It is possible to feel positive in the face of political disappointment (Picture: AFP|Getty Images)
We don’t even live there, but the ongoing election in the United States is likely to be one of the biggest political moments of our lives so far.
And it is going down to the wire.
For thousands of people, both US citizens and people here in the UK, this decision is a source of enormous personal anxiety. And it isn’t hard to understand why.
The last year has been marked with civil and political unrest in the US, the country is more divided than ever before, and the result of the election will shape the future of this global superpower, and how it interacts with the rest of the world.
At the polls last night, some voters explained that they were voting for Biden because the last four years had made them ‘ashamed’ to be American. Elsewhere, Americans living abroad vowed to not return if Trump gets four more years.
Even if Biden wins, it is increasingly unclear whether Trump will even accept the result of the election and relinquish power.
On the news, we have seen dystopian images of businesses being boarded up, a giant gate erected around the perimeter of the White House, armed militia on either side of the political spectrum ready to spring into action if the result doesn’t go their way.
If you didn’t get much sleep last night – you’re far from alone. It is understandable to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of such monumental uncertainty.
Lots of young people in the UK may feel as though they don’t have a great track record with waiting on big election results. So, if Trump wins and this election becomes another notch on your list of political disappointments – how do you cope with the blow? How do you make sure this result doesn’t crush your faith in humanity?
Sarisha Naidoo from Navigate Life says it’s important to separate global politics from your personal life where you can.
‘Focus on what you can control and to work on your ability to control these factors,’ Sarisha tells Metro.co.uk.
‘These factors include having a positive attitude, limiting your social media consumption, acting with kindness and grace.
‘Focusing your energy on these items instead of factors that are out of your control will help you regain a sense of empowerment.’
She says it has never been more important to consume the news with caution. This result is going to take days, maybe weeks to play out. It won’t be healthy to be glued to Twitter for every single development.
‘An important thing to do for your mental wellbeing would be to switch off from the news,’ she suggests.
‘Though this may be difficult on the cusp of the election or the pandemic. Get the basics right, there is a lot going on in the world, self-care can take a back seat.
‘Focus on you. Let this serve as your reminder to stay mindful, practice gratitude and get out into nature. Your resilience will be boosted because of it – and you’ll be in a better head space to deal with whatever is thrown at us next.’
OK, so you’ve focused on your self-care, disengaged from the news, been out for a big walk in nature – these are all great starting points, but they’re not going to get rid of your disappointment entirely.
Dr Karan Raj, an NHS Surgeon with over 2.2 million followers on TikTok, says we are living through a moment of unprecedented ‘collective disappointment’ as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the tumultuous political landscape.
‘Swimming against a current is ill-advised, but so is going with the flow and passively accepting the state of everything,’ he tells us.
‘Attempting to take stock of what’s happening is the key to actualising events and hopefully moving on.
‘Although disappointment seems to rear its ugly head in the news constantly, finding alternatives to focus on will help; personal growth by cultivating hobbies (mesolimbic reward pathway), exercise (endorphin release, lower cortisol), spending time with loved ones (oxytocin release) meditation (lower cortisol) – all these measures have their basis in science to make us happier on a neurochemical level, and to help us come out the other side of disappointment.
‘I use all of these techniques to help me de-stress from busy shifts at work and also to help me control any negative external factors that may influence my environment and happiness.’
How to cope if you feel overwhelmed with election stress
Talking to someone helps. Not only to help you talk through events, to take stock of everything and work through disappointment or anxiety.
Opening up to a friend, family member or co-worker can be beneficial, but equally taking time to reflect in isolation is important, writing in a diary or journal acts as a form of grounding or mindfulness to work through feelings of being overwhelmed.
Although doom and gloom seems to be around every corner these days, there are always good news stories and positives to find
Keeping a daily routine or structure to the day can help. Having routine can also help you get organised, plan ahead and set goals.
With the pandemic deregulating many people’s routines, particularly those who work from home, it can be hard to find motivation and get going.
Optimising sleep hygiene by keeping a regular sleep and wake time (that means no Netflix or phone scrolling until 2 am)
Trying something new like meditation or mindfulness can make small positive changes.
Dr Karan says that his job can make it easy to keep politics out of his personal life. He is forced to focus on nothing but his patients, so worries about the election have to take a back seat while he is working.
‘The daily hustle and bustle of my job ensures I have plenty of distractions,’ he says, ‘but, keeping the negative aspects of global politics and bad news in general at bay, can be as simple as not watching the news for a day or two.
‘Ultimately, although global politics will have a macroscopic influence on daily life, it may not have huge ramifications that are noticeable on a microscopic level.’
Dr Rakish Rana, founder of The Clear Coach, explains that disappointment on this scale is a form of grief, which means it may take some time to process and to come through the other side.
‘Following the Kubler-Ross grief curve, you will go through shock and denial, followed by anger, before you learn to accept the outcome,’ says Rakish.
‘As with anything that may cause you anxiety or overwhelm, it’s best to avoid the trigger if you can.’
Rakish says it’s important to try to let go of the things we can’t control.
‘You may not be able to influence the outcome on global politics, but you can influence outcomes for yourself,’ he says. ‘Focus on being the best version of yourself. In doing this you may become an influence to others who may then follow suit.
‘I think if I engaged fully with the news and followed the pandemic and politics in detail, I think the stress and anxiety would be overwhelming. This was starting to become the case when the pandemic first started early this year.
‘Since then, I watch the news in moderation (sound bites) and focus on how to deliver value to others. This keeps me motivated, confident and in the main quite happy.’
The overwhelming advice from our experts is to look after yourself, focus on self-care and let go of the things you can’t control.
When faced with a political result that you didn’t want or weren’t expecting, you can either become disillusioned or you can use it to spur you on to fight even harder for what you believe in.
And that choice is very much in your control.
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