Emotional Health · Politics

P.E.S.D.: How to Cope with Post Election Stress Disorder

A few weeks ago, in an acknowledgment of the amount of election anxiety people were feeling, Tom Hanks did a skit as “America’s Dad” on Saturday Night Live. Speaking as a father would to a teenage son, he said, “How ya doin’ champ? … It’s been a rough year. … A lot goin’ on inside you. …” It was a poignant moment of reflection, as the show that has been relentlessly parodying the candidates recognized that it’s been an exceptional 574 days since the campaigns began. Everyone seemed eager for it to be over.

But New York Times columnist Frank Bruni was doubtful that the election itself would end our jitters. He wrote on Sunday, “It’s almost over,” friends say. “We’ll finally be done with this.” What a lovely thought. What a naïve fantasy.” (11/06/16). He continued “This surreal, miserable presidential campaign exposed a lot of rot in our democracy’s infrastructure, and anger in the populace.”

From the media’s exploitation of the sensational aspects of the race (network chairman Les Moonves said,  “It may not be good for America … but it’s damn good for CBS.”) to the hacking, leaking, fighting and threatening, the process has exposed some of the lowest common denominators in our political system. Finally, last weekend, even Saturday Night Live seemed to throw in the towel, when Alec Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon playing Clinton broke character in the middle of a skit. Grasping hands, they exited the studio, venturing into Times Square, where they hugged strangers and each other.

After this extraordinarily divisive election everyone seems to agree on one point: it has been emotionally brutal. The nation has shown itself to be remarkably polarized: 55 percent of Democrats are actively afraid of the other side, and 47 percent of Republicans fear the opposing party, according to the Pew Research Center. Everyone is feeling bruised by the tone and tenor of this fight, and a fight is what is it was from first to last. Regardless of your political persuasion, Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning were a surreal time, insofar as the pundits, pollsters, and predictions were all wrong about the outcome. Many people voted for change in what was called a “change election,” but now the future is an unknown, given that the president-elect has never held public office.

The morning after the election talking heads were scrambling to figure out how they got it so wrong, and what underlying factors drove the electorate. The rest of us are faced with the task of healing ourselves and facing our friends and neighbors who may have very different reactions to the outcome. Eight years ago, the country was swept up in a wave of hope and idealism as we elected the first African-American to the highest office in the land. Obama’s message, “Yes we can,” struck a very different tone than the one that Mr. Trump and his supporters have been using of late.

How can we help heal our wounds in the days to come? For those who supported Trump, it’s important to try to hold him to his promise to work for all Americans and deliver a better life to those who have been left behind. His message to the “forgotten man” seems to have been the source of some of his popularity. We can all try to remind him and our other elected leaders that this is a worthwhile goal, albeit a complicated one which will require a lot more than words and promises.

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  • hillsmom November 10, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Where is everybody? I personally am devastated. So the bar was low enough that Trumplethinskin was able to slither over it. How could any thinking woman cast a vote for him? Ok, probably this comment won’t survive to be allowed here. But, it makes me feel a bit better.

    I do feel that the dud/bomb dropped by Comey on Friday, 10/28…which was allowed to simmer over the weekend, and finally the day before the election, it was announced NOTHING was there regarding HRC. It just had to have some effect. Oh, and didn’t you love the way Giuliani was gleefully rubbing his hands as he indicated there was something coming before the dud was dropped? Well, President Obama has the intelligence and grace to go forward for a peaceful transition of power. Do you think if the roles were reversed that would happen? Ha! Elizabeth Warren, please start your engines.

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