The intensity and deep partisanship of the 2020 election has left many of us in serious distress.
Most Democrats, reading misguided polls, felt optimistic going into the election, and then faced an early possibility that Donald Trump would win the White House.
Now they are dealing with losses in the House and a possible Republican majority in the Senate.
Republicans, with an unending avalanche of warnings that Democrats are going to turn the country into a socialist state, may be projecting the worst with the loss of the White House.
Facing reality is tough.
For Democrats there is no denying that their dreams are badly tarnished. Although they won the presidency, 73 million Americans voted against them.
For Republicans, the loss of the White House is a big deal. The steady stream of conservative judge confirmations will come to an end, and the Republican agenda will be put into storage. Republicans may block Democrats’ proposals, but in the terms of power, the White House holds the most leverage.
What to do with loss? To return to mental health normalcy there are a number of things to be done. When feeling bad, action number one is to take responsibility for your emotions and then control what you can control.
Track down previous periods in American history when the country was extremely divided. Examine the claims of opposing parties, name calling and the divisions the country faced, such as public support for Hitler before we entered WWII and the deep family feuds during the Vietnam war.
Those examples may not eliminate your current concerns, but it is a reminder that, as a country, we have overcome major divisions before.
Take action if you can. The election may be over, but our country is now in a continuous state of campaigning. There are many civil ways that you can work to promote your values.
If such action is not your style, turn your attention to your internal dialogue, something that is always under your control.
Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, the key to good mental health is the same.
Most of our emotional upset stems from disproportionately focusing on the negative and not the entire picture. When previous expectations are inordinately high, that can be difficult.
Nevertheless, listing our positive outcomes is a good place to start. Writing them out is one of the most powerful steps recommended by psychologists and psychiatrists.
If you are highly upset, your inner dialogue is most likely focused on the worst. Argue against your fears with facts. Understand that your worst fears are not reality. Only a possibility, and most likely, a remote one at that.
If you are especially upset stemming from the election results, it may be time to get back to your daily routine.
Daily news will continue without you. Putting your mental health back on track will make you a better decision maker. When emotional distress is very high our judgement is most in peril.
Reducing the volume of news you find distressing is a good place to start.
Be careful to avoid extreme information. Do your best to stay away from conspiratorial theories and rants.
Each party has radicals, but Americans have ultimately avoided the revolutionaries and the nation is unlikely to break that tradition.
Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Fears are the same.
Attending to your mental health right now is especially important. The country’s stress level is already exceedingly high given the COVID-19 pandemic, elevating tension to a record-breaking level.
With close to a quarter of million deaths and fears of unbelievable high numbers to come, now is the time to be kind and tolerant to yourself first and others thereafter.
Political change can be difficult. The reality is that elections are noisy, giving you some things you like, along with some things you don’t. Maybe even some things you detest.
They also leave you with ambiguity, a most uncomfortable and challenging feeling but one we must all deal with in navigating our lives.
It may sound hokey but what better way to heal the country than to take care of yourself and reduce your stress?
You’re more likely to be generous and kind to people on both sides of the aisle, even to those who don’t agree with your point of view.