Coping with “Post-Election Stress Disorder”
Resilience and compassion are two forces for good in troubling times.
Posted November 5, 2020
The votes are still being counted in this historic election. While we may not be certain yet who will win the presidential race, there are two things that are certain.
One, there will be a lot of people struggling with anger, disbelief and disappointment because the race is so tight. No matter who wins, many on each side will be stunned that so many others were compelled to vote differently.
Two, the divisiveness that this close race reflects will be with us a lot longer.
So, how can we approach these certainties? For starters, with resilience and compassion.
Resilience Leads to Transformation
Resilience can be your best friend in challenging times. With it, you can learn much-needed lessons from bitter disappointment and pave a way forward to a better reality.
Here are some key steps along that journey:
- Take some time for reflection and renewal. It’s important to spend time regrouping. Our country is working through complex issues that aren’t going anywhere soon. It will need your activism and engagement to help solve them. Take time now to reflect on what’s important to you in light of the changing, and charged, political landscape. Ask yourself how you can act on those values to better serve your community and country.
- Take stock of small victories. There were lots of races in this election. Surely some of them can provide you with a sense of hope and pride: Did your party come out on top in a Senate race? What about local elections? Did your party flip a seat in any of your county races? Every victory, no matter the race, means others reflect your values and beliefs, too, and as social creatures, we all need to know that there are like-minded folks “out there.” Add up these victories, and you’ll be making a big deposit in your personal resilience bank.
- Take comfort in the big picture. Think about the incredible turnout. Voters were inspired to take part in this election in record-breaking numbers. That says a lot about how passionate Americans are about our country. It’s comforting to know that even in the midst of a pandemic, our fellow citizens value the right to vote and be a part of the democratic process.
According to Cynthia Mulder, LCSW, “It’s important to keep things simple as waves of feelings may overwhelm us during times of crisis. Make sure you are tending to yourself: Get good sleep, exercise, be in nature, meditate, listen to music, write in a journal, pray, listen, find healthy ways to ease anxiety, stay connected. We have an opportunity to put our feelings into words and to take action in small, incremental ways over what we can control.”
Compassion Leads to Humility and Understanding
It’s so easy to dismiss those who are hurting just because they voted for the “wrong” candidate. But we should be vigilant and fight against this instinct in ourselves because to do otherwise helps perpetuate the divide.
Let’s think about this more closely:
- Compassion demands effort. We tend to view the world through our own self-interests and values, but the world is growing in complexity. This growth demands that we develop more compassion for others, not throw in the towel and proclaim – in both words and actions – that those who vote differently should be dismissed out of hand. Tune into that left-leaning podcast, or read the latest by that conservative columnist, and you might find yourself feeling greater goodwill toward your fellow citizens.
Remember what Jonathan Stevens, MD, MPH, says: “With all that’s going on – the pandemic, economic losses, health concerns, climate change – no matter what happens with the election, it will not be the end of times.”
- Compassion demands honesty. Our views are the right views, right? We think so! Are we really so arrogant as to believe that? We hope not! Now’s the time to evaluate your views and ask yourself: Are there other ways to solve Problem X or Issue Y that I might not have thought of? Isn’t there usually more than one way to solve a particular challenge? Isn’t it possible that I could like someone else’s approach at least as much as my own? If the answer to that last question isn’t “yes,” then you may need to be evaluated for PAD: political arrogance disorder.
If you put in the effort and purse honest self-reflection, you’ll become a humbler and more compassionate citizen – one whose capacity for understanding the attitudes of “others” will be increased. This can lead you to become a better, more compassionate citizen and the rest of us to become a more compassionate nation. We’d vote for that.
Anne Lupton is the Digital Strategy Manager at The Menninger Clinic in Houston.
Nancy Trowbridge is the Director of Communications at The Menninger Clinic in Houston.