This week sucks. We’ve been robbed of the day-after election clarity we’re accustomed to. We just lost an hour of daylight. And there’s still a pandemic. Dealing with the 2020 election—and the final results—requires a few deliberate steps to protect your emotional and mental health.
“We want to avoid any tendency to worry and realize that worry, in the way I look at it, is an unproductive use of energy because we’re expanding energy when we worry but there’s no upside to it whatsoever,” says psychologist and author Carla Manly, PhD. “We simply can’t change an outcome by worrying, whether we’re worrying about the elections or somebody’s surgery. If I say, ‘I’m going to worry about you going into surgery,’ that’s not doing anything except possibly stressing you and me. If I say, ‘You’re undergoing surgery, I’m going to light a candle for you or send blessings your way or pray for you,’ I take that same amount of energy and actually transforming it into something positive, something that’s energetically positive for me as well as for you.”
Not worrying is easier said than done. Here are a few post-election self-care tips to keep you grounded and worry less in the coming days.
Post-election self-care tips for this week and beyond
1. Acknowledge how you’re feeling
When you’re worried, you can’t just will the worry away. You have to honor that emotion and really dig at the source before moving forward.
“Don’t try and get over [your emotions] because that’s almost invalidating them,” says Dr. Manley. “That emotion is here for a reason. It’s about honoring that emotion, and so being present with it. I’m afraid. Okay. Why am I afraid? I’m anxious. Okay. Why am I anxious? I’m angry. Okay. Why am I angry? Having a conversation with that emotion, not invalidating it, not trying to do something different with it, and then by being honest with that emotion and allowing yourself to move through and then let it go after you’ve honored it. That tends to make more space for positive action.”
Once you’ve made peace with your emotions, find ways to channel them into positive actions.
“Instead of worrying about the outcome just realize, I just want to send energy toward whatever is important to me,” says Dr. Manly. Whether we want it to be a positive outcome for a specific political party or whether we want it to be a positive outcome for health care, or finances, or safety for our country, look at what’s important to you and meditate on it or say mantras to support it. Even if you feel that these actions can’t change what’s going to happen, it’s better to be positive than stressing yourself out.
2. Get enough sleep
Worrying paired with waiting up for results means you’re probably not getting enough sleep. And not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your mood, your memory, and your ability to do work. If you’re not getting much sleep over the next few days, Rebecca Robbins, PhD, sleep expert and postdoctoral researcher at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, recommends avoiding the urge to sleep in.
“Resist using the snooze bar or sleeping in for longer than one to two hours past your normal time,” says Dr. Robbins. “Believe it or not, a change of even one hour to your sleep schedule can throw your internal rhythm out of sync. If you were up late the night before, you will be tired in the morning, but getting up will keep you on track for a great night’s sleep the following night.”
Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, MD, medical director of Medicine at Millennium Physician Group in Fort Myers, Florida, says you should aim to take a walk as soon as you wake up.
“Make sure that you keep your usual wake up time,” says Dr. Abbasi-Feinberg. “Don’t try to sleep in the next morning and get outside if you can, and get some light exposure, because that can help you reset your biological clock, and hopefully keep you well alert for the rest of the day.”
Additionally, fight the urge to have any caffeine later in the day.
“Doing some caffeine early in the day, it’s okay to get you some energy,” says Dr. Abbasi-Feinberg. “But typically I tell folks don’t do caffeine after lunch, because then it’ll possibly interfere with your ability to catch up on sleep the next night.”
3. Be choosy about who you spend time with
It’s very easy to pick up emotions that aren’t yours. “Sometimes honestly, we’re picking up emotions that are fed to us by the news or from the neighbor,” says Dr. Manly. To shield yourself from this, you’ll want to be choosy about who you spend time with.
“By worrying and by getting on the phone and ranting with my friends and watching me getting all amped up, what am I doing? I am raising my level of adrenaline and cortisol, which means that my fight or flight response is up, and I am going to be more reactive,” says Dr. Manly. “I’m less likely to sleep as well and less likely to have a positive attitude. Therefore, I am going to take that energy and consciously or unconsciously turn it on my partner, my kids if I have any, my coworkers if I have any.”
Avoid people who aren’t good for you energetically. “Whether it’s somebody who’s politically aligned with you and that’s very negative and reactive or somebody who’s not politically aligned with you who tends to maybe gloat or be highly reactive,” she says. “Over the next few days, really change who you allow into your orbit as another form of self-care because none of us are going to need during this week, or really anytime, people who are negative, who suck our energy. Certainly, we don’t need any emotional vampires this week.”