Uncertain Futures: 4 Tips for Handling This Election

By PCS - 11/11/2016


Win or lose, celebration or shock, the 2016 US election has been called. In the near future this country is in for a significant change in leadership, and it makes sense many people are unsure of how to deal with the news. Whether or not you are happy with the outcome of the election, we must move on and live our lives.  

Fear for the future is something most people experience during the course of their lives. When such a significant event seemingly takes choice away from you, it is easy to feel suddenly lost. If you are disappointed, it may feel impossible to communicate with those who are celebrating. For people excited by the results, it may seem that suddenly you are a target for scorn from the other side and are being stereotyped.

At the end of the day, taking time to contemplate what this shift in leadership may mean for your life, those you care about, and the rest of our country seems fitting. Whether you are left feeling defeated or victorious, this moment in our history merits deep and respectful dialogue between more than one hundred million individuals who voted. Below are four tips for every side to consider:

1. Healthy Expression of Feelings

Notice and honor the feelings you are experiencing, especially fear (refer to tip 3). Even in celebration, fear may still be percolating under the surface.  Reflect on the reality that many share your feelings and work to reach out to them. Focus on your own hope or pain and create boundaries in conversations to avoid shifting into attacking or blaming others. This will only distract you from nurturing your own feelings or the feelings of those you are sharing with.  

Remain mindful of the temptation to lash out at others, and consider the possibility those “on the other side” may share some of the same fears as you, but are expressing them differently.  It is reasonable to assume they fear for their future and for the future of their loved ones.  Sharing from a position of vulnerability creates a context where people are heard and understanding can grow. If you need time to calm down, take it. Involve yourself in those things which feel nurturing or a find a healthy way to express the joy you may be feeling.

2. Take a Break From TV and News

In recent months election coverage has become almost universal. It is easy to feel trapped by the constant barrage of information. Now that the big event is over, it may be time to disconnect and remember there is life away from the news.  Have you stopped doing things you loved? Have you put new goals or hobbies on hold? Now is the time to dock yourself firmly in your own life.

Turn off the screens and enjoy the things that endure. Hike your favorite trail. Meet with someone you cherish. Cook your favorite meal. Indulge in relaxation, personal fulfillment, or games. Remind yourself that even though everything seems so momentous in the news, there is a smaller space you live in, and your life is waiting for you.  

3. Examine Your Fears

Regardless of whether you agreed with the outcome or not, it is certain that this election season has witnessed significant anger. For many, even favorable results do not banish all of the questions they have about the future. It makes sense you may be worried or afraid. But these fears are more than just a source of anxiety. They are an opportunity to learn about yourself.  The things you worry about are sometimes the things that are most important to you. Examining your own reaction to big events is an excellent way to become more self informed. Of course, you don’t have to do it alone.

Find a friend or family member who will listen, value, and discuss your fears. You may find just giving voice to your worries reduces your stress. If they persist, there are always more options.  Do not let your fear remain in your head, restrict your breathing and affect your mood. Find a way to take action and become involved in contributing to a change which honors your ideals and respects differences in others.   

Counseling may be another option for those emotions which seem beyond our control. Whether it seems overwhelming or you believe it is insignificant – if it is affecting you in a way you don’t like, your counselor can help you cope!


4. Build Conversations, Not Arguments

This may seem like an obvious statement, but it also seems to be the one that most people have trouble with. Even on the news today people have trouble engaging in a five minute conversation without resorting to insults or yelling. Starting arguments or one sided conversations such as gloating and blaming are counterproductive, especially for the person who started it.

Instead, once you have examined your own feelings and decreased some of your emotional energy, begin to learn about the people you have been pitted against by the election. Remember they are your neighbors, family members, friends, and coworkers. If it is appropriate, you can expand your own knowledge base by letting the opinions of others in.

Of course, patience may be required on your end, but one who listens and considers another person’s opinions honestly will always come out better. If you like what you hear, your own thoughts may evolve, and if you do not, you have an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Be a role model for yourself and find peace. Who knows, maybe others will take your lead.

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