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How to Survive the Post-Election Stress

Nov 9, 2016

“You win some, you lose some.” It’s an old adage that warns against taking defeat to heart, but this year’s presidential election seems to defy that logic. Most people agree this may be the most passionately divided electorate in memory.

The majority of Americans are waking up today feeling like “they’ve won,” while others are rising with the knowledge, “they’ve lost” and can’t fathom the possibility of failure for their chosen candidate. So, how does one cope if the election didn’t go their way?

Jennifer Skinner, a licensed professional counselor with Kettle Morraine Counseling in West Bend, Wis., has some ideas. Here are her suggestions for surviving the election and beyond:

1. “Keep everything in perspective.” The role of President is important, but thanks to the U.S. Constitution, the concept of “checks and balances” spreads power over three branches of government. Elections may seem like life or death to us, but the reality is the U.S. government is built with layers of accountability.

2. “Learn basic relaxation techniques, like deep, methodical breathing, to keep yourself in control.” It may sound simple, but the act of taking deep breaths has a positive physiological effect. The human body cannot co-exist in both the sympathetic state, “fight or flight,” and the parasympathetic state, “non-threatened, and relaxed.” Learning this technique can keep your parasympathetic system active, and not anxiety-ridden or panicked.

3. “Don’t wallow.” Go ahead, and feel disappointed if things didn’t work out the way you wanted, but then get on with your life. The sooner you return to taking part in activities you enjoy, the better.

4. “Take action. Advocate.” Nothing will bring you out of the doldrums faster than working for the causes that are important to you. Volunteer to make a difference in the areas that attracted you to your candidate, and work towards the change you want to see.

5. “Kick your endorphins into gear!” Take care of yourself. Go for a massage. Take a yoga class. Try out a float tank. At a minimum, go for a walk to help you feel better. Exercise can help turn your mood around quickly.

6. “Look for the humor.” Laughing 10 minutes a day has benefits that can last all day. Find things that amuse you and surround yourself with them.

7. “Don’t drown your sorrows.” You probably know alcohol is a depressant, but that doesn’t stop people from drinking to feel better. Watch your alcohol intake always, but particularly when you’re feeling most vulnerable.

8. “Be curious.” Listen to the people who took the other side of issues. Is there something to learn from them? What was their perspective and what led them to their decision?

9. “Take politics off the holiday dinner table.” If you truly feel like your family cannot safely discuss politics, then it’s best to agree ahead of time that this is not a welcomed topic of conversation during this holiday season.

10. “If you really can’t let it go, seek professional help.” There are times in life when talking to someone about your feelings is the healthiest course of action. Don’t be afraid to open up. It can really help.

Skinner says feeling passionately about elections is normal, but we also need to focus on our well being and the health of our relationships with the people we work with, live with, and interact with every day.

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