HealthManaging Your Post-election Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Frustration

Managing Your Post-election Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Frustration

It is now November 9, 2016, and after months of one of the most hotly contested, divisive election seasons to date, we have a President-elect: Donald J. Trump. Based on the voting numbers that were on display across multiple media outlets last night, that means at least half the country is now feeling angry, depressed, anxious, frustrated, and in a state of confusion and denial. Secretary Clinton honorably conceded the election to Mr. Trump in a manner that was peaceful and consistent with our long-standing tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.

One of the most commonly reported sources of anxiety is unpredictability and with this candidate – who has never held public office and will now serve many roles, including Commander-in-Chief – there is a significant degree of unpredictability and many unknowns.

What can you do if you are one of the approximately 60 million voters whose election hopes were not fulfilled last night? Take comfort in knowing that there are effective strategies that you can use as you process your life in America from today and at least the next four years:

(1) DO Keep up with your daily activities, routines, hobbies, and social plans

Acute, sudden onset of sadness and depression can lead to a state of withdrawal and avoidance of daily life and this has the danger of spinning into a dangerous vicious cycle. So that means get on your bike, put on your running shoes, go for a long walk with your dog – all of these activities will help you feel better and reinforce your sense that life will go on.

(2) DO NOT give in to the urge to debate the election results with friends, relatives, co-workers, and others who will claim victory today

This will only prolong and potentially worsen your feelings of anger and frustration and possibly lead you into the vicious cycle previously mentioned.

(3) DO stick to your core values and cherish the things that you hold dear

If you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and without focus, channel that energy to something productive and focus on things that are important to you like your family, your holiday traditions, your social groups, and your emotional support system. If you were an activist for the Democratic side, keep up with these activities. Continue to work toward change by working in the communities, reaching out to those in need, spreading information about causes for which you are passionate.

(4) DO act as a role model for your children, your students, your neighbors and your friends

These emotions feel very raw today and that is part of the healthy recovery process from what you have experienced. Yet do your best to keep in mind that others are watching and you will ultimately feel better with positive interactions with other people. This is not the time to go on a Twitter rant, vandalize a car or window with a “Trump” sign on it. These activities are unproductive and will make you feel worse in the long run.

(5) DO remember that our forefathers established a three part governmental system with checks and balances

Mr. Trump will be held to the same standards and checks as his predecessors in the Oval Office. Do not be acutely afraid that sweeping, radical change will occur as of January 20, 2017. As I have said in previous posts with respect to fear and anxiety, don’t let your feelings snowball out of control (this is also called catastrophizing). Keep an even perspective and remember that there are millions watching and hundreds in place to monitor how the next administration operates.

Lastly, breathe – and be mindful of your reactions. Take a few minutes to process your feelings and then make a promise to yourself to move on with your life in a productive, meaningful fashion.

Associate Professor, School of Medicine at Wayne State University

Seth D. Norrholm, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, specializing in trauma, anxiety, and related disorders. He has published over 100 research articles and focuses on developing clinical methodologies for therapeutic intervention. His most recent work analyzes fear and anxiety in society, considering media and environmental influences. Dr. Norrholm has been featured in various media and is recognized as an expert on anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.


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