This election has done a number on all of us, to varying degrees. Serving as one giant trigger for victims of sexual violence, a lot of us were just holding our breaths until the end of the election, not truly expecting America to elect an alleged rapist, verifiable tax evader and racist reality television star as our president. The stress is real.
This is the worst episode of Black Mirror that has ever (not) existed. Against the popular vote, the electoral college voted in America’s worst nightmare, and that leaves a lot of us in absolute despair.
“Feeling out of control can cause symptoms of fear, depression, and anxiety,” explains Dr. Jennifer Caudle, DO, family physician and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Anxiety often builds between administrations, and as the last days of the Obama era come to an end, this cycle will be no different.
“Uncertainty almost always increases anxiety, so it’s totally normal to feel anxious after an election,” says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D. “Even if you’re pleased with the chosen candidate, you still don’t know exactly what life will be like with the changes ahead.”
“(This) anxiety is actually positive, to some degree, because it shows investment in their community and a willingness to participate,” Dr. Carmichael says.
Before you dive right back into life, give yourself space to feel these emotions and process them. Check out these five tips for dealing with post-election anxiety.
1. Take Stock of What You Need.
Have you eaten today? Have you had enough water? Do you need to take a shower? It’s easy to lose sight of your needs when your mind is catastrophizing. Do you need sleep or, conversely, do you need to get out of bed because you’ve been in it all day?
As Ravishly points out, stress causes everything to metabolize twice as fast, including things as basic as water. Drink twice today what you would in a normal day in order to combat the negative side effects of dehydration!
You may not have any appetite at all. Conversely, you may be carb-loading like yours truly and eating your feelings today. It’s okay to overdo it a bit if that’s what you need to do, but make sure that you are fed, hydrated and bathed. Sometimes self-care just comes down to the absolute basics to keep your body running.
2. Talk to Someone Who “Gets It.”
This week is not the week to talk to your gloating Republican family member or coworker who is convinced that they are going to “Make America Great Again.” It’s okay to shut down and not talk to them, save for the absolute necessities. Hell, I’d go as far as to say that it’s a good practice all around and not just around Election Day, but it is hard to cut off family members.
Instead, huddle together with someone who shares your outlook. If you can’t make it out of your blanket fort like this writer, you can reach out to friends via phone or the internet. If social media is making everything worse right now, shut it down.
3. Step Away From Social Media.
While it is important to stay informed and connected, sometimes it can do more harm than good. Instead of spending the day or night on social media, go for a walk. If it’s a clear night, go look at the stars.
While outside in the dark or in the sunshine, imagine how many countries, how many planets, how many cosmic beings might be going through something similar right now. It doesn’t fix things, but it sure makes one feel small underneath a blanket of stars or the warmth of sunlight.
4. Netflix and Fuck Off.
Sometimes you need to just turn on something funny and check out. Be it Netflix (or any other streaming service), funny animal videos or dusting off an old DVD and revisiting a forgotten favorite, it’s okay to just go into Imagination Land for a little while and self-soothe.
I like to pair this with carb-loading and checking out of social media, personally. And hey… a lot of states just legalized marijuana, so there’s that!
5. Check Out.
Need to sleep for a day or two? Do it. Use a couple of sick days (if you have them) as Mental Health Days and just do what you need to do. Get your fuzzies out and wrap them around you like armor. Care for your tender heart.
If it isn’t destructive, hurtful to anyone else, or harmful to you in the long-term, this is your life and your body. However, give yourself a limit, say 2 to 3 days, to mourn before you force yourself back into your regular life.
Better yet, take those 2 to 3 days to rest and mourn before you reach out to your community and ask what you can do to strengthen it and to help. Use this horrible situation as a jumping point to ignite social change. It’s really all that we can do now.
The future is here and it looks like us. What are we going to do next?
If you are feeling more depressed than simple self-care can address, that’s real. Please know that better things are on the horizon and you are part of that.
The National Suicide Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat online 24/7.