A lot of Maryland is in mourning (1.5 million, or 61% of voters, to be specific). People are walking around Annapolis like zombies, “still trying to get my head around it.” Post-election depression.
After any election, people typically experience a period of depression and anxiety, but rebounding after this year’s election is likely to be much more difficult. The divisive and caustic nature of this campaign, and the high stakes for some of the most crucial issues of our time, is challenging many in Maryland to come to terms with the results.
“Some of my patients are describing it is a loss similar to the space shuttle explosion or the Kennedy assassination. Going from hopeful and excited to suddenly devastated, with no time for adjustment.” —Dr. Michael Freedman of Evolve Medical.
Boaters in Annapolis can tell you that navigating out of the darkness requires slowing down and cautiously moving from one buoy to the next. Evolve Medical is offering us the following 10 steps to feeling better for those who are having trouble processing Tuesday’s election night results.
1) Take some time. No matter how many people tell you to stay positive, let yourself have some to adjust. Work at your own pace and try not to feel pressure to feel better at someone else’s pace. Give yourself time to heal.
2) Stay in the now. It’s natural to worry about all the “what ifs” and “what is going to happen with this or that”. But spending time worrying about things that haven’t happened yet (and may not happen) is really psychically damaging (and depressing). Our brains will jump into worst-case scenarios but our feelings today of anger, disappointment, frustration and confusion are more than enough for today–we don’t need to pile on more. Try to stay in the now as much as possible.
3) Let it out. If you need to yell, find somewhere private and quiet then go ahead and scream. Or run. Or hit the gym. Or hit some golf balls. Work around the house. Go for a walk in the woods. (Did you know walking in nature improves brain chemistry? Read this NYT article). Burn up some negative energy and get ready to let it go.
4) Begin to accept reality. Realize that you do not have to like the reality to accept that it is the new reality. Moving past the denial and anger phases is the hardest part of grieving. Holding on to anger only burns the hand that holds it. Let it go and make a plan to move forward.
5) Step in to action. Feeling helpless is dangerous–and not mentally healthy. Focus on what you CAN control and not the past. Set up goals and a plan–for yourself and for your family. Exercise, eat better, volunteer, help your neighbors and friends more. Divert all that negative energy into doing something positive that you DO have control over.
6) Take a “news break”. Seriously. Stop reading news reports and visiting news sites. Don’t engage in social media. Take a break. It’ll help more than you can imagine.
7) Find empathy. The vast majority of people that supported the other candidate are not crazy, evil villains or
monsters. Instead try to accept that they have a different background and set of experiences that brought them to their decision. At the very least, work towards be empathetic with someone–and realize you can do this without agreeing with their thoughts. (Hint: this will help you more than them.)
8) Tap your social support. Lean on each other. Spend time with people that make you happy–whether they are friends, co-workers or family. Stay in touch–ideally in person. Meet for coffee–even if just for 10 minutes. Get a hug (seriously). Don’t isolate!
9) Gratitude. It can be very challenging during difficult times but begin to list all the things you are grateful. Are you alive? Do you have a friend or family? Do you have a warm bed at night? Enough food to eat? Health? Seems overly simplistic but focusing on some basics is a great start. What else? Grow your list and review it when you are feeling down.
10) Model good behavior. This is a great opportunity to show our kids how an adult deals with disappointment. Life is full of disappointments which can be met graciously and handled in a healthy–or unhealthy–manner. Teach your children (and yourself) how to navigate out of the darkness. In fact, you can do the same for friends or co-workers who may be struggling to cope.
Finally, to the victors, acknowledge that for some, they are suffering as if it was the loss of a loved one. Try to encourage an atmosphere of cooperation, which is something we could all use right now.
If you have any questions or have been feeling excessively anxious, depressed or feeling isolated, please speak with a medical professional. Evolve Medical is also happy to see you. Same day scheduling on-line here or call 844-322-4222. Or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.