Antidote for Post-Election Stress
You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them.
You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist.
And there are many of us out there, more than you think.
People who refuse to stop believing.
People who refuse to come to earth.
People who love in a world without walls,
people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear.
― Lauren Oliver, Delirium
The "surprise" election results ( as well as the many months of pre-election stress and overwhelm) have strongly impacted many people. Clients, student therapists and interns that I supervise, friends, family, and myself have all had strong reactions including disbelief, anger, sadness, fear, despair, anxiety and grief. Many people wish they could leave this country.
Many immigrants are afraid both of how they will now be treated for being "other" and about whether they will be able to stay in this country.
The impact of this election feels to many on a magnitude of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco or of 9/11. Many rights and ways of life we have worked for and come to count on may be threatened, including the environment and the earth itself.
In the face of great uncertainty, how do we cope? How do we not live paralyzed by fear or anger? How do we go about our lives and at the same time take some action that will help us feel like we have a voice and an impact?
The silver lining from this election result is that many people are feeling compelled to do something, to speak up, to protest, to volunteer. It is a time of coming together. I read an interesting fact recently: when we are under stress, in addition to stress hormones, the brain releases oxytocin ( the love hormone). It's the brain's way of making sure we seek out social connection and spend time with loved ones which is a natural stress-reducer.
This is a time to focus on both self-care ( meditation, massage, eating well, sleep, exercise, yoga,etc) and joining with others in whatever way feels right. It is not only good for the planet and our country, but also for your sense of well-being and purpose.
I think we also have the difficult but important task, of holding, as Carl Jung called it, the tension of the opposites; the future feels foreboding and at the same time, life goes on, as it has throughout history. Despite immense suffering, the sun and moon continue to shine, people fall in love, babies are born and there is laughter. Can you hold that both things, the yin and the yang, are true?
If these events make you feel that you need extra support at this time, please contact me for a free phone consultation!
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley