15 Ways To Cope With Post-Election Stress
So, it happened. Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. If you're anything like me you're sitting here confused, betrayed, sleep deprived, angry, hurt, and clutching your eighth caffeinated beverage of the day. It still feels surreal, but it's the reality. And this election just feels like the culmination and cementing of so much negativity, so much divisiveness, so much hate, it can be easy to feel like just giving up. Don't.
So what can you do if you're feeling absolutely hopeless? "Remind yourself this is not a doomsday situation," Ken Yeager, Director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. "Remember the president is one part of a very large and complex political system of checks and balances. Not all of the doom and gloom is likely to happen."
So, first things first, we all need to de-stress after this election. If we are going to have constructive next steps, we need to clear our heads first. I know that the the temptation is to roll up in ball under a blanket and pretend it's not happening, but that will just make it worse in the long run. And there are so many things you can do to cope with the stress and disappointment of this election — things that will maybe make today feel just a little more OK.
"If you are dealing with election stress and/or disappointment, I highly recommend limiting your time on social media," Nikki Leigh, Love Coach and Host of Ready for Love Radio, tells Bustle. "If you check your Facebook timeline and start complaining or commiserating it will certainly make you feel worse. So, its a great day to put down the devices and do something different. Treat yourself to something special — consider it an election gift for getting through a tough season or just put on your favorite movie and forget about the election craziness for a little while."
Here are some more ways to deal with post-election stress, because here we are:
1. Stay Close To The Ones You Love
Touching base with people who make you feel comfortable and good about yourself is always helpful. "As it became clear early on that Trump was more and more likely to become our next president I, along with most everyone I knew, was stunned and devastated," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "Waking up this morning was no better. I had to tell my 9-year-old son that our country did not elect the first female president but rather the first reality TV star president. I also had to reassure him, and myself, that the world will go on... My advice to him, myself, and you is to turn towards your friends and family."
You don't have to do anything in particular, but it's reassuring to have the company.
2. Use A Mantra
Sometimes just a few inspiring words can help ground you. "No matter how little joy you may feel right now, try to do something that spreads joy, either for yourself or for others," Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, tells Bustle. "...Mantras can be so useful when coping with stress that seems extreme. Whether your mantra focuses on hope, acceptance, or another positive feeling, don't underestimate the power of words that we tell ourselves."
3. Take A Step Back
I get the urge to be glued to your phone or TV, refreshing news coverage. Hell, it's what I've been doing the past 15 hours. But you need to know when enough is enough. "If you are feeling scared, enraged, upset, or otherwise distressed, recognize when you've had enough and consider what you can do to feel better," Amsellem tells Bustle. "When you realize you're hitting an uncomfortable level of discomfort, surround yourself with calm. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and don't go online for a little while. Turn on some music, take a bath, take the dog for a walk, or listen to a meditation app. Breathe. Whatever it is that brings you calm, take that moment of calm unapologetically."
4. Get Outside
I know this might not seem like the most appealing thing right now, but take it from me. I met a friend for a coffee this morning before work and, even though I was staggering around on no sleep, the fresh air definitely helped. More than that, though, it helped to see that the world was still turning, the things were still happening. It gave me some perspective.
5. Stop The Thought Cycle
"If your anxiety is an expert, it has you going way in advance, so to combat this you will need tools to break the cycle of anxious thoughts," Mendi Baron, LCSW, and founder/owner of several teen treatment centers in Southern California and New York, tells Bustle. "One of the popular ones is to picture a large red stop sign whenever anxiety provoking thoughts enter your head. Other options include changing scenery, engaging in enjoyable physical or mental outlets, or engaging in self care like a bath or massage or listening to music."
6. Do Some Good
Just because you might feel like America hasn't lived up to its potential this election, doesn't mean you can't. Hold yourself to a high standard. "Continue to do good in the world, help others less fortunate than yourself, and try to live up the ideals that you were hoping to find in your president," Hartstein tells Bustle. "Embrace the values of community and social justice that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been working tirelessly for during their political careers. We might not have been successful in putting them in the white house, this time around, but each and every one of us can be successful in putting these values to work in our own lives and our own communities."
7. Take Care Of Yourself
You might not be on your best form today and that's just fine. "Don't forget to take care of yourself," Amsellem tells Bustle. "Go easy on yourself if you are feeling sluggish in your work day or underperforming today. Take a break, take a breath, and refocus." Don't expect to be performing 100 percent and don't be shy about cutting yourself a break.
8. Don't Catastrophize
I'm jumping to conclusions and you probably are too, but do your best to keep them under control. "If your favorite candidate didn’t win the election last night, your mind may be churning with stories based on fears and judgments," Joy Rains, Author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, tells Bustle. "The reality is that we don’t know what the future holds. Rather than imagining negative scenarios, try to stay in the immediacy of the present moment. Bring all your attention to a couple of complete breaths or to the soles of your feet where they connect with the ground to help you stay centered." There's no point in imagining the worst case scenario when it might never come to be.
9. Focus On What You're Grateful For
Yes, this is an incredibly difficult day, but there are so many things to still be grateful for. Focus on them. "Today, a large part of the country is in shock," psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. "We are deeply divided. As I travel the subway in NYC the sadness is heavy. Our election season coincides with the holidays and can be a tremendously difficult time for everyone... Relationships are what what lead to a happy and fulfilled life. Now more than ever we all need to cultivate happy personal and business relationships. Gratitude can also help mitigate depression. Taking the time to speak with people you love about what you are grateful for will help tremendously. I hope that we can be kind to everyone during this difficult transition. #RelationshipsMatterMost." Taking a moment to be grateful for the people and good things you have in your life can make all the difference.
10. Cool Off
This is definitely the weirdest relaxation tip on the list, but it might really help. "If the anxiety is becoming heightened and other methods are not serving to control it well try placing a cold rag/bag of ice/bag of frozen peas over the top half of your face (forehead to under the nose)," Tabitha Westbrook, LPCA, tells Bustle. "This triggers the mammalian dive reflex and tells your brain it needs to slow down. With the brain slow down, your body chemistry also slows down and the stress hormones begin to reabsorb into your blood stream."
11. Stick To Your Routine
The last thing I want to do is go for my daily run later. But I'm going to go for my daily run later. "I tell my clients not to let the election overtake them," Shemiah Derrick, M.A., Mental Health Therapist, tells Bustle. "There are a multitude of things that one individual person cannot control. I am urging them to stick to their routine — go to work, go to the gym, make dinner and do whatever they would on a normal day. This can help to give them control and provide a distraction over something they cannot." It may not feel like a real day today, but sticking to the things that work for you.
“Even just five minutes of mindful breathing can calm your nervous system and reduce stress," Jamie Price, Wellness Expert & Co-Founder of Stop, Breathe & Think meditation app, tells Bustle. "It also helps to name your emotions, which can have the effect of diminishing their force and intensity."
13. Be Kind
“Research has shown that focusing on acts of kindness can boost your sense of happiness and wellbeing," Price says. "If you take the time to look, you may find that acts of kindness are not as rare as you might think, especially during the election. Start taking a mental note of the acts of kindness that are occurring all around you, big and small. Let these acts of kindness inspire you to engage in some of your own. See if you can practice at least one act of kindness a day this week. If you’d like, you can try a guided audio meditation to strengthen your feelings of kindness.”
14. Feel Your Feelings
"Lean into the disappointment and the grief," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "Feel it. Cry it out. Get angry. You don't have to be positive today. You don't even have to be positive tomorrow. This healing is going to take time, and you don't need to rush it. You need to experience it."
Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. If you let yourself have a mini-meltdown, you'll feel purged and better afterward.
15. Focus On Your Next Move For Women
If there's one thing that this election has showed us, it's that the attitude toward women in the America is even worse than we though. Clinton's concession speech urged the importance of continuing to fight. "Once you have truly felt your grief, use it to compel you to fight for other women," Rogers tells Bustle. "Let this emotion guide you in your future endeavors. This is a major wake up call that our work is not done. We have a long way to go to prove to ourselves, each other, and the country that we are worth recognition for our hard work."
Like I said, today is tough. Let yourself be shocked and sad, but take care of yourself. Get yourself in a good head space and we'll be in a better place to figure out where to go from here.
Images: Hannah Burton/Bustle; Giphy