How are you feeling 8 days following the shocking and emotionally draining election? Are you encouraged? Are you discouraged? Are you feeling like the future is uncertain? If so, you are not alone. Join the millions of protesters who feel their future, and the future of their children, are at stake. It’s amazing just how emotionally draining this election has been. Every 4 years the nation goes through the process of deciding to keep the current president or decide on a new Commander and Chief. But for some reason, this recent election has brought so many emotions to the forefront. I have seen at least over 20 clients in my office who are struggling with depression and anxiety over how the election has gone. They are afraid, uncertain, discouraged, confused, ashamed, fatigued, angry, etc. The list of emotions go on and on and on. What about for you?
This article will discuss 8 ways to overcome feelings of depression after the election.
The election truly feels like a holiday. When it comes around, people from all over the world tune in, on the nights of the Presidential Debates, and watch hours of the left and the right discuss matters important to us all. Many people invite family and friends over during the debates and take a personal or vacation day during the day of the election results. Some people take long trips to meet Presidential Candidates in person or make voting at the polls their #1 priority. Elections truly influence us all, whether you want to be apart of them or not. Sadly, individuals seeking therapy to learn coping skills and to discuss things that affect them in their personal lives, often discuss the election during sessions in hopes of gaining a different perspective, of getting a therapist’s input, or learning ways to cope with different perspectives. Unfortunately, my clients are not the only ones negatively affected by the election. Many of us, including mental health professionals, are trying to rebound.
Because the past few days of my life have included me discussing ways my clients (and I) can overcome strong emotions and supporting my colleagues in doing the same, I have listed some things we all can do to rebound from this election:
- Make a difference where you are/can: It is important that we, as a people, dedicate ourselves (peacefully, that is) to making a difference in our world in whatever capacity we can. Life is tough. We all need each other in order to progress in positive ways. If we reach out to each other in love and compassion, we can move forward together. We must find common ground so that we can agree to disagree, live with each other’s views and opinions, and make the changes that need to be made.
- Openly discuss this with your therapist: The discussion of politics truly keeps people uptight and uncertain. To be frank, your political position is no one’s business except your own and those you choose to tell. But you should feel comfortable enough to bring up the topic of politics with your therapist. He or she may not receive your questions or views well. However, you can always ask to discuss your feelings without sharing too much information that may negatively affect your therapeutic relationship. For example, some of my clients have asked me how I would suggest they cope with the way things are now. Whatever position you hold, our nation is in an uproar because of feelings of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. My suggestions include what I am discussing in this article. It is also important that I mention that you should accept your therapist’s position as his or her own position and stay away from making judgments. You should also be comfortable with your therapist telling you that they would prefer you not discuss politics.
- Find ways to model sensitivity and acceptance: I must admit that I see a lot of people trying their best to reach out, be kind, and create an environment of peace. Whether it is a smile, a nod, laughter, a kind word, holding open a door in public, or simply offering a kind gesture, it is obvious. Have you seen a difference in how people are treating you or treating someone else?
- Strive to remain at peace with yourself: Some people may feel guilty for voting a certain way and suffer from feelings of regret or uncertainty. Some people may be angry with right-wing-ers who support only the republican vote. Others may be angry with their own party. However you may feel, it is important to find some internal peace with where you are. This process will include the following suggestions.
- Allow yourself to grieve: Grieving the “loss” of someone you supported and truly believed in could feel like the loss of a loved one or respected friend to death. The hope that you had may be diminished now and the motivation you maintained for the many days of the electoral period may be gone. Allow yourself to process your emotions and your thoughts. Shy away from judging yourself or anyone else who may be struggling with this. It is okay. It is normal to grieve that which you hold dear to you.
- Rise: Although you may feel overwhelmed, defeated, uncertain, or afraid, rise. Rise to the occasion(s) before us. We have tons of work to do and we can’t do it alone. We need each and everyone to work together in order to make the changes we desire as a nation. No great work is ever done alone or without challenges. The challenges ahead will require cohesiveness and peace. Once you allow yourself to grieve, discuss it, and toss it around in your head, rise. Allow the nation’s decision to spring-board you into the future.
- Consider medication or medication adjustment: This election has truly created high and tense emotions. Consider medication. It may sound somewhat strange for me to suggest that you consider medication or consider getting medication increased. But the reason I mention this is because the election, depending on what side you voted for, can truly feel like a personal lifestyle change. Everything can feel different including the people you love and care about. Some people have gotten into really bad arguments over the election. Why? Because there are high emotions and intense reactions to every part of the election process. Medication can be helpful to those feeling extremely depressed and anxious, unable to sleep or even function in daily life. You don’t have to take medication for long periods of time and/or at high doses. You can explain to your doctor (psychiatrist or PCP) that you feel medication would help take the edge off or keep you focused until you can feel good again.
- Engage in self-care: Self-care can include anything from exercise, sports, or dance to hot showers/baths, gardening, music, etc. Whatever makes you feel calmer or more in control of your life, do it. As long as the “self-care” is healthy and does not involve long-term negative effects (i.e., such as with alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.), I encourage you to do it. A little pampering of yourself is allowed every now and then.
What has been your experience during the election process? What are you hoping happens? Are you observing a change in yourself or those around you?
As always, I look forward to speaking with you and hearing your perspective.
I wish you well