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Coping with reactions to the 2016 election

Nov. 15, 2016, 3:14 PM

One woman comforting another
(iStockphoto)

Reactions to the 2016 election process and its outcome cover a broad range of opinions, thoughts and emotions. Many are struggling with uncertainty about change and how this might impact their lives. Others are unsure how to address their own feelings and the feelings of loved ones or members of their communities.

It is easy to feel helpless and powerless in the face of the unknown. One or some of the following tips may help reduce stress and allow you to clear space in order to address your own response to recent events.

Build time in your day for stress reducers. Try taking a break, stretching, walking, mindful breathing or writing down your thoughts. These activities can help to reduce the effects of stress, discharge nervous energy, and give the mind a rest.

Nurture your social connections. Spend time with like-minded friends, loved ones and social support groups. They know what you are going through and can provide community. Reach out to each other.

Take a social media break. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the like help us feel less alone, but they also have a tendency to reinforce fearful thoughts and amplify distress. Make a conscious choice about when and how often you will use social media. For example, remove one or two social media apps from your phone for a week and see how you feel. You also may choose to limit exposure to political news as stories tend to be repetitive and exacerbate anxiety and fears.

Decide what actions you need to take. Ask yourself, “What can I control in this situation, and what can’t I control?” Speak up when you witness homophobia, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, religious intolerance or hatred. Join political action organizations. Volunteer your time to those in need.

Own your feelings without expecting others to feel the same way. It is important to not tell people how they should feel. People may be hurt, upset or unresponsive if you try to push an agenda, so it is important to give each other space until constructive communication can happen.

Access help. Arrange time with your clergy, seek out trusted friends and loved ones, or seek professional support. If you are experiencing a lot of distress, or if past wounds have been triggered by the election process, you may wish to see a counselor who can briefly help you sort out ways to move through your experience or who can recommend community providers for more ongoing or chronic issues.

Work/Life Connections-EAP at Vanderbilt supports faculty and staff who are dealing with personal or workplace stress. To schedule a confidential appointment, call 615-936-1327.

Additional resources can be found on Vanderbilt University’s Mental Health and Wellbeing website.

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