Managing Post-Election Stress
Say what you will about 2020, but one thing is certain - our expectations for this year often do not align with our reality. No matter the result, you may feel a sense of unease, fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, discouragement. What now? Here’s a list of ideas we had to help you manage the days and weeks ahead:
Acknowledge the possibility of a period of uncertainty.
Due to the number of mail-in ballots cast this year and a trend of political tumult, experts are predicting the election may not be over on “election night.” Be prepared for an un-defined time period of uncertainty following November 3rd. Managing this uncertainty can look like making a few contingency plans for self-care or personal action depending on different predicted outcomes.
Make a plan to address the outcome you’re concerned about.
With so much fear and uncertainty, speculation about future political unrest is both understandable and can create unnecessary anxiety. Distinguish between spinning your wheels with anxiety and doing helpful, thoughtful planning. If you’re feeling concerned about the results or possible political instability, do your research and see how trusted others are managing the uncertainty or how they are planning to respond. Then, sketch out a plan about how you would like to respond based on your personal needs and values. This could look like sketching out a plan for your post-election week(s) that includes grounding and comforting activities but allows for flexibility for action you might want to take.
Take stock of your power and influence. When we feel like things are happening to us and we are helpless to intervene, we can feel frozen, powerless, and overwhelmed. When we are connected to the ways in which we can exert influence on others and on our environment we can feel empowered and authorized to make change in our lives. Reflect on your own or with a group of close friends and family about how you can exert influence and control within your environments and communities.
Write to your local elected representatives. Whether you voted for them or not, your representatives have a responsibility to hear your concerns. Do you need some pointers on how to write to your local representatives? If so, search for your elected officials and check out these tips from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Have all of your emotions. Whether it’s relief, fear, rage, confusion, anxiety, try to non-judgmentally accept whatever emotions are present within you. Emotions are indicators of what we’re needing, so while they may be unpleasant, they function to help us get what we need.
Let your emotions (wisely) guide your actions. If you’re feeling afraid, connecting with others or making a plan of how to feel secure may be helpful. If you’re feeling angry or outraged, political action can be a productive way to live your values. Check out these tips about how to protest safely during the COVID-19 Pandemic. You can also check out the UCC’s self care guide on what you can do if you’re feeling heartbroken, furious, or helpless in the face of injustice.
Be sure to take care of yourself.
It will be important, now more than ever, for you to focus on what you have control over. The suggestions provided in our Managing Pre-Election Stress post still apply. Make sure you are coping with the stress of these times in as healthy a manner as possible.
Get clear on your boundaries and how to set them. If you have a parent or friend with differing political views and you don’t have emotional space to hear about them, be mindful of your exposure. Maybe this means not logging onto social media or deciding not to call them until you have space to connect with them. If you want to talk to them but are concerned about talking politics, workshop with a friend or counselor what things you could say to them to respectfully set boundaries. One idea is to affirm what you do want, and share concerns about what you don’t want. For instance. “Being close with you is important to me and I want to connect, but I’m having such a hard time right now with the political situation. I’m concerned that if we discuss it, we wouldn’t have a positive interaction. Can we table this for now?” You can also check out Student Life and Ministry’s Post-Election Resources for tips on communicating productively about politics.
Connect. Connect. Connect. Talk to and spend time with people who you feel safe with and who share your core values. In a time of political instability when it can be difficult to find feelings of peace and safety, surrounding yourself with others who you feel care about your well-being is a helpful way to feel heartened and comforted amidst uncertainty.
Keep checking in with yourself, and check in again and again.
How are you feeling after reading this list? Take stock of how your body is feeling and any emotions that are coming up for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try deep breathing using this guide. If you’re having a different emotion or can identify a different need, make a plan to get what you need. If you need a refresher on how to go about that, re-visit the Managing Pre-Election Stress blog post.