How to Deal With the Stress of a Disappointing Election

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Political elections these days have become quite intense — we have very passionate participants on both sides, and with so much passion on both sides, the side of the candidate who did not win inevitably feels disappointment and stress from having things go the other way. It's important for a nation to be united and move forward after a fiercely fought campaign, and it's important for voters to feel better and less stressed about the results if the results weren't what they hoped for. Here are some strategies for relieving stress about an election.

Set Boundaries

Many people got used to checking 24-hour news channels and websites and staying abreast of every turn in the campaign over the past several months. Now that the election has happened, you may start realizing that it was all a bit overwhelming. If you feel a little overwhelmed, try to limit your news exposure, or go on a "news fast" for a few days, to give yourself a break.

While taking a break from the news, you may also want to expose yourself to new scenery that reduces stress: Take a walk with your family in the evening, go to an exercise class (exercise is a great stress reliever), or try some guided imagery for a "quick" change of scenery. You’ll be glad you did.

Do Something

People have already been volunteering and getting involved with the political campaigns in high numbers. Now that the campaigns are in the past, you might enjoy volunteering for a worthy cause that’s important to you. Doing something with your stressed energy can help you deal with your anxiety, give you a sense of control (read here about the benefits of gaining an internal locus of control), and take your mind off the stress of your candidate not winning.

Change Your Focus

Having your candidate not win can be very disappointing. As with other situations where you experience anxiety but have no power to directly change your circumstances, one thing you can do to reduce stress is to change our outlook.

While you don’t have to be enthusiastic about the other candidate winning, you can reduce the anxiety you feel about the situation by changing what you focus on.

You already know what you don't like about the other candidate, but you might feel better if you looked for qualities or possibilities that you can feel good about — nobody agrees or disagrees with 100% of another person's views and policies, so chances are good that there are some positives for you in this situation as well. If you look and still can't find anything about this outcome that doesn't feel terrible to you, it might help you feel better to focus on other things in life that bring you happiness, like friends and family. (See this article for more on changing your perspective with cognitive restructuring.)

Talk to Someone

It can be very cathartic to talk to friends and family who agree with your political views. Get together and talk about your disappointment, and you may feel better just getting your feelings out; you'll also feel supported and understood. Sometimes just sharing your feelings through journaling helps you to let go. If you find that your feelings are so intense that they're interfering with your regular functioning, you may even want to talk to a professional.

Regular Stress Management

Stress is stress. Whether your stress comes from election fears or something else, it’s important to have some standard stress relievers you have up your sleeve to keep your current stress from morphing into chronic stress, where your stress response gets triggered and never quite gets turned off. Some of my favorites are breathing exercises, regular exercise, meditation, social support, and journaling. 

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