According to CNN, Americans on both sides of the issues are feeling the effects of the political tumult. Daily updates on social media and the press about “fake news”, “alternative facts”, travel bans and suspected security breaches are feeding the national anxiety and leading to an increasingly polarized populace afraid to speak up for fear of causing offence.
When feelings run in such extreme directions, friendships often suffer. In September, a Monmouth University poll found that 7% of voters reported having lost or ended a friendship because of last year’s presidential race. More recently, an article in the Washington Post quoted couples’ therapist Steven Stosny as saying women are especially vulnerable to this kind of stress. Many, he says, feel personally “devalued, rejected, unseen, unheard and unsafe”. They see the results of the election as a personal betrayal.
On the other hand, conservative-leaning women are tired of those on the left speaking of them as victims of the patriarchy – poor, empty-headed females incapable of making their own decisions.
If you believe what you read in the press and on Facebook, everyone is currently angry with everyone else. And none of this is healthy.
Therapists recommend their patients limit their time on Facebook and Twitter and watching the news, but that can be difficult. As one Chicago psychologist puts it, “It’s unfortunately like driving by a car accident – they know it’s not good for them [to gawk], but it’s hard to stop.”
5 suggestions to deal with post election stress disorder
1. Detach from your phone. While it’s important to stay engaged with the world around you, take a break from social media. Read or watch enough to stay informed then turn it off and go for a walk, spend time with friends and family, or just do something for yourself.
2. Reach out. Stosny advises his clients and friends affected by the election and its aftermath to “reach out, connect, affiliate and show compassion to others who feel the same.”
3. Be respectful. Name-calling is childish and hurtful. Try to step back and consider the other person’s point of view, no matter how strongly you disagree with her opinion.
4. Focus on what you can control. You may not be able to do much about some things in life but you can control your own environment. Concentrate on the important things: your work, family, friends and community. These are the areas where you can actually make a difference.
5. Channel your anxiety in productive ways. Donate your time or money to an organization that shares your concerns. Remember: anxiety can be a vehicle for change. It can motivate us to confront our fears and stand up for what we believe in.