If you are like most people 2016 has left you with post-election anxiety. Regardless of where you stand politically, you can’t help but notice our country is at a crossroads and the political divide is wider than ever. This November my clients are arriving for their sessions highly anxious and confused. Here are five tips I have been giving them for dealing with post- election anxiety.
Like all anxiety, post-election anxiety is fueled by projecting into the future when we don't know what the future holds. Worrying and problem solving are two different things. If there are issues that you are concerned about, focus on identifying a strategy to do what you can, where you can, to make change. Worrying is a pattern of the mind that can exhaust you and prevent you from doing anything constructive. Worrying does not keep you safe, it puts you in an unproductive state. Problem solving is what is productive. Staying present and calm is the best way to be. Click here for some tips from the people at Mindful to get yourself more present.
Learn skills of good communication if you choose to have a dialog with others who you have a disagreement with. You don't have to look very far to see how aggressive the exchanges about politics have become. Poor communication leads to anxiety.
Refrain from calling other people names, blaming, attacking, or belittling the other person you are having a conversation with. Don't get defensive. These acts get you nowhere. If you can't do this, then don't get into these discussions. I know of families whose post-election anxiety, anger and conflict is so insurmountable that they have cancelled the holidays this year. This speaks to the depths of fear and anger this election has caused.
If you choose to be on social media, don't do so mindlessly. Be wary of getting sucked in to negative posts or conversations. Social media can eat away hours of your day, and contribute to your post-election anxiety in numerous insidious ways. Be firm with yourself and limit your access.
What you read and watch has an impact on your anxiety level. Again, choose the time to watch news or read news papers and remember that they might not be accurate. Are your television choices increasing or decreasing your anxiety? Now might be the time to take a break from The Walking Dead. There are examples of people being kind to one another all around us, but they rarely make headlines. Exercising your choices will help with post-election anxiety.
Anxiety is contagious. Have you ever sat with someone who is calm, or sat with someone who is anxious? Our moods are contagious. Your post-election anxiety will make your kids anxious. How you react when you are anxious, angry, or have disagreements becomes the template for how they will handle interpersonal relationships and stress. Children are anxious all over the country. We have to behave in a way that reassures them we are in control of our emotions, and their future. It is the responsibility of the adults to convince them we will take care of them regardless of what is happening even when we are afraid. Have open conversations with them about their thoughts, feelings and fears. Teach them kindness and good communication skills.