By Dr. Svetlana Blitshteyn
Whether you wanted or not, you have been thrust into the madness of this election and the outcome that shattered our country and the world. Although no glass ceilings have been broken, broken is how many people feel right now, whether their candidate won or lost. If you voted and your candidate didn’t win, shock, disbelief, anger, frustration, and denial may set in, much like in the grieving process. If you voted and your candidate won, your happiness may be tamed by the discourse in the country, discourse among your friends or within your own family. Insults are flying left and right, people are accusing each other of voting for the wrong person, and some people acting out much like children who need parental guidance to redirect, reassure and calm down the strong emotions.
If you, like many others, find yourself out of control, with feelings of frustration, anxiety, depression or rage, there are a few things you can do for yourself to get control of your emotions in order to restore well-being.
- First, acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to feel the emotions. After all, this country and the people are experiencing a difficult time, a time of change and uncertainty. It’s OK to feel what you’re feeling without judging yourself and feeling guilty over it.
- As outraged as some people may be, take a deep breath and use your rational thinking: your views are different than other people’s, and this difference is not a permission to treat others with disrespect. Learn to agree to disagree in a calm and logical manner, without name-calling or insulting the other side.
- As hard as it may be, turn off the news, turn off the electronics and try to turn off your own thoughts. Your mind may be racing with all kinds of information, your emotions may be raw and all over the place, but take a deep breath, go for a walk, drink a cup of tea or a glass of Gatorade, and relax. You are still living in the best country on earth, and it’s a beautiful thing, no matter who is in power.
- Basic good lifestyle choices still apply: don’t forget to drink your fluids, eat your high-sodium diet with small frequent meals, get plenty of sleep and exercise per your routine. It’s easy to get engulfed in the political process, but don’t let it engulf you and your health.
- Express yourself. If you feel the need to share your thoughts and opinions on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, do it. We have free speech, something that many other countries don’t, and you are free to post your views on the election in a non-insulting and non-demeaning manner. Expressing yourself on social media or in conversation with friends or family can feel like getting a heavy load off your chest. Just make sure that the people you’re talking to are actually willing to listen, without judgement or criticism of you for your opinions.
- Watch yourself arguing and debating. It’s OK to engage in a healthy debate as it stimulates your logical thinking, reading and writing and gives you a good exercise for your left side of the brain. However, too much arguing can lead to exhaustion, frustration, depletion and low mood. Be your own supervisor and remove yourself from the argument or situation that is becoming counter-productive to your physical and mental health.
- This country was built on principles and rights that were fought for by the movers and the shakers. Give yourself permission to be productive despite the chronic illness. Doing something positive will give you a sense of purpose and will serve as a good distraction from the negative thoughts and feelings about this election. If you have the energy, volunteer at school or at a local hospital, help your neighbor, or reach out to a friend who might need your help. If you have no energy and running on empty yourself, you can still be productive by treating yourself and others with kindness. We don’t need to use politicians as our role models to practice basic human decency. In fact, some politicians can learn from us how to treat each other with kindness and respect.
- Keep your routine. If you have work, school or doctor’s appointments, keep your plans. Politics aside, you have responsibilities and work to do, and that won’t stop no matter who got elected.
- Find some humor in the political circus that we’ve been witnessing and keep everything in perspective. Politicians will be just fine, whether they lose or win, but you are still living your life and managing a chronic illness.
- Most importantly, if you feel that your physical or mental health declined, and you can’t get a handle on it, contact your doctor. Remember that stress can be a trigger for worsening of chronic illness. Healthy people can become fatigued, anxious and stressed as a result of this election, but you have a chronic illness, and that makes you more vulnerable since your reserves are limited. With that added factor, take extra good care of yourself and remember: you are in charge of your life, no matter who is in charge of your government.