After a hard fight and a tough race, many Americans are very happily surprised right now by the results of the presidential election (if not euphoric). It’s fun and enjoyable when the candidate of our choice wins — especially when most of the predictions were to the contrary.
Many people aren’t so euphoric and are probably feeling deflated — as if the wind got kicked out of them. And many others still feel upset and disgusted with how harsh the rhetoric was from the media and many other corners throughout this campaign season, no matter whether “their” candidate won or lost.
Or maybe family members are just feeling vastly disappointed for some other reason connected to the long election season.
First, whenever someone grumbles about how dissatisfied he or she feels about our politicians and how people are behaving in office, I ask the person a simple question: “Did you vote?”
Often there’s a pause or an uneasy facial expression before “no” (followed by an excuse, of course). I kindly but abruptly end the interaction with, “Then you have no right to complain.” Those of us who did exercise our right to vote as citizens of this great country can feel really good about it.
That said, at this moment many folks are feeling, at a minimum, like Cleveland Indians fans after the World Series — and possibly much worse. After all, when sports events are over, they’re over — and we get back to our usual lives and emotions fairly quickly. But when a new president is elected, there are ripples and waves of feelings to handle for years. Initially some degree of depression, if mild, is quite common when the candidate people supported isn’t the winner. More hype than usual in the air and on the airwaves this time around did not help, and emotions were at a fever pitch with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fans.
The more tightly we’re wound before an election, the harder we can fall afterward — so it makes sense that depression might be settling in right about now for many people. Here is some smart advice for those who fall into that category or for anyone who needs an assist:
Allow the healing to happen.
Instead of trying to either squelch uncomfortable feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration, or express them inappropriately, take those feelings out for a walk or hike in nature. Make sure to look up at the trees and sky, un-pretzel your arms, and lower your shoulders down where they belong — instead of up by your earlobes. If you dare, turn your phone off. Breathe.
Commiserating with others who are in the same boat can be supportive to a point — but keep it brief. What’s done is done, and the election is over. Even though it’s difficult, it’s time to accept what’s happened instead of staying in resistance.
There’s nothing like productive and positive action, contributing in whatever way(s) you’re able to promote your values.
Contact a local politician you support, and ask if there’s a big or small way you can volunteer or donate financially to help the cause you believe in. And, if volunteering or donating isn’t your thing, simply what you say and do as you go about your usual life can make a major difference in your mood.
Be the model of your values at home and in the world.
Watch how you speak and carry yourself on a daily basis, going about your activities.
If you’re a grump, you’re pulling everyone’s morale down with you — which is neither useful nor effective. Be the model of your values at home and in the world — speaking up about what you don’t like, certainly, but also adding a hopeful tone about what’s possible for the future.
If the down-in-the-dumps, blah, and angry feelings don’t lift significantly after a few weeks, do the strong and wise thing: Get some help.
A couple of sessions with the right therapist can help you get unstuck and move forward. Regardless of who lives in the White House, you will be just fine. The president does not determine your happiness — you do.
Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and keynote speaker, guest lecturer, and radio host based in Orange County, California.