Note to Congress: Don’t Panic!

By Marianne Clyde

Panic in Washington creates less productivity, rather than more. The Congress has a list of things to accomplish, important things, in a very short amount of time. With only 12 official workdays this month, the pressure is on. Yes, there is a lot to do, but as our legislators, you must not panic.

Christopher Bergland, in an article in Psychology Today, explains the decision-making process as “the cognitive process of making a choice between a number of possible alternatives that often involves weighing the risks, rewards, and consequences of your actions.” He explains that this process is short-circuited by anxiety. Difficult emotions such as anger, fear, and dread can lead to anxiety and panic.

The Washington Post said in a recent article, “GOP lawmakers are still bruised and angry over the dramatic failure of their most recent push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.” Feelings of defeat and frustration do not create a good environment in which to negotiate and make good decisions. Fear of losing job security arises when both sides understand that many of these decisions will have to be dependent on compromise with the opposing party. Politicians are often fearful that compromise or working with the other party makes them look weak. A strong, secure leader knows that compromise is essential to make any headway at all.

It is almost impossible to make good decisions under duress. And working on Capitol Hill is essentially a synonym for stress and pressure. Dr. Lantie Jorandby, Board Certified Psychiatrist, Amen Clinics, Washington, DC, warns that when there is chronic stress, the cortisol hormone is constantly released and can actually cause harm to the body and the brain. Chronic stress on the brain can contribute to moodiness, irritability and even impulsive actions or reactions.” So what can be done to limit this kind of reactivity?

First of all, it’s more productive to discuss topics of great importance and gravity if you are talking to someone you trust and respect, even if you disagree with him. Yes, I’m sure there are some weasels and sharks in either house, but most are good decent people who really want to do what’s best for the county. So the first thing to do under such pressure, if you are going to make any assumptions, is to assume that you are speaking to people of good will, and respect them for that. If an opponent is being viewed as an enemy and approached with attack mode, the normal response is to fight back. No listening takes place. No compromise is accomplished. The American people that they claim to want to help get nothing. Approach each other as a team, elected for the same purpose: To do what’s in the best interest of the country. Even though there are differing views about that, there are many places of overlap. Seek those out.

Secondly, practicing healthy coping mechanisms in the presence of stress is essential. You can’t be hanging on to anger, resentment or fear. You must learn to let that stuff go and deal only with the issue at hand. When you garbage dump all issues together, you just get a stinky mess and it’s difficult to stay on topic and focus on the immediate need. Some healthy coping mechanisms include, taking a few minutes to breath deeply, taking a short walk, and going outside if you can. Resist judging someone else’s intentions. It just muddies the water. If you have a question, ask it.  If you have an opinion, state it calmly and confidently. Be more interested in listening than in being right. You may just hear a point of agreement, giving you a starting place for creating compromise or effective solutions.

Do everything you can to cultivate peace of mind. “Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions…” (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.) One good way to do this is to meditate each day. Meditation helps your brain work more efficiently, so if you think you don’t have time, that’s when you really need it most, even if just for a few minutes. Establishing a practice of gratitude also helps.  This doesn’t need to take any extra time, although it can if you wish. What I encourage people to do, is to start your day thinking, not of what could go wrong, but what you are grateful for, and end the day the same way. Just the fact that we live in a country where this type of debate is an option is a major reason to be grateful.

Do not take anything personally. Even a personal attack on your character, really has nothing to do with you, but rather has everything to do with the unresolved issues in the mind of the attacker. Once you can learn to deflect those kinds of things without reacting, is a huge milestone toward sanity. Being reactive is a primal response to an actual threat of danger. Being responsive is an intelligent thoughtful action after considering all options. Don’t take the bait. A confident, centered leader does not waste time on diversions such as this.

We, the people, need strong confident leaders, unafraid and solution focused. To be that kind of leader, you can’t get caught up in the weeds, the emotions of the moment, the overwhelm of chaotic circumstances, the pettiness of offense and partisanism.  While everyone else is watching from the sidelines, judging, nit picking, criticizing, we need you to stay focused, centered and clear-headed so you can be the leaders you were elected to be.

Just breathe…


Marianne Clyde is an expert in Mental Health in the workplace. Speaking to businesses and associations about empowerment, team building and relationship networking, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in practice for over 27 years, energizing speaker and dauntless world traveller. She lived in Japan for over 8 years and has spent time in at least 20 developing countries, teaching about recovery from trauma, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships.

She has met with child soldiers, amputees and rebel army leaders in Sierra Leone, visited with victims of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, taught doctoral students in Afghanistan about the effects of stress on mental health and spoken to large gatherings in Pakistan after visiting with earthquake victims in the Northwest Frontier. After partnering with the former Ambassador from Malawi to Japan, to establish village maize gardens and other projects, the Ambassador had this to say, “Marianne is an excellent trauma counselor, networker, change agent and revolutionary. Through her initiatives, the poor children and women of Malawi have realized new lives. Child mortality has been mitigated by the provision of clean borehole water. Hospitals are no longer overcrowded by children who were admitted due to hookworms. School going rates have doubled as no child is soaked while at school. In return Malawian women call Marianne ANAPHIRI meaning a woman from the great clan.”

She has written and published numerous articles, appeared on radio and television worldwide, commenting on topics ranging from gun violence to having a happy marriage. Host and producer of her own TV shows, she has also hosted a call in radio show and has produced Moments of Mindfulness Meditation CD.

After launching 2 best-selling books, Peaceful Parenting: 10 Essential Principles and Un-Leashed: Practical Steps to Get Your Life Unstuck, she has now released her most powerful book to date, Zentivity™: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace. As chaos, reactivity and polarization reign, whether your workplace is in politics, business or home, she recognizes and advocates for mental health in the workplace. She encourages readers to establish a strong internal locus of control, so as not to get knocked off balance by the winds of opinion, changes in the economy or upheaval in politics. Only then, she asserts, can you truly make the changes that need to be made. Only then, can you even begin to be the leader you are called to be.

Marianne is the founder of the Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy, in Warrenton, VA, winner of the 2017 Best of Warrenton award, and also the founder of Be the Change Foundation empowering and equipping women in need to build successful home-based businesses.

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