Emotional Health · Politics

After the Election: Tips for Finding a Way Forward

Many people woke up on November 9 shocked by the results of the presidential election the day before. Regardless of what side of the political divide you are on, this was not what most were expecting.  The results of the presidential election elicited a range of strong emotions — from elation on one side to fear, despair and grief on the other.  Where I live, in a blue county in a blue state, the day after dawned gray and rainy.  What I learned in the week after was that this was what was on everyone’s mind and each person needed to talk about it.  For a week, people brought up their response to the election in every therapy session I did.  Even teenagers, coming in for an initial evaluation, brought up how they and their parents were responding.  People needed to talk, to process, to work through how this might impact their lives. I found myself exhausted, reeling from the intense emotions — my own and others’. This was not sustainable. And, the truth is, while the acute reaction to this election may fade, the ripple effects will remain and no one knows quite what direction those ripples may take.

We need to find a way to move forward and support one another.  Here is what I am practicing:

  • Give yourself time to feel your feelings: The day after the election, my friends and I went out for what we called an unHappy Hour. We hugged, we talked, we sat quietly. We reminded ourselves how much we support one another — men and women, gay and straight, native-born and immigrants. We had all gone to work that day, held ourselves together, seen our patients and written our notes, but then we let ourselves recognize just how much this election had affected us. Give yourself the space to do that.
  • Take a break from social media: Honestly, part of everyone’s mental wellness plan should include time away from social media. While these platforms can connect and entertain, they also act as an echo chamber, amplifying and distorting emotions and facts alike. Although, over a week out, things have calmed down somewhat and many have returned to regularly scheduled posts of cats sitting in boxes, inflammatory posts and intense discussions abound.  I’ve witnessed my own friends, on the same side of the political spectrum, nearly come to virtual fisticuffs in a series of comments on a relatively benign Facebook post. A great deal of nuance and meaning gets lost via the keyboard and all of this can continue to grate on our frayed nerves.

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  • Tara Dillard November 21, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Read with curiosity. Looking for, at a minimum, a hint of the sacred amongst the profane. Perhaps mindfulness is your gray area? Not a criticism toward you in the least. It’s an awareness after having read several such lists since the election. None, included the sacred. Even our Constitution includes the sacred.

    More than surprised, after going to a 12-step program for friends/families of alcoholics how much sacred is mixed with the profane.

    Again, not a negative about your list, just curiosity. Thanks for your care in helping to others.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T