With the US Presidential Election of 2020 fast approaching, stress, anxiety, and tension is at an all-time high as we anticipate the outcome of our next president. Th
e build-up to the outcome can create a lot of anxiety around “what if’s”. What if the candidate I voted for is not chosen? There is also fear related to the consequences of the election outcome. Good news… There is approximately a 50/50 chance your candidate will win! Bad news… There is approximately a 50/50 chance your candidate will lose! The anticipation leading up to an outcome can be exciting but also contributes to strong physiological and emotional responses. It is my fear and concern that whatever the outcome is for this election, many will not be equipped to handle the result.
Did you know that the 2016 election was associated with an increase in heart attacks? The tension experienced just four years ago was so intense that many individuals were heading to the hospital with concerns related to stress, anxiety, and panic. With the nature of stressors only exacerbated for the 2020 election, it is so important to take a proactive approach.
Here are some helpful things to practice in regard to coping with the election and outcomes:
It is OK to experience your emotions
Disappointment is a natural response to unmet expectations. If you expected candidate A to win, but it was candidate B instead, you are going to feel disappointed. You are likely to experience a whole range of other emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, and/ or grief. On the other hand, if your candidate does win, you are likely to experience a sense of satisfaction and emotions such as joy, excitement, and/ or happiness when the desired outcome is met. Whatever you are feeling in response to the outcome of the 2020 election, it is all OK!
It is important to move through painful emotions
Start with relaxing the body. BREATHE! You may be flooded with emotion initially and will experience various emotions that can intensify or re-emerge with triggers. Think of disappointment as a process, similar to a process one may experience with grief and loss. Despite feelings of discomfort, it is important to recognize all aspects of ourselves and be able to sit with this to move through. Creating a space to just BE can allow the time and space to do so. I feel privileged to work at an organization that values self-care and is providing a day of PTO to allow staff to go through this process to come back mentally strong for our clients.
Be Kind to Yourself and Others
Blaming oneself or others is not going to magically change the outcome of an election once the results are in, it only creates further division in an already divided nation. Gloating about the results is not going to help either (think back to lessons about being a good sport). Take care of yourself; be kind to your body. Eat. Rest. Move.
Learn to Let Go
Holding onto strong emotions such as anger and not having healthy, constructive coping strategies have negative long-term effects not only on one’s physical health but also on one’s mental health. Therefore, it is important to have outlets to express rather than suppress feelings. Talking through thoughts and feelings with a friend, family member, or professional support, engaging is physical activity, and implementing therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness and cognitive defusion are some great strategies that can help. Learning to let go of things that are outside of one’s control also helps.
Practice Radical Acceptance
Radical acceptance is a powerful strategy to reduce distress and get “unstuck”. As painful as the reality may be, accepting the fact of the outcome can move us out of a state of suffering. Suffering looks different for everyone. It may be a state of indifference, withdrawal, or emotional numbing. It could be a chronic state of irritability or anger that is driving a wedge in relationships. Keep in mind that radical acceptance is not the same as agreement! It does not mean that you are happy about the outcome. You are entitled to your own thoughts and feelings about a situation. Only you have the power to decide how to respond.
Making Meaning: Call to Action
After noticing your emotions, moving through these while being kind to yourself and others, and letting go of things outside your control, you are now in a good place to think rationally. Problem-solving can help identify possible steps that one might take that are within their power to control. This is a great opportunity to use your strengths to connect with others and make a difference within the community. We all have a circle of influence and you have a choice in your response. While the times ahead may bring out the worst, they can also bring out the best. My hope is that there will be comfort for those who are suffering, that there may be strength to endure, and that we will emerge stronger together.
Written By Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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