Post Election Stress
In 2016, the American Psychological Association reported that 52% of US adults thought that the presidential election was very or somewhat significant source of stress. In the Stress In America survey, both Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to say that the election was very or somewhat significant source of stress. There were no appreciable differences between party lines. In fact, there were no significant differences in generation. All generations including boomers and gen Z felt the stress from the election. Individuals with disabilities suffered the most significant stress over the election compared to those without disabilities. It all points to stress being a part of what Americans deal with in anticipation of the unknown.
Post Election Trauma Disorder
It happened back in 2016 when Donald Trump won the election against Hillary Clinton. Americans were going to their therapists complaining of panic attacks, moodiness, insomnia, and heightened anxiety. These complaints were termed to be Post Election Trauma Disorder. This is not a diagnostically verifiable categorized disorder in the DSM-V, but an array of symptoms under investigation.
Both Democrats and Republicans reported increased stress over family, friends, and acquaintances over social media. Anyone who goes on Facebook or Twitter can figure out that there is true animosity between political lines. I shut down all of my social media and took a break from blogging to deal with the stress. How do we deal with our own stress and those of our neighbors? Are we going through post-election stress now in 2020?
Stages of Grief
The post-election period can lead some stressed Americans to experience a collective stress, grief and loss. There are five stages of grief that were presented by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.
1. Denial and isolation. One can deny that the election happened and that President Trump loss. One can regret that things should have happened differently without mail in ballots and without COVID-19.
2. Anger. One can become angry at the results and lash out at others. This step is certainly observed with the collective protests around the country.
3. Bargaining. This is the stage that one can observe with the call to stop votes from counting by the supporters of Trump.
4. Depression. In this stage, one can cry and have trouble focusing. One can blame themselves for the results.
5. Acceptance. Some Trump supporters have reached this stage. They have accepted that the nation must move on.
People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.
Mindfulness is the key in being aware of your source of stress. Follow these tips to deal with post election stress.
1. Be mindful of those around you. Avoid getting into discussions that can escalate. Take a deep breath, feel that you are becoming anxious and reset your emotions. Choose to be calm.
2. Turn off the cell phone notifications, social media and television. To overcome post election stress, spend your time in pleasurable activities such as drawing, board games or reading. Turn off your cell phone at least 1 hour before you go to bed. By getting a good night’s sleep you will feel rested. Simply, stay off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
3. Be grateful every day. Schedule a regular time to write down 5 things that you are grateful for and read them out loud. It could easily be about being grateful that you are a citizen in a democracy and exercised your right to vote.
4. Do some self-reflection meditation. Find a quiet space a start deep breathing, Clear your mind to reflect on calm and happy memories. Focus on your gratitude.
Being it the moment Stops Post Election Stress
Being aware of being in the moment is a great way to cut down on worry and anxiety. Follow these six steps to be more in tune with the present:
1. Practice savoring the present. Notice sights, sounds, smells and engage all your senses in each moment of the day. This helps you relax. Focus on your task not on your performance. Focusing on the task at hand instead of worrying about how well you are doing keeps you from stressing over what will happen.
2. Notice your breathing. When you focus on your breath you feel more peaceful and centered.
3. Lose track of time by getting into the flow of what you are doing. Focusing on what you are doing and enjoying it while you are relaxes you.
4. Accept people and situations as they are. When you refrain from judging others or stop worrying about situations, you let your mind and body off the hook of fearing it.
5. Work on building your mindfulness every day. Mindfulness keeps anxiety at bay because you are aware of what is happening around you.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you should aim to be in the present moment. This allows peacefulness to replace anxiety.
Long-Term Strategies to Decrease Post Election Stress
As you can see, there are many things you can do right now to reduce stress and anxiety over the post election period. Isolation can be the worse way to deal with post election stress. Strengthening connections is the key by building relationships.
1. Start by compromising with others when possible. Is it really worth it to argue? Use the mindfulness techniques above and think empathetically. Ask questions and listen to the other side.
2. Contribute. Volunteer in your community. Advocate for an issue. Join a nonprofit group to make a positive change and help others. Civic involvement gives you a voice.
3. Live in the present. If you overthink and worry about the things that happened in the past, then you are directly focusing on the stress. Live in the now. Acknowledge the stress and let it pass.