9 Safe & Productive Ways To Unleash Your Anger About The Election Results
The last few days have been rough. I never thought that a political race could cause so much strife between families, friends, and other relationships. Still, there are ways to unleash your anger over the election without hurting yourselves or the people you care about. And while we may not be able to control the result of national politics, we do have control over how we heal our emotional experience, Dr. Deb Sandella, author of Goodbye, Hurt & Pain, tells Bustle.
Ever since Donald Trump became the president-elect, I've been going through bouts of different emotions, ranging from anger to fear to grief, all of which are normal reactions toward an unpredictable future, according to Sandella. At times, I feel like the feminism movement has taken a huge step back. Other times, I'm enraged at the mere thought that white man with zero political experience (and who has spewed out an abundance of racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist remarks over the past several months, even years) could actually win over an overly qualified woman who has dedicated her entire life toward serving all Americans. Just the thought makes my blood boil.
But anyway, back to tips for unleashing your anger in a healthy way. No matter what, nobody should be giving explicit instruction about how or what to feel, because different people deal with a loss in different ways (and yes, many people see Hillary Clinton's defeat in the election as a huge loss). And it can be even more difficult to be surrounded by people who advocated for the very same issues or candidates that you're against.
Here are some non-harmful ways to deal with the anger, sadness, stress, and other strong emotions you may be feeling after the election:
1. Have Discussions In Person Rather Than Online
The majority of my Facebook friends are Clinton supporters like me, but I also know people who voted for Trump. As tempting as it may be to lash out on social media (especially if you're seeing disrespectful or trivializing posts about your preferred candidate), don't. "Social media is not the place to process anger related to the election because it can easily generate competitiveness and judgment rather than emotional safety," Sandella says. "The intensity of feelings through and following this election is unprecedented and requires personal connection initially with those who are like-minded and eventually with those who aren’t."
Instead, consider meeting with people in person to talk about your frustrations. Start out discussing your thoughts with like-minded friends and others who have similar sentiments, "solely for the purpose of emptying anger, similar to taking out the garbage," Sandella says. Any anger you harbor inside needs to be externalized, and that shouldn't happen through posting on social media, since you can't filter out responses from potential trolls.
Bottom line: Don't start a fight on a platform where you can't see (or worse, don't even know) the other person.
2. Write Everything Down
A great way to express your anger in an inconsequential way is to write it all down on paper — without censoring yourself. "Let the raw emotion fill the page — the paper receives your feelings without judgment or harm," Sandella says. "You can throw the paper away, shred it, burn it or save it, whatever feels right to you." So you want to spew out the "F" word on paper as many times as you want? Permission granted.
Sometimes, the best way to alleviate your anger is simply to sit somewhere quietly and meditate. There are many different forms of meditation, such as silently repeating a specific mantra or breathing in a rhythmic pattern. Here's a personal favorite: I like to sit by myself in a cool, dimly lit room, close my eyes and concentrate on getting rid of any thoughts in my mind. Instead, I focus on being aware of my surroundings and my physical being by relying on my body's basic senses (touch, smell, taste).
If it's too tough to keep my mind blank and get rid of racing thoughts, I take extra care to not be too harsh on myself. I simply acknowledge the thought as it comes, and then let it pass through my mind. I find that pushing back and judging myself for "not succeeding" at meditation will only make it more difficult to relax.
Once you've finished a meditation session, you may find that it's much easier to think rationally and talk with other people.
4. Take It Out On Your Pillow
For some, writing, talking and even meditating isn't enough. People who learn and heal best through moving their bodies are considered to be kinesthetic, or body-centered, according to Sandella. "Safe physical expressions of anger can be throwing eggs at a tree, punching your pillow or a vigorous walk or workout with an intention of release," she suggests for these folks.
5. Talk To Family And Friends With Kindness
First and foremost, let your loved ones that you're upset. Ask for patience and compassion during this time. You shouldn't have to talk about the election until you're mentally and emotionally ready. When you want to start talking about it, however, Sandella says it's important to not alienate people who matter the most to you, even if you are on opposite sides of an issue. She suggests using "I" statements to get your most important points across without sounding like you're placing blame on another person. That way, the other person will be more receptive to what you have to say.
This is especially important if your loved ones voted for a different candidate and disagree with you on political issues. "Take time to process your anger separately — since they are not like-minded, expressing it with them isn’t a safe method. When your anger has dissolved and you are able to regain a sense of possibility for the future (like a woman president), you are ready to have an empathic exchange," Sandella says.
6. Schedule A Workout Session
It's no surprise that working out regularly can help stave off stress and prevent a whole host of health problems like heart disease. It turns out, exercising can actually help you handle anger better as well. So the next time you give a call to that one aunt who just doesn't seem to get where you're coming from, go on a run first. It'll help you control your emotions later on.
Here's the caveat: Don't go for an intense workout while you're simmering with anger. There's some research that suggests angry exercise could be a recipe for heart attacks or other health problems, due to an increased heart rate and blood pressure. So just in case, better to take it easy. Exercising can be as simple as, for instance, walking to work instead of taking the train.
7. Visualize Better Times
During a time like this when it feels like everything is hopeless, close your eyes and imagine what a better world would look like. Remind yourself of all the times that our society has made progress, and just believe that things will get better. The truth is, there is always something to be optimistic about but that becomes infinitely easier to work toward if you have hope that better times are still ahead.
After all, as Clinton said in her concession speech, "Our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek."
8. Spend Time With Your Pets
For those of you who love being around furry creatures, animal therapy may be the best way for you to calm down. Animals provide a certain degree of unconditional love and social support that you may not get from other people, who can easily argue or judge for whatever reason. So whether it's guilt, outrage or grief that you're feeling as a result of the election, cuddling with your cat, dog, or hamster will hopefully make you feel better, at least temporarily.
Don't have any pets? Looking up images of "cute baby otters" on Google should do the trick. You're welcome.
9. Channel Your Feelings Into Actions That Can Make A Difference
So you've written your thoughts down, talked things out and even punched your pillow. Chances are, you may still have some residual anger. Why not channel that energy toward the causes you care the most about?
For instance, consider donating toward a soon-to-be-vulnerable organization, like singer-songwriter Katy Perry did when she donated $10,000 to Planned Parenthood. Or join a peaceful protest, perhaps, or start a petition like this one to make your voice heard. No matter what, you can always do something to show your support for those who need your help.
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