While Election Day is behind us, our response to it is not. I’m not a political expert by any means, so I won’t discuss that here. But I am human and I have feelings. In fact, we’re all humans here (cue the resounding choir of “duh”), and we all have feelings. There isn’t a single person in the country who isn’t affected one way or another by the election.
Win or lose, you were likely invested in the outcome and you are now having strong reactions (positive and/or negative). To make matters potentially more stressful, Thanksgiving — and conversations with family members who may not agree with your political views — is right around the corner.
That’s why it’s vital to learn to adapt to negative emotions and move on in a healthy, productive manner through the ordinary magic of resilience. Instead of avoiding challenges and stress, you can learn skills to bounce back from setbacks.
The holidays are a great time to acknowledge that you can and will have differing opinions with people you love and care about, and to take an empathetic approach either way. If the subject turns to politics, it may be best that you just listen. Listening and really hearing someone, even if the opinion is different, shows you care. I have to remind myself that I don’t always need the last word.
The key to putting yourself in the best position to face any adversity — not just post-election stress or uncomfortable discussions — is to build a Resilience Toolbox.
Below is a sampling of tools you can add to your Resilience Toolbox. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it could be a starting point for you.
- Take a deep breath – If you find yourself in an upsetting conversation or anxious about the future, you may stop and take a deep breath. When you take a deep breath, your body is sending a message to your brain to relax and calm down. There are countless breathing exercises out there, but a quick, simple one to start with is to: Take a deep inhale through your nose for a count of 4, then exhale through your nose for a count of 4. You can work up to 6-8 counts per breath.
- Name it to tame it – Do the results of the election have you feeling anxious, upset, condescending, mad, boastful? Reactive emotions can cause your brain and body to make impulsive choices. Studies show that vocally naming your negative emotions allows you time to distance yourself from them so that you can figure out the best step to solve your problem.
- List things you can control – In life there are some things that you can control and some things that are out of your control. Listing them off in your mind or on paper can allow you to focus on what you can control and let go of things you cannot control. For example, you can control your attitude, choices you make, your response; but you can’t control what other people say, how other people act, or their mistakes.
- Practice gratitude – Set aside time each day to think and reflect on three things you are grateful for. These should be new ideas each day (meaning you can’t say your family every single time). Some examples related to post-election stress could be “grateful to live in a country where we are able to vote” or “grateful to those who have dedicated their lives to the freedom of our country.”
- Set boundaries – With upcoming holidays, time with family who doesn’t have the same political views as you may be stressful. Know ahead of time what you are and are not willing to discuss with family. Stick by those boundaries. By setting boundaries, you are allowing yourself to be around those you love without being involved with upsetting conversations.
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.” We are always having to adapt and change to adverse situations in our lives – whether it is an election, pandemic, financial issues, or the death of a loved one.
With your Resilience Toolbox in hand, you’ll be able to find a light in whatever you experience. But like all good things in life, you must practice it. So don’t wait – try something new and positive and see where this takes you.