How We Can Heal After This Horrible Election Cycle

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Whether it’s watching wide-eyed as Trump swept the electoral college, experiencing Trump-related anxiety, feeling like Hillary called you a deplorable, watching your favorite politician get trounced in the primaries or discovering someone you like voted for the candidate you abhor, this election has taken a toll on all of us.

More than 60% of Americans were stressed about this election, according to a survey we conducted. All of the people we surveyed experienced anxiety about at least one candidate being elected. They also reported election-related strain on their relationships and work.

Now it’s time to heal. Keep reading to learn how to restore your mental health and relationships in the wake of this grueling election cycle.

Spend Time Around People and Things That Bring Joy

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What do babies and dogs have in common? Both of them bring joy (and don’t have the ability to express divisive political opinions).

To restore your faith in innocence and kindness, addiction specialist Audrey Hope recommends spending time with dogs and children and watching cartoons. You need something good to wash away the lingering stench of the election.

Apologizing to People

Political discourse easily upsets us, so we make statements or rude comments we didn’t mean. We post inflammatory rants on social media. Sometimes we unintentionally insult the people who have different views than us. This divisive election has exacerbated this issue.

“We need to apologize to the friends, neighbors and loved ones we may have alienated with harsh talk,” said therapist Gretchen Kubacky.

This is a crucial part of the healing. Spend some time thinking about who you might have offended during the election cycle.

Repairing Relationships and Changing Your Thinking

This election has fractured our relationships more than any other in recent history.

“I have clients who are very stressed about how to approach co-workers, friends, coaches, tutors, family friends, etc. once they find out they are of different political views,” said psychologist Josh Klapow. As a result of this stress, Klapow’s clients have unfriended people on Facebook, threatened to end romantic relationships if someone voted a particular way and become ambivalent about many of their social connections.

Kaitlyn is one of many people whose familial relationships have been affected by the election. When she learned her mother had a “deep-rooted hatred” of Hillary Clinton, tension began to arise.

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Because her mother lives in a swing state, Kaitlyn wanted her to vote for Hillary to defeat Trump. Kaitlyn believes Trump is a horrible person who, as president, will damage our country. Her mother was ambivalent, though. Unlike Kaitlyn, she didn’t believe there was a clear difference in the quality of the candidates.

“I can’t understand it and she can’t explain it,” Kaitlyn said.

Her mother’s attitude frustrated Kaitlyn and created a void between the two of them. Before the election cycle, they spoke every other day. Now they speak rarely.

The election has also made Kaitlyn resent parts of her life she used to feel neutral toward.

“[My mother] gets a lot of her information from Facebook, and it’s clearly false,” she said. “It makes me hate Facebook.”

Now that the election is over, Kaitlyn and her mother will decide whether they want to heal.

For people like Kaitlyn, Klapow recommends changing the thinking process when reacting to political views they instinctively judge.

“Your reaction to individuals with different political views is all about you, not them,” he said.

Here are some tips he provided for changing your thinking:

  • Be prepared to be surprised
  • Think about whether the political view actually changes your relationships before you react to what the person is saying
  • When people express an opinion, they are not inviting you to debate them
  • If the topic is too emotional, ignore it
  • Remember that someone’s political views are only a small part of who they are

Taking a Break from the News and Social Media

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The recent election cycle was like a series of train wrecks we couldn’t peel our eyes away from. We wanted to think about something else, but we couldn’t. It was too juicy.

Now that it’s over, let’s take a break from the news cycle and social media. All the analysis, angry rants and commentary in the world won’t change the result.

Taking a Hard Look at Ourselves

The key emotion in this election has been resentment, according to Pratik Chougule, the former policy coordinator for the Huckabee and Trump campaigns.

“A lot of what we see in the rhetoric of our leaders is reflective of how we are feeling,” Chougule said. “People feel besieged by cultural forces they don’t understand or feel they can’t control.”

We may not be able to control exactly what the candidates do, but we do create the environment that allows them to rise to power. Now that the election is done, we need to look inward and figure out how we can be better people. This will help improve our politics, emotions and relationships.

If You’re Freaking Out Because Trump Won

If you’re panicking because you worry Trump is going to destroy our country, there are ways to calm down. Therapist and author Tina B. Tessina recommended some steps to deal with general panic. Try applying these ones to the election.

  1. Recognize you are in a state of panic. If your heart is racing, you’re flushed or shouting nonsense, take a moment to acknowledge that.
  2. Take deep breaths.
  3. Look at the facts. Many people might cause you to panic by using hyperbole, lying or exaggerating. Try to see past that by conducting research and gaining information from reliable, unbiased sources.

By learning to think differently and manage our emotions, we can heal the scars of this election cycle. Elections change every four years, but your mental health is always important.

Published by

Joseph Rauch

Staff Writer at Talkspace