As I write this, on a quiet Tuesday morning in late October, we, as a country, are one week out from election day.
And, even more nail-biting, election night.
And I would bet all of us have something between butterflies in our bellies to full-blown cold-sweat panic setting in.
Election night has always been filled with excitement and anxiety—even some dread. But this is a wild and unsettling year of uncertainty. This is a historic “what in God’s name is going on?” year with a pandemic (the likes of which we’ve never seen before), racial discord, protests, and partisan politics.
Election night is going to be filled with hope for some and a whole lot of “what the f*ck?” for others.
Every four years on the first Tuesday night in November, roughly half the population is thrilled and relieved with the outcome of the election. And that same night, roughly half the population is thoroughly and utterly pissed off. Kind of like Super Bowl night, only much bigger. Like, “I don’t even want to go to work tomorrow and see my coworkers’ sh*t-eating grins as they gleefully rub my loser face in their guys’ victory” big.
So, what do we do if our candidate loses? How do we get through it?
Well. We sure as hell can’t change the results of the election (okay, at least not usually). And we can’t move to Canada.
(I mean, maybe we could? I haven’t checked. Can we cross the border during this stage of the pandemic? And can I get a job there in this flailing, uncertain global economy? Are their schools and daycares open? Note to self: check into Canada’s job market and school situation.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. The advice part.
As the wise Pema Chödrön says,
“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow at your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that you have an arrow in your heart…”
Ah, Pema. Wiser words have never been spoken.
So here are my six ways to recover from your Wednesday morning post-election emotional hangover:
1. Stay off social media.
This is probably good advice for any day of any year, but the morning after the election? Just don’t. Don’t kid yourself with a “No, really; I’m just gonna look at my cousin’s kids’ Halloween costume pictures!” because rest assured, the smack will be talking. And you will be triggered.
The results and the masses of people celebrating their win will be unavoidable, so why would you expose yourself to that? It’s not the Super Bowl with an “it’s okay because basketball season is coming.”
No, this is bigger. Stay off it. Your blood pressure and cortisol levels will thank you.
2. Write and burn.
When we suffer a great loss or hurt, the worst thing we can do is to push down and deny those emotions. So, don’t. Your feelings are valid! Acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling—allow yourself to express it safely.
Write down what you’re feeling. Maybe that looks like nice, neat paragraphs in a beautiful leather-bound journal.
Or, if you’re like me, it might be a page you tear out of your granddaughter’s coloring book filled with profanity and insults—stuff you wouldn’t want your granddaughter or mother or anyone else to read or hear. Ever.
I tend not to write out swear words but whole swear phrases (like the “40-Year-Old Virgin” waxing scene) until I have worn myself out. I’m like a kid throwing a tantrum—snotty, sweaty, kicking, and wailing—but on paper, until I finally run out of steam.
That’s the thing about journaling. It helps us to process what we’re feeling. And when you’re finished, you can tear it up into a million pieces or, better yet, burn it. That’s my favorite. And as you watch all those words burn and scorch, visualize all your anger turning to ash and smoke and floating away as well. (And, if it doesn’t work, at the very least, the fire will be warm and pretty.)
3. Get outside.
Research has proven that getting outside and into nature is extremely beneficial for our mental health, lowering cortisol levels while releasing endorphins and dopamine, relieving depression and anxiety, elevating our mood, and reducing mental fatigue, to name a few. Your mom threw you out of the house into the yard for a reason, and it wasn’t just to get some peace and quiet. It’s science! And, while you’re out there, you can burn all the swear words and penned nervous breakdown from #2—double win.
Don’t roll your eyes; just do it. Whether it’s stopping what you’re doing hourly to take three slow, deep breaths or whether you begin a short daily meditation practice, it helps. Slowing our breath initiates our parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us out of fight-or-flight and allows our body to relax.
Just taking a couple of slow deep breaths causes our heart rate to lower, our muscles to release tension, our blood pressure to go down, our oxygen levels to rise, our gut to digest, and our cortisol to decrease. Who doesn’t want that? And, taking slow deep breaths just plain feels good.
5. Practice self-care.
What is the go-to thing that makes you feel better? Time alone? A long bath? Putting down technology to allow yourself to have uninterrupted thoughts (and yes, work can wait for just a dang minute)? Yoga? Meditation? Maybe it’s exercising, taking a walk, cooking, reading, or enjoying a non-political Netflix binge with a pet in your lap. Remember, the things that made you feel whole and safe before 2020 became a meme. Ask yourself what you need to feel better, and make sure you get it.
6. Have perspective.
We are inclined to think that what we’re living through is worse than anything the world has ever seen. And it may be the worst that we personally have ever seen (or will see), but in reality, the world has seen it before. And, somehow, the pendulum swings back, and the world recovers.
It may have taken time, but eventually, it did—the wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, 9/11, unthinkable inequalities, recessions, bad presidents. All of it. This is not the first bad year the world has seen, and it sure won’t be the last. Somehow, with time, this too shall pass. Remember that—let that change of view help you through this.
With trepidation, I wish you all a happy election night. And if not, at least some deep breaths and a lovely, healing burning ceremony. Good luck!