In the weeks leading up to the national election, we saw an explosion in the very things that tend to cause heightened levels of anxiety: overwhelming amounts of negative media, preparation, anticipation, and conflict. Unless you’re a political junkie, folks tend to resent the in-your-face nature of presidential campaigns. They highlight the very things that divide us and have left many of us concerned about the health of our society.
Change is an inevitability. We must respond adaptively.
The results of the election were shocking to many. Change is imminent and there will be a myriad of potential adjustments ahead. In past years, it seemed we adjusted pretty readily. This year we’ve seen a significant amount of hate speech, violence and protest. We must consider then, how we shall move forward individually, within our families, and as part of our communities.
Take a break.
A number of experts in mental health recommend taking regular breaks from social media and from doing unnecessary tasks online. According to Rebecca Hoffmann Frances, Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s Director of Clinical Innovation, “Exposure to negativity creates a dose response. The amount we expose ourselves to negative media has a direct impact on the amount of negative feelings that we feel. Less exposure equals less negative feelings.” Given recent events, it seems we’re still a long way from moving forward. Research has shown an uptick in productivity and mood when folks go offline, even for a limited period of time. Getting back to basics (exercise, a good book, time in nature) are time-proven measures for improving mental health.
Moving forward starts with acceptance.
Regardless of what our views are, the results are final. Further dispute (especially with loved ones) is a lose/lose proposition. If we find that we are conflicted, our first responsibility is to ourselves. Coping with negative emotions and maintaining a healthy perspective are paramount to our health and well-being.
We need not apologize for our political views, but if we find that rifts have developed between ourselves and those closest to us, it’s time to attain closure. Let’s acknowledge our differences and reinvest in what we share. Coworkers, colleagues, and neighborhoods are similar to families in that increasing cohesion yields greater health, harmony, and more positive outcomes.
Do what you can.
Much of the stress and pressure we experience are a product of things beyond our control. We have found solace in closely examining where we choose to spend our time and energy. Pining for what should have been, or simply railing against what is, are arguably the worst investments we can make. Resolution is key. We must choose to move forward and to let go of things we cannot change. This allows us to be more productive and have greater peace.
The future has always been uncertain
Hand wringing and sitting on the edge of our seats are manifestations of anxiety. Many of us find that we are “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Trying to predict the next development is a fool’s errand. We often justify our heightened concerns through our desire to be prepared. We have found it’s much more effective and adaptive to respond to events as they unfold.
There’s an old adage that “worrying is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.” If you find yourself preoccupied with how the change in administration may pose a threat to your beliefs and values or cause policy changes you’re opposed to, we recommend advocacy and grass roots organizing as adaptive measures. According to Rebecca Hoffmann Frances, “Be the antidote for what you don’t like in the world. Giving back can have a healing effect. Bringing joy and positivity to others will in turn bring joy to you.”
In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton expressed some valuable guidance, ““Let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come. And there is more work to do.” The way forward is with hope and with a renewed commitment to care for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. We must choose the wisdom of the adage, “do all that you can, in the place that you are, with the time that you have.”
Maine Behavioral Healthcare will provide a seamless and compassionate continuum of care through a community of providers collaborating to promote recovery and the overall mental and physical well-being of those they are privileged to serve.
Jim LaPierre is the author is Recovery Rocks, a BDN Maine Blog Network blog.