5 Ways to Combat the Post-Election Blues

Dr. Roblyn P. Lewter

Sadness, exhaustion, betrayal, fear, despair, grief, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and depression consumed many Americans across the country following the recent Presidential election. This stress existed before the election, when 52 percent of Americans polled by the American Psychological Association blamed the campaigns for their increased stress levels; however, for people of color, most notably African Americans, these emotions and feelings have been compounded by recent incidents of police brutality, microaggressions, lingering and damaging stereotypes and a recent Reuters/ipsos opinion poll whose results reported that a significant number of Americans on both sides viewed African Americans more negatively than Whites. Indeed, the recent election of President-elect, Donald Trump, has resulted in fear of the strengthening of White Supremacy.

With the Civil Rights movement ending less than 50 years ago and with President-elect Donald Trump largely winning off of what has been labeled an apparent “Whitelash” platform, the election results have led many to not only fear their future and the future of their kids within the United States, but to also experience depression, largely related to race-based trauma and what many have dubbed: Post-election Blues. Post-election depression and anxiety are common, but remaining in this state can prolong grief and prevent healing.

But don’t despair. There are ways to overcome. Here are some healthy suggestions to effectively deal with the election results and make strides towards a better tomorrow.
1. Practice Mindfulness

Breathe—Exhale and simply connect with the present moment – wherever you are.
Use your senses—What do you hear? What do you see? What’s that smell? Pay attention to the smallest details. Did a fly land on your table? Is that an aircraft overhead? Do you smell the rain?
Honor your feelings—

Focus on the present—Many people are consumed with past pain or worried about the future. Don’t miss out on RIGHT NOW. Be present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings at the present moment – without judgment. Acknowledge that the only moment that truly matters is the moment that we are in right now. Tune your thoughts into what we are experiencing and sensing at the present moment and avoiding constantly living in the past or imagining or catastrophizing the future.

Find joy—Beyond noticing everything, use this time to be grateful and appreciative of what you’re experiencing.

Mindfulness has been proven to boost one’s immune system, combat depression, increase empathy, compassion and memory and improve relationships. A great addition to the practice of mindfulness is taking time to enjoy nature or simply spending more time outside. So grab your jacket and head out to a local park or botanical garden. Be sure to turn off your phone and begin practicing the art of simply being in the present.

2. Get Involved

Be a part of the solution. This can help reduce anxiety and depression. Join or contribute to organizations, foundations or community groups that are aligned with your beliefs. This can restore a sense of connection to your values and align you with likeminded neighbors. You do not have to wait four years to become politically involved. There are local, state and mid-term elections that can use your voice. You can write to your local newspaper or to online publications or form your own organization. Realize that small actions done frequently can add up. Reading to a class, visiting a senior center or coaching a sports team can be your way of being part of the solution. Getting involved can help to combat the sense of helplessness. So start finding positive ways to use your voice to work towards creating a better tomorrow.

3. Avoid Catastrophizing

What is catastrophizing? That is focusing on the absolute worst possible cataclysmic outcome. Don’t do it. This induces anxiety, which can be paralyzing. Have you ever feared having an awkward conversation because you feared the worst? Catastrophizing is that times 100. This builds anxiety, which can lead us to imagine scenarios that might be unrealistic. More importantly, valuable energy and time is spent worrying. This time is better spent being in the present moment or on developing solutions. (see suggestions #1 and #2)

To combat catastrophizing, try to avoid focusing on all of the possible catastrophic outcomes. Instead, breathe and take an honest assessment of how much your daily life will be impacted by the election results. Will the president-elect change what you eat, where you live, the places you visit, or where work? Those daily activities will likely remain constant. So instead of allowing negative thoughts to invade your mind, send yourself positive messages.
4. Take a Social Media Break 

Research shows that prolonged exposure to social media can be harmful to our mental health and sense of well-being. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh found a connection between time spent on social media and depression. In fact, during the recent presidential campaign social media was where many people engaged in heated political debates, commented on stories that supported or challenged their opinions and learned of their friends’ political ideology. The constant news and posts contributes to increased stress and anxiety. Sometimes the best way to regain your emotional balance is to go on a social media hiatus.

5. Finally, if you find that your depression is interfering with your ability to maintain your normal daily activities then please seek the assistance of a qualified professional.

Dr. Roblyn P. Lewter is an International Psychologist who specializes in issues related to diversity, cross-cultural training and cultural intelligence. Dr. Lewter has also worked directly in the mental health field addressing a plethora of issues including but not limited to depression/anxiety, domestic violence, substance abuse treatment and behavior modification. Dr. Lewter is also a college professor and instructional designer.

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