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion. Think of it as a form of fear that focuses mostly on the future. In some instances, anxiety can be both normal and positive. But it can become a disorder if it persists, brings on physical symptoms, and begins your daily functions.

Anxiety can be triggered by major events and realities like a global health crisis and/or systemic racism. However, anxiety may not always inspire the most rational, useful responses to such situations. It can impair your ability to make mindful choices about the actions needed to be taken.

No Justice, No Peace

You may feel frustration and anger related to the treatment of people of color. The images of protests encourage and inspire you. But the thought of participating feels daunting, thanks to your anxiety. Whether you are a person of color or a white ally, it may not be as simple as showing up. But, when has the struggle for justice ever been simple?

How to Do Justice to Your Anxiety and Your Civic Duty

Take the Big Picture View

Progress is any realm — personally or globally — requires time and patience. Choose wisely when moving forward. Honor your needs and triggers as you honor the needs of others. Also, never forget that there is much more to activism than protest marches. Each minute of each day is an opportunity to make an impact. This can happen on a one-to-one level and it can happen using digital technology.

Exposure Therapy

Working with your counselor (see below), you can devise a plan to face up to your fears. This is not about recklessly diving into a panic-inducing situation. Rather, you work together to understand what you fear and why. From there, you can methodically work toward two powerful goals: managing your anxiety and doing your part to bring about a much-needed change in our society.

Radical Self-Care

A term popularized by legendary African-American activist, Angela Davis, “radical self-care” is your way of balancing your personal needs with the common good of your community. Generally, this may pertain to sleep patterns, eating habits, daily activity, or stress management. Most of all, radical self-care helps bring out the best in you which is exactly what the world needs!

Collective Efforts Work With Both Protests and Mental Health

Finally, social change has occurred when groups of people unite in the name of justice. It’s never a solo act. When it comes to addressing your anxiety disorder, teamwork is also highly recommended. Regular therapy with a trained professional is a proven path toward results. Obsolete patterns are identified and discarded. New approaches are explored. Progress is made. Even in the time of social distancing, you can find the counseling you need via video chat.

A protest movement may be comprised of thousands — even millions — of individuals. To join in on such efforts, it may help to simultaneously do the work you need to do on yourself. Please read more about anxiety counseling and contact me to find out more about teletherapy and how effective it can be in managing your concerns. Regular therapy sessions can turn into your own personal revolution.