No matter which side of the fence you were on, it’s safe to say it’s been a very long election season. While some Americans were pleased with the outcome, for others the results were deeply upsetting. In recent days, I’ve seen many people struggling with a kind of post-election hangover. While everyone copes in their own way, I’ve put together a few simple ‘do-now’ strategies to help soothe tension and support physical and emotional health through the transition and beyond. Here are some tips to let the healing begin:
1. Clear Your Head
Turn off the social media firehose for a while, or at least dial it way down. The info will still be there when you’re ready to turn the spigot back on. With tensions high and the post-election vitriol clogging up everyone’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, take a stand for your mental health — and a cue from the hippie days and just ‘tune out, man.’ Give your brain some quiet time for the next few days (or weeks) instead of filling it with the non-stop negative chatter (from both sides of the aisle) that’s at a fever pitch right now.
2. Soothe Your Heart and Mind
If you haven’t done so before, now is a great time to begin a meditation practice, either with a local meditation group or with an individual home practice. Many people find a group ‘sit’ experience is a great way to foster a sense of community and calm when both are elusive. A regular meditation practice will help take stress down a notch and enable your cooler head to prevail. It’s also an excellent way to help support heart health and brain function, so indulge frequently.
3. Unleash Your Endorphins
Again, step away from the digital world and hit the gym, hop on a bike, jog around the neighborhood, or dance around your living room — whatever it takes to get the blood flowing again after all that sitting around waiting for the election to end. Get the heart rate up, trigger the release of your endorphins, aka ‘Mother Nature’s happy hormones,’ and enjoy the free, natural, good-for-you high. There’s no fighting the contagious, sweaty fun of a Zumba class so get out there and lift your spirits while doing something positive for your body.
4. Indulge in Ubuntu
As you go about your day, regardless of the mood you may be in, remember to practice ‘Ubuntu.’ It’s a concept that means, “I am because you are.” In other words, be conscious of how you treat others, and interact with humanity and kindness — now more than ever. In those little moments of simple, positive connection, we have the power to spread good feelings and help build some bridges over the chasms that have recently opened up.
5. Play Better with Others
Here’s an idea one of my patients recently shared regarding getting together with friends who were also feeling down: engage in discussion, not obsession. In other words, agree to set a time limit (or frequent time-outs) on talking politics. For example, if you wish, do a deep political dive while having drinks, but as soon as the main course arrives, table the political talk and move on to other subjects. While some people may enjoy an entire evening chewing over the political changing of the guard, if you’re not one of them, it can drag spirits down further. To prevent this, graciously ask that the rhetoric be contained and be prepared to gently guide conversation elsewhere if it starts to get too negative.
6. Give Back — Not Up
If the change that took place on November 8 is making you feel sad or stressed, do something good for those people and organizations who need your help. Give your time, energy, expertise, and/or money to the causes you believe in, and particularly to those groups whose funding may be compromised going forward. Don’t just vent on Facebook — get out there and protest (peacefully) to support causes in a tangible way. By standing up for what you believe and taking action, you’ll lift so much more than just your spirits.
7. Just Say ‘No’ (to pharmaceuticals)
That often-mocked phrase made famous by Nancy Reagan back in the 1980s is one I agree with, but for different reasons. I am not a fan of prescription drugs that aid sleep or settle jangled nerves because their overall health cost is simply too high. Cocktails and wine aren’t a healthy way to take the edge off either. If you’re finding it difficult to unwind or fall asleep these days, skip the drugs and try Be Well’s Sleep Bundle or Be Well’s Stress Support formula.
8. Have a Mood-elevating…Cry
Try something you probably haven’t done in a while: have a good cry. Studies indicate that crying, for most people, can actually elevate mood and instantly reduce stress. So don’t hold those tears in — let ‘em go. If tears won’t come easily, listen to a few of your favorite sad songs or check out some renditions of the late Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ — here’s a great one by Choir! Choir! Choir! (led by Rufus Wainwright) — for a little tear-inducing inspiration.
Last but not least, think of things that make you feel good and do more of them, more often. Get a massage. Sit in the sauna. Sign up for kickboxing class. Hug the kids. Listen to comedy radio or binge a little on funny movies. Find ways to lift your spirits — as long as they’re healthy for both body and mind.