The subtle nods and spontaneous conversations sparked by T-shirt slogans or well-placed lawn signs gave us a collective sense of purpose, even among strangers, over the past months. Generations bonded over the possibility of a woman in the Oval Office and joined together in grassroots efforts across the country. Now, suddenly, shockingly, it’s over. As the post-election blues begin, psychologists say a loss of connectedness and a sense of grief and even helplessness can set in. Some may contemplate moves to tiny cabins in the woods, perhaps north of the border. But two experts say there are very effective ways to combat the sudden onset of anxiety, and to restore a sense of connection with our communities and country.
Grieve the Loss
Admit your post-election feelings to yourself. “Allow yourself to breathe and try to name what you’re feeling,” says UCLA psychology clinic director Danielle Keenan-Miller. “When you name an experience, you can reduce its intensity.” Also, give yourself space to be sad, says USC psychology professor Ginger Clark. “Let yourself be in despair,” she says, “then come up for air, and start to reconnect with your life.” While a day or weekend of laying low is fine, neglecting work or staying in bed for days on end just prolongs grief and leaves you in the same place where you started.
The End Isn’t Nigh
Though it may feel as though the apocalypse is at hand, don’t start to grieve for things that haven’t happened yet, says Keenan-Miller. “Don’t try to predict the future. It’s futile,” she says. Doing so only sparks more anxiety.
Both psychologists say self-care is key to recovery. Clark says heading outdoors is an easy mood booster. “Feel the sunshine on your face, go to the park, realize that the nation is not huddled under a blanket.” Keenan-Miller agrees that exercising, particularly outdoors, can rejuvenate spirits. “People report more happiness in nature,” she says, so visit a green space.
Embrace Your Values
“Continue to take actions that are in line with your values,” says Keenan-Miller. She advises those who are feeling helpless to focus on a couple of issues they’re passionate about. “Ask yourself, can you be a better advocate to that community in your daily actions?” Think about how much you’re doing in your everyday life to promote things you care about. “Can you turn up the volume on that?” she says. Clark agrees: “Turn your anger and fear into productive action.”
Spending time with friends and like-minded people is key. “Seek people who can understand and validate your experience,” says Keenan-Miller. For some, a small or large dose of being alone is restorative, but cutting yourself off from your current life ultimately won’t help. We all generally get a mood boost through support and empathy from others.
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